Tuesday 5 December 2023

(11. 166)


one year ago: a Vogue issue featuring Darth Vader plus assorted links to revisit 

two years ago: Flash Gordon (1980) plus the art of Matt Semke

three years ago: Krampus Night, World Soil Day, a boatswain pipe plus more Yuletide customs

four years ago: Pantone’s colour for the coming year plus icy atmospheric phenomena

five years ago: the Bermuda Triangle plus some local Christmas Markets

Monday 4 December 2023

the peace ship (11. 165)

With detectable parallels to modern day technological utopianists and branded altruism, industrialist and automaker Henry Ford launched his chartered vessel Oskar II from Hoboken, New Jersey on this day in 1915 on as trans-Atlantic mission to petition for a cease-fire in Europe and a de-escalation (anti-preparedness) in armaments. Inviting prominent pacifists to join, Ford hoped that the audacity of the act would spur a truce among belligerents, Ford’s plan was at first greeting with respect by the press and public, however opinion began to sour on this attempt at amateur diplomacy with in-fighting amongst the activist and fabricated claims that the European powers were willing to negotiate, at the behest of Ford or anyone else, fears that such antics might make the situation worse—and for embarking during an influenza pandemic, which spread through crew and passengers during the five-day voyage. Violently ill and receiving a cold reception from skeptical delegates in Oslo, Ford retired to his hotel suite, granting one talk with reporters (not mentioning the Peace Ship) before convinced to seek out of the county by way of a steamer departing from Bergen. Despite the organiser’s conspicuous absence and the inability to secure any meetings of consequence with any officials with influence, there were several other ports-of-call around Europe, under the banner of the Neutral Conference for Continuous Mediation, still financed by Ford up until 1917 when it became clear that US entry into fighting was inevitable.

sparkle, sparkle (11. 164)

OpenAI and services offering AI powered recommendations and enhancement, like conference transcription and summaries (quite literally turning a meeting into an email) are representing their synthetic-backed features with the emoji ✨ to convey a non-lexicographically sanctioned sense of wonder and magic—which of course is a nice corollary to Arthur C Clark’s “indistinguishable from magic” law whereas any sufficiently opaque process might impel one to conclude the same. This friendly little flourish also begs the question, like with the distinction between online and IRL activities, what it means to label something becoming ingrained and manifest in everything.

a shark-infested rice pudding (11. 163)

The Morning News directs our attention to loving and thoroughgoing curation of neglected, overlooked or otherwise forgotten works of literature, like the title collection of three novellas by Sylvia Wright. Uncategorisable as an experimental reflection on the craft (and inability) to write fiction, despite publishers trying to dress it with a cover that vaguely suggested a romance novel, though Wright’s single work of “fiction” made be highly obscure, we are familiar with Wright’s linguistic contributions in the capacity of a columnist for Harper’s and coining the term mondegreen, which relates back to her stream-of-thought trilogy. More neglected books and forgotten authors at the link above.


one year ago: the Council of Trent plus a mysteriously abandoned ship

two years ago: more German words of the year,  Smoke on the Water, fifty-two more lessons plus a fun town-builder

three years ago: assorted links to revisit, the Feast of St Barbara, a duct tape prom plus Washington disbands the Continental Army

four years ago: the 1913 modern art show at the New York Armoury

five years ago: RIP Spongebob creator Stephen Hillenburg, a robot crewmember joins the ISS plus a superlative collection of alternate cartography

Sunday 3 December 2023

you stood and you watched as my baby left town (11. 162)

To the surprise of songwriter and music producer Geoff Stephens, the band formed of sessions players to record his novelty composition “Winchester Cathedral” climbed to number one on the US, Canadian and Australian charts of this day in 1966 for a run of several weeks. The New Vaudeville Band channelled the music hall style and megaphone vocals of Rudy Vallรฉe of the 1920s and the 1930s. The eleventh-century monumental titular building is the mother church of the ancient Diocese of Winchester and is the largest medieval cathedral in the world, only now surpassed by the later St Peter’s, Our Lady of Peace, Liverpool’s and St John the Divine in New York, and is a major tourist draw and pilgrimage destination as the resting place of Jane Austen.  Though only teaming up for this one-off gig, the New Vaudeville Band collaborated on several albums through 1988.

i just don’t see why blance should shove a broken bottle in stanley’s face—couldn’t she just take his abuse with gentle good humour? (11. 161)

Premiering at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway on this day in 1947, Tennessee Williams’ Southern Gothic play (previously) narrates the experiences and trajectory of a former southern belle who loses her teaching job and the family home to creditors and with no other prospects, moves in with her younger married sister and husband in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Deceptive and critical of her new hosts, Blanche Dubois is acting out of self-defence and deflection to not own her series of bad choices, including an early marriage to a gay man and an affair with a student that led to her dismissal from the school. The original cast showcased the talents of Kim Hunter with Jessica Tandy and Marlon Brando and the name comes from a streetcar line (discontinued by the time of the cinematic adaptation in 1951 and replaced by a bus service) that ran not far from the playwright’s own apartment when living on Toulouse Street.

9x9 (11. 160)

caput apri defero, reddens laudes domino: an annual procession dating back to the fourteenth century that marks the beginning of Christmas season in London 

pingxiety: an update on the aerospace engineer’s anti-smart phone—see previously  

settled law: a carol to reaffirm that Die Hard is in fact a Christmas movie  

pocket universe: scientists in Germany re-create the Cosmos in a test tube to tweak the laws of physics for this primordial simulation  

pilea peperomiodes: the Chinese money plant goes by another common name for good reasons  

such fun: noun and adjectival usage of the intensifier on either side of the Atlantic  

anthrobots: researchers have created tiny, living robots from human cells that could one day patrol for diseases and repair damaged tissue  

there used to be a house at 6114 california street: a interview at home with Anton LaVey in 1967—see previously—via r/Obscure Media  

coquito ho ho: a guide to festive variations on classic cocktails

woty 2023: people’s choice (11. 159)

Oxford English Dictionary has a shortlist of nominees that were pitted against one another for several brackets including: Swiftie (a Taylor Swift enthusiast) vs De-Influencing, Heat Dome (a high-pressure weather system that traps hot air below it with deadly consequences) vs prompt—as in an improvisational cue for a Language Model), rizz vs Beige Flag (a warning sign that a partner is rather too tame and unoriginal, vis-a-vis the above) and parasocial (characterising a one-sided relationship that a fan has for a celebrity) vs situationship (an undeclared relationship) Check back soon to see if your favourite has won.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus The Book of Leaves

two years ago: Drake’s Equation, SMS (1992) plus a collection of airline safety cards

three years ago: your daily demon: Balam, a Roman holiday plus fifty-two gleanings from the year

four years ago: Camelot (1960) plus a Chicken Little opera

five years ago: a deck of Mayan playing cards, healthy brain flora, the cries and criers of Old London plus a deployment to the US-Mexico border