Monday, 24 February 2020

the battle of los angeles

Though swiftly discounted as a false alarm in the wake of real raids, the response of civil defence authorities on this day in 1942, less than three months after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan and a day after a mostly failed bombardment of a oil refinery in Santa Barbara, highlighted the course of panic and pandemonium that took hold of a besieged public.

Subsequent investigations concluded a stray weather balloon drew the crossfire and mounting peer pressure caused all the anti-aircraft barrages in the area to direct all their ammunition towards the skies as a means to at least partially alleviate some of the stress and fear that they were experiencing. Prior to the event, air-raid sirens blared constantly and blackouts and radio silence were enforced by zealous mobs. A contingent of soldiers were stationed on the Disney studios lot to protect surrounding Hollywood from attack and turned sentiment towards suspicion that eventually manifested with the detention of thousands of Japanese-Americans.

urban oases

Via Present /&/ Correct, we really enjoyed the calming and inviting symmetries from on high from photographer Hoi Kin Fung with this aerial study of the now sadly endangered fountains and common areas of public housing estates in Hong Kong. The Housing Authorities’ policy dates back to a devastating fire in 1954 that consumed thousands of makeshift buildings leaving many homeless and prompting the government to intervene. Many of the apartment towers were constructed at that time with prefabricated designs referred to as Old Slab/New Slab, Cruciform and Ziggurat.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

terminalia or forty-eight hours later

Having inherited some of the peculiarities of our civil calendar from the Ancient Romans, tomorrow, 24 February rather than 29 February marks the intercalary day of a leap year, this day proclaimed by Numa Pompililus, legendary king of Rome following Romulus, as New Year’s Eve and the occasion to demarcate borders and survey boundaries to ensure that one’s neighbours were not encroaching on one’s property.
Every two or three years, depending on astrological observation with an approximately week long month called Mercedonius, work month or mensis intercalaris, or according to political will as it was also a time to harrow out one government (24 February—Regifugium) for the next and the addition of holidays was one method to extend one’s time in office. Holding these days to be outside of ordinary time, rather instead made 24 February ante diem sextum kalendas martii—that is, not one’s honour bound term limit but, counting backwards as was the fashion from 1 March (kalends), the sixth day before the first of March. As if it weren’t already convoluted enough, when the calendar needed to be synchronised with the seasons, the Romans didn’t invoke an extra day but rather extended the 24th to a single day forty-eight hours in length, giving us the term ‘bisextile year’ (the-sixth-day-before-the-beginning-of-the-new-month-times-two) a term synonymous with a leap year, the doubled-up day eventually (despite the Romans’ opposition to odd numbers—see above) being split into two.


Though miniscule as compared with the tens of millions under quarantine-conditions in large swathes of China during the height of the outbreak, several municipalities in northern Italy, heavily touristed Veneto and Lombardia, some fifty thousand residents, have been ordered under lockdown as a precautionary measure following the confirmation of two deaths from COVID-19, the severe acute respiratory syndrome caused by the novel coronavirus now named 2019-nCoV. Initially expected to last five days, most businesses and schools are closed and public gatherings, including for sports events and upcoming carnival celebrations, are cancelled.

not condé nasty

Slowing reading through Catch & Kill, an exposé that devotes a large portion of its background to detailing how non-disclosure agreements perpetuate secrecy and toxic leadership, we appreciated learning that the publisher of such veteran periodicals and websites as the New Yorker, Vogue and GQ, Vanity Fair, Wired! and Ars Technica will cease its policy of issuing NDAs relating to harassment and discriminatory practises and furthermore release several individuals from existing restraining orders. Such a protection clause for bad behaviour shouldn’t be enshrined in the business model of any industry and especially not in a public facing one


à la russe: a guide to Russian Paris

turntabling: musical pairings of diverse songs that sound the same

grow apple trees and honey bees and snow white turtle doves: soft drink giant ravages communities already water-insecure to produce more of its product and raise the next generation of loyal customers—see also

#beardedbuttigieg: many people are advocating for US presidential candidate Mayor Pete to grow facial hair and helpfully previewing his new look

two-up two-down: a home in Osaka with sixteen levels  the beauty of real food is that it gets ugly: to promote its cutting of artificial preservative, one fast food giant features a mouldy hamburger, as compared to this exhibit

shortlisted: a gallery of some of the images to advance to the next round of judging in the Sony World Photography Awards

Saturday, 22 February 2020

daytrip: milseburg

Bright through very windy, H and I took a trip to another of the nearby peaks of the Rhön highlands (Mittlegebirge, mountain ranges that tend to not rise above the treeline and are forested the entire way up) and hiked up the Milseburg with views of the Wasserkuppe and the valleys beyond. This trapezoidal massif and extinct volcano is most significant for the remains of its ancient Celtic settlement—oppodium, which was one of the first well researched and preserved sites of its kind in central Germany and led to the establishment of societies to maintain places of cultural heritage and accord them protected status, beginning nearly a century and a half ago.
Though now covered in moss, the basalt stones still in parts comprise the base of defensive walls (see also) and foundations of domiciles and the abrupt abandonment of the fortress, first in 1200 and then again in 400 BC, suggests that the site set the scene for a clash of cultures between the Celts and the Germanic tribes of the area. At the top of the mountain is a chapel dedicated to Saint Gangolf, a Burgundian knight and wealthy landowner under King Pippin the Short, whom was killed 11 May in 760 for his express wish to renounce his worldly possessions by his wife’s lover.
Prior to his martyrdom, however, Gangolf had several heroic exploits including, reportedly, no less than vanquishing the giant Mils, who in league with the devil was preventing people from taking the sacrament of baptism by a monopoly of water sources—and generally causing crops to fail by withholding irrigation access. They shall not pass—Gangolf fought valiantly but had no refreshment to regain his strength for the next attack, and a local farmer, himself desperate, refused the knight any relief unless he paid an exorbitant price, which for all his wealth Gangolf could not muster. Resigned to defeat, he removed his helmet and on the spot where he laid it down, a new spring broke forth, still flowing to this day, and gave the knight the resolve he needed to finish off the giant and furnish the locals with a new source of clean water.
The devil entombed the defeated Mils and hence the Milsburg. No recent excavations have been undertaken but the mountain is protected from an archaeological standpoint as well as a being a nature preserve that welcomes visitors and remains a popular destination. Being stormy, it wasn’t the best conditions to be exposed on a summit but it is one that we’ll be able to explore again soon.


The always interesting Strange Company directs our attention to contemporary survey of the restaurants and public houses of Westminster that are still outfitted with the now sadly disappearing division bells (see previously) meant to recall members to Parliament to cast his or her vote.  These mechanical alarms, largely replaced by other forms of signals, are relics—usually maintained as marks of honour—from the rebuilding of the palace in 1834 after its devastating conflagration (see more), when kitchens and other provisioning sufficient for the entire chambers were not part of the rebuilding, and representatives were allowed to wander out during legislative sessions. Learn more at Spitalfield’s Life at the link above and even arrange getting a map of the establishments left with such a feature of democracy-in-action to recreate this gastronomic tour oneself.