Wednesday 7 February 2024

dark arts (11. 331)

Whilst most town councils either rescinded the ordinance or made the application process for an exception to policy a routine and perfunctory one, the legislation of the Hypnotism Act of 1952 is still on the books in some jurisdictions and subject to a blanket ban, prohibiting public performance of mesmerism or inducing a trance-state due to perceived dangers of making an audience, singly or en masse susceptible to suggestion. Proving ruinous to a scheduled comedy routine, an entertainer (without apparently having to resort to putting local authorities under) successfully appealed for the municipality to rescind the law and grant a license (the exemption not needed under the statue to practise hypnosis for clinical and therapeutic purposes) to go ahead. Though public attitudes have changed significantly for the latter with the method widely accepted in medical settings, the former stage acts is notably low and venues risk-adverse and putting responsibility on the performer.

Sunday 4 February 2024

i never did believe in miracles but i’ve a feeling it’s time to try (11. 321)

Swapping out the working-title of Yesterday’s Gone, Fleetwood Mac—during a turbulent time in the band’s career with non-stop touring for their last album, drug use and relationship breakups for many of the members as well as changes for personnel—released on this day in 1978 their eleventh studio album on this day in 1978, an instant worldwide success of a soulful and confessional nature and features some of the group’s most enduring tracks. Teased as singles “Don’t Stop,” “Dreams,” “You Make Loving Fun” and “Go Your Own Way,” all dominated the charts for weeks at a time and taken as an anthology of the members’ anguish and optimism is considered one of the greatest records of all time.

Friday 2 February 2024

stag & nag (11. 316)

The apparatus of a seagoing vessel’s box compass was suspended in alcohol in order to prevent freezing and the magnet from seizing up, and through this rather incredible punitive process imposed on a serial offender with a particular craving for tapping the navigation of ships, we encounter an impressive clipping’s introductory copy—cited without the aid of a ready resource like a Wikipedia stub—on an etymology which with we weren’t familiar. Whilst acquainted with the likely disappointingly spurious folk roots of the Elephant & Castle, more authentic instances of canting as branding like ‘spread-eagle’ (in reference to the imperial arms of the Reichsadler) to indicate an establishment where German wine and beer was sold, the public backlash against publicans’ paired namings as early as the start of the eighteenth century with often incongruous results, as opposed to patronage or services provided, like the cheese inn of Stilton. The not uncommon pub name “Goats and Compasses,” (see above) may come from, like “Pig and Whistle” the corruption of a benediction, piggin wassail in Anglo-Saxon and might be derived from a mishearing of ‘God encompasses [us]’—either that, of the canting arms of two guilds, the Worshipful Companies of Cordwainers and Carpenters, each with three of the domesticated livestock and three compasses, the drafting instruments rather than the navigation aid. More on the recidivist James Wishart Lyon and his unusual compulsion at Weird Universe at the link up top.

Monday 29 January 2024

castaways (11. 303)

First airing on this day in 1942 on the BBC Forces station, conceived and originally hosted by presenter Roy Plomley (until his death in 1985) and still broadcast on a weekly basis—making it the longest running radio programme after the Grand Ole Opry which began in 1925—Desert Island Discs invites celebrities, politicians, scientists, journalists, authors and artists as guests to choose eight audio (originally gramophone) recordings, a book (castaways are automatically given a volume of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare and the Bible or other appropriate theological or philosophical text) and a single luxury item that they would wish to have should they find themselves marooned, talking about their lives, careers and reasons for the titles selected. Over the course of three thousand episodes, guests have included Eartha Kitt, Bing Crosby, David Attenborough, Dave Bruebeck, Alfred Hitchcock, Liberace, Alec Guinness, Julie Andrews, Sophie Tucker, Cilla Black, Marlene Dietrich, Harold Pinter, Anthony Burgess, Magnus Pyke, Lauren Bacall, Elia Kazan, Burl Ives (who selected the I Ching), Norman Mailer, Bob Geldof, Stephen Hawking, Brian Blessed, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Fry, Debbie Harry and Zadie Smith. Over the decades, the most requested piece of music has been “Ode to Joy,” the last movement from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Conceived with the sounds of crashing waves and the cries of seabirds as the introduction and conclusion, producers however insisted on “By the Sleepy Lagoon,” an instrumental by Eric Coates, composer of light music—see also.


one year ago: School House Rock! at 50, Dr Strangelove plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: more banned books, a Mozart opera, Axis of Evil, an AI creates bespoke colours plus more conspiratorial thinking

three years ago: an opera by Peter Josef von Lindpainter, more links to enjoy plus a digital demesne

four years ago: Mantra Rock Dance (1967), the Rubik’s Cube (1980) plus the Space Cat gets a monument

five years ago: the event that inspired Boomtown Rats, an excellent Rube Goldberg machineSleeping Beauty (1959), a Trump attorney’s political thriller plus artist Javier Riera

Saturday 27 January 2024

you take the high road and i’ll take the low road (11. 298)

Airing on this day for the first time in 1990, episode twelve of season three of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “The High Ground,” was banned in some markets due to political sensitivities and only released later as an edited version to remove the reference from 2366. Dispatched on a humanitarian mission to deliver medical supplies to a non-aligned planet called Rutia IV, a valued trade-partner with the Federation, the Enterprise becomes entangled in a protracted internal conflict when Dr Crusher is taken hostage by separatist rebels while trying to render aid following a terrorist attack. Wanting to avoid further involvement but unable to extricate themselves from the escalating situations and demands from both the central government and the resistance for help, Captain Picard asks Lieutenant Commander Data for historical instances where terrorism prevailed over negotiated settlement to resolve conflicts, to which he cited the independence of Mรฉxico from Spain and the uniting of Ireland in 2024. In the 1990s the partitioned island was still very much in the midst of the violence of the Troubles and both syndicators the BBC and RTร‰ until 2007 (conceding to the demands of series completists), some fifteen years after its first run and eight years after the Good Friday Agreement, which mostly delivered peaceful resolution to the longstanding ethno-nationalist conflict.  No censorship as far as I can tell was ever imposed on the infamously stereotyped second season episode with the “Space Irish,” “Up the Long Ladder,” about encountering a group of cloned individuals aboard a freighter thought lost for hundreds of years, despite the show’s title being a reference to an anti-Protestant rhyme “...Down the short rope.  To Hell with King Billy and three cheers for the Pope.”

Tuesday 16 January 2024

artist sjรถรถ (11. 270)

Courtesy of a retrospective exhibition at Oxford entitled the Great Cosmic Mother, we were pleased to be acquainted with the paintings of radical anarcho-, eco-feminist and founding proponent of the Goddess Movement whose work coincided with the woman’s liberation push of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Monica Sjรถรถ was born in the Vรคsternorrland region on New Year’s Eve 1938 and left home aged sixteen to travel Europe working as an agricultural labourer and find work in modelling, eventually taking up residence in Bristol, where she remained for the rest of her life—very well known beyond all borders, she taught and corresponded with several influential authors, neopagans and artists, including Judy Chicago, Alice Walker, Starhawk and Shekhinah Mountainwater. The show’s name comes from a pamphlet later expanded into a book co-authored with Barbara Mor covering ancient history and the origin of religion and spirituality, positing that women were the first practitioners—a text still part of the syllabus for many courses on women’s studies, mythology and theology. Much more from Hyperallergic at the link up top.


one year ago: another MST3K classic,  AI designs novelty socks, an Ayn Rand play plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: more links to enjoy, professional salutations plus haunted postcards

three years ago: your daily demon: Vapula, an anatomy lesson, contemporary irregular verb forms, special stamps for the Lunar New Year plus large Cyrillic numbers

four years ago: birb-watching, the League of Nations, the Wollemi pines plus the US congress transmits articles of impeachment for Trump

five years ago: the first orbital docking, a gilded picket fence for Mar-a-Lago, more on Prohibition in the US plus the White House serves fast-food

Sunday 31 December 2023

don’t crash the pips (11. 232)

Courtesy of our faithful chronicler, on this day in 1923 BBC sound engineering AG Dryland, not allowed access to the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster, climbed onto a rooftop opposite the Houses of Parliament to with a microphone and transmitted the bongs of Big Ben at the stroke of midnight live, in a tradition that’s occurred with few but notable interruptions since. A few weeks later, the Greenwich time signal began accompanying the chimes on broadcasts at the top of the hour.

Friday 8 December 2023

x’temmas (11. 171)

Via Strange Company, we are treated to an interesting Q & A on the etymological roots and spelling conventions of the winter holidays Christmas and Hanukkah. The Jewish festival of lights (ื‘ื—ื ื•ื›ื”) has undergone many variations since first transliterated in print in the seventeenth century as has the celebration of the Nativity since first appearing in the written record in the late 900s in Old English as Xpes mรฆsse with the chi-rho christogram (see previously) several other historical ways of expressing the holiday. More from Grammarphobia at the link up top.

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.

Friday 1 December 2023

6502 (11. 153)

With news that it’s available as an emulator for almost any platform, we are reacquainted with the version of the Beginners’ All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code as the native programming language for the micro personal computer released in 1981 as part of a UK computer literacy initiative (see also) by the national broadcaster in 1981. Chiefly written by Sophie Mary Wilson, a transgender pioneer in design and informatics fields, the optimised dialect ran faster that than Microsoft versions and an inline feature for assembly language. BBC2 series launched the following year, The Computer Programme (see also), was an accompanying primer on its use and capabilities and stirs memories of experimenting with lines of code and tweaking until getting the desired outcome but wonder what the utility is with such a skill nowadays when debugging is automated.


one year ago: a day without art, fifty-two lessons from fifty-two weeks plus TRON reimagined with the help of AI

two years ago: World AIDS Day, office parties plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: Wรถrter des Jahres, Japan’s buzzword of the year plus St Elsewhere

four years ago: a duet from Leon Redbone and Dr John, the Moravian star, Germany’s Word of the Year plus Gorbachev’s Pizza Hut ad spot

Wednesday 29 November 2023

remainds of the day (11. 149)

The three-storey mural by Banksy critical of UK Brexit policies from 2017 executed on an old, condemned property in Dover has been demolished along with the building. Efforts were made to salvage elements like the stars and stencils and a team using LiDAR and photogrammetry technologies was commission to make a three-dimensional scan of the art work earlier in the year—capturing a digital facsimile of the physical wall and paint, but it is unclear whether these attempts at conservation were successful or if the digital reproduction good, with the artist’s consent, be recreated elsewhere.

Saturday 25 November 2023

you ain’t got to feel guilt just selfless—give a little help to the helpless (11. 139)

Recorded on this day in 1984 at a studio in Notting Hill, the charity album written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia, the title single by the Band Aid supergroup, comprised of artists including Phil Collins, George Michael, Boy George and members of Spandau Ballet, U2, Kool & the Gang, Bananarama, Duran Duran and the Police (with messages from David Bowie and Paul McCartney on the B-side), released on 3 December became the fasting-selling single in chart history—until surpassed by Elton John’s tribute song “Candle in the Wind 1997.” Far outstripping expectations, it raised over eight million pounds within the first year and the model led to a series of reprisals and other fund-raising ventures, like the Live Aid concerts and the “We Are the World” recordings. Whilst consistently ranked among most favoured Christmas songs, the song contains tropes of colonialism, evangelising and a simplistic view of Africa (Bono had to be begged to sing the line “Well—tonight thank God it’s them instead of you”), Geldof later laments being responsible “for the two worst songs in history”—the other being the above US-based “We Are the World,” but it wasn’t about the music but rather the spirit of the season.

Tuesday 14 November 2023

9x9 (11. 120)

temporal excursions: advice for the modern time-travellers thinking about visiting medieval Europe  

once and future: ex-PM David Cameron returns as Sunak’s foreign minister after a cabinet shake-up following the Home Secretary’s incendiary remarks  

ototw: there are over six-thousand ‘on top of the world’ mountains—a peak so high no others in the range can be seen from its summit—we’ve only been to Brocken, I think out of them all  

an aaron spelling production: an appreciation of Arthur Hailey’s Hotel (1983 - 1988) and its parade of guest stars  

the house of tomorrow: Tex Avery’s vision of the smart home seems more user-friendly  

return-to-office: automatic responses from those on a hybrid work-schedule  

carbon-casting: a LEGO-like approach to CO₂ offset and removal at target costs  

brideshead revisited: a new film on the eccentricities of the landed gentry—via Messy Nessy Chic

florantine codex: a sixteenth century ethnography on Mesoamerica and the Aztec culture has been digitalised and made accessible to the public


one year ago: The New Musical Express (1952), more Scopitone fun, more on English adjectival order plus assorted links to enjoy

two years ago: the Oort cloud, the Landshut Wedding (1475), more McMansion Hell plus a tale of guided chess

three years ago: the centenary of the BBC, the 2008 G20, paleomixology plus another MST3K classic

four years ago: assorted links to revisit

five years ago: Yale admits women (1968), Nellie Bly’s trip around the world, more on land-use plus social media platforms reimagined on outdated technology

Sunday 12 November 2023

the war to end all wars

Reflecting on the holiness of Armistice Day when God spoke clearly to mankind, perhaps for the last time, during the silence observed in the name of peace, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr reflected on its becoming a modern American holiday how the latter is sacred but “Veterans’ Day is not… I don’t want to throw away any sacred things. What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance—and all music is,” we too take umbrage with how a commemoration of loss and laying down arms became to some a celebration of the warrior and his errant adventures. We appreciated this touching memorial on Remembrance Sunday of those fallen in the East London district of Spitalfields. It’s a moving tribute with short biographies, a map of where they lived and images of the doorways and thresholds that they passed under. More at Spitalfields Life from the Gentle Author.

Friday 10 November 2023

welcome to the pleasuredome (11. 109)

Released at the end of October and assured a chart entry due to advanced sales of over a million records, the debut studio album of Liverpudlian synth-pop group Frankie Goes to Hollywood climbed to the top spot in the domestic market on this day in 1984, coinciding with their first US television appearance on Saturday Night Live, performing the tracks “Two Tribes” and “Born to Run.” Though incredibly commercially successful, the record drew some criticism for being heavy with remixes and cover versions (“Relax”) of their repertoire that had already received a lot of airplay, songs like the below ballad have given the album enduring, iconic status.

Sunday 5 November 2023

9x9 (11. 097)

falling for fall: an epic attempt to capture the Christian Girl Autumn aesthetic—via the morning news  

paradox: NASA climate group issues a bleak warning on climate change—controversially suggesting that a reduction in aerosol pollution will accelerate warming 

the hunting of the earl of rone: one individual’s quest to catalogue the folkways and traditions of the United Kingdom  

they’re all good dogs: the winners of the annual world canine photography award presented—plus a bonus vocabulary term for one who is favourably disposed to dogs—via Nag on the Lake  

ja-da, ja-da, ja-da, jing jing jing: a soothing 1918 jazz standard covered for decades after  

mechanical turk: exposing autonomous cars’ vast human support network to maintain an illusion of safety, reliability 

roll on: a clever phonophore logo for a transport and logistics company in Hong Kong 

cape canaveral: a 3D animated billboard recounts the chronology of the Kennedy Space Centre 

momiji tunnel: a stunning section of the Eizan railway showcases the turning foliage—via the ever excellent Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links


one year ago: the Gun Powder Plot, a Commodore accordion, more McMansion Hell plus a Wikipedia list of common fallacies

two years ago: the Saint Felix Flood (1530) 

three years ago: a tri-lingual dictionary (1499), a flashpoint labour strike (1916), a sรฉance on a wet afternoon plus the Rebel Rabbit GIF

four years ago: more on Guy Fawkes, Voyager 2 leaves the Solar System, ghoulish guacamole plus Facebook’s shift to the right

five years ago: representative Shirley Chisholm, an ancient boardgame, photographer Denise Scott Brown, words for the Winter Blues plus mapping the US mid-terms

Thursday 2 November 2023

6x6 (11. 091)

in front of the children: a Betamax find from 1983 on the BBC’s six decades of television for younger audiences 

ofrenda: a shrine on All Souls Day to the recently departed Paul Rubens, (clap! clap! clap!) deep in the heart of Texas 

terraces: an obscure 1977 made-for-television movie about tenants of a high-rise featuring Miss Julie Newmar, Jane Dulo and some gay neighbours  

forest friends: a profile of ecologist Simona Kossack’s three-decade residence in a secluded primeval wood  

now and then: The Beatles release their final song  

goldar: the late 60’s Japanese tokusatsu series, Ambassador Magma—the original Transformers, that achieved cult status in foreign markets as The Space Giants

Monday 30 October 2023

6x6 (11. 085)

popular superstition: how belief in ghost became a class-marker and high-society aspired to more refined practises with spiritualism and horoscopes 

late night horror: the obscure 1970 UK anthology nearly consigned to oblivion  

jack skellington: a massive pumpkin mosaic sets a new world record  

sql: the infamous database “Halloween Problem” that reveals weaknesses in common information architecture  

very very scary: a 1990s rebroadcast of Nick at Nite vintage television seasonal specials—complete with commercials  

jimi halloween: the tradition of costumes so mundane they need to be explained continues—see previously 


one year ago: drawing with Ed Emberley plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: another MST3K classic—The Brain that Wouldn’t Die, more links to enjoy plus artist William-Adolphe Bourguereau

three years ago: the first residents board the International Space Station (2000), more on murderous dioramas, a wizarding curriculum from 1925 plus star charts for the yet to be born

four years ago: East German counter-programming, Brexit postponed plus the lost dative case

five years ago: stochastic terrorism, folksonomy, corporate fairy tales, birthright citizenship plus “Egyptian” Rocky Horror

Tuesday 24 October 2023

gym and tonic (11. 072)

Originally a co-production from Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and Bob Sinclar (officially unreleased as Jane Fonda objected to being sampled), the Spacedust cover—with re-recording by a session vocalist—reached the top of the UK singles chart on this day in 1998. The accompanying music video, intentionally made to look cheap in homage to the aesthetic of 1980s work out videos, was frequently voted among the worst of all time. Both versions became extremely popular in clubs throughout Europe. And bounce!

one year ago: a visit to Knossos 

two years ago: the hymn of the United Nations plus Trog (1970)

three years ago: When the Wind Blows (1986), assorted links to revisit plus the Centre for American Politics and Design

four years ago: chaos erupts as Trump impeachment hearing as supporters disrupt testimony 

five years ago: an audio grimoire read by Vincent Price, the 2008 Recession, more inventions from Simone Giertz, more links to enjoy plus an interesting case of tort law

Thursday 19 October 2023

pomp & circumstance (11. 067)

Whilst originally romanticised as a battle song pre-World War I and juxtaposed to military pageantry in comparison with the dismally terrorising nature of fighting with the anthem “Land of Hope and Glory,” the orchestral marches of the future Master of the King’s Musick Sir Edward Elgar, premiering on this day in Liverpool in 1901 (shown at the Proms two days later), the trio of movements is a nearly universal graduation processional in the United States (after the occasion of his honorary degree awarded by Yale in 1905 with other institutions of higher learning following the example), Canada and the Philippines. Although subsequent experience turned public opinion against celebrating the sanitised side of conflict, the march—with various arrangements and title taken from Othello “Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump / The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife / The royal banner, and all quality / Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war.”—is employed for weddings, sporting events and coronations.


one year agoSt Frithuswith, Take on Me plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: more links to enjoy

three years ago: font founder Ed Benguiat plus the Hochrhรถnstrasse

four years ago: a coffee substitute,  Europe’s long distance walking trails, lizard people, the maps of Alexander von Humboldt, an unusual session of Parliament plus a corner office

five years ago: more grammatical non-errors