Wednesday 8 May 2024

pacific 231 (11. 547)

The most often performed of his orchestral arrangements and originally given the working title Mouvement Symphonique for the compositional exercise in building momentum whilst slowing tempo, the tone poem by Arthur Honegger, a member of Les Six—a group of composers working in Montparnasse who collaborated on projects and produced albums during the interbellum and WWII when audiences could not attend live performances—had its premiere on this day in 1924. A tribute to steam locomotives and named for a class of engines with two axles for pilot wheels, three for the driving wheels and two for the trailing, Honegger was a noted train enthusiast, declaiming that “I have always loved locomotives passionately. For me they are living creatures, and I love them as others love women or horses.” The below 1949 award-winning short by director Jean Mitry of the same name scores railyard operations to Honegger’s music.

Saturday 4 May 2024

8x8 (11. 539)

an elegant weapon for a more civilised age: the physics and power demands of a lightsaber  

defective fleet of fly sky-wreckage: nothing good has the acronym MRSA (Material Review Segregation Area) 

chic boutique: Messy Nessy to open a brick-and-mortar clubhouse and shop in Paris  

wopr: US urges China and Russia to pledge that AI will never have command and control of nuclear weapons  

poultice: an orangutan observed self-medicating a wound in the wild with a paste made of plants with healing properties 

serenity amid disaster: a short animation from Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, “The Flying Sailor,” examines the wonder and fragility of existence  

peak wtf: gun-mounted flashlights popular with American police officers 

oh, the asthma guy: a conversion with that one friend who’s never seen Star Wars

Saturday 27 April 2024

10x10 (11. 517)

age inappropriate: amid a the aggressive banning and policing of reading material, “disturbing” titles help teens become more empathetic and literate—via tmn 

brolly: a faux Britishism for umbrella—from an American regionalism—with an interesting history 

 …but often rhymes: what historian Thucydides would make of parallels and analogies 

true facts: Ze Frank on smart bees—previously

moulin rouge: the red windmill blades on the Parisian landmark collapse—via Nag on the Lake—more here 

completist: venturing to the remote US national park that requires a passport 

what’s the truth about mother goose: a search for the personage behind the nursery rhymes  

never-ending cash machine: a collection of lost and unreleased 

to the manor born: a series of articles on how to quantify a castle, palace and stately home—via Strange Company 

house penguin: recent anti-trust case over the acquisition of one publisher revealed sobering insights about the state of the industry


one year ago: the evacuation of Prypriat (1986)

two years ago: a single from Harvey Danger (1998), more removal of Soviet monuments plus no new applications for flag icons and emoji

three years ago: Saint Zita, redrawing geopolitical boundaries according to indigenous lands, peaceniks, Dr Mabuse (1922), etymologies of company names and brands plus sustainable diets

four years ago: All Quiet on the Western Front, another Roman holiday, a comic make-up tutorial plus engine sounds for electric cars

five years ago: ranking the 404 landing pages for the US presidential candidates


Tuesday 9 April 2024

8x8 (11. 480)

chambre de bonne: disappearing top-floor tiny apartments of Paris  

semifreddo: the origin of Neapolitan ice cream  

the united states of division: a prescient 2004 release by Prince & The New Power Generation  

court dress: the pink sleeves of the supreme courts of Labrador and Newfoundland are in deference to the former summer robes for sittings in England and Wales—via Super Punch  

geoengineering: Tennessee legislature outlaws (see also) so called chemtrails 

bpm: Chechnya announces ban of music considered too fast or too slow  

backsplash: mosaic of the day  

warehouse-to-loft-conversion: a tribute to the last of New York’s artists’ dwellings—via Messy Nessy Chic

Thursday 21 March 2024

unima (11. 438)

First celebrated in 2003 after a suggestion from member artist Javad Zolfaghari from Iran, the annual observance sponsored by the International Puppetry Association, Union Internationale de la Marionnette, originally incorporated in Prague in 1929 and later headquartered in Charleville-Mรฉziรจres in the Ardennes and itself an affiliate of UNESCO through the International Theatre Institute. Marked by education, outreach, puppet making workshops and watching puppet shows, this year’s theme is the climate and one can learn more at the link above. The US chapter of UNIMA was founded by Jim Henson in 1966 and is based in Atlanta, Georgia and host to their world congresses, held periodically.


one year ago: pieces of the Moon plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: St Benedictus

three years ago: your daily demon: Bael, Napoleonic Law, an idiosyncratic web museum plus the world plastic model capital

four years ago: lockdown, Trump’s response to the pandemic, the US Peace Corps shuts down, machine mentorship plus an official Welsh font

five years ago: a balloon trip around the world

Sunday 11 February 2024

o wheel, o woe (11. 342)

Already under threat by regulators for its traditional packaging, we learn that Camembert and brie face a compound calamity due to a collapse in microbial diversity.  The fungal strains that give distinctive flavours and characteristics and which producers have relied on for centuries are now demonstrating that consistency comes at a cost (see also), the favoured now standard Peniciliium camemberti no longer found in the wild.  Propagation via cloning over generations have rendered the fungi less resilient and harder for cheesemakers to grow and the monoculture of fungi of these domesticated microbes also imperil the future of blue cheeses, like Gorgonzola and Roquefort, at least in their refined form.

Saturday 27 January 2024

deo devota (11. 297)

Likely named Julia rather than the epithet “devoted to God” and occasionally conflated with the similar hagiographies of Saint Reparata and Torpes of Pisa, the patron saint of Monaco and Corsica is venerated on this day on the occasion of her martyrdom during the Diocletian persecutions. The visiting prefect demanded Devota submit to the imperial cult and upon her refusal, steadfast in her faith, was tortured and stoned to death. The Christian community saved her body and put it on a boat bound for Africa—certain to receive a proper burial there—the vessel, beset by a storm at sea, landed on the beach of Les Gaumates, Port-Hercule in present day Monte Carlo. According to tradition, flowers are said to bloom before their season on this day and the Monegasque royal family continue to participate in a special mass and pray to her relics for safety and intercession.

Monday 22 January 2024

biface (11. 288)

The left panel of the original diptych executed by French court painter Jean Fouquet in the mid-fourteen hundred for the collegiate church of Notre-Dame in Melun on the Parisian outskirts depicts patron of the arts and royal secretary ร‰tienne Chevalier with St Stephen, regarded as the first Christian protomartyr, robed and holding a book and a jagged rock as part of his iconography, having been stoned to death for blasphemy. On closer examination of this feature, however, archeologists believe that the rock might represent a prehistoric artefact—a handaxe (properly the above term) several hundreds of thousands of years in age from the Acheulean industry of manufactured tools used by Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis throughout Africa, the Middle East and Western Europe. Abundant finds as a source of mystery and fascination for centuries, and something not unfamiliar to the artist with the tool-making epoch named for a suburb of Amiens in Picardy, their folk-origin before the Enlightenment and acceptance of time-out-of-mind was sourced to “thunderstones” ejected from clouds, believing the well-wrought rocks appeared where lighting had struck and passed down as family heirlooms in the belief that they protected against subsequent strikes.

Saturday 13 January 2024

7x7 (11. 263)

photographie de rue: the images of Eugรจne Atget capture scenes of Paris unchanged since the turn of the last century  

ma che sera: more musical stylings from Raffaella Carrร  with this 1974 TV appearance 

ray fay: the mostly-unreleased 1976 comedic spoof Queen Kong with traditional gender roles reversed  

from-to: reputational-based urban maps that can help you find the analogue East Village of London and other neighbourhoods in different cities 

tv mirror: leafing through the February 1977 includes an interview with Henry Winkler and more on the Dino De Laurentiis remake that condemned the above treatment of the colossus to obscurity 

isdn: a look at the once future-proof telecommunication standard quickly vanishing 

oppidum du mont beauvray: the successive rediscoveries of the ancient capital of the Gallic Aedui tribe, Bibracte


one year ago: St Mungo plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: snow-plough names plus a very special episode of Bewitched

three years ago: more on sea-shanties, the art of Roger Brown plus COVID ex-votos

four years ago: Knut’s Day plus outcry over plant-based labels

five years ago: criticism over NordStream2interpretive GIFs plus more links to enjoy

Thursday 11 January 2024

11x11 (11. 259)

cheesemongering: a specialist seller experiments with fifty-six varieties to find the perfect grilled sandwich 

vector portraits: photographs of drivers at speed traveling in Los Angeles  

decision 2024: this is the biggest year yet—and possibly democracy’s biggest test with over half the world’s population voting within the next twelve months  

run, rabbit, run: an AI-powered gadget designed to use one’s apps for one sells out 

electronics gives us a way of classifying things: Microsoft (now the most valued company in the world thanks to its part in AI, a font of misinformation) once explained to author Terry Pratchett how technology referees would make propaganda a thing of the past  

squaring the circle: Substackers against Nazis—reloaded—and a reminder that one can’t be just a little bit facist  

re-migration: a coalition of the far-right met outside of Berlin in November to discuss mass deportations  

blanket immunity: Trump’s legal team presents arguments for a president above the law—setting up the US Supreme Court to either rule on his exoneration or eligibility  

proxima swarm: US space agency supports bold proposal to reach the next nearest star system with a wall of tiny craft propelled by photons—see previously 

flower taxi: a mobile florist from 1960s London  

marie harel: producers of Camembert in Normandy fear EU recycling regulation could mean the end for their traditional wooden box packaging

Sunday 31 December 2023

9x9 (11. 230)

unwound: a cartoon that speaks to the time-dilation of the Winterval—and the year in general 

politics or otherwise: year’s end Can’t Let Goes from NPR’s podcast contributors 

fast-forward: a century of New Year’s men’s party fashions

aitana lopez: the virtual, machine-generated influencers stealing jobs from humans  

cap d’agde: the restoration of the Art Nouveau Chateau Laurens—a palace also known for its connections with Catharism  

like a fridge in reverse: a visualisation of the science of heat-pumps—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links

fondue chinoise: a variation on the Swiss holiday tradition inspired by the Asian hot pot 

favourite global tech stories from publications not named rest of the world: like Bloomberg’s Jealousy List, staff compiles articles they wish they’d written—via Waxy  

cartoon cryptozoology: explore a chaotic archive of the earliest animations

Saturday 30 December 2023

dรฉfi de janvier (11. 223)

Introduced with various levels of societal and political traction since about a decade in the US and the UK, the abstinence campaign Dry January (translated as January Challenge) is not being endorsed by the government of France, contrary to the urging of addiction experts who want more to be done to address the risks of alcohol, as out-of-step with French culture and traditions. What do you think? A keen imbiber himself, the president is seen as a strong advocate of the wine industry and that a meal without it was “a bit sad,” and at the same time overall consumption has been seen to drop rather precipitously.


one year ago: 2022 in review, recycling calendars, the union of soviet republics, Swedish words of the year, more General Knowledge quizzes plus more year-end lists

two years ago: more calendar recycling plus an AI suggests New Year’s resolutions

three years ago: assorted links to revisit, more calendrical correspondence plus Ra-Ra-Rasputin

four years ago: more words of the year from Sweden,  more links to enjoy plus novelty New Year’s eyewear

five years ago: intercalary days, In the Land of the Silver Birch, 2018 in review plus Starcrash

Sunday 24 December 2023

aรฏda (11. 211)

When originally approached by the Ottoman Pasha Isma’il of the Khedive of Egypt to produce an opera celebrating the opening of the Suez Canal—see also, Giuseppe Verdi declined. Later, however, presented a libretto set sometime in the Old Kingdom, a stretch of three millennia, by famed French Egyptologist and archeological authority Auguste Mariette, the composer ultimately conceded. Delayed by the ongoing Franco-Prussian War (see above) that prevented the elaborate scenery and costumes from being shipped from Paris, the opera eventually debuted in Cairo on this day in 1871. Egyptians forces have captured the titular Ethiopian princess and her captor, military commander Radamรจs, is caught in a love triangle with the pharaoh’s daughter, whose affections go unrequited, his desire for his prisoner and loyalty to his king and country. One of the most famously choreographed scenes is the Grand March from act II, below, when Radamรจs enters triumphantly, the chorus chanting “Gloria all’Egitto, ad Iside (Glory to Egypt and to Isis),” through the Gates of Thebes and is granted anything he wishes as a reward for his services.

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.