Sunday, 26 May 2019


Though Angela Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union, did lighten up on their messaging somewhat, having taken this particular poster out of circulation early on after the campaign began in mid-April, the notion that freedom is not a guaranteed matter of course and that elections have consequences still is a crucial one.  Representation is important and illiberal forces are counting on your political disillusionment and disenfranchisement to forward their agendas. If polling has not already taken place where you live, please get out there and vote.

hægri dagurinn

A year after a far more logistically challenging switch-over had occurred in Sweden, all vehicular traffic in Iceland switched from left-handed chirality to right on this day in 1968.
Owing to the relative absence of congestion on the roads prior and to the stationing of British military forces during and after World War II which significantly overrode civilian activity, Iceland was not compelled to choose or to align itself until it began hosting more guests from continental Europe and America. As for Sweden, the change was imposed in hopes of reducing traffic accidents and while indeed accidents decreased right after the transition due to an abundance of caution and over-compensation, the benefits were not long-lasting.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

towel day

First observed two weeks after the death of Douglas Adams (previously here and here) in 2001, this day since has been designated as such as the author’s practical advice for interstellar hitchhikers to carry a towel with them at all times, even if they are without any other gear and otherwise quite out of their element. Widespread since 2006, this day has also been set aside as Geek Pride Day and although the two came about independently (the latter probably selected in deference to the premiere of Star Wars on this day in 1977), there’s surely some shared heritage among them.

Friday, 24 May 2019

material and motif

The always brilliant Nag on the Lake introduces us to the repertoire of architect Bruce Alonzo Goff (*1904 - †1982) through his organic, harmonious commission for artists and educators Nancy and Eugene Bavinger completed in 1955 (making the cover of LIFE magazine due to its immediate status as a tourist attraction) in Norman, Oklahoma, far off the beaten path.
Set in the woods and using a re-purposed oil derrick drill stem as the central spire a single locally-sourced sandstone wall spiralled to the ground like a Möbius strip, the only division separating indoors from outdoors, rooms were suspended platforms at graduated heights with curtains that could be drawn for privacy and the ground floor was the forest itself. This icon of habitation integrated with its environment was sadly ultimately demolished in 2016 overgrown with vegetation and after a decade of vacancy and a tornado that damaged the structure’s anchor as plans for restoration were discussed. Other examples of works by Goff survive and enjoy protected status.

a white flag with an insignia that looks like an eagle vomiting two strips of bacon

Via Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals, the American state of Illinois may have been saddled with a pretty awful banner, but it is heartening to know it is far from alone in that category with quite a few others having some quite poorly designed flags. None, I think could top the city flag of Tampa, Florida for the sheer volume and density of vexillological violations.  More to explore at the links above.

number 10

croquet lawns, village greens

Reigning as Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and later Empress of India from 1837 until her death in 1901, Alexandrina Victoria was born on this day in 1819. Having already declared itself to be a constitutional monarchy with more reforms to come, Victoria wielded no direct political power but was an important national figurehead and moral compass at a time of great social and technological change. Through a series of strategically arranged marriages of her issue with her consort Prince Albert (thirty four who survived into adulthood) to royal houses on the continent, Victoria earned the sobriquet of “Grandmother of Europe,” though kissing-cousins were no guarantors of peace.


location scout: travel destinations that embrace the Wes Anderson (previously) aesthetic

digit-1: Ford prototypes a foldable robot that might be delivering your packages soon

homer’s phobia: a look back at the 1997 John Waters’ cameo on the Simpsons that helped shift attitudes

enhanced pat-down: the US Transportation Security Administration keeps the loose change it collects and is factored into its operating budget

wheel estate: already priced out of the housing market, Silicon Valley communities are moving to ban people living out of their cars who work supporting the industry

bodennutzung: a trove of historic photographs from WWII bombing runs over Switzerland show how the landscape has changed over the decades 

Thursday, 23 May 2019


Though the story is still evolving and it is uncertain whether the scandal will precipitate the collapse of the coalition conservation government of Sebastian Kurz, an Austrian tabloid has secured a two-nights’ stay at the luxury villa on the Spanish holiday island where the 2017 meeting took place between woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch reportedly was able to secure public contracts in exchange for the promise of election help (in the form of buying a newspaper and turning it into a propaganda machine) from the now ousted vice-chancellor that will be awarded to a lucky reader. We can understand the concept of disaster tourism and the lure of a free get-away, regardless of the destination, and the importance of combating creeping corruption and influence peddling is crucial but I think maybe it is a touch shameless to be occurring in real-time.


For a couple of weeks, I had noticed the gap in the circle of stars on the hoodie (Pulli) donned by a candidate standing for a MEP slot and figured that it was a subtle/not-so-subtle reference to Brexit, but was not aware of the provenance or how the design by Berlin-based David Mallon was trending and very much in fashion among pro-EU, anti-extremist politicians. One of the twelve golden mullets was removed and affixed to the back of the sweater, this simple broken circle symbolising something beyond the UK’s departure and conveying volumes tacitly and inviting dialogue.


The ever brilliant Art Room Plant directs our attention to a thoughtful and circumspect exhibition by Art and Philosophy candidate Katherine Fay Allan that explores the similarities between gardening and medical intervention by exploring those liminal spaces between states of being and our want to assign neat categories. The installation includes a resurrection plant to illustrate how Nature sometimes defies those boundaries. Much more to explore at the link up top.


bit part: a preview of a biopic about Claude Shannon (previously)—the unsung Father of Information Theory

the revolution will not be biennialised: Banksy (previously) makes an appearance at a Venice expo, selling paintings of giant cruise ships moored in the canals

en pointe: the Hong Kong Ballet celebrates its fortieth birthday

😾 😾 😾: Thangrycat is exploiting vulnerabilities in the underpinning architecture of the internet

urban spelunking: when the Jehovah’s Witnesses relocated from Brooklyn Heights to upstate, their vacated properties included a series of underground passageways, via Super Punch

conducive to learning: a collection of striking maps and charts that inspired pupils in the late nineteenth century

walking trot: phones can now determine who is carrying them by knowing their users’ gait and other kinematic factors, via Slashdot

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

sacred grove

The once lushly forested landscape of Ethiopia that has been critically depleted from the start of the twentieth century onward is preserved in tens of thousands of tiny pocket parishes of the ancient and revered Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (የኢትዮጵያ : ኦርቶዶክስ : ተዋሕዶ : ቤተ : ክርስቲያን), a congregation in communion with the Coptic tradition and representing some of the earliest Christians. Sacred buildings are traditionally surrounded by a thicket of trees and thus have become the foci of biodiversity for the land, with the belief that the trees prevented prayer from dissipating too quickly. Local priests are hoping to make their oases into something more contiguous and bring Nature back to Ethiopia. Learn more at Amusing Planet at the link above.

æronomic phenomena

Whilst exploring the foothills of Aeolis Mons, Curiosity took a pause to look into the twilight skies and caught an amazing glimpse of wispy clouds sweeping overhead, conditions being just right to illuminate the microscopic ice crystals that make up this special classification (see also) called a noctilucent (“night shining”) cloud.
During the balance of the day, the Martian sky has a butterscotch hue but at dawn and dusk, it appears blue, the opposite situation than here on Earth, due to dust in the air and the lack of an ozone layer. It’s not the first observation of clouds in the thin atmosphere of the Red Planet and they flank the promontory of towering volcanic mountains and have been seen to gather elsewhere but it is certainly an inspiring, otherworldly sight.

invisible hand

In an act of solidarity, drivers who are working a side hustle for the major ride hailing companies exploit the algorithm of supply-and-demand and simultaneously cut off communication to make their dispatchers believe there’s few to no drivers available and thus creating a surge in fares—the drivers’ only means to eke out a profit in what would otherwise be a money-losing errand. This particular union serves travellers at a Washington, DC airport, timing their walk-out to coincide with incoming flights and reconnect after letting dispatch sweat it out for a few minutes and boost the fare price. It is unclear how long such a scheme can continue to take advantage of the tariff model or whether such methods are effective or encourage more grift and graft.

heritage tourism

In what smacks very much as an unholy alliance that turns over a rock to reveal that there’s already a booming genealogical travel industry, one problematic force of the gig-economy that’s turned gentrification into overdrive and percolated a housing crisis in the popular destination of the moment that’s proving very hard to recover from and another DNA analysis service that’s demonstrated some serious problems with confirmation bias and sampling-size form a partnership to make holiday-suggestions based on one’s ancestry—for those wanting to rediscover their roots.
Family histories can of course be fascinating, enlightening and humbling—to help us all realise that each of us has been uprooted and transplanted in one way or another, but this method and the package it promises does not strike me as the advisable way to dig around in the past. It’s a huge dissonance that we’ve cushioned ourselves to such a great extent to maintain our distance from others and avoid interaction or betraying intent, and yet we will invite strangers into our homes and automobiles and hope they’ll judge us well. What do you think? The two companies pledge that data about one’s DNA and travelogue won’t cross but I can’t see how that can be prevented. We’d all like to be able to extemporaneously share our narratives and autobiographies (especially when they reaffirm our uniqueness) and perhaps have a dramatic reunion with long-lost cousins, but I don’t think that journey is one that ought to be short-circuited though marketing gimmicks and cynical ploys for horizontal monopolies on one’s aspirations.

swedish neatballs

Exclusive to Dezeen, we are treated to three sustainable, future-proof recipes to try at home from IKEA’s laboratory Space10. By releasing a cookbook and encouraging individuals to experiment in their own labs and incubators, IKEA is hoping to come closer to closing “the gap between future trends and real life” and enable people to become active and engaged agents of positive change. Check out recipes and learn more about Space10’s test kitchen at the link above.

between the lines

Located on the grounds of an orchard in Borgloon near Liège, the Doorkijkkerk (See-through Church) was installed in 2011 as part of a public arts campaign to urge thinking about open spaces through negative space and the silhouette of architecture. The weightless structure is comprised of one hundred metal plates supported by two thousand columns. Depending on the angle of the viewer, the perspective of the church shifts from nearly solid to vanishing thin and wan against the sky. See a whole transformative gallery at Usual Places at the link above.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019


Via Boing Boing, we’re served up a rather delightful little movie from the point of view of a camera mounted on the conveyor belt of a sushi restaurant (回転寿司, literally rotating sushi). Every moment is splendid and captures the joys of dining out with friends, each passing booth telling its own story, some reacting to the camera and other too focused to notice. It’s a sweet one off feat but I wouldn’t want this repeated (the conversations are muffled with a soundtrack) and feel surveilled every time I ate out—especially given my propensity for being clumsy with plates and utensils.  We also appreciated how the source website categorised the video under the label sonder.

street view

Incredibly just a few years after the first surviving photograph was taken (the View from the Window at Le Gras captured by inventor Nicéphore Niépce in 1826), the technology became pervasive enough that one dedicated archivist was able to compile a globe-spanning procession of street photography, chronicling the one hundred and eighty-one years since its popular, commercial adoption. The starting point—1838—marks when France arranged to pay Louis Daguerre, Niépce’s former business partner, a pension for the rest of his days, in exchange for his developing process, which it gifted to the world.


Via Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals and related to a recent post, we appreciated this study on identity and branding of the airlines of Africa that emerged in the 1960s as colonialism was receding as a way to celebrate independence and self-determination. Logos, route maps and other ephemera from several national air-carriers have been curated by Northwestern University with brief histories of the airlines and links back to original sources to learn more.

a carbonated “beverage”

I have no memory of this phenomenal marketing misreading and miscalculation and suppose our town or high school wasn’t in the test market, so am grateful and a little bit baffled that a soft drink giant, eager to appeal to the demographic of Generation X was willing to exploit what we’d now recognise arguably as potentially problematic tendencies and male toxicity. Leaning deeply into the ironic and blatantly pandering with an anti-commercial campaign, Ok Soda trialled in 1993 specially targeted at a “generation of male teens and young men tired of hype and pretension.” Cans were even printed with a rather lengthy ten-point manifesto.
Ultimately, consumers didn’t care for the drink and the whole advertising campaign proved too relentlessly bleak and nihilistic for consumers, even their target audience. The line was discontinued in 1995 and never went into broader distribution.  Be sure to visit Messy Nessy Chic at the link above to see more artefacts of this failed attempt at reverse-psychology and branding disaffection.

call sign

Thanks to the always engaging Kottke, we are re-acquainted with the meticulous and dedicated assemblage of mostly defunct corporate logos from graphic design artist Reagan Ray, informed by the public’s captivation with and appetite for Mid-Century Modern and nostalgia for the glory days of air travel, with this curated collection of US regional carriers in what was once a pretty saturated and granular market.
Who knew that Anniston was once headquarters for the commuter airline Alair—AL for Alabama but certainly not the only option for the state? Or that Oakland, California once had Saturn as a carrier? Browse with caution as poking around the various archives and collections could easily turn to an all day distraction.

white night riots

On what would have been the eve of assassinated City Supervisor Harvey Milk’s forty-ninth birthday—among the first openly gay politicians to serve in any capacity, tens of thousands rallied in San Francisco on this evening in 1979 in response to the lenient sentence handed down to the murderer, formerly fellow district supervisor Dan White, who crept into City Hall (avoiding the metal detectors) and shot Milk and mayor George Moscone the previous November.
White’s infamous Twinkie defence notwithstanding (his dietary shift to sugary, unhealthy foods symptomatic of his underlying depression, his attorneys argued), it was perceived that the court doled out the lightest verdict possible—voluntary manslaughter—because of White’s status as a former police officer and firefighter and the justice system was seen as biased and protecting one of its own. Although the march started out as peaceful, clashes between police and protesters turned violent and the police carried out retaliatory raids on gay establishments. Refusal on the part of the gay community to apologise for the protest resulted in greater political capital, leading to the election of Dianne Feinstein as mayor, who appointed a more inclusive commissioner to run the department who recruited more gay members to the force.

Monday, 20 May 2019

this life

A single from the band Vampire Weekend’s new album, Father of the Bride, their first release in six years and one of eighteen cleverly composed and fastidious tracks on the record.

a sigil of jupiter in taffeta with a fair ribbon

Via Miss Cellania’s Links, we are directed to a curated trove of medical records with notes by attending the physicians, astrologers royal Simon Forman (*1552 – †1611) and Richard Napier (*1559 - †1634), that’s been transcribed and catalogued by pathology: witchcraft, venereal disease, demonic possession, blunt trauma, infertility, etc. Contraindications, diagnosis and treatment are usually indicated, gleaned from astrological charting (see also) in most causes—though not always transcribed, spelling modernised and standardised for reference and readability.

Not to betray patient confidentiality but these records are a fascinating look at the state of medical science on the cusps of two ages—the late, late medieval times just before a period of enlightenment and is an interesting contrast between what we’d consider magical thinking and superstition and the wholistic approach to healing. Here’s an example below—with five hundred others to peruse at the site above, a consult the accompanying astral images to divine a treatment plan:

Richard Cowly of Tinswicke, 30 years.
Tuesday 30 April 1605, 9.00 am. A bachelor.
[In chart] afflicted in mind. Frantic & lunatic.
Trine between Saturn and Venus.
7 trine with Jupiter and Mars.
Conjunction between Sun and Mercury.
Square between Jupiter and Venus.
Trine between Jupiter and Mercury approaching May 2.
He came yesterday to Mr Gerent when I was from home & he willed him to be let blood & he is somewhat mended ever since. Keeps his bed. Tuesday was seven nights. Has taken great grief touching one whom he loved & promised marriage & is now married. & he has much thought & grief. Very wild & as one frantic. Much tormented in mind & very sick. Talks idly. Cannot sleep.

formulaic writing

This essay by David Labaree on the fetishizing of the five paragraph essay format by pupils and teachers alike, stressing form over content rather than unpacking how by learning the conventions and limitations of expression, one is liberated (“A grateful mind by owing owes not, but still pays, at once indebted and discharged; what burden then?” – John Milton Paradise Lost) is well worth reading in its entirety and has a wealth of take-away notions to consider.
Practising the forms and presenting a rote assignment that illustrates for the learner and listener how words hang together can be an important exercise but not when it’s perpetuated throughout journalism and academia—all structure, a convenient template (see also) with no conviction of argument, and no substance. Such constrained writing, even if the departure therefrom is at the risk of losing one’s audience and auditors, becomes a textbook case of Goodhart’s Law—named after London School of Economics Professor Emeritus Charles Albert Eric Goodhart and originally a critique of narrow economic goals and gauges, an adage paraphrased as “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

alphabet soup or no such agency

Having relocated (see also) from Washington, DC to New York City on this day in 1919, the antecedent to the National Security Agency, a three-person operation called the Cipher Bureau, was ostensibly declared redundant after the conclusion of World War I but continued intelligence activities fronting as a business, the Code Compilation Company, providing encryption services for businesses wanting to protect trade secrets that could negatively impact stock prices and investor confidence.
Under the ægis of a group calling themselves the Black Chamber, comprised of recruits from the similarly disbanded Army cryptographic corps, the Company managed to convince Western Union and other telegraph operators to allow them access to the communication networks and focused on intercepting diplomatic cables exchanged through the many consulates concentrated in the city. After the nature of the operations came to the attention of the upper echelons of the government a decade later, the Secretary of State/Secretary of War Henry Lewis Stimson ordered the Company to be shutdown, with the remark, “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.” With the outbreak of World War II and the US entry, the talent pool was conscripted again and underwent several re-organisations and fell under the auspices of different military and civilian activities until finally centralised as the Armed Forces Security Agency, with the responsibility for all cryptographic analysis, recognising the precariousness of the geopolitical situation post-war, on 20 May 1949. Due to conflicts between civilian and military intelligence resources and over-compartmentalisation, President Harry S Truman formally established a civilian equivalent three years later through a then classified directive to share intelligence for their joint mission.

système international d’unités

Since its inception, the metric or the SI system of weights and measures has striven to be universal for all people at all times, regardless of whether le Grand K (plus its archival cousins stored for reference around the world) was ever so slowly disintegrating.
Or whether interplanetary tradespeople were trying to reckon a payload whose gravity was a constantly changing factor, so having finally achieved shifting the definition away from some physical artefact and anchoring the weight to a natural constant is a big accomplishment.  Officially pegging the kilogram to the Planck constant—which also has redefined the meter—allows any sufficiently competent laboratory to derive the value uniformly and independently without the intervention of a governing body and occurs from today on, World Metrology Day, held on the anniversary of the signing of the Metre Convention of 1875, an international treaty with the aim of standardising measurements of length and distance.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

vie et habitat des animaux fantastique

Via the always amazing Maps Mania, we are directed towards an incredible interactive version of Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin “Carte Genlle. de la France Septle. Contenant la Descouverte du Pays des Illinois” (1675) mapping an expedition two years earlier down the Mississippi River geographically as well as noting the mostly real though sometimes purely fantastical beasts and at other times challenged for the right habit in a comprehensive chart and travelogue for the governor of New France.
Be sure to check out the source link up top for more original and  historical maps in the same vein and other more contemporary examples of limning in terra nullius and terra incognito as points unknown with comparable esoteric warnings (hic sunt dracones and other related cautionary signs).

known colloquially as moss piglets

Via the Art of Darkness’ Shadow Manor blog, we’re introduced to a stress-relief ball in the form of a macroscopic version of a tardigrade (previously). Having survived the previous five mass-extinction events, able to withstand extreme temperatures and the vacuum of space, this little water bear—even just watching the video of it being squished and regain its shape is relaxing on its own—can surely handle your day-to-day stressors and would be glad to help alleviate them.

ad mensam

Schloß Hollenegg (DE) outside of Graz (the summer residence of the House of Liechtenstein) is no stranger to hosting unique exhibitions and the latest installation by curator Alice Stori Liechtenstein is no exception—with twenty-one site specific pieces throughout the castle’s sculleries and dining hall that explore table manners and dining etiquette as a social wedge that goes beyond the act of nourishment to afford all the chance to gather together and a place at the table (the Latin title). Much more to explore and chew over with Dezeen at the link above.

bolstering bridges

The twenty-six hundred residents of Giethoorn are seeing their relationship with the tens of thousands of tourists descending on the “Dutch Venice” (previously) every year growing a bit strained—appreciating the revenue the visitors bring but not necessarily the added traffic to this car-free town that is only navigable by foot and boat. Minor though frequent collisions with the residents’ private bridges that span the canals and connect the islands are sustaining enough damage that passage along these waterways criss-crossed by some forty-five of the traditional bridges is needing to be restricted so repairs can proceed and make conditions safer for villagers and punters alike.

Saturday, 18 May 2019


The discovery of the new/old painting by Old Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer (previously) has unfolded in a very captivating way that makes sleuths and amateur art historians out of us all.
Early, unauthorised x-ray examinations of his Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window (Brieflezend meisje bij het venster) among the trove of the then recently repatriated treasures of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen of Dresden—taken to the Soviet Union as spoils of war we returned to boost residents’ morale and curried the interest of Western scholars. The analysis revealed a Cupid (like these other famous putti who also reside in the Dresden galleries) walled over and painted out of the image, in what was assumed over the ensuing decades after the initial discovery was an example of regrettable pentimenti.
Recent re-examination conclusively determines that the over-painting was not done by Vermeer himself and approximately two centuries later, so conservators have chosen to restore (shown in progress with the unrestored version above) the artist’s original vision, confident that the visual vernacular of figure on the wall is in keeping with the artist’s style and contributes something to his overall message, interpreted as the girl hoping to expand her horizons outside of her domestic sphere.

Friday, 17 May 2019


The parliamentary vote coinciding with the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, established to mark the day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation struck alternative sexual orientation and identity from its register of diseases, Taiwan approved a bill that legalises same-sex marriage, becoming the first country in Asia to do so. Ceremonies will become legally recognised beginning on 24 May.


Found among the latest selection of curated links from Pasa Bon! we’re treated to a rather taxing forty minutes of instrumental of mall muzak (previously) from 1974.
Long playing records were distributed as the shopping soundtrack suitable for almost any retail environment—see if you can identify the commercial classics covered such as “Restroom Retreat.” The title is the Netherlandish word for the phenomenon of such background music—muzak having become proprietary eponym or genericised trademark, like Q-Tips and Scotch Tape—and the language, championed by Philips in the 1960s, has a related concept, fumu, from functional music—targeted performances orchestrated to boost sales. I don’t know how scientific the later were but the former does not really put me in the mood for shopping.


Though probably best known for the once abhorred but now treasured glass-and-steel pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre, master modernist architect Ieoh Ming Pei’s (RIP, *1917 – †2019) first major commission in 1961—construction completed by 1967—a flagship laboratory for the US National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, also deserves appreciation.
The Mesa Labs and headquarters building, the cubist structure suggestive of exhaust vents or ship funnels, remarkably continues to serve its original function all these decades later, conducting crucial studies climate change and modelling, and earned I.M. Pei the industry recognition that would lead him to other projects, including the Dallas City Hall, bank buildings, libraries and galleries around the world.

jet set

The TWA hotel housed in an incredibly restored 1962 terminal designed by Eero Saarinen (previously) has just recently celebrated its grand opening and welcomes its first guests at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York. Given the convenience and immersive atmosphere that perfectly captures all the best of Mid-Century modern glamour, lodging seems rather reasonably priced and it costs nothing to visit and walk through the main terminal. Learn more at CityLab at the link above.

morning sedition

Having debuted on the radio in November 1979, the opening theme for NPR’s Morning Edition by BJ Leiderman has become something sacrosanct and dear to listeners, like the prohibition against crashing the pips or how German state broadcasters tried to update the eight o’clock news music but quickly changed it back a few years ago, so we found it more than a bit off-putting that they changed it from the prosaic classic to something that sounds like an alarm designed by a committee of self-styled sleep hygienists to be a less jarring wake-up call. What do you think? Both versions are below for comparison—with additional lyrics from Conan O’Brien.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

our polite society

As a vehicle to explore globalism versus localism and identity—plus dominance and obsolescence, a resident of the factory town of Åtvidaberg partnered with the above design studio in a visual research project on the office equipment manufacturer FACIT AB and its legacy through its ephemera. Founded in 1922, the Swedish corporation produced typewriters, office furnishings and mechanical calculators through the 1970s, losing its relevance to Japanese-produced electronic models. In business theory, the failure if the company to adapt and embrace a technological shift is called the Facitfällen—the Facit Trap, especially when there is no funding- or skill-gap.


I had a passing acquaintance with the rich and strange world of Japanese municipal and corporate mascots but I now realise that I’ve been gravely underestimating the scope and variety after being referred to a veritable clearinghouse of the characters by Super Punch, first introducing us to Madori-kun, a martial arts wrestler with a blueprint of a small apartment for a face that is the symbol for a real estate agency.
Mondo Mascots has amassed and catalogued over ten thousand images of these Yuru-chara (ゆるキャラ—the title is the term for a local character, a specific reference to area mascots) in costume, rendered or plush form and there are already too many superlative examples to list in this growing collection—so it’s worth investigating the archives and sharing some of your favourites. We also particularly liked this floating, stony Pokémon that’s come to represent the Iwate Prefecture (岩手県, literally “rock hand,” after a legend that a menacing demon was lashed to the local cliff face until pledging to leave the villagers alone, making a hand impression on the rock as a sign—still visible after a rain), especially the way the legs are made invisible.

share your story

In a case of biting the vile hand that feeds him, Donald Trump is soliciting for and collecting grievances of social media users who feel that they’ve been banned or banished unfairly, countenancing the chief platforms for politic bias against the right.
To lodge one’s complaint, a detailed questionnaire is completed to include previous warnings, user policy, etc. This is not the first time we’ve seen Trump and compatriots curry individual favour as a way to undermine critics and not the first accusations flung at social media—who’ve been fairly agnostic about the monster they’ve elevated, however outside the norm and another way to weaponise and pander to entrenched beliefs. Of course it might also be a cynical ploy (also not without precedent) to identify with greater granularity potential voters for targeted campaign advertising.

vienna convention

In a move that seems particularly American and symptomatic of its McWorld mentality, US citizens travelling in Austria who’ve lost their passport or are otherwise distressed may seek out consular services and relief at any one of the country’s nearly two hundred McDonald’s franchises.
Fast food staff, thanks to a deal reached between the company and the US State Department, will have a special hotline to reach the Embassy to relay emergencies and seek resolution. A spokesperson for the US Mission says that this partnership is not in lieu of a fully staffed and trained diplomatic corps and is in fact increasing access to the embassy by distributing services throughout the country, choosing McDonald’s for this pilot programme because of its geographic spread, after-hours staffing and familiarity to Americans.

reality bites

Nostalgia has the potential for toxicity as much as identity but we were hard pressed to ignore this circumspect collection of essays, cultural touchstones, remembrances and even personality quizzes that define Generation X—especially those who came of age in America but I think that this generation is also associated with and a culprit of social hegemony and homogenizing—curated and presented by the New York Times’ editorial staff.

What do you think?  How do these images and icons resonate with you? The music and movies that one is exposed to during those formative years cements one’s taste and frame of reference and I’m certain that each successive generation has harboured the same thought but there seemed to be a sort of awareness that came with the films that had a lasting influence and legacy and probably wouldn’t be made today.  Everything back then did seem so arch, brooding and serious—and I think we did earn those labels as slackers, cynics and the disaffected—but hopefully those traits, and no class-cohort is monolithic, translated to mobility and malleability and the opportunity to achieve lasting good.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

worms against nuclear killers

Recently declassified documents obtained by the investigative team at Muckrock details how NASA dealt with the one of the early infections by a computer worm and arguably one of the first acts of political hacktivism, though the timing might be coincidental, back in October 1989.
Unidentified hackers from Melbourne, some contend Julian Assange (previously) was also involved but he has never attested to this claim, had infiltrated a computer system shared by the space agency and the US Department of Energy (which also has oversight for America’s nuclear arsenal) just as the shuttle was preparing to ferry up the plutonium-powered Galileo space probe. With the Challenger disaster (28 January 1986) still fresh in people’s minds, there was concern and public protests over the launch, fearing an accident that could spread fall-out over Florida. Instead of the accustomed start-screen, workers were greeted with the pictured message and led to believe that files were being deleted though no actual lasting harm was done. The subheading, “You talk of times of peace for all, and then prepare for war,” is a lyric from a Midnight Oil song, an Australian activist rock band with a strong stance against nuclear proliferation. More to explore at the link up top.


reaction faces: Tadas Maksimovas creates a twelve-barrelled sling shot to pelt people with likes and hearts

line item: the humble receipt gets a rather brilliant redesign to visualise how your grocery bill adds up

novgorod: Sergei Eisenstein (previously) collaborated with Sergei Prokofiev to produce the score for Alexander Nevsky (1938), which remains the cinematic standard

pink pop: a delightful vintage Shiseido cosmetic commercial from 1968

saving face: San Francisco becomes the first municipality to prohibit the use of facial recognition surveillance technology

happy accidents: much needed pick-me-ups from Bob Ross—previously  

Five decades after NASA successfully landed a human on the lunar surface and returned him and crew safely to Earth with the Apollo programme (aiming for the stars with the Moon being one of several goals when the mission was first conceived), the space agency has committed to returning within five years and the next humans to set foot on there will be a woman and man, naming the follow-on series of missions Artemis, after Apollo’s twin sister and goddess of the hunt, wilderness, the Moon and childbirth.
While we are big proponents for space exploration and happy that the US isn’t poor-mouthing the budget and even bigger advocates for equal opportunity (we’re just beginning to appreciate the role that women scientists played in the background to make the first mission a reality) and finding role models but there’s something a little creepy and sinister about how the whole ambitious plan is being presented and support rallied. What do you think? Considering who the chief cheerleaders are, it comes across almost as messianic, like a second Eden. Achieving equity in representation is challenging and opportunity and accomplishment ought not be conflated with other narratives (despite our penchant for story-telling as motivation), and the further we come in our outlook we also realise how much further we have to go.