Friday, 31 March 2017

if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu

Dear Leader’s viceroy is certainly at liberty to conduct his social life as he wishes and if he adheres to the same rules that governed his dining habits fifteen years ago about not eating unchaperoned with a woman that’s not his wife (which is quite a specific Venn diagram)—construed from the quote “if there’s alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me”—it’s his business.
It’s fine even if that betrays a strange idea about what goes on in restaurants and a very conservative, traditional view of gender and identity politics. Infidelity shouldn’t be the default. It stops becoming a choice, however, when that attitude prevents him from meeting one-on-one with a female counterpart, lawyer or aide. The boys’ clubs of business and politics never went anywhere and his superior is a sexual predator, granted, but harbouring such stringent rules for dealing with half of the population disengages and takes opportunities away from us all.


SpaceX achieved a potentially stupendous milestone for rocketry and space exploration by successfully and safely recycling the spent stages of a recovered booster rocket, which always seemed like a big waste as they peeled away. If this feat can be repeated—which seems likely, it will significantly reduce the cost of putting people and supplies in orbit and beyond.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

bauarbeit oder all in all, you’re just another brick in the wand

Though certainly more palatable than the choice of say the Binladin Group as building partners, two German construction firms are willing to court massive public-relations blowback domestically and abroad and perfectly illustrate how the failure to learn from history dooms us all to repeat it by submitting contract bids to build Dear Leader’s wall, the Local reports. What do you think? The contract is supposed to be awarded in mid-April.  This partition is other than the frontiers that divided post-war Germany and Europe but seems to strongly go against the narrative of integration over nationalism and protectionism and Russia was willing to tear it down once before.

cloud atlas

For the first time in three decades the World Meteorological Organisation, Kottke informs, has added several new formal classifications for cloud formations—called species, and their supplementary features. The gallery of images is quite striking and worth perusing. First published in 1896, these compendia were important training tools for predicting the weather and developing a standard nomenclature to communicate forecasts without always having the pictorial key at hand, much like the complex and exacting language of vexillology.

happy little clouds

Via Nag on the Lake, we learn about a dedicated curator has compiled an unofficial site which features all four hundred and three landscape lessons taught by Bob Ross in thirty-one seasons on PBS’s Joy of Painting.
Formerly a master sergeant in the US Air Force, Ross often found himself in screaming-matches and situations that called on him being anything other than meditative and reflective. One day, however, he caught an episode of the Magic of Painting that inspired him to champion the same cause and vowed never to raise his voice in anger again. Named after the two inch background brush that was the go-to brush in the artist’s quiver, the site is not only a fine nice tribute to those awed by the creative process and his calming demeanour but also a resource for those aspiring to learn to paint.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017


As part of an on-going project that began in 2014 and has evolved parallel to the facial recognition software the artist is exploring, Jillian Mayer has exactingly plotted all the algorithmically significant points on her face to illustrate how she not only can find herself tagged in online images, identified by closed-circuit televisions and objectified as a model herself but moreover how her (our) expressions betray her feelings insofar as they are measurable.
If machines can read our moods and interests so well (or poorly, but it is another thing to convince a much vaunted establishment that its assessments are not on target), the performance-piece asks, why would we expect to asked how we felt? Taking the time seems superfluous and cursory. As large scale credentialing becomes institutionalised and targeted, are we still in control of our physical avatars or solely at the mercy of the interpreter and auger?

jot and tittle oder breath and branded

Futility Closet has a nice send up for one of the longest German compound words found in non-science contexts: das Rindfleischetikettierungsรผberwachungsaufgabenรผbertragungsgesetz, referring to a decree issued by the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in 1999 (repealed to far less celebrity in 2013) governing the labelling of beef products.
I say referring because that was how it was characterised in the press and subsequently by language academies as the long-form title of the law has each of the elements broken up into more manageable units. As intimidating as the pronunciation and elocution looks, there’s even a masterful performance of an Austrian choir at the link up top to show it’s not impossible to pull off.

stoop and kneel

Amusing Planet introduces us to the remaining basement-level kiosks of Sophia, Bulgaria, whose retail space represents some of the first entrepreneurial efforts after the fall of Communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Known as klek (ะบะพะปัะฝะพ, knee) shops, these colourful storefronts operate like convenience stores and corner shops elsewhere but an early lack of commercial space pushed them to down to the sidewalk level. Learn more and view quite an extensive gallery of klek shops at the link up top.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

someplace-else or boomerang toomerang soomerang

Once believed lost to history, someone or some cosmic force uploaded episodes of the so called “conflict series” of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that aired in November 1983 as Cold War tensions were at their height and nuclear war looked like an eminent consequence.
The Public Broadcasting System asked Mister Rogers to present an allegory that young children might better understand the factors driving escalation—without scaring the wits out of them and countering a commercial broadcast of the ominously titled The Day After (I vaguely remember watching all these shows), by having King Friday XIII and Queen Sara Saturday and Prince Tuesday grow increasingly paranoid.  The royal family worried that the Neighborhood of Make-Believe was under threat by another kingdom (Some- place-Else, I think, where Donkey Hodie lives and his majesty the prince attended boarding school) who seemed to be undergoing a major shift in industrial activity and thus raids the treasury to build up the Neighborhood’s defences (formerly, they were a rocking chair-based economy)—eventually bankrupting Lady Elaine Fairchilde, Daniel Striped Tiger, Henrietta Pussycat and the rest in addition to paralysing them with fear. Eventually the king realises the error of his ways and discovers that the rival kingdom was putting forth so much effort investing in infrastructure—building bridges rather than bombs.


montage: a supercut of the loveliest black and white shots in film history, via Nag on the Lake

jovian van gogh: new high resolution images of Jupiter are mesmerizing

tinman: little girl greets a discarded water-heater that she imagines to be a robot

quick to the finish: scientists are learning how to grow heart tissue from spinach leaves

inked: abstract, cubist style tattoos from Londoner Mike Boyd

the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions: outings and league participation for CIA employees had complex cover-stories and were ranked by the level of suspicion that they might attract

Monday, 27 March 2017

gruรŸwort, ghaH ’ej Duvan mu’

Though Verboten during its first years of airing due to German regulation prohibiting television directed at audiences under the age of six years, Die Sendung mit der Maus (the Show with the Mouse) brought about a change to the law and has been educating young people and receiving critical acclaim as the nation’s classroom since the early 1970s.
The creators recognised how well children responded to commercials and advertising mascots and decided to try to harness that commodity of attentiveness and put it to good use, featuring short instructional programming illustrating how things work, interspersed with cartoons. Each episode has a standard magazine format and from the onset had a message of inclusion, introducing each segment once in German and then in a foreign language—first in Turkish, Italian and Spanish to acknowledge the children of foreign guest-workers. That tradition continues with the language changing weekly and has expanded significantly to reflect refugee families and most recently Klingon.

grains of paradise

TYWKIWDBI treats us to a tour of the grounds of the distillery for the Bombay Sapphire brand of gin.
While the label or recipe itself is not a storied and veteran one as in popular imagination, having only been around since 1987, the facilities where it’s produced is historic and has been historically innovative, a paper milling operation having shared the site and harnessing the power of the River Test, continuing to this day with these hot-houses designed by Thomas Heatherwick (previously, here and here) that capture heat from the distilling process and uses it grow the mostly tropical botanicals used to infuse and flavour the gin. The ten ingredients (juniper berries, liquorice, almond, lemon zest, orris root, grains of paradise, coriander, cubeb, cassia and angelica) are said to be symbolic of the farthest reaches of the British Empire at its height under Queen Victoria.

blood sugar sex magick

Though occultist Aleister Crowley first suggested that the ability to speak backwards might be a useful skill to hone back in 1913, it was not really until the 1980s that the moral panic of subliminal Satanic instruction really took hold—and if some accounts are to be believed, solely at the behest of the future Second Lady of the United States, after witnessing in horror her young daughter innocently repeat some rather explicit song lyrics.
Backmasking as the technique is known and as presented by the Daily Grail, palindromically since one spells the title the same forwards and backwards though not itself some encoded diabolical commandment, seems nowadays perfectly simple to debunk and explain away as an acoustic example of pareidolia (quite a few to be found at the Daily Grail), though I suppose that once something’s heard, it cannot be unheard. The highest profile cases dragged on through the courts as suggestions below the threshold of conscious perception were adjudicated not to be protected as free speech, especially when those orders are masked by a form of expression that ostensibly is protected.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

state of the art

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the US Treasury Secretary (but more shocking considering his former career as a fantasy, science fiction film executive producer) dismissed the swiftly approaching threat (or opportunity) of mass technological redundancy, saying there won’t be any robots taking jobs away from people for at least a generation or more.
Apparently this worry is trumped up by the dishonest press ought to be diffused so that the public can focus on the real threat: illegal immigrants. There is some solace in this the regime’s ignorance, however, as it becomes apparent to the rest of the world that America is losing edge and will not carry the revolution and perhaps counter it in destructive ways. And while the luddite ideal might embrace not having to bother with paying its workers or fair labour standards, their lack of vision does not change the fact that professionals are already being displaced subtly in the legal and banking trades and massively in the shipping industry. The natural consequence of such disruption is that money as a store of wealth changes not only by degrees but also in kind—furnishing ultimately leisure and a universal basic income, something I’m sure that the wealthy cadre of Dear Leader won’t like since all their bullying advantage would sublimate instantly, for all instead of lasting chaos and insecurity. Let’s hope the small-minded and tyrannical just stay out of the way of progress.

frame-rate or walk-cycle

Via Everlasting Blรถrt we are treated to more crisply animated loops (read more about the history and development of the graphics interchange format here) by South African digital art and typography studio MUTI, which has quite impressive portfolio. Check out the last of the links to see more of their work and perhaps inquire about a commission.

#free kekistan or know your meme

There is an artist from Saint Petersburg calling herself Pepelangelo who is portraying the meme that’s become rather abused by being appropriated by the Alt-Right as a symbol of hate in oil on canvas.
Perhaps the artist is trying to salvage the character’s good name and innocence by putting him in the context of fine art before Dear Leader adopted it by sharing—during his campaign, which I suppose never ended—a parody of himself as the frog but I think that the associations are at least for the present inextricable. The hashtag in the title refers to the Ancient Egyptian amphibian god Kek and his homeland, followers who are in certain circles conflated with Pepe—but I’m sure that they wouldn’t tolerate such idolatry or much less hang it on their walls. These works are currently sold out but you can still peruse the growing gallery of Olga Vishnevski, should you be so motivated.

gig ‘em aggies

Rather than busily dismantling the agency he was charged with destroying, the US energy secretary is taking umbrage with the fact that the student council has elevated the runner-up to student body president of his dear alma mater, Texas A&M (formerly standing for Agriculture and Mechanics from the school’s past but now official are just letters) University.
The candidate who garnered the most votes was subsequently disqualified because he intimidated voters and failed to disclose all his financial interests and rather than suffering an invalid administration or holding a new election, the student council choose to install the trailing candidate. The Energy Department head (who is also responsible for the US arsenal of nuclear weapons) decided that that was a miscarriage of justice that he would not let stand—never mind the fact that the runner-up is the first openly gay young man to hold the office and the ousted individual was the son of a Republican party fundraiser and vocal supporter of Dear Leader’s campaign for high office—a bid which the former Texas governor failed at himself.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

delft on the shelf

I recalled reading about these contact lenses inspired by Delfts blauw pottery courtesy of Nag on the Lake a few weeks ago but we failed to appreciate the larger context—notionally just one entrant in an annual contest that the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam holds that calls for submissions of artworks informed by objects in the museum’s collection.  This year’s Rijksstudio Awards—to be put up to a vote by the public to name the winners—also includes, besides this work of retinal concept art, a Night Watch night shirt and prophylactic wrappers adorned with etchings of Biblical liaisons by Dรผrer. Check out the links at the top to learn more and to perhaps get inspired to hold a similar homage for the collections in your own local galleries.

Friday, 24 March 2017

upper caucasia

Justifiably doubtful whether chaperones could not guarantee the personal safety and security of non-white students at its southern frontier thanks to overt and covert racist border-control policies, Canadian schools and youth organisations are cancelling field trips to America. A statement issued by the Toronto district school board offers that the cancellation of all planned excursions reflect their commitment “to ensuring that fairness, equity and inclusion are essential principles” and nothing to compromise in the face bigotry and harassment.

haute clรดture

The US Senate voted to grant domestic internet service providers full access to the browsing history and thus the habits, health and well-being of its customers and sell that data to the highest bidder—all without the consent of the user.
Lawmakers opposed to the bill are rebranding the initialism ISP as “information sold for profit” or “invading subscribers’ privacy” and it is really chilling to think what sort of trails of bread-crumbs we leave behind that makes judgment rather than justice swift and instant. Companies beholden to no regulation and with no consequence for spillage, mischaracterisation that could deny an individual a job or a loan, would horde vast amounts of data for actuarial purposes and targeted advertising. The bill is not yet become law but we’re not expecting the opposition to prevail—but perhaps the new policy of containment can confine it to the USA.

Thursday, 23 March 2017


Reporting on the Getty Centre’s latest acquisitions Hyperallergic introduces us the visual verses of Scottish poet and playwright Ian Hamilton Finlay known as concrete or pattern poetry, typified by meaning being conveyed by the typographical effects as much as the choice of the words themselves. Though the works are ultra-modern this reminds me of this recent study of ancient calligrams. Visit the link up top to see a whole gallery of Finlay’s poems plus those of fellow pioneer and correspondent Brazilian Augusto de Campos.

star child

Via Kottke we discover that an architect, artist duo in Los Angeles have recreated an exacting replica of the iconic, other-worldly bedroom from Stanley Kubrick’s epic production of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
After disabling HAL, Doctor David Bowman confronts older and younger versions of himself in this setting when he goes to investigate a mysterious monolith in orbit around Jupiter. The bedroom film-set is in a massive warehouse transformed into an exhibition hall and thematically it is part of a series of displays meant to take visitors on a hero’s journey, an homage to Joseph Campbell’s trope of the monomyth.


What is even more remarkable than the dread phenomenon that is Dear Leader and his goon-squad and the spinelessness of fellow party members in the legislature is his media presence that’s beholden to no one and certainly not to the law of the land or to even factual events.
And while this behaviour and deportment will never be normalised no matter how it might be ground into our faces by jack-booted thugs or by more troublesome, subtler methods (like the nudges and cues that resulted in Dear Leader’s miscalculated triumph), it’s absolutely unbelievable how whatever the latest paroxysm is, it’s always on-message. However detached from reality or counter-factual it is, in the unmediated moment, it is Dear Leader’s account that lingers even if wholly refuted by other media sources—whom Dear Leader dismisses as “the enemy of the American people.”

br’er sessions’ splash mountain

Via Boing Boing, please take a moment to check out the wickedly wilting latest comic panel of Tom the Dancing Bug by Ruben Bolling, wherein our intrepid hero takes a trip to the Hall of President at Dear Leader’s resort and theme park. Please keep arms and legs inside the ride vehicle at all times.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

orbit allocation

The Medium features a thorough and important series of essays addressing the legal framework of accords governing the exploration, exploitation and use of Outer Space—especially timely as the markedly anti-academic, anti-aspirational regime of Dear Leader is not completely eviscerating America’s frivolous รฆronautics and space agency.
Though happy and relieved for NASA workers and future programmes for being spared (mostly), I worry what profit-motive might be driving the decision and what sort enslavement awaits mankind once we are jaunted off to asteroid mining operations—since the robots are not having any of it—and how antagonistic countries may grow more and more willing to contravene the treaties’ terms and weaponise space. International space law came about once it was discovered that the US had commission the seeding of the upper atmosphere with a halo, an artificial ring of microscopic needles to maintain radio contact with a globally deployed military in case the Soviets decided to snip the undersea cables that connected Washington to points beyond.


Car guy Jesse Bowers shares a gallery of impressions from the Bob Baker Volkswagen Customer Appreciation Show, that happens every spring in Carlsbad California and is a forum for collectors and dedicated caretakers of vintage VW buses. There are only the older models to be found in the States as an import duty has been levied against Transporters for years, customs classifying the van as a truck. Let’s hope we’re on the right side of any coming trade-war.

late stage prometheus

From the vantage of a quarter of a century, ร†on magazine looks back at the publication of one of the more often cited, derided and misunderstood publication that addresses post-moderism—Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man.

Of course little-h history rolls on but Fukuyama recognised, presciently some could argue, that History in terms of the way society coalesces politically is exhausted and though we might be concoct something more noble and utopian that liberal democracy, there were few to no other directions to go for society—except to collapse in feudalism and rigid class hierarchies. The philosopher took the longer view than what occupied the geo-political landscape at the time of his book’s release—the collapse of the Communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which some naively took as a mandate to ratchet up freedom and free markets. What do you think? While Fukuyama’s prediction is just that and perhaps fails to factor in technological redundancies and natural conclusions (disruptions that might render economics meaningless), it does grasp the shallowness of celebrity culture that embraces nihilism and the triumph of tribalism. The Last Man is a borrowing from Friedrich Nietzche whose insistence on transparency was apparently not deity-friendly but for those at the leading edge of the end of civilisation’s evolution, there are no trappings to adequately fill the void and people will wallow in whatever mediocrity and material awards and recognition that remains.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017


teardrop trailer: veteran and prisoner-of-war designs for a camper-caravan realised after eight decades

what wizardry is this: BLDGBlog contemplates spells against autonomy

it’s dangerous to go alone – take this: Zelda fan automates his home controlled by playing the ocarina

no wine before its time: Moldova declares wine to be a food, a status that beer has enjoyed in Germany for centuries

don’t be jimmy: Colorado mass-transit just adopted an awful, crass mascot as an negative example for passengers, very unlike NYC’s good-mannered feline

ronald the grump: Sesame Street characters respond to news that they are being defunded

inter-city express: passenger train passes through residential apartment block in Chongqing 

Monday, 20 March 2017

tissot’s indicatrix

Even including a nod to the West Wing “Big Block of Cheese Day” episode that introduced most of us the Gall-Peters projection that right-sizes Europe and reduces polar flair, the Guardian reports that some Boston schools are dropping maps that have perpetuated this alternative geography for the past five centuries. Developed by a German historian in 1974 after researching a novel equal-area map from a nineteenth century Scottish catographer, some distortion is unavoidable (here is another non-traditional approach) when translating a three-dimensional globe to a flat visualisations but depicts landmasses by their relative size and hopefully eliminates some of the implicit bias of the West, reinforced by the industry-standard Mercator projection.


An architectural studio called oiio, as Hyperallergic informs, has released design proposal for a skyscraper they’re calling the Big Bend that’s being hailed as the world’s longest structure—at 1,2 kilometres in the form of a long, skinny arch. In an already crowded Manhattan neighbourhood, this innovative proposal occupies a fairly small footprint yet manages to optimise space for working and living. I wonder what it would be like to like the Wonkavator at this address.

red earth

Via Colossal, we are introduced to the detailed ephemeral warp and weave of artist Rena Detrixhe, who uses the sifted red earth from outside her Tulsa, Oklahoma studio to create intricate mandalas of blankets and rugs.
This dirt was collected by hand and is symbolic of the “beauty and pride of this place and also a profound sorrow,” witness to the forcible relocation of Native American populations with the Trail of Tears, further land-grabs and displacement, extreme weather, the hunting to the brink of extinction of the bison and the environmental disaster that the loss of grassland precipitated in the form of the Dust Bowl and presently the land of fracking.  Be sure to visit the links up top to see more of her work and the creative process.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

senor and sensibility

Similar in principle to the technique of phreaking to hijack switchboard exchanges, hackers may be finding other outlets to violate the sanctity and security of our phones, drones and other networked, autonomous appliances (and driverless carriages) by targeting them with blasts of very specific acoustic signals.
These sound waves are not necessarily a way of commandeering a device directly but is a way of altering its perceptions, blinding it or throwing it off balance, by skewing its senses—either resulting in paralysis or propelling itself into surrounding obstacles. What do you think?  I do not see the point of creating smart toasters, baby-monitors, refrigerators, umbrellas (that beg to be taken if the weather forecast deems it necessary), and microwave ovens if they open up a path of least resistance to our wired ecosystem and doubt the convenience justifies the risk.  Even changing the reading of a small component could set off a cascade of a catastrophic effects.

burn after reading

To honour the conclusion of Sunshine Week, our intrepid friends at Muckrock—serial freedom of information act (FOIA) filers are kicking back the with the second best disinfectants—provocatively named cocktails to take the edge of redaction and glomarisation, like the Shirley Temple (Herbert Hoover style), Deep State, Intelligence Report, and We Were Never Here. I’d add Mistakes Were Made, and just need to figure out the ingredients.
The infuriating “Glomar response” is when the government declares its refusal to speculate on an ongoing investigation or address matters of national security and comes from the name of a salvage vessel that the Central Intelligence Agency commissioned to recover a sunken Soviet submarine in 1975. The plausibly deniable boilerplate that would go on to preface many more secrets went, “We can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the information requested but, hypothetically, if such data were to exist, the subject matter would be classified, and could not be disclosed.”

Saturday, 18 March 2017


As if to illustrate how foreign policy is superfluous in the face of the almighty mob that can be rallied with the megaphone that is social media (so who needs a State Department or Diplomatic Corps), Dear Leader found his particular style of statecraft under threat by the juxtaposition of a calm and collected German chancellor, meeting for the first time for a joint press-conference. Though there was some discussion of the United States not forgetting its immigrant origins (Angela Merkel did not deign to point out that Dear Leader’s own grandparents first immigrated to America and Canada as economic refugees, fleeing from poverty and then a second time as fugitives from the authorities), the talk at these usually highly scripted and choreographed affairs was decidedly icy and one-sided with Dear Leader dominating the direction.  At least she had her defenses up.
Per his usual modus operandi, Dear Leader belittled the role of NATO and accused Germany and all other member states of making far too little contributions to the alliance and forcing the US to finance the enterprise, bookending the matter with platitudes that claimed he was not an isolationist. This tact took up most of the allotted time and what remained of the awkward exchange was devoted to the serious but groundless accusations that Dear Leader whilst campaigning was wire-tapped by the out-going administration—and that was at least common-ground between himself and the Chancellor. Merkel failed to see the humour in that remark—since, if it wasn’t in jest, it amounts to an admission that US intelligence services did indeed eavesdrop on foreign allies and probably all the other surveillance that no one dared confirm or deny. The other implication being—if Dear Leader really were being bugged, it would be because he or Fearless Leader were in communication with the foreign powers that they disavowed all along. Reporters’ questions were turned back on them, suggesting that they should be interviewing the sources of the story—a news outlet, which never reported anysuch story.

the power of the purse or wait, wait—don’t cut me

Though presidential budgets are more of a publicity stunt to reaffirm policy commitments than working financial plans because it is the legislature that controls spending and many of the programmes and agencies have weathered great austerities of past regimes, Dear Leader may unfortunately get his way and enact the scorched-earth dismantling of bureaucratic protections that his svengalis want. Here is a selection of some the named initiatives targeted for elimination via the Washington Post—though with the caveat that many more, hinted at may be waiting in the gallows:

Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARAP working in close collusion with DARPA) E-branch—funding research into alternative energy
Corporation for Public Broadcasting—helps fund PBS, NPR plus other local, independent and commercial television and radio stations
Endocrine Disruptor Screening Programme—helps ensure that pesticides and other chemicals are not dangerous to humans and the environment
Institute of Museum and Library Services—providing grants for museums, libraries, zoos and parks
McGovern-Dole Food for Education Programme—providing subsidised or free lunches for poor school children
Woodrow Wilson International Centre—a foreign policy think-tank

Find the current, complete list at the link to the Post story above plus find further resources to learn about each programme, whilst they are still around.   

architecture of choice or now for a word from our sponsors

Although we would probably like to fancy ourselves as ever freer agents than we were just a few years with seemingly boundless opportunities and marketplaces with such selections as to pose to many feelings of anxiety and paralysis, there’s still quite a bit of coaxing and nudging that forms the substrate of how we react and participate as consumers of all types of commodities.
No one wants to believe that their decisions, from the trivial and impulsive to the very consequential ones of family and career, are not necessarily our own and subject to design, marketing and context and will produce an impromptu narrative defending and justifying their choice, even if a moment before there was no deliberation and the outcome was guided—manipulated. As various the platforms and customer-engagements come to know us better, the allure will become more irresistible and less transparent (the commercial pitches will be indistinguishable from content), just like the increasingly addictive and obsessive nature of social networking—which can seem like the most fundamentally self-determined, stoical acts of preening.

Friday, 17 March 2017

duck and cover or cowboy juche

Provocatively, and despite the regime’s constant accusation that their opponent was the hawkish one, the oil executive anointed as the USA’s top diplomat visited the Demilitarised Zone that separates North and South Korea and declared that if Pyongyang persists with its sabre-rattling, America is not ruling out pre-emptive strikes with nuclear warheads—that the “strategic patience” of the US has reached its end. That escalated quickly. In return, North Korea affirmed that any attack would solicit a nuclear exchange—as would any attempt seen to undermine Kim Jong-un’s authority.


i’ve been asked to say a couple words about my husband, fang: the Smithsonian is appealing to the public to transcribe the tens of thousands of jokes and one liners in Phyllis Diller’s card catalogue 

robothespian: a stage play in London pairs human actress with a cyborg protagonist, via Marginal Revolution 

the horsey-set: luxurious, marbled-floored equestrian club outside of Shanghai

nixie tubes: understand how a microprocessor works through this oversized model

moonwalking with einstein: tried and true memorisation technique may cause enduring changes to the one’s neural architecture 

operation rรผgen

Inviting listeners to draw their own parallels, Fresh Air host Terry Gross reprises her excellent and engaged interview with author Adam Hochschild from last year on the Spanish Civil War, which fraught with all other associations and its native horrors certainly was an evident that stands alone but also could be characterised as the opening volleys of World War II.
One aspect that was new to me was the realisation that the fields of Spain were the training grounds for Hitler’s machines of war, giving the Nazi armies time to perfect their juggernauts before deployment in their own adventures. Though Francisco Franco was grateful for assistance of Hitler and Mussolini, Spain was never fully accepted as part of the Axis powers—possibly because Franco was demanding too many concession and territory in France and England. Contravening the US policy of neutrality and statutes on exports, the CEO of one petroleum company in particular, Texaco, fuelled the fighting, throwing its support to the fascists and cutting off supplies to the Spanish Republicans. Not only was this corporate partisanship dangerous and without precedent, Texaco’s global network of installations acted as spies and provocateurs to ensure that the blockade on the rebellion remained unbroken. As further insult, the decisions and intent that enabled these opening salvos to be fired cast long, long shadows and is illustrative of what happens when Big Oil meddles in the affairs of statecraft.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

connect the dots

Public Domain Review features a brilliant ninth century French manuscript called the Aratea that’s one of the earliest known examples of the calligram—the artful arrangement of text to form an image, whose form is part of the message. There are two parallel poems on astronomy, how to chart the stars, track the seasons and the myths behind the gods and heroes transposed, scattered in the firmament, on each page with the upper verse set in the shape of the constellation under discussion. The red dots correspond to the stars’ positions in each figure.

savannahs and toygers and bengals oh my

Bred with the hopes of inspiring cat fanciers to care more for their domestic pets’ wild cousins, Nag on the Lake introduces us to this world of feline hybrids.
These experimental breeds, recognised by most of the professional cat credentialing associations, and who knew that there was one called the United Feline Organisation (UFO)—and included in most registries, contain widely varying amounts of wild blood, with the toy tiger’s stripes the result of careful husbandry of ordinary tabbies. The savannah, however, is a cross between a house cat and the sleek African serval and the Bengal is a generational mix of domestic familiars and Asian leopards. As striking as they are, we’d be happiest with a foundling or one whom chooses us. Visit the link for an informative video presentation and further information.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

down runter

An interesting featured article ostensibly on an army recruitment campaign imploring Australian colonists to fight for metropolitan Britain during World War I re-introduces us to the broader, meticulous and vast curation of unusual maps by Big Think contributor Frank Jacobs.
Like many in the collection, the propaganda illustrated on this broadsheet evokes the it could happen here trope with the continent rebranded as New Germany—with Kaisermania just off the southern coast. Ironically, as this sort of panic was not firmly ensconced in the realm of possibilities with the Great War being one of attrition, the outposts that Imperial Germany had in the vicinity of Australia were immediately taken by New Zealand and Australian forces as soon as war was declared, rebranding Neu-Mecklenburg and Neu-Pommern as New Ireland and New England respectively. The Treaty of Versailles formally stripped Germany of its colonial holdings and with Africa and Asia already unduly apportioned among the other European powers, the only land left up for grabs for a resurgent Nazi Germany was Antarctica.

brick and mortar

Via the Daily Dot, we discover that Lego- compatible adhesive tape is on offer for pre-order and will be ready to ship sometime this summer, having far surpassed their original fund-raising goal multiple times over. Brilliantly any surface can be made Lego-friendly, enhancing building possibilities and seems to us a far better alternative to modifying and replacing components than some boring old 3D printer. Founded in 1934 in Denmark, the company’s name is a play on the Danish phrase leg godt—“play well.”


Thinker and inventor of predictive texting, the auto-complete feature (that’s quite different from psychography or automatic writing) Ben Medlock, writing for ร†on magazine, poses the question of whether the singularity can transpire so long as artificial intelligence is something disembodied. I wonder if we need physical extensions and limitations to achieve self-awareness.
I guess this is another way to approach the floating man conjecture of Avicenna that suggests that without being able to confirm the fact that we have a body, sensibly, we might not naturally assume that there’s any distinction between internal and external.  Our living and mortal structures are of course a veritable Ship of Theseus, dynamic and continuously in need of upkeep and refurbishment and that to me suggests that intelligence also needs a way to sense time—through aging, with some going so far as theorising that the spark of consciousness arises out of awareness that the intellect and its support-systems is liable to being drug down by the same rules of entropy that causes everything’s consummation. I wonder if the immortal and the incorruptible have, experience intelligence in the same way. Is it a question of kind or degrees? Maybe the gap is always growing narrower but will always be there. Of course we can give a robot any sort of body that we chose but that casing, input/output device is something different than a feeling, corporeal form.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

pleistocene park

Having seen the full documentary on German television over the weekend with H, I was pleased to see the coverage of enormous and complex conservation project reproduced by The Atlantic. Reaching back to the dawn of human civilisation and the retreat of the glaciers that spawned the shared myths and memories of the great deluge and Atlantis (we’ve no tales of advancing sheets of ice and winters that span รฆons) the Pleistocene Age ushers in human society, perhaps developed as a way to cope with the cold and privation.
The success of humans upset the balance of that Nature had cultivated for far longer than the fifty thousand years since the Age of Man, hunting most of the megafauna of the plains to extinction. The grazing of huge beasts adapted to the climate, corralled by predators, ensured that the tundra maintained its character and did not give up its permafrost in an uncontrolled catastrophic fashion. Some determined residents of Siberia have begun a massive land-management project that aims to restore the grasslands and the integrity of their local biome by reintroducing elk, bison, and maybe even mammoths in the near future. Similar conservation efforts are beating back the advance of the desert on the plains of Africa and have even allowed cattle ranchers and elephants to coexist. It seems a bit counter-intuitive at first but if committed and managed correctly could save heath and prairie and keep sequestered carbon out of the atmosphere.


crate & barrel: a glimpse inside the outfitteries that design and deliver prefabricated Irish Pubs around the world, via Boing Boing

la gioconda: researchers, including a relative of the Bishop of Bling, in Germany conclude Mona Lisa’s smile means she happy

inception: more recursive, panoramic landscapes from Aydฤฑn BรผyรผktaลŸ, via Kottke 

pacific rim: demonstration of robots controlled by the hemispheres of two separate volunteers’ brains

ligature: a clever type face that reacts intuitively to the characters that precede and follow 

rentier economy

Considering Dear Leader’s fondness for non-committal licensing out his word and bond to resorts, vodka diploma-mills and other enterprises that he’s not particularly invested in (but only too happy to put ahead of national interests on a geopolitical arena), we discover that the apples don’t fall from the tree. Dear Leader’s son, Junior—aside from running his father’s business empire in trust, is an avid public-relations consultant for an Oklahoma firm that transmogrified its failed business model (polling via PDAs) into the modus operandi of an unabashed patent-troll, accusing multitudes of infringement.
Thanks to Junior’s influence and family-trademark unrelenting, uncompro- mising attacks that would wear on the stamina and resistance of anyone, most defendants—without owing to being in the wrong—will just settle and pay Junior to go away, since there’s no such provision like having the loser pay court fees in America to discourage frivolous lawsuits. The fact that Junior went on record praising this firm as an innovator is awful enough (betraying a failure to grasp basic contemporary concepts about how the interwebs work) and grows exponentially worse considering that’s Junior’s father, Dear Leader, gets to appoint the agency executives that run the US Patent Office and determine its future direction and what kind of claims it will tolerate and honour.

Monday, 13 March 2017

sxsw or urbi et orbi

The BBC’s technology correspondent catches up with Bishop Paul Tighe, Vatican representative and papal social media handler, in attendance at the South by Southwest conference.
The Holy See will also be presenting a panel discussion on Compassionate Disruption, which has attracted a lot of attention, but the interview focused on the forum that essentially launched the media platform Twitter a decade hence and the papacy’s uncomfortable but determined embrace of the social network five years ago. Pope Francis’ directive is that tweets are at minimum to be encouraging and if one deigns to enter into that discussion, one should try to avoid the negative elements out there.

concrete feats

Via Dezeen we discover Spanish illustrator Marta Colmenero celebrating some of the distinctive landmarks of Brutalist architecture from across Europe and north Africa, including the iconic public housing estate Balfron Tower, completed in 1967, designed by Hungarian extract Ernล‘ Goldfinger. Such residential towers saw the rise of the high-rise and it was Goldfinger’s early pioneering solutions limited urban space that really started the process, and caused one objector to the demolition left in the building boom’s wake, Ian Flemming, to name his Bond arch-villain after the architect. Goldfinger threatened the author with legal action but relented when Fleming offered to rename the character “Goldprick.”