Monday, 29 February 2016


Courtroom sketch artist extraordinaire Atlas Obscura brings some excellent and thoughtful reporting on the proceedings of the International Criminal Tribunal, which for the first time—fueled by revulsion, terror and heartbreak of the cowardly and wanton deportment of the Cosplay Caliphate—is hearing a case against with cultural heritage is the plaintiff and victim.
Though there is sadly thousands of years of precedence regarding the wilful destruction of ancient artefacts and unexplored archaeological sites (not to mention pilfer and plunder), no case has been successfully lobbied before in this venue. It was not the recent tragic losses of our shared patrimony in Syria or the destruction of Slavic and French landmarks and monuments by the Nazis a few generations removed (although the beginnings of a legal framework came out of those events), but rather a lesser-known (and perhaps the greater loss for its lack of public attention) incident where an individual attempted to steamroll the cultural landscape of Mali, near Timbuktu. The world is trying the thugs of today’s headlines in absentia, of course, but with this docket the Court hopes to create laws and language sufficient to to deter future losses and craft the codex to throw at the current perpetrators.


Beginning in the twelfth century down to modern times, families in the Hakka highlands took to designing unique earthen dwellings in order to protect themselves and their livestock from gangs of bandits.
This housing arrangement is called tulou, in the specific architectural style of the Fujian region, eventually came to be more like little self-contained cities—not like gated-communities, with meeting halls, warehouses, wells, coops and pens. In addition to affording residents a great degree of security, even withstanding cannon-fire, the structures were also ideal for climate-control and robust when encountering tremors of earthquakes. Be sure to check out the piece on Kuriositas for a comprehensive gallery of these buildings and learn more about their history.


Like realising that to the rest of the world, in normal parlance the abbreviation LWOP would probably not signal “leave without pay” but “life without parole,” a conceit fit more for a country-western lament rather than the docket, I discovered that for most of the world the phrase quid pro quo does not connote primarily reciprocation—tit-for-tat—but rather misapprehension or even substitution, to mistake one thing for another or appearing in cookbooks as QPQ when one can use olive oil in place of tallow and for prescriptions when one medicine was unavailable.
Similarly while quis might now be a gauge for user- friendliness in the Questionnaire for User- Interaction Satisfaction, a battery of tools used to rate the experience for different platforms—it used to signify something quite different in schoolyard vernacular. If we could borrow a page of dialogue from the salad days, courtesy of Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the day, quis, the Latin pronoun akin to who, was often used as a much more elegant and compact way of inquiring “who among you wants this particular thing which I am offering?” Quis? The claimant would respond with ego, me. Whether any bright young things ever had such an exchange outside of Brideshead Revisited, I’m not sure, but it ought to be brought back, nonetheless.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

allele, alelo or progressive trait

While neither condemning nor condoning the practise of tinkering with genetics, the science desk of Buzzfeed (ironically, as it is the males who buzz and annoy but only the silent females that bite and suck blood) presents a really solidly comprehensive article that at least exculpates and explains the methodologies from a community health standpoint behind releasing hundreds of thousands of genetically-compromised males into the wild breeding population to keep it under control. The problematic mosquito that is the vector of dread disease in Brazil and is spreading to neighbouring regions is an invasive species—an import from the Nile region—and although very much still a scourge in its native habitat, the humans, living lived with them for generations, are less prone to outbreaks.
Getting rid of this unwelcome invaded might allow indigenous insect populations to return and bring further natural regulation to the ecology. It is unlikely there’s any correlation between the trials, conducted in 2012 and the present emergence of viral infections—due to time and distance with the incubation period of the Zika virus and the other diseases it transmits being mere weeks. The surge in cases most likely indicates that the testing produced victims of its own success, in much the same way as a concerted campaign in South America to eradicate disease-carrying mosquitoes decades earlier worked just well enough to shove off public notice and eventually caused a relapse. What strikes me as really surprising, however (and again, the mutated males could not spread the virus as they don’t bite), is that the male mosquitoes are not engineered to have woefully short life-spans in a straightforward manner: the mutants, programmed to self-destruct, will live out their normal adult lives provided they are given an antidote, an antibiotic, once every four days. Outside of the laboratory, this substance cannot be found and after mating, the males die and pass along this trait to their offspring. Maybe it was that little detour for sterilisation management gives the conspiracy-theorists ample purchase.

foundscape or crowd-surfing

From the ever fascinating shelves of antiquarian JF Ptak, comes a fun little exercise to try for oneself and I’ve noticed that I tend sometimes to zero-in on the same sort of details in scanning crowds: locate a historic picture of gathered masses, like this detail from 1903 when people had come together to hear US presidential incumbent and candidate Teddy Roosevelt and see what sort of details and stand-out expressions one can find amid the sea of headdresses. Foundscapes he calls them. It’s certainly more fun than finding the panda hiding among skunks—or whatever that was—to look for one’s own Doppelgänger or probable time-travelers lost in the crowd. Be sure to check out the book store for many more curiosities.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

yoiking and taxonomy

Recently, as the large settlement of Tromsø was anticipating the return of the sun after six weeks of perpetual night (surely an event to celebrate but it was not as if the locals were emerging from dread and depression after this long, dark, sacred night, though I can’t say I was not very relieved to see the days waxing longer) and heralded the first patch of daylight with song.
The city and region that’s traditionally Sàmi (the older and rather pejorative term for the people was Laplander) is a big music scene—including the for a sort of ancient tone-poem called a yoik or joik. These chants, though wordless, are very evocative and full of meaning, and it’s said that the Sàmi peoples were taught yoiking by the elves and fairies and at birth, a yoik is composed for an individual, this personal signature being as important as one’s name—admitting later improvisations, of course. Places, animals, plants and the elements have their own special tunes as well. As with many aboriginal customs, joiking was regarded with suspicion and condemned as spell-casting and suppressed (along with their language) for generations but both have seen a strong resurgence in recent years—migrant children hosted in these northern communities are excited to receive yoiks of their very own. A lot more than just a salutation of the sun, one can listen to a selection of yoiks here or by searching the internet for more of these hauntingly beautiful folk chants, perhaps even composing your own signature sound.

Friday, 26 February 2016

have some madeira, m’ dear

Expected to be a direct conduit between South America and Europe ready late next year, the underseas cable that Brazil is preparing to anchor over revelations that that country’s government was one of the many targets of American electronic surveillance is not only courting the interests of those who feel directly affronted and betrayed but also of some giants—not of the same spying-industry per se but at least of the enabling kind—of the internet.
The cable, side- stepping the American monopoly on trans-Atlantic submarine lines of communication, links the former colony with her metropolitan, Portugal, with a landing at Cabo Verde, another former Portuguese holding.  Called EulaLink, other nations too are interested in joining this network. I wonder, in response, what sort of slant-drilling operations might be enjoined to siphon-off some of this traffic. The terminus of the cable will be in the coastal city of Madeira—which made me think of the old tune that tells the story of a lecherous old man who tries to persuade an innocent young girl to dally a bit longer by plying her with drink: the result is that she does stay but her character is transformed to something akin to his own, which probably wasn’t exactly what he wanted. Maybe that is a cautionary tale for this enterprise.


Among the more shocking and horrific acts that the Cosplay Caliphate has committed that no one could be blamed for averting their eyes from such atrocities—and children have even been allowed to hone their skills as future fighters—it is easy to overlook what’s truly subversive and cause to shudder in their dysfunctional state: the curricula of their educational system, such as it is.
When not busy as human shields or in paramilitary-training, the young boys (and only the boys, as females are to receive no instruction outside of religious-education and fulfil her obligation as a mother and a homemaker with divine “sedentariness”) are taught in the few institutions still standing that their empire stretches from China to the Mediterranean and indoctrinated fully and frighteningly in this world-view. Sadly this phenomenon is not unique and there have been generations that have had to be de-programmed before but the learned capacity for de-humanising those outside this movement seems distinctively terrible and this damage will be difficult but not impossible to undo. Faced with this nightmare, it’s little wonder that families wouldn’t risk life and limb to flee it for parts unknown and wrest any future from none at all. It’s absolutely despicable that opportunists have joined this flight, I think, and have compounded the woes of those seeking refuge, diluting and turning the sympathy of potential hosts and helpers. No nation has gone without great periods of upheaval—recently or in the fleeting past—and it is a universal obligation to recognise (especially for those whose disdain and brinksmanship fostered these problems to a degree) the humanity of others and not let our compassion be twisted by scepticism and suspicion.

Thursday, 25 February 2016


The marvellous property-scout Nag on the Lake invites us to a rather breath-taking viewing of a unique bell-tower penthouse on Centre Street of Manhattan—where for price, the happy new tenants could enjoy panoramic views from the cupola of New York City. The Beaux Arts style building was built to purpose as the New York City Police Headquarters and served this role from 1909 to the early 1970s when the department outgrew its operations centre. In the late 1980s, the structure at the heart of the metropolis was converted into posh condominiums. This would be a pretty swank hideout for a brooding and mysterious superhero.

story hour

Via Neatorama, the Humane Society of Missouri is inviting young children into an animal shelter so that they can practise their reading-skills on an audience of dogs. Not only does the attention help acclimate and calm the animals, who may have been mistreated, back into the company of humans, the pilot-project also benefits the young narrators by giving them not only a highly receptive interlocutor that’s non-critical but also teaches them empathy and compassion, since we take in every stray ourselves. The Humane Society is hoping to expand this programme to all shelters in the state and bring cats into the conversation as well.

decodence or raygun gothic

I admit that the whole disappointment over hover-boards which didn’t actually hover and were powered by less than premium batteries that tended to explode underfoot, the paperless office that’s still of the future, but it’s easy to get excited over the heralding of flying cars.
Past the headlines, one realises quickly, however, that these vehicles of the future-past are not only airborne but also driverless. I suppose present that we have delivers the future that (no matter how unbidden) that we deserve, full of mass purveyance, skies already over-crowded with airliners unromantically shuttling people to and fro and relatively autonomous drones eavesdropping, delivering meals on demand (plus a few other clever missions), continued reliance on fossil-fuels, Big Data, Bigger Pharma, tele-presence instead of teleportation, contractual obligations to property no longer owned but licenced to us—and so on and so forth. I hope that our flying-cars don’t go down the same rabbit-hole and it is probably the responsible thing to leave the soaring up to machines less prone to pilot-error or dare-devil stunts, but I hope these aces don’t take us away from the controls altogether, making the experience just some expensive thrill-ride. What do you think? Please keep limbs inside the carriage at all times.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

garden switchboard

For more than a century, botanists have known about the symbiotic partnership between fungi and plants—the networks of fungal mycelium bundled with the roots of shrubs and trees described as a “mycorrhiza” association that is mutually beneficial in helping the other extract certain nutrients from the soil. What researchers are just discovering, however, is the breadth and depth of those connections and the nature of that relationship that’s akin to a subterranean vegetable information superhighway: the long tendrils of the fungal mycelia link individual plants in myriad ways and are the lines of transmission for chemical signals through garden plots and whole forests.
In a fascinating overview from BBC Earth magazine’s archive, featured recently on Dave Log 3.0, ecologists examine how this fungal internet allows plants over great distances to not only warm one other of intruders, it facilitates the sharing of nutrients and even allows the older generations to aid new spouts with sustenance, sabotage of unwanted neighbours and even parasitic behaviours. I feel a little guilty for my potted companions now, who might feel essential restricted to solitary confinement. I suspect, however, there are other modes of plant communication. After seeing more devastating wildfires for Australia in the headlines, I learnt that not only are the eucalyptus trees evolved to be explosively flammable—not unlike the strange venomousness given to everything there—and many of the seeds of other trees will not germinate without a periodic scorched-earth policy (or alternatively, arson by self-immolation), further prior to the settlement of Europeans, the stretches of eucalyptus forest that are a familiar sight today did not exist. The Aborigines, who had been landscape artists for tens of thousands of years, were careful cultivators and kept the forests pruned back, favouring grasslands that acted as fire-breaks and foraging grounds for game. It seems the Aborigines knew the risk of letting Nature run its favoured course, and that begs the question: what is Australia’s (or any land’s) natural state—wild or tamed, either by exception or by tradition?

tammany hall

One of the perhaps unanticipated outcomes of mass-immigration might lead to the revival of the old-fashioned ward-bosses, patronage and the “rotten” boroughs of seventeen century England (and perhaps it is already manifest in some areas).
The coming iteration of the political machine may not incite violence or condone such practises as cooping, gangs kidnapping, disguising and liquoring up people off the street in order to stuff ballot boxes in favour of the politician who has contracted them (Edgar Allen Poe was probably a victim of such abuse, which led to his death), but we could see a reciprocal courtship being formed between local councils and a particular, predominate group that has come to settle in one’s jurisdiction. In order for local officials to stay in office, it would be in their political interest to encourage self-segregation over integration. Politicians have always pandered to their constituencies—and to a degree (enforceable or otherwise), beholden to their demands, but the prospects for manipulation by bringing refugees and their suffrage into the picture raises the stakes in representative governance and the definition of community. What do you think? I certainly would not place it beyond the ambitions of some to encourage sectarian and internecine divisions in order seize and hold power—on the neighbourhood and national level. What does a block-party, a pride-celebration start to look like when you try to concede to everyone’s liking—especially when tastes are made mutually exclusive through insufferable tolerance?

lutte contre l’incendie

The always entertaining Neatorama directs our attention to an item that I didn’t realise was missing from our kitchen in this offer from Wine Enthusiast of a fully functional fire- extinguisher in the guise of wine bottle—though at a foot tall, I’d imagine its volume somewhere between a Marie and a Jeroboam, or possibly even delivering a Rehoboam’s worth of fire-fighting expellant and foam. Safety does not exclude swagger, and the price seems comparable with a standard, non-camouflaged unit and looking at the sales-site above, the vendor it seems will even recharge it, should one have needed it to quell something burning.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

tea. earl grey. hot.

While not exactly the replicator from Star Trek that’s just as adept as whipping up a spot of tea, delivering an advanced 3D printer to the International Space Station to make spare parts is a pretty big leap forward—which is seeming really obvious now—that will surely begin to untether the team of explorers. Scheduled to be included in the payload of a launch for next month, this new model will replace a more rudimentary device that the crew has been experimenting with already. It’s curious how the problems of logistics can drive technology in unexpected ways.

royal-flush or en suite

After rioting and much public discontent of Fuad I of Egypt’s particular penchant for exercising his royal prerogative and dissolving parliament when it was seen encroaching on his power finally convinced the king to restore the previous constitution that brought Egypt and the Suez back under the control of British influence, reportedly he lamented that soon there will only be five royal houses in the near future, “Britain—and diamonds, aces, hearts and spades.” If not for an interesting and informative article from Mental Floss, I would never have suspected that King Fuad’s vote of no confidence might be referencing a contemporary craze in the 1930s that was promoted by an Austrian psychiatrist called Walter Marseille who thought the additional cards—comprising a deck of sixty-five—would make games—bridge specifically, more challenging and engaging. The fifth suit of the English tarot nouveau was the Crowns or the Royals (Eagles in American decks). Though Marseille’s theory of skill-building through gaming didn’t quite catch on, his other works (let’s play global thermal war) involving higher stakes had lasting influence in weapons disarmament and peace-keeping.

space oddity

While orbiting around the dark-side of the Moon, in the communications shadow cast by the intervening planetary body, the crew of Apollo 10 debated on whether to disclose to Mission Control they had picked up on the eerie whistling sounds of the music of the celestial spheres, for fear they might be grounded from future missions.
The entire affair was not suppressed exactly but went mostly unnoticed until 2008 after it came out in a memoir and the same bursts of errant sounds were heard on successive lunar visits and by other space probes, and technicians could be reasonably certain that the noise was some sort of feedback or interference or naturally occurring report—and not extra-terrestrial transmissions. The audio, however, had not been made publicly available until now, so one can judge for one’s self—though it smacks of a promotion-stunt rather than any kind of government-sanctioned UFO cover-up. Even if the explanation is a mundane one, it would have been quite jarring to encounter in the silence of the void.

Monday, 22 February 2016


Via the splendiferous Everlasting Blört comes a visually delightful little art project in weekly animations served up by talent Guillaume Kurkdjian. This illustrator hails from Nantes originally on the Atlantic coast—but as the metropolis’ motto goes Favet Neptunus eunti, Neptune favours the traveller—now operates out of a workshop in Paris. The title of the project means (friends) on kissing terms.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

eye in the sky or death by powerpoint

Earlier in the week, a somewhat silent moment of panic circulated through the general tensions and fears but was quickly subsumed with more pressing business of the day when the pilot of a maverick airliner had to concede that he’d been temporarily blinded by the dazzle of one of those laser-pointers—the kind which might enthrall cats or manage the boredom of an audience girded for a rather long presentation. Through the aircraft was forced to divert to another airport, the only casualty was inconvenience, this single incident—duly but forthcoming about report—highlights that this was not a unique near-miss and there have been some six thousand such occurrences world-wide in the past six years.
The annoyance is a prickly subject since we are not fans of the posture of a nannying-state but such intensity laser beams for public-consumption seem to serve no further purpose than that of blinding of airplane pilots. Given the penchant of the West for air-warfare for combatting Vanilla-ISIS, one wonders why they just can’t invest in a high-powered disco-ball like we have to lay low all their opposition. If one has the technical capacity to make a laser that’s above the requirements of the classroom, then go ahead and terrorise all of us. There’s the chirping of crickets in the auditorium now—as most of our sleeper-cells or time-travellers we’ve sent back have started that conversation with “well, you have an internal-combustion engine” or “you take a drone” and the conversation ends there—with the temporal-tourists burned as witches and the terrorists dismissed as not having the acumen alone for malice. An old and burdened argument holds that no nation in the Middle East held the manufacturing capacity to make its own weapons of destruction, but the same probably holds for the post-industrial West. Why re-invent the wheel? There is an age of majority for operating a car and such and one wonders if one ought not have at least a rudimentary understanding of the workings behind such conveniences in order to use them—for everyone’s benefit.

evolving symmetries

The ever-intriguing Kottke features a mesmerising little tutorial on the several species of recursive, space-filling fractals (not pictured), a cultivar of which is known as Hilbert’s curves.  Developed by the same German mathematician who explored the paradoxical, counter-intuitive nature of infinity with his resort-hotels that always have a vacancy, these inward-folding routines come to occupy the bounded infinity of a finite space, much in the same way (only visualised differently, although I bet it would be a way for switchboard operators to map the shifting room assignments of n+1 guests) of the accommodating hoteliers above.


It is really a grave challenge to try to eulogise great authors and thinkers, more acute than other forms of celebrity or political gravitas, as it’s almost as if not enough could be said that's not their canon-entire and what went unsaid, we'll of course never have that privilege and no one's—even those closest to great minds, like Oliver Sacks that passed away not too long ago or Harper Lee whose death only happened on the cusp of the day prior—qualified to speak on their behalf, that is until there's a tacit but agreed-upon mourning-period that's almost akin to copyright expiry after which it’s again seemly to ply footnotes.
Maybe because there’s too much to say about cultural influences, that we shy away from saying anything altogether, and it’s no time to parade out some obscure facts because either one knew his or her work or did not. Among many other heartfelt retrospectives for one of my favourite philosophers was BLDGBlog’s (ever a go-to resource) encomium (not an obituary) of Professor Umberto Eco. I’ve read many of Eco’s fiction publications and especially what Mister Manaugh commented about the general disdainful reception of Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum about the need for deeper conspiracy that will revise, manifest and assert itself despite a notable connection to reality, really resonated with me (I was an angsty teenager when I read it and without the benefit of mass-media cabals and ought to revisit it). In academics, Eco taught semiotics—which is the study of imparting meaning to things, but which no one can really say what it is, especially after the professor quipped that every phenomenon ought to be dissected as form of communication. I guess if no one understands it (though I think we all intuit it) one is perfectly right and free to invent one’s calling and occupation independently.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

white-collar or unfortunate incarceration

The duo of guerrilla artists and activities that previously erected a bust of the fugitive intelligence agency whistle-blower contracted a slew of talented prison inmates to create portraits of the biggest international corporate chief executive officers who are above the law—despite their crimes against humanity and the environment, and are more deserving to be behind bars. The pictures of these scoff-laws will be auctioned off with proceeds going to the reformist US presidential candidate, whose platform might erode some of their immunity to prosecution.

wireless or not to scale

From the prolific and always interesting antiquarian JF Ptak comes this interesting cartographical representation of the US that graced the cover of a door-to-door salesman's guide from 1937.
The states (and poor Canada up there like some lost vestige of a listening-audience) are depicted proportionately according to radio-ownership, so the sales force better understands their prospects and potential leads. While we like to fancy such remapping regions to different scales to be something very modern and original, here it is during the high of the Dust Bowl and waning years of the Great Depression (threatened to return by successive recessions and joblessness), with some places already awash in the electronic smog of the airwaves capturing one aspect of the times. Be sure to visit the website for more finds and ephemera that reveal the escaping past.

terza rima or remote-sensing

One of BLDGBlog’s latest brilliant postings celebrates the endless capacity for curiosity by way of the site’s trademark speculation and triangulation to arrive back at the momentous bleep and bloop that heralded our first encounter with gravitational waves and the new, unimagined frontiers that that discover opens up for astronomy.
Like radio telescopes limning a whole heretofore invisible spectrum of the heavens and pushing our sight further than the aided eye could do, gravitational astronomy might transform that relatively static backdrop of the stars into something dynamic and constantly churning. But I digress from the original digression which was the author’s own awe and wonder compared to the formative efforts of Galileo to understand the cosmology and meteorology of Dante’s vision of the Underworld. This serious and infernal undertaking supplied the applied-sciences quiver of ideas for the Renaissance Man more mundane inventory of innovations. As alchemy anticipated chemistry and the pharmaceutical disciplines, I wonder if this sort of devoted dissection on the part of one’s readership and fanbase is what's needed to help us find the edges, as it were, and forward the cause of progress.

boot-strap or res publica

Despite the highly contentious levy—often described as the death tax and going by several other dread monikers depending on the jurisdiction and particular gentry of the society in question—not generating much revenue for any particular host government, most seem to want to cleave to this particular regime, regardless of the benefits. Undoubtably the greatest inheritance that one can receive from his or her parents is in one’s genes and in not expected wind-fall, but complaints about the system seem to not go wholly unfounded when some launch arguments about expectations to pass along some of those earnings to successor generations without contest.
Perhaps—albeit inviting a logistical and actuarial nightmare—wealth bequeathed ought to be assized by age, progressively, and not by amount. The beneficiaries of the nouveau riche surely attain a different perspective than the impoverished aristocratic class, and this egalitarian-thinking does not always yield classlessness, nor perhaps should it. Despite the flaunting of the middle-class (and its academic nature) as something that ought to be upheld, American society remains averse to this sort of social structures and even the term class—though it's the most vocal and venomous and it's punishing effects. However inheritance tax might be assessed and collected, it seems that it provides little for government coffers in return for the debate and heartache that come with the discussion and at best ought to be used as a softer way to peddle equality. For good or for ill, no one ought to be held to account on the success or failure of the preceding generations but perhaps a little social-purchase could be engineered drawing off the capital of old-money and dynasty, if inheritance tax is something to be pursued at all. What do you think? Is it a lot of fuss and bombast about nothing or really a way of ensuring the established lines of aristocracy remain in power?

Wednesday, 17 February 2016


With the papal-visit in Mexico wrapping-up, The Atlantic’s recommended Lenten reading, I think, takes on greater dimensions in Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory. There was also a cinematic adaptation called The Fugitive starring Henry Fonda. Inspired by an actual sojourn on the part of the author in the Mexican state of Tabasco when the governor was cracking down on the influence of the Catholic church, an anti-hero known only as the “whiskey priest” faces dogged persecution worse than Jean Valjean when the character resolves to conduct underground services and hold confessions despite the government’s suppression of the faith, forcing priests into retirement, burning churches and destroying relics and other religious paraphernalia. Though the struggle of the seriously flawed main figure—whom no community wanted as his activities attracted unwanted attention and a state-sanctioned inquisition that led to more killings and destruction—was condemned by Church censors for sacrilegious and agnostic portrayal, I agree that it is a good-read especially when one considers how broken resolutions (first for New Year’s and then for Lent) are compounded and confounded and the physical articles of faith are denuded among other claimants and one only has one’s own time in the wilderness as a measure.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

majuscule and minusclue

A bicameral system of writing has two cases for its letters, usually distinct in form and not only size—like Latin-, Greek- and Armenian- derived alphabets, whereas Arabic, Hebrew and Persian make no differentiation.  I wonder if that makes reading a particular challenge, like the cursive-hand that is reportedly incomprehensible to young people.

Aside from æsthetic prerogatives of font and layout, mixed cases probably were cultivated for the sake of speed when copying out a running script—as opposed to headings or chapters that dominated most inscriptions, and the conventions were propagated with the printed word. Individual rules of orthography are as varied as language, where sometimes all nouns are germane or sometimes demonyms, the months and days of the week go with no special consideration and certain symbols and ligatures often only take one form, like the Eszett (ß) that’s never at the front of a word or the Latin alpha that can be single- or double-storey. If rules of capitalisation prove too complex, especially given an international venue, something called a “kebab-case” is employed where dashes replace spacing and no words are writ-large. Using underscore in a similar way is called snake-case. Not to dispense with proper punctuation altogether, words whose meaning changes with capitalisation like Mass (liturgy) or mass (physical property) and Hamlet (Danish prince) or hamlet (small village)—plus many others, especially having to do with place—is called a capitonym.

papa was a rodeo or rhinestone cowboy

Revisiting one of Collectors’ Weekly brilliant show-and-tell session, the surprising tale of the association of country-western performers with rhinestone and over the top outfits is revealed, with a debt of gratitude to the self-styled rodeo tailor, Nudie Cohn.
Inspired by the attire of burlesque shows and surely some of his homeland’s traditional garb, the bootmaker and tailor’s apprentice from Ukraine (Nuta Kotlyarenko) opened up a store in North Hollywood for his fabulous get-ups in the 1940s and after a bit of networking successes, Nudie’s custom suits became all the rage, sported not just by the likes of Roy Rogers, Hank Williams, Gene Autry and Johnny Cash but also by Elvis Presley, Elton John, David Cassidy, Tony Curtis, Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, and John Lennon, as well. Cohn’s story is remembered by his granddaughter who grew up in the family boutique and has lots of interesting details to share about delivering special products and making everyone feel pretty glamourous. Someone really ought to make a movie out of this story.

we don’t need no stinking badges

Dangerous Minds shares an amazing assortment of alternative merit badges from artist Luke Drozd that awards decorations for subversive areas of study like espionage, home-dentistry and a host of paranormal abilities. Far from advocating delinquency, this collection of accolades—which does not discriminate between what mischief boys and girls ought not to emulate—it shows that demerits can sometimes be their own reward. What sort of life-skills would you like to see included in order to advance up the ranks?

Monday, 15 February 2016

périphérique ou les grands ensembles

Photographer Laurent Kronental spent the better part of the last four years assiduously documenting the anchor residents of the large housing estates that began to ring in the Parisian suburbs from the 1950s through the 1980s, the urban veterans that have remained amid a mostly transitory population.
These images not only capture the grandeur of the architecture but through the personal stories of the seniors serves to dispel ideas that might have been formed and fuelled about blight and “no-go” zones, and while not presenting a false-face on the challenges that these housing projects have endured, suggest that the utopian ideas within the brick and mortar might not be altogether a matter of the distant, marginalised past after all. Be sure to visit the link above for a whole gallery of photographs and to learn more about the artist.

soup-and-sandwich syndicate

For a few years, we’ve had one of those sandwich-makers to take camping with us, but having received a “panini-press” for the holidays, we’ve aspired to create some soup and sandwich combinations for indoors as well. Lately, we tried Cheese and Leek soup with egg and cheese toasts.

For the soup, ingredients for four bowls call for:

  • Salt, pepper, parsley, bay-leaves nutmeg for seasoning
  • 100 millilitre (about half a cup) of dry white wine
  • Six slices of wheat bread for toasting and for the croutons 
  • A heaping tablespoon of flour
  • Butter
  • 100 gram (4 oz) container of heavy crème 
  • 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock from bullion 
  • Around 600 grams (about a pound) of leeks, washed, peeled and cut into thin rings 

For the toast:

  • Bread and butter from above
  • 2 eggs 
  • Sliced cheese (Gouda or Gruyère) 
  • Spinach leaves or lamb’s lettuce (Feldsalat

There’s no cheese left out of the cheese soup, of course, but that’s where it gets a bit tricky. In German markets, there’s Schmelzkäse that’s made for soup and I suppose it’s like the pasteurized processed cheese food that’s available in the States, but looks some much less estranged from natural cheese and is much more appetising. In any case, use about 500 grams of your local-equivalent. In the soup pot, braise the rings of leek in butter for three minutes, dusting the leek with the flour afterwards. Introduce the white wine, vegetable stock with the bay leaves and allow it to cook on low heat for another ten minutes or so. Remove the bay leaves and breaking the cheese product of choice into small cubes, add that and the heavy crème to the pot and allow to cook for an additional ten minutes, stirring often and making sure that the cheese is melting. In the meantime, cut two slices of the bread into little cubes and braise them in butter in a separate pan (you can save the pan for the eggs) for about three minutes until crisp and set aside on a paper-napkin to dry. Prepare two eggs sunny-side-up and in your sandwich-maker/pie-iron/panini-press, make the toasts with the egg, cheese slice and leafy green filling—sort of like a croque-monsieur. Season the soup with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and garnish with croutons and parsley.

pomade ou les moustaches de l’oiseau

First spotted by erstwhile bird-watcher Mademoiselle Titam (l’article est disponible uniquement en français), I was delighted to discover these dapper little moustachioed seabirds called Inca terns (Larosterna inca), native to Chile and Peru, cleaving to the Humboldt current that drives the South Pacific like the dynamo Gulf Stream that warms Europe. What I found really striking—given our human biases, was that for what we’d consider a very masculine trait, there’s very little dimorphism between the males and the females in terms of plumage, and all the terns sport the same look, unlike for those with antlers, manes or the birds-of-paradise. I suppose other sea-going fowl, gulls and penguins, do look quite uniform across the genders.

Sunday, 14 February 2016


In order to confront and discourage able-bodied drivers who may not think twice about taking a handicapped parking space, one organisation in Russia (where figures run as high as thirty percent) that advocates for the rights of the disabled (эта функция доступна только на русском языке) has launched an awareness campaign in a busy parking garage. If no special permit is detected, the installation will present the would-be claim-jumping driver with the spectre of a wheel-chair bound individual who shares their personal stories of hardship. Acclaim to Davelog 3.0 for sharing this, and I normally don’t like posting videos as they’re quick to disappear, I’ll make an exception for this powerful demonstration that I think could have further applications in making people think twice.

mason-dixon or white-sale

I always considered the US federal holiday, known as Presidents’ Day, to be a pretty anodyne concession to something akin to the monarch’s birthday (usually shifted to the summer months, irrespective of the actual date of birth of the reigning royal to increase the chances of nicer weather) but it’s actually quite politically and grammatically contentious, rather than the monolithic excuse for discounts for towels and bedding that bespeak patriotism.
Originally celebrated as George Washington’s birthday only, Abraham Lincoln—also born in February—was added later, though many jurisdictions did not get as far as adopting the correct orthography in moving from president’s to presidents’ and many States, especially those that suffered under the War of Northern Aggression still honour Thomas Jefferson (born in April) instead of Lincoln or choose it as a day to honour the office and no specific office-holder. Uniquely, Arkansas chooses to toast Washington and a civil rights activist, Daisy Lee Gatson Bates (born and passed away in the month of November) on this day for her pivotal actions during the Little Rock schools integration crisis on the late 1950s. Yet other states do their own thing entirely to supplement that national mandate. Ironically, with the passage of the act that moved all federal holidays to Mondays in the early 1970s, proclamation Presidents’ Day to be held on the third Monday of February, the observance can never fall on Washington’s actually birth date of 22 February.

sweded or my angel is a centerfold

Reminding me of the story about how Tom’s Diner by Susanne Vega became the first .mp3, I enjoyed reading this essay in The Atlantic about the unwitting and for quite a long time unknown contribution and legacy of a Miss Lena Sjööblom (all very safe-for-work) of Sweden, the Playmate of the Month for November 1972 toward the .jpeg digital photographic processing and compression format.
Researchers working on the project to create portable images of manageable sizes yet without perceptible loss in visual quality for the agency that would become DARPA, the team grabbed the first clipping handy that might fit on the small surface of their drum-scanner and began trying different techniques on the cropped centerfold. Not to dismiss the objectifying nature of the team’s subject which speaks of the barriers to entry for women in computer-sciences, I suppose having a test-pattern such as this helped them monitor when different mathematical models degraded the image’s quality beyond an acceptable threshold, not wanting it to get too pixilated. Although the standard is usually something taken for granted now, it allows for quick transfer through the æther (even telemetry from space) and across devices and the ability to store massive amounts of images—and not only the kind these researchers might have kept under their mattresses.

Saturday, 13 February 2016


Thanks to Swiss Miss’ Friday link rodeo, we learn that pineapples and mulberries—among others—are not single fruits but rather an aggregate or collective fruit—a cluster of individual berries fused together. I suppose, however, when one considers the whole spectrum of the cornucopia from a shaft of wheat, an ear of maize, a bunch of grapes to a lone budding apple or cherry—and is around to watch one’s orchard grow—it ought not be all that strange to think about, but still I was a little overwhelmed to find out about the assorted strategies of produce.


I first encountered those beautiful wool rugs whose landscaped pile evokes pastures and soft clumps of hearty grass on the fabulous Everlasting Blört, but then I began noticing the same sort of floor-covering by artist Alexandra Keyayoglou all over the place, and not just on-line. I am not sure if it’s incident to the very mild Winter and tepid thaw that’s been quite confusing for Nature, but there’s a lot of mossy patches on cobble-stones and roof tiles—more than usually, I think—that form the same contrasted and topographic. I know it’s the exact opposite phenomena, carpeting imitating Nature, but it makes me think of those coordinated yarn-bombing events when a brigade of knitters decide to decorate urban trees. I bet Keyayoglou’s rugs feel better between the toes, for the moment.

i drive a rolls royce, because it’s good for my voice

The always compelling Nag on the Lake invites to visit an expertly curated gallery, showing in London, of early 1970s political protest posters to come out of the workshop of the University of California’s Berkeley campus.
These bold and iconic posters really capture the Zeitgeist of distrust and dissolution that framed the era of Vietnam, Nixon and violent kettling of rallies, and the quality and artistry of these prints, incidentally, inspired some to believe that the peace-movement was backed by the Communists in order to corrupt the youth and overthrow the government. This conspiratorial belief only strengthened the hubris of the politicians in their thinking that they surely could not have genuinely engendered such disaffections on their own. There are some fifty posters to view but I especially liked this one that recalls Goya’s nightmare vision of the paranoid Titan Cronus (Saturn) devouring his offspring, the Olympian gods.

eros and agape

Valentine’s Day in its received format has a pretty interesting history of conflation, segregation and outright confusion. As the Roman Empire was filling its calendar with holidays, the day preceding the Ides of February became sacred to Juno (Hera), the long-suffering spouse of Jupiter (Zeus), who was among many other attributes and kennings, the patroness of marriage and newly-weds. Accordingly, this date began a favoured time for nuptials and young boys and girls, whom were normally strictly separated throughout the rest of the year, in anticipation for the coming feast distributed ballots, lots with their names on them and later—during the following feast of Lupercalia, pairs were drawn and the two youths would be “married” for the duration of the festivities before being parted again, to be later married off under more customary, strategic conditions arranged by their parents.
I do not know if any of these sweethearts pined afterwards but graver unimpassioned measures were to be introduced during the first decades of the three hundreds when, according to legend, there was a backlash against the recalcitrant Christian community, under the reign of Aurelian (and later repeated by Diocletian) who was distrusting of their anti-social behaviours in not observing the rites of the Empire and aside from tossing them to the lions forbade marriage (but this may have also been a more general-order, irrespective of affiliation) since matrimony was not conducive to going off to war. A hero was produced, as is often the case (and another during the Diocletian persecution with the same cognomen and guilty of the same crimes against the state), in the person of Valentino, who performed in cognito wedding services in accordance with Church customs. This underground community was infiltrated and an unrepentant Valentine (and his later incarnation) were thrown in prison. One of the Valentines had an audience with the Emperor (Claudius Gothicus, according to some) who was sympathetic to his cause at first, but the Valentine got a little too preachy and the Emperor had him executed anyway. Both martyrdoms took place at the head of Lupercalia and as a symbol for fidelity and family—though I suppose there could only be one Valentine with that sort of patronage. Though Valentine greetings were sent first in the late Middle Ages, it was not until Victorian times that the spirit of the holiday recaptured that original sense of the lottery and flirtation—and continued admiration. Happy Valentines’ Day everybody!

Friday, 12 February 2016

calling-card or oh snap

Assistant editor Rebecca O’Connell of the fabulously fascinating Mental Floss invites up to check out the printing and developing services of a company called Ubersnap, who will not only expertly transform one’s images to animations, they will go one further and create pseudo-holographic prints that leap out of their frames. This would be a pretty keen thing to experiment with—and not just for one’s candid bursts of photographs but for other applications, like business cards and other promotional materials, as well.  Mental Floss has further details, so give it a try.

tatort oder der kommissar’s in town

Though truthfully I cannot say I consider myself a dedicated fan of the series—though I usually have it on in the background and make it a point to gyrate to the funky opening soundtrack—I think that I must give it another go after reading Dangerous Minds’ appreciation of Tatort, a crime-scene investigatory franchise that has regular parallel plot-lines in a dozen different cities within the German Sprachraum. The series has aired for four decades presently and its thousandth instalment is coming up soon. The tribute highlights some of the best episodes and offers a lucid explanation to the nonpareil format to outside audiences—however much we might already fancy ourselves forensics experts thanks to CSI and Law & Order. I have caught glimpses of familiar sights in the show’s extensive venues, especially Leipzig, beforehand—and although a recent chapter was filmed between Frankfurt and Wiesbaden, I was a little let down that Wiesbaden’s screen-presence was severely limited and confined to an underground carpark—though I could be reasonably certain I recognised it.

and the stars look very different today

The ever-discerning Kottke gives us a nice primer on the first confirmed, cautious measurement of gravitational waves, ripples echoing out across the Universe, only approaching a vanishingly small but just detectable undulation from what would seem to be the most violently explosive of events—the dangerous waltz and collision of a black hole and its dance partner.
This kind of carnage of the dance-floor, after indirect sightings and a needful component of the Theory of General Relativity was first proffered a century ago (there’s a nice vintage newspaper clipping at the link above) that although some measure of confidence was withheld and no one knew whether we might have to return to the drawing-board, produced an explosion so powerful as to be felt across space and time by a pair of super-sensitive seismographs. One possible inference of this space-quake is the existence of a heretofore hypothetical massless particle called provisionally the graviton. The particle responsible for imparting mass is thought to have none itself because gravity appears to have an infinite range, and objects tug on each other no matter how far apart.  What do gravitational waves mean to you?  The Universe is bumping us apart and pushing us together with these wave fronts all the time but we cannot experience them as our frame of reference is compressed and expanded to an equal degree.

Thursday, 11 February 2016


Messy Nessy Chic furnishes us with an update on the anticipated maiden voyage of the Titanic II in 2018, a meticulous replica of the original announced by an ambitious Australian mining tycoon first back in 2012, on the centenary of the cruise-liner’s tragic sinking. The project has suffered some setbacks, and one does have to wonder about the wisdom or folly of tempting fate and declaiming another unsinkable behemoth, but the berthing and christening are being planned and the attention to detail in below deck is absolutely astounding. Please sure to visit the link for a large gallery of images of the new cabins, dining halls, gymnasia and grand reception area in comparison to the original historic photographs.

the island of doctor moreau or domestic-partnerships

Though I am no advocate for animal-testing nor place any stock on the pharmaceutical industry to regulate itself, perhaps the fear that a governing counsel in the UK might grant geneticists a purchase to explore hybridisation of beast and man may be misguided. The notion that animals might be breed as spare-parts or we might find ourselves in an awful transmigatory situation where a human soul might be trapped in the body of another species—or an animal’s mind in a person’s form.
It might be—however, a necessity that a single panel is convened to review proposals on a case-by-case basis and issue a verdict, as any codex would be insufficient to cover all the possibilities that are quickly growing and escape the peerage of science and ethics altogether. Proponents and sceptics alike concede life-saving advances have been won from animal-testing, though important questions remain regarding the efficacy and alternative routes that might have yielded the same benefits for mankind. Not to equate genetic-modification and the creation of chimera to the practise of husbandry, crop-cultivation or even natural selection (I think this argument is a thin and perhaps a lazy one), but our domestic familiars have been with us for a long time. Farming is an incubator for some of our most dire diseases but has also led to some redemptive advances, and it would behove one frightened by the headlines to remember that it was by the observation that milkmaids—having acquired a mild case of cow-pox, were somehow resistant to small-pox, and thus poising physicians for formulating the Germ Theory and the concept of vaccination (from the Latin for cow, vaca) and immunisation with antibodies eventually culled in chicken eggs. Insulin to treat diabetes was first isolated when doctors extracted a certain hormone that calves produced and tried injecting it in themselves and observed the effects on blood-sugar. What do you think? Is a counsel of experts superior to reactionary legislation or by this legal breach, are we just conceding any control in the face of progress?

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

décoration for the yellow house

Via Nag on the Lake we learn that in anticipation of its upcoming retrospective on the art of Vincent van Gogh, the Chicago Institute of Art has created his room in Arles, which can be rented by the public as sort of bed-and-breakfast experience. This is a delightful draw to get people learn more about the artist and his work, but as the Yellow House period bookends his descent (late summer to just before Christmas 1888, sunflowers to sunflowers) and mental breakdown, I don’t know if it’s the best accommodations for all and sundry.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

cabbages and kings

From Wikipedia’s On this Day… sidebar, I learnt that not only is this the anniversary of anniversary of the congressional selection (contingent presidential election) of John Quincy Adams in 1825, when a three-way split among the united Democratic-Republican party, the Whigs and the National Republicans resulted in no candidate a majority in the Electoral College, it also marks the date when young Alessandro Ludovisi, styled Gregory XV, was elevated to pope in 1621, not through the familiar conclave but rather by acclamation—a voice vote. Although sometimes agreement is still measured by yeas and nays, Pope Gregory was the last pontifex vetted in this way. I wonder how public versus a secret ballot sits with one’s constituency. President Adams was not America’s only president to bypass the conduits of the democratic-process (such as it is—creating the modern day two party system out of Republican-backers who supported the defeated Andrew Jackson and the sore-winner Democrats) and the majority of politics (sacred and profane) take place in smoke-filled rooms.
The origin of that term is sourced to a meeting in Chicago’s Blackstone Hotel (Room 404, as when someone attempts to make some spurious connections) when the Republican National Convention failed to produce viable candidate to block Woodrow Wilson’s heir-apparent and Warren G Harding was tossed in the ring, also under special-appointment. Weary from WWI and more resolved to take a stance of not being World Police, Harding’s regime was popular at the time though his cronyism and involvement in the Teapot Dome Scandal (over bribes from the oil industry which was the most notorious until Watergate) rather tarnished history’s opinion of him. With only a reign of two years, Pope Gregory was not able to accomplish a lot—other than making the penalties for witchcraft a little less severe and reserving capital-punishment for those proven to be in league with the Devil and instigating reforms in the way papal elections proceed, giving us the ceremony and closed-door meetings that we recognize today.

6x6 link-roundup: after-school edition

puppet on a string: the laudable, laughable efforts of the FBI to steer youth away from being radicalized

mimir and vanir: some of the bizarre scenarios of Norse mythology

penmanship: three-dimensional calligraphy that rolls off the page

war on drugs: when defence-contractors try their hand at directing (anti-drugs) films

planned-parenthood: from Dangerous Minds’ extensive archives, Donald Duck lectures on contraception

gymnastique suédoise: lovely illustrations from the 1920s for a domestic exercise routine


Via Vox (which is always a good place to visit for some mansplaining—though not in a patronising way), we’re presented with a rather interesting compromise between using browser extensions that filter out advertisers and subjecting oneself to the harsh glare of rabid sponsorship—all the distractions and the hardly-know-ye touts and catchpenny tactics going on in the marginalia.
Reading and study can become easily fraught with inktraps blotting out the flow of white-spaces. Advertising is the mainstay of the low- and no-cost internet, however, and cutting off this source of income entirely either erects serious barriers to entry for up-start enterprises, or—and possibly worse since it’s becoming less obvious what people and robots are compensated, marketers turn to native-content to praise and promote. Though not a perfect solution, the article’s author discovered a work-around that does not block but rather masks the ads behind a page that contains only the text. Readers experience less befuddlement and the word from our sponsors, though muted, is not expunged—maybe like the fears that networks had over fast-forwarding past the commercials. As I said, it’s not an ideal fix but maybe a provisional one, being that the billboard is such a narrow one, and with some established web haunts withholding some select services to visitors with filter software, maybe it is a step in the right direction.

Monday, 8 February 2016

fú lù shòu

For many countries following the Lunar Calendar, today marks the beginning of a week-long celebration that will usher in what in the Chinese tradition call the Year of the Fire-Monkey. Annually the zodiac processes through one of twelve animal houses, which are coupled with one of five elemental signs, making (with other epicycles in play as well) a grand tour of sixty years. A fire monkey sounds as if it will be an incendiary and mischievous time and indeed when last we saw this combination in 1956-1957 there was the troubles in the Suez which became the sunset moment for the British Empire, Morocco and Tunisia secede from France, Fidel Castro takes power in Cuba and the Saarland is reunited with West German, but these tumultuous events are the high-profile ones which don’t traffic in undoing and like all interesting times don’t bear repeating if we’re circumspect. The year also bodes innovation, reinvention and rejuvenation in its chaos that can be tamed. What do you think your fortune holds?