Tuesday, 28 February 2017

long ambients

We here at PfRC are celebrating the milestone of our four-thousandth post—this episode informed by the always excellent Nag on the Lake—with four hours of outtakes from musician and DJ Moby free to use however one sees fit. A year ago around this time, the artist arranged the unused riffs from other projects into an extended background ensemble that’s really an inducement for yoga, meditation or just rest and relaxation and active twilit dreaming.

the lay of the land or polders en meer

Having walked the streets of Amsterdam recently, it was interesting to read about the unique city’s long term landscaping plans.
Though not quite restoring the city to its golden age layout, civil engineers have a vision for 2020 of making the great arteries of commerce wider and deeper, more in keeping with the original urban design and more aligned with how the river wants to ebb and flow, by removing a lot of the concrete frontage that’s expanded around the city centre. In addition to enlarging select canals, there is also a colossal submerged bicycle parking-lot in the offering.

Monday, 27 February 2017

unquote or falsehood flies and the truth comes limping after

Recalling that fake news is not just any objective fact that challenges one’s world view and how the retraction is never as wide-spread as the misreporting, we are reminded of probably the most popular bits of folksy wisdom that war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill never said:
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” While the sentiment might be in the right place, there’s no evidence of Churchill having ever uttered the like and he was definitely not the first to whom this phrase or variation was attributed—heroes and luminaries of days past credited with authorship of this quip from Mark Twain, to Thomas Jefferson, to a fortune cookie proverb, to Jonathan Swift. I think indulging in this sort of generational modishness is akin to using props and publicity stunts to forward one’s agenda, and besides there are plenty of very fine things that public figures did without a doubt say.  Its origins, so far as anyone can tell, are rooted in a 1787 homily by Rector Thomas Francklin: “Falsehood will fly, as it were, on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the Earth; whilst truth lags behind; her steps, though sure, are slow and solemn, and she has neither vigour nor activity enough to pursue and overtake her enemy.”

Sunday, 26 February 2017

vexing vexillogy or false-flag

Amid reports that Texas law-makers have introduced legislation that would enable them to impose fines on fellow office-holders for misrepresenting the Texas flag with the emoji for the Ecuadorian one (presently, states and other subnational regions* do not have their own emojis) and that Dear Leader’s supporters were pricelessly duped into waving flags with the Russian tri-colours at a conservative political summit before he addressed the audience (they were confiscated by ushers), the vice-president unfurled the banner of Nicaragua to show America’s commitment to Israel.
Granted the two flags do look somewhat alike on a tiny screen and we all make mistakes, but perhaps people should avoid shorthand and symbolism and particular forums if it’s only going to cause more and more political gaffs.

*Contentiously, Danish Greenland, Norwegian Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Caribbean Netherlands, Hong Kong, Macao, Spanish Ceuta and Melilla, French Mayotte, the US Virgin Islands, the Falklands, Gibraltar, Tristan da Cunha and the Channel Islands have their own flags, with perhaps more on the way.

port authority

Atlas Obscura has an intriguing feature on passport collector and expert Tom Topol, whose research and curation run through the entire history of border controls from the seventeenth century up until modern times with US re-entry permits issued in response to one of Dear Leader’s executive orders. The bureaucratic cul-de-sac that the article uses to introduce Topol’s collection is a set of six passport (not pictured) from defunct countries that present an interesting narrative of these former regimes and the travel documents’ bearers.

mazel tov cocktail or then they came for the trade unionists, and i did not speak out…

Law-makers in the US state of Arizona, with precedent and believing rabble-rousers are paying others to incite a riot, affirm civil forfeiture for organisers and participants in protests with the potential for violence and destruction.
The consequence of this chilling bit of legislation being that the state or opposition can requisition provocateurs to make the ruling enforceable, even when proceedings are peaceful. What do you think? The new laws conflate organising a protest with the crime of racketeering—that is offering a service, unbidden, to solve a problem that doesn’t exist or is created by the racketeers, like extortion for a protection scheme. It sounds to me like these senators are in violation of their own statute. A broken window or someone temporarily denied the egress that they signed up for could be cause for seizing the assets from all partakers for dissuading and significantly curtailing anyone’s willingness to act up or stick their necks out for any cause.

stokoe notation

With a vocabulary of over two thousand immediately memorable signs, a visit to actor and American sign language consultant Robert DeMayo (via Bored Panda) is sure to teach and boost retention, imparting a bit of knowledge that’s practical in itself but can also give one a fresh perspective and a new way of communicating.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

milliarium aureum

Though far from pardoning all the hardships that the global fast-food franchise has brought on the neighbours that it’s saturated, we did enjoying hearing of how one restaurant incorporated some ancient ruins into its dining experience, conserving a bit of an archaeological excavation in the process.
The parent company invested an additional three hundred thousand euro to ensure that a stretch of Roman road was properly preserved and protected that was discovered during ground-breaking back in 2014, and now is on view thanks to a transparent floor in the restaurant. This compromise reminds me of the shopping mall in Mainz that’s host to a subterranean first century sanctuary of the goddess Isis and the Cybele discovered in 1999 when the mall’s proprietors were looking to expand underground parking.

victory garden

Via Nag on the Lake, we discover a collaboration between a Swedish furniture and lifestyle magnate and SPACE10 has resulted in an open-source, free to replicate pavilion called the Grow Room for planting and raising one’s own sustainable produce, even in an urban setting. Given the motivation and basic carpentry skills, anyone could set-up their own personal farm with some seed, soil, plywood and a jigsaw.

privileged witness or over the hill

Nuancing the anthropic problem—that the Cosmos seems custom-tuned for nurturing the development of sentient life as we know it and if any universal constant were off by the slightest amount, there would be no stars in the sky nor carbon from the furnaces of the suns—Geoff Manaugh posits the truly profound scenario that beings living at this stage of the Universe’s development might be among the last that could understand the nature and the history of it.
Fast-forward to a race coming into existence billions of years in the future, and their skies will still be peppered with stars but only those of their parent galaxy, the accelerating force behind the expanding Cosmos having pushed galaxies so far distant that they lie below the fold and even the most powerful telescopes could not detect their estranged neighbours. And while coming of age in a much smaller, ahistoric and constant Cosmos—horizons only as far as one’s own galaxy and not inconceivable huge and ancient—seems bleak and desolate and the invitation for myth-making, it’s also somehow comforting and reassuring. As much as I think we should take pride in what we’ve learned about cosmology and are capable of producing models that reveal much of how physics works on all scales, our assumptions may be wrong, ill-informed because we too came of age at a time of historical disadvantage—too far separated or too closely embedded to take in a comprehensive view.

sea-monkey kingdom

One internet giant and mobile phone distributor had a strange, complex notion to put little aquariums inside the phone-casing that held living, hardy tardigrades—also known as water bears, as Super Punch informs. As tough as these little beasties are (capable of being boiled, frozen, irradiated and the vacuum of space), they couldn’t take the spotlight of the camera that magnified their tableau so their owners could watch them, and realising that these weren’t virtual pets but actual living creatures and not just existing for our temporary amusement, plus mounting technical set-backs, the project was eventually called off.

fm (no static at all)

Due to the finite nature of the speed of light, denizens of TRAPPIST-1d would be just learning about the final football game of Pelé, the Red Army Faction hijacking of a Lufthansa flight to Somalia, Miss Oklahoma and ill-will ambassador Anita Bryant is pied for her homophobic platform and the eradication of smallpox—plus witnessing the beginnings of the Space Shuttle programme, disco and the launch of Voyager 1 and perhaps hear Earthlings’ surprised reception of the Wow! signal that they dispatched such a long time ago. Excuse the lateness of our reply. Also on the air waves in the fall of 1977 were the musical stylings of newcomers The Sex Pistols and veterans Queen, Billy Joel and Steely Dan and M*A*S*H* plus One Day at a Time, the Norman Lear sitcom that’s been rebooted recently.

Friday, 24 February 2017

standardised position description or all your jobs are belong to us

Via Marginal Revolution, Oxford economist Daniel Susskind that the disruptive—and hopefully welcome—effects of machine-learning on the labour market is far, far underestimated. Humans assume that the routine tasks that robots will take first are the dull and boring ones—and not just the more complex but rather straightforward and easily articulated ones.
Robot desk-mates are already learning new tasks by observing and copying behaviours, even if their mentors think what they do defies explaination and that it the time it takes to spell it out… Moreover, the bigger element that humans aren’t considering is the assumption that machines ought to work in ways that replicate the processes that we’ve invented to reach a goal. They’d assuredly be gobsmacked at some of the dismal inefficiencies and pretenses based not in gainful, meaningful employment but rather busyness and making sure there’s no loitering about. What do you think? In the service of man, robotic lorries would displace many truck-drivers, for example, but the centralised warehouse and just-in-time inventory mightn’t have been the way to go and an alternative exists that we can’t see because we’ve just always done things in one way. Machines would probably re-write the rules of economics as a first order of business as well, making (if we allow it) the notion of a robot taking one’s job not a frightening prospect but a happy one that we are grateful for—leaving us to other, more noble pursuits and free from toil and attachment.


bewitched: a mass hexing occurred outside of Trump Tower last night

easier said than done: Kurzgesagt invites us to ponder the human rights we’d be conferring on sentient robots

swen or inga: a few very clever, impressive English language anagrams plus further resources—(a: Norwegians)

cat o’ nine tails: feline armourer Jeff de Boer, via the always marvellous Nag on the Lake

thrills await: NASA celebrates the discovery of the solar system TRAPPIST-1 with a series of retro travel posters  

upward spiral

As much as the brain choreographs that neurotic self-destructive waltz by interpreting dwelling on negative thoughts, worry and anxiety on par with positive emotions and mindful behavior, we are just as capable of flipping the script—so to speak.
Feelings of shame, guilt and apprehension are the stuff of the chemical rewards that the brain craves as much as pride and bravery (we don’t have words for all emotional foils), and the conscious mind prefers any engaging activity to none at all. Writing for The Big Think, Tony Birrer offers four practical tips for little mental nudges—of course we all know this stuff already but the small reminders can keep us going without becoming dogmatists and can sometimes be eye-opening—that we can adopt to help side-step the cycles that get us in a funk.

everybody has their little… the denizens of the deep and all that

At PfRC we have perhaps an unfair aversion to listicles that purport to educate but are really just vehicles for multiply advertising opportunities, but we’ll make exceptions for anything that claim to have affinity with film-maker David Lynch. We did not regret the decision and we’ll owe that we knew very little about the enigmatic and profound strange director and it was no catchpenny slideshow.


Having installed an Attorney General who once quipped that he thought the Ku Klux Klan were acceptable until he found out that they smoked pot, Dear Leader’s administration seems to be poised to reverse his stated position of respecting states’ rights not only on telling people whose company that they can use the facilities with but also when it comes to recreational marijuana use.
In the interest of perpetuating the scapegoat narrative of rapists and drug-dealers and reefer-madness, the federal government may weigh on the wisdom behind the decisions of Washington, DC, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska and Colorado to allow the use legal use of the substance for enjoyment and for medical research. I’m sure that at least pharmaceutical companies and the prisons industries would benefit from the migration of cannabis production from a taxed, regulated regime back to cartels and smugglers. I anticipate a whole raft of alt-truths and questionable science articles to attack and discredit the dope fiends amongst us. What do you think? People are already awake—and sleepless, and while there are numerous other priorities to protect in the environmental and social justice arenas, I wonder if this might be the contravention that pushes Americans to truly rebel or secede.

Thursday, 23 February 2017


give me a bouncy c: harmoniously, bumble bees buzz at a specific frequency to coax flowers to open up fully and make it easier to get at hard-to-reach nectar

one does not simply walk into Mordor: a map generator for fantastic realms

compound lens: a pin-hole camera comprised of a bundle of thirty-two thousand drinking straws that provides a rather buggy outlook on the world

that’ll be perfect for our delicious Roquefort cheese: dedicated fans and show emeritus revive Mystery Science Theater 3000

psa: a friendly nudge to visit the weird and wonderful and very risqué world of Liar Town, USA—an old favourite

apple-core, Baltimore: Mister Trash Wheel and cohorts are working to clean up the Delmarva Bay

bale and bellwether

Confirming that the world is an inexhaustible fount of delights to behold, Messy Nessy Chic invites us to explore the abandoned “Colin’s Barn” outside in Crudwell parish, near Malmesbury. In the 1980s, a shepherd named Colin Stokes built this sprawling fortress for his flock but choose to move to greener pastures in Scotland once a quarry was slated to open in the area and left his elaborate castle to the elements. The ensemble of buildings, designed for a sheep-sized court, have weathered the years quite well, having become a sanctuary for birds and bats and definitely a place to seek out next time we’re in England.

broadsheet, broadside

Although not yet incorporated into the paper’s print editions and the take-away message is about letting the sunshine in, the new motto of the venerable and respected Washington Post “Democracy dies in the Darkness” is a pretty chilling and goth, emo by-line for the age we’re living in. Journalists and experts deserve our support and not our disdain, since liberty does wither and die without those willing to report and to challenge.

m-class or goldilocks

Amongst the thousands of confirmed exoplanets in the firmament and the untold trillions of worlds estimated, NASA just held a colossal press-conference that served to the public the very exciting news of a solar system discovered in orbit around a cool (ultra-cool, Red Giants are m-class stars but Star Trek’s planetary classification system is unfortunately made up) dwarf star in the constellation of Aquarius, some thirty nine light years distance from us.
Astronomers are giving the discovery the designation of TRAPPIST-1 as it was the first solar system to be observed directly using transit photometry.  The acronym for the programme and one of the telescopes used spells out Trappist, like the monastic order and brew-masters of Liège, where the search method was first conceived. Seven rocky (terrestrial) worlds orbit the star and at least three are thought to be in the habitable-zone, conducive to life as we know it thriving. After compiling and analysing telemetry for a year and half, researchers are very confident in their results. Finding no life in that entire star system would be, I’d wager, far more stranger than discovering extraterrestrial life. As we said above, this ensemble joins an already crowded Cosmos, but I think it’s brilliant that there’s already an artist’s conception to captivate and stoke the imagination—it reminds me of Mongo of Ming the Merciless and the other floating kingdoms in that overcast empire. Here’s to science, NASA and the monks. Flash jump, everybody!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

i for one welcome our robot overlords

Perhaps betraying an enormous amount of good judgment that surpasses their programming, androids seem, as Gizmodo delightfully points out with a thorough and rather exhaustive array of examples, not to warm to the pseudo-populist leaders of the world.
It’s not as if they’ve just been warned-off by some of the politicians that have experienced Dear Leader’s forceful and strange hand-shake and the aversion, surely mutual, seems nearly universal among the recently matriculated. As the author posits, these PR agents might have been sent from the future to give us a subtle warning, encoded in etiquette.

trans-neptunian object

Grievous as the news to many, the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union adopted Resolution 5a back in 2006 that demoted Pluto’s status as a proper planet to dwarf one, but it did settle a mounting problem when it came to the designation of newly discovered objects beyond the orbit of Neptune—some of which would inevitable prove to be larger than Pluto.
A decade later, an alternate geophysical definition under consideration would lurch towards the opposite extreme, upgrading some one hundred objects—including the Moon and several more satellites. Deliberations would continue through March but many members (invested with such power—imagine, naming the stars) are reserved about changing matters, because it’s easier for people to be captivated by an idea that they can get their heads around—nine planets are far more memorable and assayable as opposed to a hundred and ten.


Via the Verge, we discover that the town of Ōji in Nara Prefecture is promoting its tourism industry with the help of a delightful new mascot called Yukimaru, a doggie drone that hovers around like a guide pointing out the sights. Although unclear whether Yukimaru is a real object or computer-generated, it doesn’t seem to matter so much, judging from the reactions of residents featured in this public relations campaign video one can find at either of the links, and Yukimaru seems to be all about imagination and discovery.


Enough to make even the hardiest water bear (tardigrade) blanch, spelunkers studying extremophile biotopes have extracted microbes from crystals buried deep in an abandoned zinc mine in Chihuahua that researchers believe to be between ten-thousand and fifty-thousand years old.
Discoveries such as these really push the limits of our conventional definitions of how and indeed where life manifests itself. Such rugged determination speaks to the theory of panspermia, the idea that life could be propagated through the Cosmos on the backs of comets, meteors or even on the breaking crest of a radio-wave but also is a stark warning for us as explorers to be vigilant about stowaways and unintended contamination.

profiles in courage

Amusing Planet directs our attention to a moving but easily missed monument under an awning in Postman’s Park in London. The Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice first opened in 1900 by a collector of such human-interest stories commemorates sixty-two individuals who did not hesitate to make the ultimate sacrifice to save (in most cases) complete strangers. The sort of unflinching heroism deserves to be remembered—especially that these epitaphs are not those of warriors and leaders, since fame is no substitute for character and empathy. Be sure to visit the website at the link above to learn more and discover other curious and inspiring destinations.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

patronage system

Although this gig has far less tenure, the Mall of America’s—on the occasion of its quarter of century in existence, as Super Punch informs—call for submissions reminds me of the competitive recruitment and retention of professional hermits.
The selected writer-in-residence will receive an immersive experience to record in their own words and report to world the atmosphere of this giant shopping venue. Having passed the age of mall rats and yet to confront the ranks of mall walkers, I wonder what one might observe—especially in the course of a few days—and wonder where the real story is to be found. Do you suppose that other businesses as contract such laureates? That would be interesting to find out and maybe avail oneself of.

tldr; or subspace, subtext

Though my faith in the robust and impeccable nature of Vulcan logic remains unshaken—Mister Spock was after all half human and thus prone to human hysterics—I do appreciate this analysis of such qualifiers of interesting or even fascinating and what they convey in modern parlance through the lens of the formative cultural impact his sober and supposedly dispassionate assessment of situations has had on generations.
Even the search for more sovereign synonyms probably do not distance us really from the subtext that what’s meant by calling something interesting means infotainment—something to hold one’s attention. It wasn’t always so and perhaps I might have presented the same argument but via the conduit of Goethe’s Faust, whose eponymous doctor dares to ask what force in creation could be more compelling than love. Interest, the demon Mephistopheles answers straightaway and without hesitation. The doomed Faust is of course cursed with a universal knowledge whose trivia and recall one could of course look up in his or hers Funk & Wagnalls but in those times conferred exclusive advantages. What do you think? Has the meaning of interesting been relaxed so as to signify nothing at all, making its opposites a grave transgression? No one wants to be uninteresting or boring, even if the judgment means little. In relative terms, I suppose there were fewer contenders for our undivided attention back then but the latter also illustrates how our perspective can make us all regret the bargain.

Monday, 20 February 2017


sex-ed: acknowledging that most young people are schooled by pornography, a major service-provider is getting in the business of outreach, via Bad Ethnography

coffin nails: ironic, hypocryphal Death cigarettes were really popular with Goths

nüshu: throwing off the yoke of a patriarchal society that excluded women seeking education, Chinese women developed their own secret script to promote literacy, via Nag on the Lake

pinhologican: a nonsense word generator for the nonce that yields some very cromulent terms, via Boing Boing

you and me baby, we ain’t nothing but mammal: a look at the making of Planet Earth II and the evolution of the documentary

thank you for being a friend: a Golden Girls themed café, with special emphasis on Blanche Deveraux, opens in Washington Heights, NYC

tusken raiders

Hasbro will be issuing a special fortieth anniversary edition of its iconic line of Star Wars actions figures—to include R5D4 and the other denizens of Tatooine. The poor Sand People are always made the scapegoats and get the blame for everything, like for the deaths of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru and the destruction of their moisture farm. Never forget, it was done by Imperial Stormtroopers who made it look like the aftermath of a Tusken raid.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

agent orange

Revoltingly—and unclear whether the US ambassador thought of this stupid cruelty himself or it was part of some State Department hazing ritual to prove oneʼs absolute loyalty to the new regime, the president of the eastern African nation and one of the seven majority Muslim countries under Dear Leaderʼs travel ban was presented with a baseball cap with a variation of the white-supremacist dog-whistle of slogan, “Make Somalia Great Again.” Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed (who happens to be a US national) was not available for immediate comment but seemed to grudgingly accept the gift—which is far more patience and poise that could be expected out of anyone in such an awkward and inappropriate situation.

italia irredenta

Advisedly, a Roman high school cancelled plans less than a day after it announced its intentions to host a grand ball with a fascist-era theme.
Perhaps officials on the planning-committee thought there was little significant difference between dressing up in a flapper frock for a Great Gatsby-themed fete or that no 80s dance party was complete without doing a lot of coke and Japanese bashing. In any case, teachers conceded that this was insensitive to the memory of those times and was especially a poor choice right now considering nationalist movements are political big-ticket items in a lot of contested election campaigns—including Italyʼs own.

save our saucepans

In the late 1950s, the American and Soviet governments agreed to hold expositions in each otherʼs capitals in order to promote cultural understanding by showcasing the best in technique and artistry in all arenas—including home economics—and one such model American kitchen was the backdrop (or rather the proscenium) for an impromptu debate between the then visiting vice-president, Richard Milhous Nixon, and the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in Sokolniki Park in the summer of 1959.
Box Vox introduces us to the exchange captured by television cameras and then simulcast in both nations and the produce-placement of the now iconic packages on the table and countertops, including the box of S.O.S soap pads. The two were touring the exhibits together—of a suburban home within the means of any American, when all of a sudden Khrushchev complained in strong terms how the US legislative characterised the Warsaw Pact as the Iron Curtain and Eastern Europe was not a prisoner. Taken aback, Nixon focused on the modern marvels in the kitchen and the labour-saving devices. Not impressed, Khrushchev asked where was the machine that would put the food in oneʼs mouth and force it down oneʼs throat. The two agreed that there was at least virtue in that the competition was couched in domestic terms, rather than military ones and that there scuffle ought to become a photo-op, given to the networks, in both the USA and USSR, to air a few days later.

see ʻn say

Working from Alexandria, Egypt, graphic design artist Mahmoud Tammam transforms Arabic script into the objects and concepts that the words represent. This is a clever way, I think, to diffuse a situation where some people might feel threatened by or scared of an unfamiliar alphabet.

guerra mundial

Via the always interesting Everlasting Blört comes the forgotten World War II artwork of Mexican anti-Axis Propaganda.
Though Mexicoʼs involvement in the war was a relatively brief one prompted in 1942 after a Nazi submarine attacked one of Mexicoʼs oil platforms and later dispatched fighter-jet pilots to the Philippines (I was pretty impressed to learn about the Aztec Eagles) the feelings portrayed in the poster were genuine due to having been betrayed and made the object of revile and suspicion beforehand by Germany. The so-called Zimmermann Telegraph was a leaked communique between the German consul and the government of Mexico that proposed an alliance between the two countries should the US decide to intervene in World War I, with the promise to help Mexico to reclaim territory in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico that the US annexed. America launched a punishing raid on Mexico in retaliation and harboured suspicions afterwards, even though it was unclear what Mexico thought of this arrangement.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

peaceniks or hms semaphore

Hyperallergic invites us to see the original sketches of the symbol that would come to be adopted by peace movements around the world that will go on display at Londonʼs Imperial War Museum in March as part of larger exhibition. The symbol, designed by conscientious objector and artist Gerald Holtom in 1958, first appeared in public for a rally against the arms race of the Cold War and is itself stylised rendering of semaphore “letters” of the flag-signaling alphabet N and D for Nuclear Disarmament.

hubris and hyperbole or omnibus, omnishambles

It is really beyond the pale in multiple ways that if we relent, just for a portion of the news cycle (what does that even mean anymore?), there’s a whole raft of new evasive maneuvers and publicity stunts that bury the really critical stories and any reflection of what America is lurching towards and pulling the rest of the world with it is precluded. No world leader’s chief job ought to be forcing one to choose one’s battles—especially by issuing mixed-messages and being generally evasive and unpleasant. Regardless, it is astounding what can transpire over the course of a few days if one doesnʼt remain vigilant.
Thankfully it was a bit of premature reporting on behalf of the wires and the US wonʼt yet be deploying the National Guard to round-up immigrants and brown-skinned people, but enough has happened already this week, with this weekend expected to see a campaign rally in Florida for Dear Leader to reconnect with his base and supposedly announce his bid to run for an unthinkable second term in 2020: a climate-change skeptic was just confirmed to head the agency (also to be abolished) charged with protecting the environment. More aides at the State Department are dismissed as the chief ambassador and former oil executive attends his first summit abroad. Dear Leader has a rambling and unhinged press conference where the press is declared the enemy of the people, as the Attorney General is asked to recuse himself from any future investigations involving the administrationʼs ties to Russia because heʼs mired in it too. American intelligence agencies admit to withholding information from Dear Leader—underscoring deep distrust, and the presumptive Labour Secretary and former fast food magnate with a firmly ensconced aversion to fair and equitable labour policy had to withdraw his candidacy over employing an undocumented house-keeper. Dear Leader let the past three decades of work towards peace between Israel and Palestine implode with a few carelessly fawning words. The executive producer of the film Suicide Squad is named Secretary of the Treasury just after one cabinet member already on the job for nearly three weeks tendered his resignation for having held talks with his Russian counterparts prior to the inauguration and failing to inform senior leadership of those talks; illegal leaks, rather than gross misconduct or treason, are to blame. This list doesnʼt even include Russiaʼs ballistic missile test (after that other one) nor the ship apparently trawling the eastern seaboard to assess US naval strength and the bizarre assassination of the other Dear Leaderʼs half-brother in Indonesia, likely at his own order, and the renewed assault against public broadcasting.  This is only the first month, and naturally everything in this post could be out of date (or lost down a memory hole) by the time you read it.


I’ve wondered before if the echo, imprint of every sound ever made wasn’t somehow embedded in the environment, to be subtly teased out by the right quiver of instruments and detectors, and now see that archaeologists have achieved something even more interesting that speculative acoustic conservation by studying the pottery shards of ancient civilizations.

Researchers found that ores mixed in with clay act as archive, a snap-shot of geomagnetic activity that was happening invisibly in the skies, except maybe as auroras, by cementing the orientation of the minerals when the clay is fired in the kiln. Clay and ceramics being produced at the present time, stretching back over aeons, all record the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field and represent an untapped chronicle of how the Earth has been protected from cosmic radiation and digging down through the strata of pottery fragments gives an indication of the periodicity of powerful spikes in the intensity of geomagnetic events, ones which may have been harmless in ancient times but which would now certainly disable the power grid and present an unimaginable disruption to the way we live.

heʼd let us in, knows where weʼve been in his octopusʼs garden in the shade

The alway interesting Kottke directs our attention to the winners and honourable mentions of the annual UK Underwater Photography competition. Especially striking was this ensemble of clown fish in the protective fronds of an Anemone (an octopus having taken top honour), which upon closer inspection reveals six sees of eyes beaming back at the camera. Thankfully, Finding Nemo spared audiences details on the other symbiotic relationship framed in this picture, the parasitic isopod that has attached itself to the tongue of the host fish and lives quite comfortable there in the fishesʼ mouths as a prosthetic one.

Friday, 17 February 2017


but they always land on their feet: gallery of brides tossing cats instead of bouquets

quantum of solace: an accessible primer on the starlit experiment that seems to suggest that we do not live in a predestined Cosmos

white monkey gig: a documentary about how foreigners were recruited to help market the Chinese building boom and subsequent bust

dii consentes: organic compounds discovered on asteroid belt dwarf planet Ceres

felis cattus: Mister Data’s sonnet to his pet cat, Spot

さくら: the cherry trees are in full blossom in the eastern Japanese town of Kawazu

Thursday, 16 February 2017

doggo, puppers or a horse is a horse of course, of course

Though likely not part and parcel official party doctrine, the doctrines of the so-called New Animal Psychology were considered very fashionable and highly recommended within Nazi circles in the 1930s, Strange Company informs.
In short, that school of thought advocated the belief that animals had latent cognitive abilities and through the right translator or medium (it seems that this furore replaced the séance) could communicate with their humans. One familiar of note was the very outspoken dachshund named Kuno von Schwertberg, known by his pet-name Kurwenal after the servant of Tristan in Wagner’s opera, who belonged to a baroness and attested Nazi in Weimar. This is yet another example that we humans aren’t worthy of the ungrudging affection and loyalty of our canine friends, and this particular craze that wasn’t a Nazi invention survived a bit longer and to the disservice of our non-human associates as humans ultimately felt rather cheated for a time but finally ended with the discrediting of Clever Hans, which brought back the sentiment of the dumb and unfeeling animal, not deserving of our welfare.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

you are what you eat or hankering for a hunk of cheese

Artist Dan Bannino, seeking and finding common-ground among the powerful and the powerless, has a finely curated gallery of the favourite foods of the world’s influence-brokers. The Pope’s choice repast is pizza and Vladimir Putin is partial to pistachio ice-cream—and these still-lives (not pictured) are something to behold. You can peruse the complete series on Bannino’s Instagram account and find out whose palette matches your own and see the photographer’s other projects.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

factitious disorder

I spotted this poster that’s very much in the standard, pitched format of a German campaign poster that looked more than a little out of place—not so much for the candidate but that it seemed rather uncontested as no posters of an opposing party were to be seen. Even in election years, there are rather strict protocols to be followed that spare the voting public from campaign creep and banners can’t go up earlier than an established date a few weeks prior to the vote and there are equally well-enforced strictures on reporting and speculation.
Upon closer inspection, I recognised that this was a bit of clever satire on the part of the state culture office, throwing its support behind one Hieronymus Karl Friedrich, Freiherr von Münchausen who’s life inspired the fictional nobleman’s narrative of his marvellous travels and campaigns in Russia. Having actually served in the Russo-Turkish conflict of 1735, the baron had endless war-stories to tell and embellish, putting to shame fellow-aristocrats who didn’t serve, becoming somewhat of a reputation as a teller of tall-tales and braggart—pathologically, a syndrome is named after him as well. Fearful of being sued for libel, the author of the novel, Rudolf Erich Rapse, published his novel under a pseudonym, in a different language and deferred ownership until after his own death—the Baron having already demonstrated his wrath to quell the idle chatter around his second marriage to a woman fifty-seven years his junior—later to sue her for divorce for bearing a child he was not convinced was his. The character Münchausen enjoined in much more fantastic flights, including riding a cannon ball into battle and travelling to the Moon to live among the Selenites and Sirius, the Dog Star, battles a giant crocodile (twelve metres) and survives being swallowed by a fish, and tends to get very agitated when anyone finds his exploits incredulous.


apex and apogee: the spacecraft graveyard at Point Nemo

thar she blows: conservation efforts to restore the longest painting in America, a scrolling panorama of whaling on the high seas around the world, via Nag on the Lake

pepijn en merjn: a Dutch suburb that’s styled itself after characters of Middle Earth

swaddling: cocooning technique from Japan purporting to alleviate pain and stiffness   

äitiyspakkaus: Finnish style cardboard bassinets are being issued to new parents in New Jersey, via Super Punch

curiouser and curiouser: anamorphic, mirrored pieces sculpted to commemorate the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

homersexual: how John Waters’ cameo on The Simpsons (twenty years ago) kicked off an inclusive revolution on television, via Kottke

Monday, 13 February 2017

genius bar

First spotted by the keen eye of Messy Nessy Chic, we learn of the Apple venture for reinventing the internet café that sadly never was realised—except in artist’s drawings, and are left to speculate what sort of cultural impact they might have had.
Digital music of course preceded the iPod as did wireless telephony the iPhone, but one has to wonder how differently we might interact with the world wide web interpreted as a global franchise, serving healthy fare and offering video telepresence with other outlets, located in a physical space instead of the whirring end points of private modems. What do you think? As persuasive as most of Apple’s designs have been, possibly the received pronunciation of the internet and its etiquette would be something quite different and maybe the untethering of the internet might have taken a much different course. Conceived circa 1996 (Beverly Hills, 90210 was on television for an astounding eleven years), had this enterprise taken off, we might all still be hanging out at the Peach Pit.

but her emails

Dear Leader acquired the sprawling estate that cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post had built in the 1920s in Palm Beach, Florida in 1995—transforming it into an exclusive golf resort and rather inclusive presidential retreat. Unlike with other properties that earned the distinction of being called the alt-White House, dues paying members were treated to the rather transfixing moment when their evening meal transformed from the usual dining experience to a bit of geopolitical dinner-theatre.
Informed that North Korea had just test-launched a warhead capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, Dear Leader and his table-mates which included the prime-minster of Japan—well within the reach of said launch, couldn’t be bothered to recuse themselves or have the other guests evacuated but carried on, consulting highly classified intelligence reports under candlelight, made easier to read when illuminated by the screens and torch-functions of an aide’s mobile phone—or the mobile phone of some random member of the wait-staff. Who knows?! Later, Dear Leader (not the North Korean one) said, “C’mon Shinzo,” and proceeded to take the Japanese prime minister over to congratulate a newly-wed couple that they’d encountered earlier that day on the lawn. The already priceless moment—priceless in the since that there’s nothing out of range for some—was made even better by Dear Leader’s offering to all and sundry that, “They’ve been members of this club for a long time. They’ve paid me a fortune.”

asking for a friend

Of course having nothing to declare at customs is far more believable than not participating in social media but when travelling to the police states of the world—be it China that takes the full suite of finger-prints of its visitors or the US that just demands passwords to one’s social media accounts, one ought to be fully prepared to sacrifice something, like a decoy wallet with sufficient funds to score a high or a dummy but maintained account that might be enough to satisfy the goons at border control. One is penalised for opting out. As specious as the argument is that if one has nothing to hide, then one has nothing to fear, it is just as faulty as believing that the nebulous authorities already enjoy full-access anyway.
Granted that to a significant degree, we are individually protected by the size of the herd, there is still such a thing as privacy and personal space that the minions of security-theatre haven’t yet managed to infiltrate and some hosts with the integrity not to open the back-door to snoops and spies. Unlike in countries where private deportment can be punishable by death, the concern in the West is not so much that governments want to expose deviant leanings or infidelities—though that may not be far off under administration of holy-rollers, or would blackmail individuals with such information, but rather that incriminating materials or connections could be easily fabricated in order to assassinate the character of those not in step and critical of the regime and its policies. It would be a technical simple feat to scan one’s devices as they go through check-points and plant something illicit on them. Taking intrusion to the next level, social media access could be used to inflict all sorts of damage, setting off false daisy-chains of associations and label one as Status Non-Gratis for life. Forbidden materials wouldn’t be restricted to the physical memory of one’s devices, but could be deployed to the æther to be recalled when needed. Who knows? We subversives may already have a script floating out there somewhere, ready for our own consummation and famacide, once our usefully has lapsed.

Sunday, 12 February 2017


A special convention of 1 260 electors—majority of whom are politicians but also some important members of the community from different constituencies and éminence grises—designated Frank-Walter Steinmeyer, off-and-on Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2005 and member of the right-leaning (relatively) Social Democratic Party (SPD) will convene to select a replacement for Germany’s ceremonial president (DE/EN) Joachim Gauck, who will retire in March.
Previously, I’ve advocated that the titular head of state could be handed over to one of the dethroned dynastic royal families, not necessarily be recreated Germany as constitutional monarchy, but such pedigreed individuals could probably discharge those duties just as well, and would be willing to do it for the honour of servicing and would at least partially satisfy the Germans fascination with monarchy that’s now fully directed at the Battenbergs. At this juncture, however, I think it’s important and more than a little impressive that the government was able to cross party lines and elevate one whose opposed—but possibly more compliments the Chancellor, deputised as leader of the free world.

a for effort

Following that timeless adage—those who can, do; those who can’t, become the new Education Secretary—Bob Canada’s Blogworld commemorates (read bemoans) the contentious appointment of Amway-heiress and enemy of public schools Betsy DeVos to the White House cabinet, for whom the vice-president had to intervene in the senate and cast the tie-breaking vote (yet another first for this administration), by grading one of her recent missives. I realise that we are all prone to gaffs and typos and fugue states and the obligatory platforms and the preferred method of communicating within the regime is not quite the most conducive format for cultivating the best diction and style, but Ms DeVos doesn’t seem like she’s even trying, which is pretty paradoxically since she looks like the one in the crowd to implore, “Won’t someone think of the children.” Show your work, Betsy.


Although his Christian affiliation made him stop short of fully tracing back the lineage of revolutionary general and first president of the Republic George Washington to the Norse pantheon of gods, late nineteenth century genealogist and theologian Albert Welles, taking a cue from saga writer and fellow Christian Snorri Sturluson who demoted the gods to larger-than-life versions of good marshals and stewards of the tribe, essentially linked the individual also romanticised as Roman statesman and embodiment of civil virtue Cincinnatus, across thirty-two generations of Viking ancestors to Odin. Of course these myth-making sessions are important for the cohesion of a people and serve to legitimise leaders and their actions, and while this claim garnered no significant traction nor created pretensions of divine and ordained right, such Teutonic twists have in other milieu led to catastrophic conclusions.