Sunday, 31 March 2019


Having matriculated with the Bauhaus in 1921 and demonstrating considerable typographic talent, Herman Bayer (*1900 - †1985—previously here and here) while attending school in Weimar, we learn from Coudal Partners’ Quick Links, was commissioned in 1923 by the state of Thüringen to create Notgeld—emergency currency for a nation that after suffering defeat in the Great War—to address run-away, hyperinflation. Paper money went into circulation as soon as it was printed as it became practically worthless immediately.

tableau vivant

Via Memo of the Air, we are excited that it’s once again time to peruse the gallery of finalists for the Sony World Photography Award (previously).  Among those selected are Stephan Zirwes for his perspectives of public pools from above and this scene of Curaçaoan veterinarian Odette Doest arriving home to her menagerie after a long day at work captured by Jasper Doest, plus sixty-odd other entries from hobbyists, students and professionals to review at the links above.

polar azimuthal projection

Via Strange Company, we are introduced to the magnificent, late sixteenth century chart of the known world, Urbano Monte’s Planisphere.
Splitting from the traditional representation of the globe made the industry-standard by Flemish mapmaker Gerardus Mercator in the preceding century, which portrayed the constant bearings of sailing vessels (curved rhumb lines) as straight paths, Monte deconstructed the round Earth as sixty separate surfaces that could be reassembled to study the entire atlas comprehensively. The resulting masterwork is full of tiny details and illustrations but is also testament to Monte’s geographic understanding on a continent scale, surpassing his peers by getting the Mediterranean and Africa more to scale than other depictions and not making California an island. More to explore at the links above.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

gewöhnlicher spindelstrauch

There’s a rather unassuming shrub growing in the backyard with the scientific nomenclature Euonymus europaeus, the European Spindle that colourfully blooms with these clashing and poisonous pink and red flowers in early September that begin to bud (below) in April.
This small tree that inhabits the edge of forests and whose hard wood was the preferred material for making spindles for spinning wool and other implements. The infrequent surname Swindler, rather than the obvious connotation, derives from a northern dialectal variant for those who make spindles—the ‘sw’ transformation less taxing on the tongue than ‘sp.’

Friday, 29 March 2019

tickety boo

shy ethics disciplinarian

Referred by the always brilliant Nag on the Lake, we are enjoying pondering the duty descriptions that would pair with these satirical job titles generated to distinguish graphic designers from one another—created by Attaché of Brutal Design Intel Xtian Miller and Ethical UI Scientist Boris Crowther. Give Pseudo Design Titles a go and cycle through endless possibilities perhaps find your calling. We were also particularly fond of Sympathetic Busybody of Persuasive Design, Accessibility Diplomat and Habitué of Engagement.


von neumann probes: perhaps autonomous, self-replicating interstellar explorers are destroying each other, accounting for their lack of evidence

bahnhofsuhr: the iconic Swiss train station clock designed by Hans Hilfiker

dactylography: an interesting survey of ancient latent fingerprints and the scientific rigour of forensics

incidental music: a cocktail party version of the main Star Trek theme exists in the Star Trek universe

parclo interchange: the elegant engineering of Japanese freeway junctions from above

a rabbit’s revenge: a further study of the prevalence of bunnies committing violence on humans (previously) in medieval marginalia

breakfast at mondrian’s: studio Brani & Desi translate the Dutch artist’s geometric works to floors and furnishings in a concept apartment

aerography: huge rivers coursed across the Martian surface for billions of years, via Slashdot

Thursday, 28 March 2019


We find ourselves indebted to Kottke once again for referring us back to this lovingly curated Wikipedia page that invites us to meditate on cosmological scales, whose events that science projects are portrayed in this excellently produced and scored video journey from John Boswell that takes us on a romp, exponentially faster, towards the end of time. Though the Earth doesn’t endure past the first three minutes do stay with the video to its conclusion and invocation.

στην πόλη

The Turkish government on this day in 1930 changed the name of its largest city from Constantinople to İstanbul—the ancient metropolis having formerly been known as New Rome, Augusta Antonina, Byzantium and originally Lygos—and recall us to contemporary name changes we’ve encountered recently.
Whereas the reflagging of İstanbul strips it of historical associations, the people of Kyrgyz are considering renaming its capital from Bishkek to Manas, a legendary warrior whose exploits are sung in an epic poem that contains half a million verses and is a cultural touchstone for Kyrgyz identity. Some speculate that this debate was sparked by adjacent Kazakhstan’s decision to rename its capital Astana (formerly Tselinograd and founded as Akmoly) to Nur-Sultan in honour of long-serving president Nursultan Äbishuly Nazarbayev on the occasion of his retirement.

divine wind

I learned a historic detail about cherry blossoms that is a bit morose and melancholy from the excellent podcast series Short-Cuts, in the flowering trees’ association with kamikaze pilots during World War II. A parable was told young aviators that they were to aspire to be fearless and unflinching in their sacrifice like the cherry blossoms who live a short but glorious life and fall from the branches without clinging. Women would wave farewell to departing Zeros with cherry blossom branches and “volunteer” pilots composed long elaborate death poem—following the tradition of the samurai and ritual seppuku. Now go here for some happier, meditative traditions connected to this time of year.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism

In his The Disorder of Things, philosopher Fredric Jameson made the above observation with the public beaten down by endless rhetoric that there is no alternative to liberal market economies and that green movements are unrealistic.
Now that the US Senate has cynically (and in a cringe-worthy fashion—sh*tposting the chamber with a deliberate, aggressively ironic provocation of minimal effort that derailed any possibility of meaningful debate) rejected moving forward on comprehensive climate legislation, we globally are lurched a step closer to experiencing both scenarios. Such squabbling minimises the urgency for radical action and leaves us with less time to affect change before time runs out.


Taken while driving home last week—if you look closely in the centre of the image, there’s a hot air balloon in the distance directly under the end of the vapour trail in the sky.


Within a couple decades after Commodore Perry compelled Japan to open its doors to the West with the Treaty of Shimoda, Japanese society was beginning to relax its taboos against the consumption of meat other than seafood signalled by Emperor Mutsuhito’s 1872 New Year’s repast of beef—which caused much consternation among devout Buddhists who had helped cultivate the prohibition for over twelve centuries.
The Meiji administration changed its policy of isolation and was eager to adopt Western ways and technologies, effectively rescinding a decree from Emperor Tenmu in the seventh century not to eat useful animals during the farming season, which came to be a general avoidance (a heavy penance was put in place or transgression) for practical reasons as well as the belief in transmigration of the soul and the chance that would could be reincarnated as a cow or boar.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

duck pond town

Seeing this news brief about how Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan in the southwest, is directing real estate developers to avoid foreign, strange and particularly repetitive place names in order to promote historical and cultural heritage made me think of the phenomenon of pleonasms and tautological (同義反覆) toponymy.
Thousands of properties might be affected and need new signage to be in compliance. I realise that the regulation is probably meant to halt the profusion of centres and towers, but it also might be aimed at curbing repetition that comes systematically in translation, like in the case of the Yunling Mountains (the Cloudy Mountains Mountains), Jiayugun Pass (Jiayu Pass Pass), Nathu La Pass (Listening Ears Pass Pass), or the Gobi Desert (the Desert Desert).

inherent authority

The intrepid investigators at Muckrock publish a good primer on FOIA code and provides explanations on federal rules of criminal procedure that could potentially block the release of large portions of the Mueller Report and how those exemptions might be appealed in the courts. Given that the language of Freedom of Information Act requests are often composed—in this case especially—with potential lawsuits in mind and informed by the challenge of the high bar set for disclosure, the article also links to preliminary requests filed earlier and still pending adjudication.


Named in honour of nineteenth century entrepreneur, physicist and lens-crafter who pioneered stellar spectrometry Joseph Ritter von Fraunhofer said to embody the goals and philosophy of association, the society for the advancement of applied science was founded in München on this day in 1949.
The largest research organisation in Europe, it has seventy-two campuses spread throughout Germany and an international presence with institutions in North and South America and Asia. The organisation is funded through the so-called Fraunhofer Model which sources thirty percent of its budget to state support and the rest in contracted fees for conducting research and development at the behest of industry and government commissions—notable projects including developing the mp3 file format and an algorithm to reassemble shredded documents.


Correspondent for Mary Sue Kaila Hale-Stern invites us to stroll the streets of Gilead—escourted of course—with an exclusive peek at the 1985 Margaret Atwood dystopian and depressingly relevant The Handmaid’s Tale brilliantly adapted in graphic novel format by artist Renee Nault. Awash with symbolism, the story was a natural candidate for a fresh visual treatment and compatriot Canadian Nault was specifically selected by Atwood for this distinction.  See more panels at the link above.


Nag on the Lake brings us a short feature from Belgian director and illustrator Vincent Bal (previously) called Shadowology which reframes the shapely shadows that the imaginative sketch artist captures as live-action to show the creative process and how light and shadow of everyday objects are mentally manipulated until an entire scene is teased out of an ordinary silhouette projection.

Monday, 25 March 2019


våffeldagen: make traditional waffles for Swedish Waffle Day (a corruption of the Feast of the Annunciation, Vårfrudagen)

if you run after me, i will go to the playground—the one you call the ‘trashy playground’: the Helicopter Bunny by Elizabeth Hoey, via Duck Soup

roslyn place: a drive down Pittsburgh’s last remaining wooden street, via Nag on the Lake

silent moscow: a meditation in street photography from Hermes Pichon

pass the salt: another very satisfying Rube Goldberg (previously) inspired way to accomplish a task

scholas occurentes: Hadi Partovi with the help of young students taught the Pope how to script a line of computer code, vis Slashdot

lift up the receiver, i'll make you a believer

In addition to permitting a scaffolding hung with the inscription, “So long as God wears a beard, I will be a feminist,” in the city’s cathedral, Innsbrucker Bishop Hermann Glettler (EN/DE) has also allowed artist Manfred Erjautz to install a salvaged wooden crucifix in the sanctuary of the Spitalskirche whose broken arms tell the time. “Your Personal Jesus” will be on display throughout Lent for comtemplation.  More to explore at the links above.  

avon calling

Though more glaring and fraught examples are to be found among the ruling, grifting crime syndicate (here and here especially) of the US, we appreciated the spirit in which the origins of both Cobra and its foil the elite paramilitary unit, G*I* Joe, was shared. Loosely based on conservative pundit William F Buckley (*1925 – †2008), Cobra Commander of the Marvel canon was a used car salesman in Springfield, Anytown America whose brother served on multiple deployments to Vietnam in order to spare his brother from being drafted.
Suffering from post-traumatic stress, Cobra Commander’s brother took towards increasing self-destructive behaviour—ultimately leading to his demise in a car collision. Inconsolable, Cobra Commander blamed the crash on the survivor, another veteran who afterwards sequestered himself from the world and studied the martial arts in Japan. Hungry for vengeance, Cobra Commander contracted the services of an assassin, who mistakenly killed the ninja master rather than the student—persuading the survivor to reenlist later as Snake Eyes. After this debacle, Cobra Commander sought to return to his dealership but his wife discovered what had transpired in Japan and threatened to come forward to the authorities. Cobra Commander abandons his wife and takes their infant son on the road to eke out a living, conning the unsuspecting and setting up a pyramid scheme to attract followers and accrue funds, appealing to the disenfranchised for whom he finds a resonant kinship. Cobra Commander begins wearing a blue hood during his motivational talks to disguise his identity.

symplectic geometries

Via the ever resplendent Everlasting Blört, we are treated to the mathmagic of assistant professor Clayton Shonkwiler, who has transformed his lessons and research into rather beautiful animations to pique interest in his discipline and make the subject more accessible. We are all math people when we foster our feelings about it and seek to apply it to our everyday lives. Much more to explore and learn at Shonkwiler’s website.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

pass the dutchie on the left hand side or bong appétite!

Courtesy of Nag on the Lake’s fun and informative curated Sunday Links, we discover among other things that the great-great-granddaughter of etiquette and good-manners maven Emily Post is poised to publish an update which promises to impart poise and grace for any social toking session.
Lizzie Post’s Higher Etiquette supplements one’s finishing school decorum—good manners are about gratitude, respect and inclusion which the author and her ancestor’s institute promote and not about the intimidation or embarrassment which some fancy passing as class—ended with the title instruction or puff-puff-pass, neither of which appear in the guide (one should take three hits of a joint before passing it around).

meshes of the afternoon

This 1943 experimental short film by spouses and creative collaborators Maya Deren (*1917 – †1961) and Alexander Hammid (*1907 - †2004) delivers a surreal round and refrain of motifs that have become the diaphanous displacements for several music videos and directors such as the iconic David Lynch (previously). The directors themselves portraying the two characters whose interior experience cannot be documented for another to see or experience, the plot follows a strange stream of dissociative nightmares where repetitive, simple tasks become outsized in their difficulty and importance, a feature that can be common to dreams, and ends without a settled resolution.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

the people's vote march

it’s mueller time

After an astounding six hundred and seventy-five days, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has relayed to the US judiciary that he has concluded his investigation charged with exploring Russian meddling into the 2016 presidential campaign and to what extend the Trump campaign was involved.
There is overwhelming political and public will for a full disclosure of the report, including whatever sources that the commission used to come to conclusions of guilt or innocence—or most likely inconclusive of either. Whether exculpating—unlikely—damning or excoriating, it is really going to be a challenge to subject the same evidentiary material to interpretation, especially considering the received immunity that the office of the president has from persecution which really sets a high-bar for passing judgment. It’s the antithesis of due-process to besmirch and condemn someone for being not quite a criminal—as bad as those liminally rotten scoundrels can be—and puts too high a bar on revealing the patent but evasive true character of those under scrutiny. What do you think?  No one believes that the Trump crime syndicate is beyond reproach, legally or ethically, but perhaps we’ve vested too much faith and energy in couching that repugnance in a legal framework that both dissenters and supporters might recognise and acknowledge.

the queen of wands

We are directed to an exhibit that divines the often unattributed illustrator responsible for the most iconic and authoritative suites of tarot cards in existence out of obscurity and back into the prominence deserving of an individual that designed a deck that’s sold millions and the subject of frequent homage (see also here, here and here).
Pamela Colman Smith (*1878 – †1951)—who also went by the nickname of Pixie—was the amanuensis and muse of scholarly mystic Arthur Edward Waite (*1857 – †1942), to whom Smith was introduced by William Butler Yeats whilst working on commissions by the poet and playwright by mutual membership in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a society heavily into theurgy and cartomancy. Not to be pigeonholed only with the occult, Smith, aside from illustrating the works of Yeats, Bram Stoker and others also lent her talents to creating protest posters for the woman’s suffrage movement and for relief campaigns during the war for the Red Cross. In 1909, she interpreted Waite’s Key to Tarot in visual form and managed to produce eight refined pictures in the course of six months—two more cards than the standard major and minor arcana of seventy-eight with it being a mystery what those extraneous cards represented. Much more to explore at Hyperallergic at the link above.

the road’s my middle name

Courtesy of Kottke’s Quick Links, we are reminded that thirty years ago this week (21 March 1989), Bonnie Raitt—indulged by her record label to make the album that she wanted to make since they didn’t have very high expectations for its commercial success—released Nick of Time. Knowing later how formative the songs were to a generation who heard them on cassette tapes on car rides, Raitt did not mind being hailed as a come-back or even characterised as a woman of a certain age achieving success despite her circumstance.

elf uhr

Via Strange Company, we find ourselves transported to the cantonal capital of Solothurn at the foot of the Jura Mountains to explore its long held affinity with the number eleven (öufi in the local Swiss-German dialect)—though no one quite has the definitive answer for the association that can be found everywhere—the 11th canton to join the confederation, home to 11 guilds, plus 11 churches and chapels, 11 towers of the former town wall, and a cathedral with 11 altars, bells and steps. According to one source it was adopted in deference to a team of work coach elves (Elf in German is both an Elf and the number) who came down from the Weissenstein, the promontory that dominates the city, and helped make the long-toiling inhabitants more prosperous.

god help this american kid

Our gratitude to the always excellent Fresh Air (do listen to the entire episode) for acquainting us with the musical stylings of singer song-writer and guitarist Carsie Blanton. Incredibly, Buck Up is Blanton’s sixth album and all of them sound pretty spectacular and empowering. Learn more at the links above and the artist’s website.

Friday, 22 March 2019

kestää käytössä

We enjoyed watching this early 1970s commercial from Finland for the new Lada 1200 (domestically known as the ВАЗ-2101 or as “Kopeyka,” one one-hundredth of a ruble) but take heed as replaying it may summon a demon.


tusalava: life evolves and struggles to survive and thrive in a 1929 animated short from Len Lye—previously

datavis: climate scientists become tastemakers with “warming stripes

sha na na: the fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock venue line-up has been announced and some people are not impressed—via Miss Cellania’s Links

a coney island of the mind: ahead of his one hundredth birthday, a look at the uncompromising life and work of Lawrence Ferlinghetti

parting expressions: a look into the nuance of saying sayonara (さよなら)

afforestation: the Bonn Challenge is engaging all of us to save the world’s forest—via Maps Mania

a month of type: the studio of Mister Kaplin animates the alphabet—having devoted a day’s work to each letter


Previously we’ve demonstrated—anecdotally—that despots and robots don’t seem to mix well, and whilst people have anxieties over being made redundant through automation and that there are definite trade-offs to be found in unfettered technological progress, tempered by the consul of the past or not, a surprisingly large portion of Europeans recently polled, a solid quarter of respondents, would favour allowing artificial intelligences to craft and execute policy over politicians.
What do you think?  We agree that there’s some share of disillusionment and political estrangement contributing to this outlook and the paternalistic bent as well as the tendency to reflect and amplify our worst inclinations to some advancements shouldn’t be ignored—which is why transparency is vitally important—but we suspect there’s also a vote of confidence to be found here as well—that perhaps in coalition with machines, governance could be a fairer and more equitable process.

båly bay

An undersea restaurant on the Norwegian southern coast whose ground-breaking caught our attention a year and a half ago is celebrating its official grand opening and welcoming diners. Designed by the Snøhetta group to suggest an emerging periscope, Under (that word also means a wonder in Norsk) hosts up to forty guests, for whom I hope the liminal experience makes a lasting and profound impression, and serves a dual purpose as a marine research laboratory when not serving meals. Learn more at the links above, including a peek at the menu and where to book reservations.

to delight and disarm

We enjoyed perusing the extensive portfolio of Atlanta-based artist Rachel Eleanor, courtesy of Plain Magazine, whose illustrations and distinctive picture book style are indeed as resonant as her motto and modus operandi of the title. See more of Eleanor’s repetorie, which includes animation and branding campaigns for local events, at the links above.

ipad evenle

Nineteenth century civil engineer and utopian architect Thomas Stedman Whitwell—best known for his advocacy for model company towns—also wanted to reform toponymy, finding it confounding how there was a profusion of Springfields, Albanys, Clintons and Franklins in the United States, and so though new nomenclature ought to be based on latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates.
To that end, Whitwell published this table and accompanying article in 1826 in the gazette for New Harmony (Ipba Veinul located at 38 °11′ N by 87 °55′ W), Indiana (a failed utopian colony). It reminds us of the scheme employed by What-Three-Words though extensive elocution rules—as opposed to the natural language of the latter—had to be laid out to overcome difficulties in pronunciation and recall and in theory would could scale down past minutes and seconds to specific subdivisions, neighbourhoods and addresses with longer and longer garbled names. The idea failed of course to catch on—which is why the capitals aren’t called Lafa Vovutu (London) or Feili Neivul (Washington, DC).

Thursday, 21 March 2019

breitling orbiter

After launching three weeks earlier from Chateau-d’Œx in the canton of Vaud, psychiatrist and avid balloonist Bertrand Piccard—hailing from a long-line of adventurers, along with co-captain Brian Jones, became the first team on this day in 1999 to successfully circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon. With the help of a ground-crew of meteorologists, they accomplished this feat by negotiating atmospheric currents and jet-streams and had no means of forward propulsion other than being borne aloft by the winds.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

a stroke of genius

Via The Awesomer, we learn that computer powerhouse nVIDIA has developed a generative adversarial network (previously) they’re calling GauGAN, after the post-impressionist Paul Gauguin, which transforms sketches and doodles into convincingly real but wholly fictitious landscapes, scouring billions of images to make a seamless composite scene. The algorithm and subroutine is still being coached but may be available for the general public soon.

mythos: an object lesson

Via Open Culture, we are treated with a series of short vignettes from animator Chris Guyot that communicate the timelessness and universality of Greek myths with no need for exposition but rather through digital geometric abstractions and a bit of resonant, billiard ball physics, recognising that memes are not only an expansive and wide-ranging format but loyal traveling companions as well. In case any of director Stephen Kelleher’s cautionary tales are not immediately familiar, there’s a helpful synopsis of each act at the link above.

Mythos from Stephen Kelleher on Vimeo.

alles klar herr kommissar

Accused of deporting himself like the “high commissioner of an occupying power” instead of a member of the diplomatic corps, German politicians are calling for the expulsion of US Chief of Mission to Germany, Mister Grenell (previously), citing his continual interference and barrage of criticism as having grown intolerable.


In protest to European Union’s rather fraught and problematic Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, to be brought before Parliament, German-speaking Wikipedia—at the consensus of its contributors and users—will shut down for twenty-four hours on March 21.
The most upsetting articles included in the language of the proposal to be debated are the so called “link tax” on news and content aggregators and the requirement that websites and hosting services employ upload filters that would screen out potentially pirated or non-attributed images and video. Media-rights holding clearinghouses initially supported the enforcement measures but have now been less enthusiastic and a consortium of journalists see it as a threat to press freedoms. We all ought to join in, in solidarity.

turf war

These interventions by Amsterdam-based artist Diana Scherer, Exercises in Root System Domestication—courtesy of Colossal—are not only an interesting heuristic to explore the impositions humans place on the untamed, organically, natively intelligent ways of grasses that we ought to not presume to outwit but this intricately trained latticework of roots at the same time holds out the suggestion that through engineering we might make semi-sensible lawns with better drainage capacity and resistant to erosion or crops that stave off pests and weeds structurally. Perhaps crop rotation in the future would mean a season of fallow fields where grasses till the soil and eliminates the need for tractors to do so.

product placement

In addition to the thousands of scientists and engineers behind the Apollo missions to land a manned mission on the Moon and return them safely, there was also a concerted marketing effort not only to supplement the astronauts and enhance the mission but also out of self-interest and garnering interest for their brand. The always amazing Kottke directs our attention to an incredible curated archive of press kits and presentations put together by NASA contractors that made the journey possible and also strove to keep the crew well stocked with pens, cameras, meals in quarantine after splashdown, watches, etc. Much more to explore at the links above.

the ballad of john and yoko

A week after Linda Louise Eastman (*1941 – †1998) married Paul McCartney, John Lennon (*1940 - †1980) and Yoko Ono had their wedding service in Gibraltar on this day in 1969, traveling to Amsterdam five days later for their honeymoon.
Knowing that their marriage would be a big press event, the couple decided—at the height of the Vietnam War—to put the media attention to good use and staged the first of their weeklong Bed-Ins for Peace. An international contingent of journalists were invited into their bedroom in the presidential suite of the Hilton Hotel daily from nine o’clock in the morning until nine o’clock at night. Afterwards they dashed off to Vienna, sending acorns to heads of state around the world in hopes that they would plant them and rear oaks as symbols of peace.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019


When I first caught the headline of this study, I assumed it meant that Hip Hop did something to stimulate the taste buds rather than having aged wheels of Emmentaler (hobby cheesemaker’s Beat Wampfler’s signature Muttenglück) in immersive soundscapes for six months. I was a bit sceptical about the claims that each sample, exposed to different musical genres, displayed a different taste profile but indeed sonic chemistry is a discipline that researchers are just beginning to appreciate and explore. Reportedly, the cheese aged accompanied by Hip Hop turned out zestier and the quintessentially Swiss cheese had bigger holes—eyes, in the trade.


misirlou: celebrating the life and genre-forming stylings of Dick Dale (RIP *1938 – †2019) and the Del Tones

the people have spoken: voters of a Massachusetts town remove and re-elect their mayor on the same ballot

scarlet letter: Monica Lewinsky on public shaming and cyber-bullying

caturday: a 1986 feline calendar on the Internet Archive—previously

the professor and the madman: preview for a cinematic adaption of the story of one of the Oxford English Dictionary’s foundational contributors

マンホールの蓋: a photographic safari for the most colourful manhole covers (previously) in Japan  

der nerobefehl

Never executed like his earlier orders to reduce Paris to rubble ahead of the city’s liberation, Adolf Hitler issued to Albert Speer, the Minister of Armament and War Production, on this day in 1945 the orders to destroy all remaining industry and infrastructure within Germany to prevent its capture and use by the Allied forces as their incursions into the Reich penetrated deeper and deeper into its territory. After the emperor’s intentional arson of Rome (blaming the fire on Christian upstarts) in order to make room for some prestige projects, the command subsequently became known as the Nero Decree, and Speer undertook full responsibility for its planning and systematic execution, rather than delegate the responsibility in hopes that local leaders would also ignore the order.

gavel-to-gavel coverage

On this day, four decades ago, the US cable and satellite television network C-SPAN first televised congressional proceedings from the floor of the House of Representatives.
The first member featured on the debut broadcast was then-Tennessee representative Al Gore. It was not until June of 1986, however, before the Senate permitted a live-feed that remained independent and wholly out of their control. I have fond memories of watching legislating in progress for hours on end and had it gently explained to me that classical music actually was not piped into the chambers during a vote (I thought that was a nice alternative to muzak or the general din) but that it was rather the doing of the programming manager during a call-in.

Monday, 18 March 2019

hail to the bus driver

Though the scope and scale of public celebrations looks to be limited (though just taking the bus, subway or tram is a good way of keeping this tradition), today—18 March—has been designated since 2009 as Transit Driver Appreciation Day.
This particular date was selected in deference to one of the last great contributions of author and engineer Blaise Pascal (previously) for the inaugural circuit coaches with a fare of five sou (Carrosses à Cinq Sols) launched in Paris on this day in 1662, against the express wishes of the king and parliament who didn’t want the rabble crowding their boulevards and impeding their passage through the city. The enterprise—the first public transport in modern times—was well received and the king relented and allowed the eight-occupant carriages to make their appointed rounds—the first line going from Porte Saint-Antoine to Rue Dauphine via Pont Neuf.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

a higher plane of existence

Any time reason and enlightenment encroach upon superstition and mystery, especially in the late Victorian Era, there will be some notable movements in counter-reformation, as Public Domain Review explores, like in séance and mysticism and perniciously in opening up a new realm as the last refuge of miracles and the supernatural.
Sort of like how the indeterminacy and unknowability of quantum mechanics provides a hold-out for the magical (I’m guilty of this sort of thinking as well, from time to time) in those days, people looked towards the extra dimensionality outside of our perception and experienced—only briefly intersecting as for the denizens of Flatland (1884), not flat-Earthers but rather two-dimensional beings that could not imagine a realm of geometric solids, and these unexplainable encounters inspired maths lecturer William Anthony Granville to author a sort of Euclid’s Elements in 1922 that went about trying to axiomatically prove assertions in Christian text rather than the nature of polygons. Read Granville’s entire The Fourth Dimension and the Bible at the link up top and find out more about the precursor works that led up to it.

день святого патрика

The observance of the Feast of Saint Patrick of course spread with the Irish diaspora across the world and was probably readily adopted by surrounding host communities in part due to the fact that it was the one exceptional day during Lent when prohibitions on food and drink were relaxed—though that indulgence has been much abused. Parades and associated festivities have taken place in Russia since 1992 and nearly every year thereafter through the auspices of the Russian Celtic Society. In 2017, the Russian Orthodox Church even added Saint Patrick to their menologium—the liturgical calendar—along with thirteen other post-Schism ancient saints (enlighteners, converters) of Western countries, though the holiday is observed on 30 March [Old Style for 17 March].

Saturday, 16 March 2019

wrong side of the tracks

We are finding ourselves quite a bit conflicted about the new development at Midtown Manhattan’s Hudson Yards in general as a gentrified, cordoned off play area for the well-heeled but are nonetheless impressed with the copper, multi-storeyed pavilion called the Vessel from the studios of Thomas Heatherwick (previously here and here)—whose criss-crossing stairwells and latticework of landings create quite an interesting viewing platform to survey the post-industrial neighbourhood and the tenants. It reminded us of the monumental eighth century stepwell of Chand Baori (nearly on the same scale but with an exterior outlook as well) in Rajasthan. Much more to explore at the links above.


Via Slashdot, we discover that a Leuven-based research team have managed to modify solar cells to decompose water into its component parts and produce hydrogen in situ.
The system harvests moisture from the air while generating photovoltaic power and the dual-application really reveals itself as complete, self-sustaining (if it can be scaled up) and self-sufficient as trials suggest that a small array of panels can procure enough power to light and heat a smallish living space without adding to the household’s carbon footprint. Demonstration projects are already underway in the UK and Belgium that keep homes warm using hydrogen instead of natural gas and can use the alternate fuel with existing pipes and infrastructure with relatively little retrofitting required. If the hydrogen does not need to be pumped in from outside, the process becomes even more efficient.


The 2020 Tokyo Games pictogram family is in homage of that same venue’s 1964 designs to appeal to an increasingly international gathering of athletes and audiences as we’ve previously explored, and now Present /&/ Correct refers us to a document from the Centre of Olympic Studies that profiles all fourteen intervening sets (like this 1988 version for Seoul) and the artists who created them.