Saturday 2 December 2023

le sacre (11. 158)

With an coronation ceremony of his own design marking a significant departure from the tradition of the Ancien Rรฉgime and to establish his legitimacy not grounded the pomp and precedent reserved for kings Napoleon and Josรฉphine were crowned Emperor and Empress of the French on this day in 1804 (11 Frimaire, XIII, according to the Revolutionary Republican Calendar) in Notre-Dame de Paris. Approved overwhelmingly by the people during a constitutional referendum in May of the same year, the investiture ceremony was a masterwork of propaganda to appease both royalists and reformers and whereas the old monarchs of France had been anointed by the archbishop in Reims, Pope Pius VII agreed to officiate and was an amalgam of Roman and French rites, with symbolism that elided over the ousted Bourbon dynasty and sought to link the new ruling house with the Merovingians, replacing the traditional fleur-de-lis motif with bees in reference to the golden decorations discovered in the tomb of Childeric I. After the sacred ritual and coronation mass concluded, Napoleon took a civil oath before the presidents of the senate, legislature and Council of State: “I swear to maintain the integrity of the territory of the Republic, to respect and enforce the Concordat (the settlement between Catholic church and revolutionaries that saw most of the church’s status restored) and freedom of religion, equality of rights, political and civil liberties, the irrevocability of the sale of national lands, not to raise any tax except in virtue of the law, to maintain the institution of the Legion of Honour and to govern in the sole interest, happiness and glory of the French people.”

Friday 1 December 2023

9x9 (11. 156)

the saw lady: the virtuosity of Natalia Paruz  

tribalism: the worsening internet is an uncomfortable fun-house reflection of our inchoate proclivities  

holiday train show: a miniature NYC constructed from twigs and leaves at the city’s Botanical Garden  

bouzingos: the overlooked precursor to the Bohemian subculture  

microsleep: penguins take ten thousand seconds’ long naps per day to be rested but alert in noisy, hunted colonies

state-sanctioned socialist realism: the artistic duo of Komar and Melamid who turned subversive 

fairytale of new york: celebrating the life and talent of legendary Pogues’ singer Shane MacGowan—see previously, see also  

all about winning: Japan’s buzzword of the year continues a baseball-related streak 

busking: mapping live music public venues

Tuesday 28 November 2023

9x9 (11. 146)

the big easy: Bonapartist diaspora had designs for Napoleon to retire in New Orleans—via Messy Nessy Chicsee also courtesy of Super Punch  

holiday emporium: Kottke’s annual gift guide returns after a hiatus  

triple word score: players and lexicographers are a bit mortified with Scrabble’s new tournament rules  

colophon: the rise and fall of Borders Books 

moonlight towers: during the infancy of electric lighting, there was a predecessor to serial lamps  

pump and dump: insurance companies are exacerbating the climate crisis 

fiat: during the bank strikes of Ireland in the 1970s, pubs stepped in to fill their function—via the new shelton wet/dry  

ai garage sale: haggle with robots for real items—via Waxy  

pas de goulots d’รฉtranglement dans la production: a strange 1940 diagram from linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf presenting French as a factory assembly line

the battle of versailles (11. 145)

Similar to the surprise coup of this other culture rafinรฉe, high stakes challenge from earlier in the same year, the historic fashion show held on this day in 1973 at the famous venue in order to raise funds for its restoration. Organised by the museum and government forum’s curator, the event pitted French designers, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Carin, Marc Bolen and others against Americans Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston and Oscar de la Renta before an invited audience that consisted of artists and celebrities like Andy Warhol, Princess Grace, Marie-Hรฉlรจne de Rothschild, Jane Birkin, Liza Minnelli and Josรฉphine Baker (the last two performing for their respective sides). The show was legendary (more here) and the mostly French spectators were stunned with the American designs and models, a new benchmark set for representation with eleven Black women on the catwalk and shifting the industry in a way that brought respect and legitimacy for the US contribution and the palace which had seen better days was rebuilt.


one year ago: Christopher Isherwood’s I am a Camera plus Word of the Year: Gaslight

two years ago: the duet from Dirty DancingAdvent season plus some COVID comic-relief

three years ago: your daily demon: Furcas, Trump at the kiddie-table, assorted links to revisit plus the Great Bed of Ware

four years ago: a visit to a local museum plus a Thanksgiving pageant

five years ago: barely maps plus a proposed change to the UN Security Council

Saturday 25 November 2023

la fiancรฉe hรฉsitante (11. 138)

An 1866 depiction of an auto-dรฉcrit reluctant bride being prepared for her nuptial ceremony by academic, neoclassical artist Auguste Toulmouche, known for his subjects that focused on domestic life of the bourgeoisie and sumptuous interiors, has become a meme, an outlet to express the general exasperation—and coaching condolences—of what women, despite decades separation and advancements still have to suffer and endure. More from Hyperallergic at the link above. 


one year ago: a bird’s eye view of Mont Saint-Michel, the Sinking of the White Ship plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: another MST3K classic, more links to check out, Saint Catherine of Alexandria plus the musical stylings of Moxy Frรผvous

three years ago: an AI snowclone, a very un-Puritanical colonial settlement, the US civil war plot to burn down New York City, the debut of The Mousetrap (1952), finding my own mystery monolith plus a Tunisian Brutalist hotel that inspired the sandcrawler of the Jawas

four years ago: more links to enjoy

five years ago: decorating for 1. Advent plus a Thanksgiving commentary

Friday 13 October 2023

the poor fellow-soldiers of christ and of the temple of solomon (11. 056)

Whilst endorsed by the papacy as the favoured charitable organisation within Christendom and Instrumental in the early successes of the Crusades, subsequent failures and their vast holdings and wealth derived from an early banking service began to curry jealousy and mistrust for the Knights Templar particularly by those secular leaders indebted to them. Leveraging rumours about the order’s initiation ceremony and secretive rites, King Philip IV of France (heavily in hock) issued an arrest warrant on this day in 1307—also a Friday giving rise to the popular superstition though not the origin of it—for Grand Master Jacques de Molay and hundreds of other members. Pressuring Pope Clement V in Avignon to ascent to the mass incarceration and trial by torture, the summons opened with the words «Dieu n’est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans le Royaume» (God is not pleased—we have enemies of the faith in the kingdom), they were summarily charged with fraud idolatry, blasphemy and homosexual practises, which bore substantial similarities to accusations levied against other persecuted groups including Jewish communities and independent women often labeled witches and which carried little supporting evidence. Under duress, several confessed that they did indeed commit such acts and worshipped a mummified head that they called Baphomet taken from the Temple Mount, which was officially passed off as the recovered relic of John the Baptist. Burned at the stake in Paris, their lands and wealth were confiscated by the state with the pope assigning their role to the successor group the Knights Hospitallers.

Friday 22 September 2023

stephan’s quintet (11. 014)

Discovered on this day in 1877 from an observatory in Marseille the eponymous compact galactic grouping documented by astronomer ร‰douard Jean-Marie Stephan, under the directorship of Urbain le Verrier, was the first of kind described. Among the most studied formations in the Cosmos and revealing the large-scale filament structure thought to underlie the Universe, the small cluster was one of the first nominated objects for the JWST to image and is famously celebrated in cameo as the angelic host in the beginning of It’s A Wonderful Life. “Oh, Clarence—hasn’t he got his wings yet?”  When summoned, the guardian angel-second class appears as NGC 7317 of the constellation Pegasus at the bottom of the frame.

Wednesday 6 September 2023

cresoxipropanediol en capsule (10. 987)

Via the venerable Cardhouse, we are directed to this 1966 performance from French stage and screen actor Ginette Garcin, who already accomplished (occasionally as a screwball) became even more famous in part for singing the novelty chansons of composers Jean Yanne and Boby Lapoint. An extreme exercise in good diction, commit these instructions to memory: Oui, alors l'aspirine c'est de l'acide acรฉtylsalicylique, alors รงa valait bien le coup de donner le nom savant de tous les mรฉdicaments prรฉcรฉdents…

Thursday 31 August 2023

8x8 (10. 973)

energy makes time: a resonant essay about how doing those essential things enables everything else—via Kottke 

kopienkritik: Ancient Roman souvenirs and mementos limn their culture and makes their lived experience more accessible—see previously    

: a clock correlated to YouTube videos that mention the current time—see previously—from Russell Samora—via Waxy

motes: what the tiniest specks of dust reveal about the world—via Damn Interestingsee also

honky chรขteau: more on the Abbey Road of the Val d’Oise—see previously  

coenties slip: the East River waterfront street that was witness to New York City’s cultural evolution—via tmn  

e-meter: the Church of Scientology urge the US government to walk-back right-to-repair legislation—via Slashdot 

a spell against indifference: Maria Popova laments her discounting of the power of poems—via Swiss Miss


one year ago: RIP Mikhail Gorbachev, Rolling Stones’ Street Fighting Man (1968) plus more Gorbymania

two years ago: assorted links to revisit, numeracy and conspicuous calculation plus the animation studio of John Hubley

three years ago: Dungeon Master for Halloween, the Gdaล„sk Social Accords (1980), more links to revisit, Lincoln Logs (1920) plus Tom Hiddleston as macaroons

five years ago: a LEGO Bugatti, a corporate logo font, an intimate rave at Stonehenge plus the art and maps of Jo Mora

six years ago: unexploded munitions from WWII prompts an evacuation in Frankfurt plus more links to enjoy

Saturday 26 August 2023

gaberboccus press (10. 965)

Named after a Latin translation of the Lewis Carroll poem Jabberwocky, the multimedia concern founded by the Polish refugee couple Stefan and Franciska Themerson in 1948, we learn courtesy of Languagehat, produced over sixty titles in its three decades of existence—ranging from the collected essays and lectures of philosopher Bertrand Russell, poetry by David Miller and Henru Chopin, the calligrams of Apollimaire to their work works and perhaps most famously a faithful English translation of the pataphysical play by Alfred Jarry Ubi Roi (previously here and here). Eventually sold to a publishing house in Amsterdam, Gaberboccus immediately following World War II was a rejection of the stateless author and political exile, bolstering the International character of their clients and exposing them to a wider audience with a experience and fervour that resists displacement.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus the tyranny and utility of time

two years ago: prayers to saints during plague times ranked plus Steven Spielberg’s a.i. promotions

three years ago: the Isle of Wight Festival (1970), Ten Million Photo Play Plots, Space Force hierarchy, IKEA in Animal-Crossing, guerilla video documentarians plus more unbuilt New York

four years ago: pirate treasure plus the introduction of the Austin-Mini (1959)

five years ago: RIP John McCain plus the Chinese script for women only

Saturday 22 July 2023

the magdalene (10. 898)

Fรชted on this day as the patron protector of converts, glovers, milliners, perfumeries, apothecaries, penitent sinners and sexual temptation, Mary of Magdala, which gives us the name Madeleine, travelled with Jesus and the apostles and was regarded as the only disciple that truly understood Jesus’ message, garnering the jealousy of Peter and the others—and according to some persistent extra-canonical traditions, the bride of Christ, having journeyed to Gaul to start a family. Her depiction as a reformed prostitution began in the late sixth century with a sermon by Pope Gregory I that conflated an unnamed “Sinful Woman,” later identified as Mary of Bethany, who is deigned to anoint the feet of Jesus, which the Catholic Church didn’t officially dispel until thirteen hundred years later with Pope Paul VI’s calendar reform but has proven another persistent association. Elaborated and romanced during the medieval period through modern times, Mary Magdalen was upheld as a example of redemption, though her popular cult was ignored by authoritative theologians, and it was said that seven demons were exorcised from her which became embodiments of the contemporary idea of the Seven Deadly Sins, and from the late Middle Ages to the Renaissance is often depicted as rather hirsute by dent of her newly acquired modesty, iconographically publicly nude (vulgaris meretrix) but not obscured with a fig-leaf or Daryl Hanna Mermaid-style with strategically placed plaits but rather lycanthropically in full body hair (like this painting in Gdaล„sk or Tilman Riemenschneider’s altar ensemble in Mรผnnerstadt), like the so called ‘feather tights’ affect given to angelic figures, a costume of scales aligned with the fashion and sensibilities of the time. Elevated from a memorial feast to a liturgical one in 2016 by Pope Francis directed Mary Magdalene be hailed as apostolorum apostola, the “Apostle of the apostles.”


one year ago: more adventures through the Scottish Highlands, a hit from Take That (1991) plus driving along the North Coast 500

two years ago: Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) 

three years ago: the origins of the depiction of Jesus as a white European

four years ago: and whitey’s on the Moon plus assorted links to revisit

five years ago: the search for Dark Matter, assorted links worth revisiting, on eggccorns and oronyms plus the smell of rain

Thursday 20 July 2023

hrรณlfr (10. 896)

Following his uncertain defeat on this day in 911 in the Siege of Chartres, the Viking leader Rollo entered into negotiations with Frankish king Charles III, called the Simple (Carolus Simplex) and despite his loss in battle, as a result of the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, discussed in person between the two figures was granted the Duchy of Normandy, having rejected the offer of Flanders as uncultivable, and the king’s daughter Princess Gisela in exchange for Rollo’s oath of fealty and conversion to Christianity—plus protection from general Viking brigandry as well as agreeing to halt his own raids—see also. As the first duke of the realm, his immediate heirs, William Longsword (Guillaume Longue-ร‰pรฉe) and Richard I, Sans-Peur established Normandy as a formidable principality and his great-great-great grandson, one William the Conquerer, went on to found the Angevin and Plantagenet dynasties.


one year ago: a special cocktail to celebrate the lunar landing plus visiting Aberdeenshire

two years ago: more adventures in Sweden

three years ago: St Wilgefortis

four years ago: the abstract art of Fritz Glarner, Viking I on Mars (1976),  Operation Valkyrie (1944) plus the Apollo landing (1969)

five years ago: more on the American gun cult, Radio Free Europe, a poorly executed extinction bell that’s somehow apt, a remixed School House Rock! for turbulent times plus on in-fixes and tmesis

Saturday 15 July 2023

la pierre de rosette (10. 886)

An earlier iteration of Egyptomania gripped the public in Europe following Napoleon’s 1798 campaign in the Ottoman Levant to secure the empire’s trading interests and advance “scientific enterprise,” drawing many scholars, a corps of savants that accompanied the expeditionary army to the newly occupied territories and established รฉgyptologie as a distinct branch of archaeology and philological discipline, and whose presence aided the recognition of the importance of the slab bearing inscriptions spotted by Lieutenant Pierre Franรงois Bouchard destined for building material to fortify Fort Julien (an old Mameluk outpost), a few kilometres north of the port city of Rosetta—rediscovered on this day in 1799. The stele bears a bi-lingual decree issued in the first century BC on behalf of Ptolemy V Epiphanes (a council of priests confirming his royal cult) and the Ancient Greek text enabled researchers to understand the profane Demotic script and decipher the heretofore mysterious hieroglyphics (Greek for sacred writing). Fellow officer Nicolas-Jacques Contรฉ, inventor of the modern, lead-graphite pencil just a few years prior, devised a way to use the slab itself as a printing block and helped make the text of the Rosetta Stone accessible to world-wide scholarship.

Friday 14 July 2023

qu’ils mangent de la brioche (10. 883)

Though likely never uttered by Marie Antoinette, having been coined by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his autobiographical Confessions, quoting an unnamed “great princess,” in 1765—when she was aged just nine and the archduchess of Austria had not yet been to France and was never cited contemporaneously as a grievance against and denouncement of the Ancien Rรฉgime, only garnering parlance a half a century later to rail against Napoleon’s restoration, the phrase “let them eat cake” nonetheless became an important and instigating example of the aristocracy’s obliviousness. While maintaining a lavish royal household was not the sole or even primary cause of the economic plight of France, and as queen, she was charitable to fault, the country had suffered successive famines and food staples like bread exceeded half a peasant’s salary and became one of the most cited or paraphrased quotations of all time. Marie Antoinette, after her husband’s execution in January and with her children forcibly removed so they might be inculcated with revolutionary ideals, appeared before a tribunal and guillotined in mid-October of 1793. Madam Tussard’s wax-works was commissioned for her death-mask, and her body was interred without ceremony in an unmarked grave, in a Parisian cemetery deconsecrated and paved over after the burial of her accusers, the Exaggerators, les Hรฉberists, who rallied for the nationalisation of wine and grain.

Monday 10 July 2023

quintette du hot club de france (10. 870)

The influential jazz ensemble, often billed with the abbreviated name QdHCdF, founded by Belgian Romani guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stรฉphane Grappeli in 1934 had already established their promenance through a series of international tours but thanks to their engagement and debut this night in 1937 at the venue of La Grosse Pomme in Montmartre, a nightclub opened by Harlem Renaissance singer Adelaide Nicole Hall and her husband Bert Hicks, as the house-band, we have recordings of many of their titles and the group was afforded the chance to expand their repertoire.


one year ago: Escape from New York (1981) plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: the equal sign (1557), “Afternoon Delight” (1976) plus a visit to Ystad, Sweden

three years ago: more adventures along the Moselle plus a campsite unter dem Burgen

four years ago: EU ombudsman excluded from diplomatic talks

five years ago: highlighting overlooked women in politics and the sciences, EU entertains the idea of getting rid of day light saving time plus assorted links worth the revisit

Friday 7 July 2023

jya (10. 864)

Sponsored by the University of Delaware, the first study abroad programme for US undergraduate students set sail this day in 1923 for Nancy under the guidance of chaperone and French professor Raymond Kirkbride with a group of eight junior year students attending six-weeks of intensive language courses before moving on the study at The Sorbonne in France. The school at first balked at the idea and refused to fund the outing (see also) but finally relented after a public appeal and private contributions by business magnate Pierre s du Pont and then-commerce secretary Herbert Hoover. The scheme to various centres of culture across the globe was adopted by other institutions of higher learning and considered a great success in terms of exposure and producing well-rounded graduates, though the popularity of such terms abroad has declined in recent years.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus an avid eighteenth century vulcanologist

two years ago: the invention of sliced bread (1928), the US reestablishes its navy and starts a proxy war (1798) plus a trip to Fladungen

three years ago: the portfolio of titleist Maurice Binder plus the castles and forts of the Moselle 

four years ago: the border between Spain and Gibraltar closed (1969), space for pollinators plus passing English of the Victorian Era

five years ago: more links to revisit plus Gabriel over the White House (1933)

Sunday 25 June 2023

l’oiseau de feu (10. 834)

The premiere work for then virtually unknown composer Igor Stravinsky debuted on this day in 1910 at the Palais Garnier, performed by the company Ballet Russe to critical acclaim, immediately solidifying him through this collaboration with choreographer Michel Fokine as an international figure in operatic productions and orchestral virtuoso. Staging, set and costume designs were quite phenomenal but the music alone was enough to propel Stravinsky’s career, The Firebird (see previously) tells the hero’s journey of protagonist Prince Ivan, based on the folktale, who becomes lost during a hunting expedition, loses his party and strays into the enchanted realm of the malevolent wizard Koschei the Immortal, kept deathless by keeping his soul in a pin in a magic egg. Ivan captures but spares the life of the Firebird, who is both boon and curse for her captors, who offers a feather as a token of gratitude to summon her aid in a moment of dire need, which comes when the prince confronts the wizard.

Monday 19 June 2023

8x8 (10. 820)

north american aerospace defence command: cache of Cold War era briefings and slide show presentations scanned and shared on the Internet Archive—via Super Punch  

yellowhammer: Alabama enshrines an official state cookie  

clipart: AI generated images disrupting the portfolio of stock photos that helped create it 

playlist: fish music may help revitalise coral reefs  

lui, sait juste ken: a clever double-entendre in French ad-copy for the Barbie movie 

the killer rabbit caerbannog: more on the trope of deadly bunnies in medieval manuscripts—see previously  

apple core: computer giant taking on venerable Swiss Fruit Union, other in a trademark dispute—via Slashdot  

sci-fi edition: Poseidon’s Underworld reviews a 1979 issue of Starlog

Tuesday 6 June 2023

un chien andalou (10. 791)

Accompanied by a gramophone recording of Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde (prefiguring the modern music video almost) and co-written by Salvador Dalรญ (previously), Luis Buรฑel’s silent short An Andalusian Dog premiered on this day in 1929 at Studio des Ursulines in Paris. The collaborators’ first foray into film, the plotless project whose narrative hinged on the flow of Freudian free association, it is considered foundational for surrealist cinema, legitimising the new media as an authentic means of artistic expression, and follows the arc of dream logic with violent, memorable juxtaposition.

Wednesday 24 May 2023

the judgment of paris (10. 763)

Aptly alluding to the myth of a scorned guest and chaos agent, Eris, the goddess of Discord—who was not invited to the marriage ceremony of Greek hero Peleus and sea nymph Thetis and tossed a golden apple into the wedding party to be awarded to the fairest, a bone of contention that sparked the Trojan War, an international jury of wine experts convened in the French capital on this day in 1976 to carry out a blind-tasting—ultimately rating varieties of Napa Valley wines as superior to the historically more esteemed French vineyards. The results of course sparked controversy—top honours going to a 1973 chardonnay from Chรขteau Montelena and a cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars whereas the opposite outcome was rather a foregone conclusion, and marked a pivotal moment in the California industry (see previously) with a follow up match in 2006 on the event’s thirtieth anniversary that re-certified the standings.