Saturday, 27 February 2021

deep nostalgia

We learn that a genealogy company is offering a fully automated service to reanimate one’s old photographs by applying the same sort seamlessly predictive technology behind deep fakes, transforming perhaps staid and distant images in the same sort of way that Live photos or Harry Potter photojournalism captures a few seconds of posing and framing the shot. It seems like a clever idea to image one’s relatives smiling and mugging for the camera. Learn more at Gizmodo’s io9 at the link above. 


report from vietnam

On this day in 1968, CBS affiliates broadcasted respected television news anchor Walter Cronkite’s scathing assessment of US prospects, having been dispatched to cover the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, privately urging commanding generals to find a dignified way to extricate themselves from this quagmire. Editorialising the closing statement, Cronkite said: 

We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. They may be right, that Hanoi’s winter-spring offensive has been forced by the Communist realization that they could not win the longer war of attrition, and that the Communists hope that any success in the offensive will improve their position for eventual negotiations. It would improve their position, and it would also require our realization, that we should have had all along, that any negotiations must be that—negotiations, not the dictation of peace terms. For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. This summer is almost certain standoff will either end in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation—and for every means we have to escalate, the enemy can match us, and that applies to invasion of the North, the use of nuclear weapons, or the mere commitment of one hundred, or two hundred, or three hundred thousand more American troops to the battle. And with each escalation, the world comes closer to the brink of cosmic disaster. To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honourable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could. 

Following this addendum, debriefed President Lyndon Baines Johnson announced that, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America,” ultimately contributing to LBJ’s decision not to seek another term in office, announcing his plans at the end of the following month.

obscure cultural reference

Lithub contributor Emily Temple has collected the hundred most quoted, remixed and generally famed passages from Western, mostly anglophile literary traditions and arranged them in incrementally tougher order and challenges the readership to see how many one can identify—for the laurels of honour and glory. How many can you recognise? Given the Mount Parnassus of books that we are heir to, it is surprising to see the bias of recency prevalent in what are considered the classics, with only a few venturing beyond the past couple of centuries.  Partial credit is of course awarded and many cite the answer in the quotation.

gezicht in delft

The 1652 painting A View of Delft with A Musical Instrument Seller’s Stall by Carel Fabritius (*27 February 1622 - †1654, student of Rembrandt and had his own studio in Amsterdam) typifies the painter’s style, a departure from that of the master in experimentation with foreshortening and spatial effects. The exaggerated angle of the cityscape suggests it might have been intended to be displayed on the curved surface of a perspective box (perspectiefdoos), using light, camera obscura and architectural elements (see previously) to create an illusion of depth.

the question project

Editor in chief John Dunton of The Athenian Mercury, the periodical written and published by The Athenian Society of London between 1690 and 1697 not only included a regular advice column, the first of its kind, soliciting and attempting to answer anonymous questions from the broad readership—most with a distinctly philosophical bent, though love, marriage and sex were discussed as well. Early on during the project, the board received a letter from a “gentle-woman” asking whether ladies could also submit inquiries—to which Dunton replied with the assurance that not only were women encouraged to submit questions but that they would be treated with the same level of seriousness as those from men and published both q and a. This however gave Dunton the idea for a spin-off, printing the first edition of The Ladies Mercury on this day in 1693, the first magazine specifically for women. This was soon followed by The Female Tattler and The Female Spectator.

Friday, 26 February 2021

bitmap bull finch

Via Present /&/ Correct, we really enjoyed these graphics of pixelated renderings of common birds of Japan (ๆ—ฅๆœฌใฎ้‡Ž้ณฅไธ€่ฆง) and especially, vis-ร -vis a pair of our recent posts, could firstly relate to the slander and naming conventions of obvious avian defamers and secondly to more personalised labels for new electronic file folders and its source catalogue.  Much more to explore at the links above. 


affiche: early Art Deco posters of Renรฉ Magritte  

dogs of war: a public service announcement issuing guidance on how to disable Boston Dynamics weaponised Spot units  

whitewash: thankfully, President Biden is able to overturn “beautiful” architecture executive order that would mandate neo-classicism in federal buildings 

clothes peg: the clothesline animals of Helga Stentzel 

second life: exploring and conserving the abandoned spaces of the internet  

mask media: brilliant Soviet Kazakh health promotion campaigns from the 1970s—see also


In a pioneering paper outlining the principals of neural networks and parallel processing, Oliver Selfridge (*1926 – †2008), a founding proponent of artificial intelligence and called the Father of Machine Perception, proposed in 1959 an architecture of distributed demons that underpins our ideas about machine learning and adversarial behaviour. The model was realised in a 1977 psychology textbook illustrated by Leanne Hinton as a flow chart for both biological and computerised analogues. Learn more at Mind Hacks at the link above.