Sunday 2 June 2024

jenny wren (11. 601)

Via Sentence First, we learn how the robin (and its distant American cousin—not closely related) got its name.  Prior to scientific and ordered taxonomy, in fifteenth century England—and elsewhere—it was common practise to give familiar species human names, this companionable nomenclature enduring in some of the more common monickers, like magpies from flocks originally called Margarets or a daw named Jack, and Robin Redbreast—from the diminutive form of Robert and their distinctive, easily recognisable orange plumage, the colour unknown and not distinguished until the introduction of the fruit about a hundred years later. More from Bird History at the link up top.

Saturday 1 June 2024

9x9 (11. 598)

on covfefe day no less: a meme roundup on Trump’s felony conviction  

canine rainbow: dogs’ visual spectrum and how they see perceive the world 

love exposure: the acclaimed, sprawling 2008 comedy-drama by Sion Sono  

the scary ham: proper late rites for an aged cut of pork

leftovers: five thin volumes on post-apocalypse Briton

nondescript fern: researchers find the largest genome (fifty times the genetic material of humans) in a small plant on an Australian island  

why be dragons: the origins of the universal mythological creatures  

evening standard: venerable London newspaper to suspend daily publication after almost two hundred years—see previously  

today is my birthday, please like me: a Twitter feed of some the revolting, disturbing but morbidly compelling AI-generated slop inundating Facebook—via Web Curios


one year ago: Crazy Frog (2005) plus Adobe’s Generative Fill

two years ago: Scotch whisky (1495) plus the Stresa Convention on Cheeses (1951)

three years ago: your daily demon: Eligos, The Ship of Fools (1497), more on monopolies and monopsonies plus a Simon and Garfunkel classic

four years ago: seasonal dormancy, more King Ubu, St Rรณnรกn plus elections matter

five years ago: re-creating TV living rooms with IKEA furnishings,  Japan’s first folklore museum, the Lennon-Ono Honeymoon Suite plus a robot job interviewer

Thursday 30 May 2024

aabba (11. 594)

Via Futility Closet, we are reminded of the anatomy of a limerick (with the above rhyme scheme, see previously) with the following meta-versification by John Irwin, poet and professor of the humanities: 

A limerick’s cleverly versed—
The second line rhymes with the first;
The third one is short,
The fourth’s the same sort,
And the last line is often the worst.

This rendition is almost certainly in homage to the anonymous exemplar: 

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I've seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

Heretofore, most often privileged showmanship, they often invoked exotic geographic locations as a way to subvert the rote teaching of the subject in schools, with several variations and violations. British wordplay and maths expert Leigh Mercer, best known for his palindromes, (¡“A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!), also famously a mathematical limerick:  

12 + 144+20 +3 ✖️ √4 / 7 + (5 ✖️ 11) = 9² + 0 

Or, as read: 

A dozen, a gross, and a score
Plus three times the square root of four
Divided by seven
Plus five times eleven
Is nine squared and not a bit more.

Friday 24 May 2024

6x6 (11. 581)

gyermekvasรบt: the Budapest Children’s Railway, a functioning training project founded in the Communist era—see previously 

funny farm: an Ancient Greek agricultural emulator 

beacon hill: Massachusetts millionaire surtax surpasses revenue targets—via Miss Cellania 

he spends £1 a week on his hair: early reviews of British pop icons—via Strange Company 

god mode: a world simulation where the user has complete dominion—via Web Curios 

east side story: a documentary about musics in Warsaw Pact countries—see previously

Thursday 16 May 2024

10x10 (11. 562)

crimes of atrocity: a long, dense episode of -ologies with Alie Ward on the hugely fraught and difficult subject of genocide with a powerful and circumspect post-script 

airoboros: artificial intelligence trained on AI made content is becoming highly problematic and only compounded—see previously  

the city on the edge of forever: public portal linking Dublin and New York City suspended after inappropriate behaviour  

palmerston’s follies: two maritime forts off Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight that have been converted into boutique accommodations go up for auction  

the deuce: the Greek grandmother who built an adult entertainment empire in Times Square before its Disneyfication 

foot on the gas: the inevitability of the climate collapse and humanity’s capacity for adjustment  

⌘ |: the lost history of pre-internet emoji and rendering software—via Waxysee previously 

flashing headlights: the giant Dana squid’s photophores in attack-mode  

eternal return: cosmic cycles and time’s resurgence  

first-day agenda: how Trump is framing his vision for a second-term


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus a visit to Arnstadt

two years ago: St Brendan, more links to enjoy plus the Electrotechnical Exhibition of 1891

three years ago: a classic from Kim Carnes, a language quiz, more links worth the revisit plus an ancient action figure

four years ago: more Trump’s Space Force, birdhouses, the stress of social media moderation, a medieval manuscript game plus a musical typing tutor

five years ago: GenX, consular services at McDonalds, soliciting grievances, Japanese mascots plus office equipment

Wednesday 15 May 2024

progrock (11. 558)

Established after the breakup of two of the founding bands of British progressive rock Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer in 1981—with John Wetton of Uriah Heap and Geoff Downes of the Buggles later joining Steve Howe and Carl Palmer—the supergroup’s eponymous debut album reached number one on the US charts on this day in 1982, holding top place for nine weeks, ranked as the best-selling record for that year in America and in several other countries. The signature lead single from lyricist Wetton and keyboardist Downes is described as an abject apology to the dreadful way he treated his first wife.


one year ago: EuroVision, a papal encyclical plus a singing computer (1961)

two years ago: lavaforming, Kepler’s Laws, a rejects’ gallery plus an ancient, mysterious herb

three years ago: your daily demon: Sitru, St Olaf, recognising women in the sciences, duck icons, AI-splaining plus Subterranean Homesick Blues

four years ago: assorted links worth revisiting plus a musical rooster

five years ago: a new art gallery in China, celebrating waters, returning to the Moon, more links to enjoy plus a disruptive network hack

Sunday 12 May 2024

about some useless information supposed to drive my imagination (11. 554)

Recorded at the RCA Studios in Hollywood on this day in 1965 a week after Keith Richard’s wrote the song and played a rough version of the introductory and driving riff in his sleep captured on a cassette recorded, two-minutes of acoustic guitar strumming before hearing the pick drop and the rest of the tape was filled with Richards’ snoring and Mick Jagger’s lyrics contribution poolside in Clearwater, Florida, the single’s release on 4 June immediately solidified the success of The Rolling Stones with an iconic and recognisable musical hook, ranking on charts internationally and is consistently counted among the greatest rock songs of all time, whose themes critiquing commercialism, dithering between cynicism and a plaintive protest, were quite revolutionary and could be perceived as threatening to older audiences.



one year ago: philosophy bros plus early computer art

two years ago: a celebration of locomotives

three years ago: the affection of felines, an NFT defined, assorted links to revisit plus putting one’s website to bed

four years ago: the united states of Voronoi, an AI entry for EuroVision, a socially-distanced press conference plus the soundtrack to Flash Gordon

five years ago: a list of silent letters plus a way to help out the unbanked

Friday 10 May 2024

tea party (11. 551)

Passed on this day in 1773 by the parliament of Great Britain, the Tea Act was principally designed to help the British East India Company remain profitable and offload some of its surplus by undercutting the price for illegal imports, mostly smuggled into the American colonies through Dutch suppliers, by enabling direct and duty-free exports. The supplemental tariff under the Townsend Acts meant to generate revenue for colonial administration and the paid the salaries of governors (to ensure allegiance) as well as leverage to obtain better terms of trade with transportation companies. Although the quality of the black market tea was inferior to the British, it was considered patriotic to drink the smuggled tea by some groups as a political protest to the taxes levied. Despite the elimination of elimination of duties with the license for direct sales that bypassed the need for middlemen (these merchants also angered because they were rendered superfluous as were the marketeers) resulting in lower prices for higher quality tea, colonists were still upset on principal of the retention of the nominal tax used to pay the salaries of crown officials. Harbour masters in New York and Philadelphia were refusing delivery of tea shipments and reached a crisis point in December that year when the Sons of Liberty (cosplaying Native Americans, the tax was set to expire if not renewed by Parliament) raided ships docked in Boston and dumped the cargo overboard—an event known later as the Boston Tea Party, mythologised, which resulted in the embargo and closure of the port until the destroyed shipments were paid for.

Monday 6 May 2024

prophets, seers & sages: the angels of the ages/my people were fair and had sky in their hair… but now they’re content to wear stars on their brows (11. 543)

Originally released as separate records in 1968, the group’s debut and follow on collection of psychedelic folk, the double-album reissued by T. Rex (see previously) and reaching the top of the UK charts on this day in 1972 and retains the distinction of the longest title of any number one hit. Tracks from the combined project by Marc Bolan on guitar and vocals with Steve Peregrin Took on percussions, kazoo and pixiephone (a kind of toy glockenspiel) showcased experimentation (like the boustrophedonic and backmasking reprise of their hit “Debora” as “Deboraarobed” as an opener well before The Beatles dared lead with such radical departures) and linguistic invention, half word play and half speaking in tongues.


one year ago:  symbols of state for the coronation of Charles III, illustrated congratulatory letters to box office winners plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: more links to enjoy, architect John Outram plus a visiting peacock

three years ago: more marginal maps, the Flash Crash of 2010, a vigilant prosthetic eye, Lego lost ships, a holographic Star Trek dogfight plus a treasury of optical illusions

four years ago: a survey of timekeeping, vintage Polish computing plus more Brutalist architecture

five years ago: the opening of the Chunnel plus botanical misogyny

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


Wednesday 24 April 2024

word salad (11. 510)

We rather enjoyed this omnibus posting of rare and unusual English terms, which contained many we’ve encountered before but quite a few new words to us. We especially found useful to deacon, from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women for careful product placement, arranging the top-shelve items up high and hiding the cheaper, lower quality merchandise below, snaste (from the archaic snite—to blow one’s nose—or snuff, as in a candle) referring to the burnt part of a wick, vestry (another non-church related terms though could appear otherwise) meaning the “smiling of [infants] in their sleep,” degombling (a backronymsee also—that comes courtesy of arctic explorers) for removing clumps of ice and snow, dextrosinistral describing a naturally left-handed person taught to use their right for writing, something sesquihoral lasts ninety-minutes, the perfect length for a movie, resistentialism from the belief, half facetiously, that inanimate objects will express spite towards their human users and witworm, coined by Ben Jonson—possibly with some meta-irony—for a someone’s else cleverness as a surrogate for their own. Much more from Mental Floss at the link above.


one year ago:  an experimental Nazi-era nuclear reactor plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: politics of a monetary union (1972), the Trojan Horse, the UN body for the under-represented (1991) plus revisiting airships

three years ago: a rendition of a Daft Punk classic, preserving artefacts of the pandemic, indoor gardening tips, the Situationists plus a survey of map projections

four years ago: China enters the space race, more on eggcorns, signs of social-distancing, dancing mania, a new song from the Rolling Stones plus COVID misinformamtion

five years ago: effervescence, mortgage-backed securities, the tradition of telling the bees plus more logophilia

Saturday 13 April 2024

the bessemer saloon ship (11. 484)

Steel magnate and prolific inventor during the late nineteenth century and second-wave of the Industrial Revolution—whose innovations were uniquely punctuated with enduring commercial success, including steam-power and techniques that improved steel manufacturing and solidified Sheffield’s reputation for more than a hundred years as a major industrial centre (also the namesake for the Alabama steel town) as well as numerous other improvements in material engineering with glass and iron, Henry Bessemer’s chronic disposition to sea-sickness inspired to come up with his rather singular flop. Though working in principal and in models, the sea-trial ended in disaster, crashing into the pier at Calais as it attempted to leave the harbour—outside of the control of the crew—however his idea for a self-righting cabin, a saloon, that swung on gimbals and hydraulic cylinders during cross-Channel journeys for passengers’ comfort in rough weather was ahead of its time. More from Amusing Planet at the link above.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit

two years ago: the Unicode Technical block of characters

three years ago: the show goes on, the legacy of project MKUltra, a capsule hotel annex in the woods plus more on Star Fleet uniforms

four years ago: extended Eastertide plus funny bios for birds

five years ago: empathy and tribalism, more coding by radio, retro McDonald’s packaging plus perennial cereal crops

Saturday 6 April 2024

mamma, we reap what we sow (11. 471)

Via our faithful chronicler, among many other events of pith and circumstance, Annie Lennox (previously) released her debut solo Diva album on this day in UK markets in 1992, following a hiatus from performing after the dissolution of the Eurythmics two years prior and spawning five hit singles including “Little Bird” put out as a double A-Side with “Love Song for a Vampire” made for the soundtrack of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The accompanying music video, shot while Lennox was eight months pregnant with the MC outfit reminiscent of Cabaret tailored to conceal her baby-bump, features a cast of personae from previous songs portrayed by impersonators and drag-artists vying for the spotlight.

concours eurovision de la chason (11. 470)

With the finale held on this day fifty years ago, held in the arts venue the Dome of Brighton with veteran television personality and presenter Katie Boyle—winner of the 1973 contest Luxembourg having declined the honour of hosting the event consecutive years in a row due to cost constraints for their public broadcaster, Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Tรฉlรฉdiffusion, some of the more memorable acts of the Eurovision Song Contest (previously) with an iconic and transporting recognition owing to the winners’ costuming and performance include an interlude by the Wombles, Olivia Newton-John, Mouth and MacNeal and entrant Pooky from newly admitted Israel, whose prog and jazz fusion would prove enduring. France did not participate that year out of respect for the national mourning period for the death of president Georges Pompidou, withdrawing a few days before, and contest was not aired until several months afterwards for fear that the country’s own submission, “Sรฌ” finishing in second place, might have influenced votes on a confusingly worded nation referendum on whether to keep or rescind newly introduced legislation (see above) that allowed for divorce in country—“yes” being the ballot initiative to outlaw the recently enacted liberty.


one year ago: the UK tax year plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: artist Raphael, fungal communication plus playing around with a text-to-image generator

three years ago: Ping-Pong Diplomacy, the first Tony Awards, the Debatable Lands, plans to build the World Trade Center, duelling songs plus the modern Olympic Games (1896)

four years ago: more true facts from Ze Frank plus a cute typing tutor

five years ago: the Bavarian Socialist Republic (1919) plus a community Spring Cleaning

Thursday 4 April 2024

dishy-washy, dishy-washy (11. 468)

Better known to American audiences after rebroadcasts by PBS in the early 1980s as Good Neighbors, the British sitcom starring Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal (Tom and Barbara) and Paul Eddington and Penelope Keith (Jerry and Margot) premiered on this day in 1975 and relates the triumphs and trials that they, the first couple, the titular Goods, experience following a mid-life crisis and abandoning a career as a plastics engineer (designing toy prizes for breakfast cereal packets) to life a self-sufficient existence in suburb south west London, conflicting with the lifestyle of their conventional neighbours, the Leadbetters.

Wednesday 3 April 2024

it’s horseradish to me (11. 466)

Language Hat directs our attention to an interesting comparative discussion of vulgar expressions of indifference across different idiomatic phrases, linking to an isogloss of colourful terms, prompted by asking what equivalents were there to the relatively new and niche “ZFG,” like the more polite Russian version above. The accompanying image is from the 2021 film Rien ร  foutre which is a considered to have the corresponding meaning in French. While these may not be in common parlance and not necessarily the default (especially in polite company), it is an engrosssing look at contemptuous dismissiveness and how other languages do not fall into the negation trap that the straightforward English rendition sometimes carries with “I could care less” versus “I couldn’t care less” plus related sayings, like the figure of speech “you can’t have your cake and eat it [too]”—variants of the proverbial language fossil quoted by such writers as Jonathan Swift, Ayn Rand’s John Galt and Ted Kaczynski in the Unabomber manifesto (who’s particular turn of phrase helped lead to his apprehension)—which by dent of its similar and somewhat impenetrable logic gives rise to a cakeist factor who wish for two desirable but exclusive alternatives. The Italian version, probably the least rustic in literal translation, Volere la botte piena e la mogile ubriaca, goes something akin to wanting both the full barrel of wine and the wife drunk.

Sunday 31 March 2024

boac (11. 459)

The flag carrier of the United Kingdom, Imperial Airways, was founded on this day in 1924 through the nationalisation and merger of four existing operators, Instone, Daimler, Mandley Page Transport and the British Marine Air Navigation Company, Ltd—forming a fleet of thirteen planes for international flights to and from the London hub in Heathrow. Fifty years later and reflagged as British Airways, the national airline was created from the addition of regional carriers before moving back towards privatisation. 


one year ago: the musical stylings of Pascal Nuzzo plus ASCII art by AI

two years ago: Cรฉsar Chรกvez Day, Maltese Freedom Day, mass resignations at Hong Kong’s high court plus South Ossetia votes in favour of annexation

three years ago: satanic sneakers, The Matrix (1999), retronyms plus assorted links to revisit

four years ago: museum cosplay, graphic designer Fortunato Depero plus presidential advisor myPillow Guy

five years ago: Urbano Monte’s planosphere,  Sony World Photo awardees plus graphic designer Herman Bayer

Saturday 16 March 2024

featherstonehaugh (11. 427)

Thanks to raft of gossip and speculation from 2019 revived in part due the obsession over the whereabouts of the Princess of Wales, we’ve been educated that the Marchioness of Cholmondeley of interest holds the peerage style of the Most Honourable Lady CHUM-lee, and so we appreciated these further lessons in pronunciation of historic British and Irish titles and surnames (respecting the fact that one’s name is pronounced how they tell you to pronounce it and subject to variation). There are some really non-intuitive examples like the title—usually said like Fernshaw—and while we would have liked more detailed explanations like with family name Menzies with its archaic letter ศ (yogh), it was nonetheless interesting to contemplate how those estranging shifts might have occurred, like with Geoghegan (GAY-gษ™n) or Wriothesley as RIZZ-lee.

Monday 11 March 2024

000_34L82nw britain-royals (11. 415)

Whilst speculation about the whereabouts and fate of Kate Middleton not seen in public since a Christmas engagement has run rampant, with alleged sightings in the unlikeliest of places including the Wonka Experience, a family photograph posted on Mothering Sunday has backfired and done little to quiet the rumours after the wire-services issued a mandatory kill-notice to remove the image released by Kensington Palace due to an editorial issue and possible manipulation. The Princess of Wales later admitted to doing the touch-up work herself and apologised for the lightly edited portrait taken (see also) by the prince for causing such controversy and at a time when all the principal royals are out of the picture and not performing public duties, it only fuels conjecture, sometimes to wild conclusions.

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.