Sunday, 29 August 2021

ultima thule

Though settled by the Paleo-Inuit Saqqaq peoples over thirty-five hundred years earlier and interacting with visiting Vikings until the fiftieth century, the traditional founding date of the Greenlandic capital is given as this day in 1728 when the Danish-Norwegian governor called Claus Paarss established Fort Godthรฅb (Good Hope) to relocate a group of colonists (primarily ex-convicts, mutinous sailors and soldiers and prostitutes) on the mainland from their former island dwelling. Five years later, a Moravian mission received clearance to establish Neu-Herrnhut to convert residents to the Lutheran Church of Denmark. The indigenous population endured generations of suffering and slights, but they persevered and eventually regaining cultural territory as well as an autonomous form of devolved government in 1979, officially changing the name to the Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) Nuuk, meaning cape.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

hans รธ

Namesake of Hans Hendrik, Arctic explorer and Kalaallit interpreter, whom in Greenlandic was called Suersaq, the small island (Tartupaluk, รŽle Hans, แ‘•แ•แ‘แธแ“—แ’ƒ) in the Nares Strait with no permanent human presence is disputed territory, claimed by both Greenland (and Denmark which represents the autonomous realm in foreign affairs) and Canada.
While the legal status of Hans Island does carry consequences for the range of both countries territorial waters in terms of drilling and fishing rights and negotiations continue, practically it is administered as a condominium—with the imaginary border bisecting the island and delegations from Canada and Denmark periodically visiting, upsetting the opposing flag and depositing a bottle of signature libations for the trouble, waging a “whiskey war.” More to explore at Messy Nessy Chic at the link up top.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020


a jay ward production: rediscover the classic cartoon Hoppity Hooper

distance learning is the art of applying the bride to the child: Dorothy Parker’s (previously) take on remote kindergarten

long in the tooth: a Greenland shark is recognised as world’s oldest veterbrate type specimen: explore the extensive Letter Form Archive—via Pasa Bon!

nimby, yimby: mapping applications that reveal percentage of golf course and parking lots in your town

casa azul: a virtual exploration of Frida Kahlo’s Blue House—via Messy Nessy Chic plus the edible sunflower and a tiny tug

owls to athens: a look at how our avian friends influenced language and limn thought (see also)

Thursday, 11 June 2020

korsflagg and courtesy ensign

First prescribed as the proper and accepted way to identify Danish merchant vessels in regulations published on this day in 1748, specifying the colours of the flag (Dannebrog), shifting the intersection to the hoist (left) side and making the outer fields 6/4 the length of the inner ones, the distinctive Nordic Cross banner has since been adopted by Scandinavian and adjacent countries and territories.
One notable exception, though the design references the idea, is Greenland once granted home rule in 1985. Although the sideways cross is associated with Philip, the Apostle of the Greeks, who is venerated on 3/11 May (see also—coincidentally both Apostles Barnabas and Bartholomew are fรชted on 11 June) dragging it to his own execution though by some accounts spared by the crowd by dint of his eloquent sermon, vexillogists employ the term Nordic cross for this and inspired conventions.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

blok p

Built in the mid-1960s and finally demolished in 2012, this long resident hall in the capital Nuuk was constructed under the direction of the Folketinget’s programme to moderise its autonomous overseas territory by enticing people to move from coastal settlements, once housing one percent of the population of the world’s largest island—recalling this compound in Alaska.
Made to continental standards, however, the apartments began to prove unpopular with their occupants, finding doors and passageways too narrow for residents coming in wearing full winter gear, absent other storage space, fishing gear crowded balconies and fire-escapes and there was often problems with the plumbing, bath tubs being the only practical place to carve up their catch. One face of the building was emblazoned with the Greenlandic flag, made of discarded pieces of apparel stitched together by a local artist and photographer called Julie Edel Hardenberg with the help of school children. The last tenants were rehoused in estates elsewhere in the Qinngorput district by the airport.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019


because internet: a study into how online culture is shaping language

nuuk nuuk: Trump cancels Denmark state reception over Greenland snub

conflagration: Sรฃo Paulo experiences a daytime blackout as smoke from the burning Amazon rolls in

404 - not found: an abandoned Chinese nuclear model city in the Gobi

jurassic park: undisclosed paleontology site in Nevada will take centuries to sift through—via Kottke’s Quick Links

the vindicator is my only friend: another veteran newspaper shuts down in a reeling blow to social justice

dieu et humanitie: the unexpected gospel of Victor Hugo

Friday, 16 August 2019

seward’s folly

Though not a wholly original idea as most of the nihilistic non-policies of this government-by-disaster of the Trump regime are, via Boing Boing, reportedly the failed real estate magnate is interested in acquiring Greenland to exploit it for its natural resources and strategic location. With the catastrophic climate change which Trump does not believe in already arrived, the world’s largest island could be a rather shrewd investment. The Kingdom of Denmark has not yet responded to the proposal, nor Greenland’s fifty-six thousand residents.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

operation chrome dome

Fifty years ago today, a nuclear-armed B-52 stratofortress bomber was flying an alert mission over Greenland (well after America’s overtures to purchase the world’s largest island) and experienced a cabin fire that prompted six out of seven crew members to safely jettison and abandon the aircraft and its payload of four hydrogen bombs before it could reach the landing field at Thule.
The craft went down in the icy North Star Bay and the ensuing explosion of the fuselage and the conventional munitions on board caused the nuclear shells to rupture and contaminate the wider Bay of Baffin. The US and Denmark launched a massive containment and recovery effort that cost the equivalent of a billion dollars and one warhead was never recovered and the country’s tacit support of the deterrence exercises that kept twelve of such bombers aloft at all times (the US Strategic Air Command’s Chrome Dome) on the periphery of Soviet airspace was in direct violation of Denmark’s official anti-nuclear stance. Responders worked quickly to remove radioactive ice before the summer thaw that would have caused an even larger area to be impacted and hauled away tonnes of ice and debris during the extreme arctic winter in what was deemed officially Project Crested Ice (our faithful chronicler Doctor Caligari links to some news reel footage) but referred to by workers—many of whom later suffered radiation sickness—as Dr Freezelove in homage to the 1964 Stanley Kubrick release.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

vexing vexillogy or false-flag

Amid reports that Texas law-makers have introduced legislation that would enable them to impose fines on fellow office-holders for misrepresenting the Texas flag with the emoji for the Ecuadorian one (presently, states and other subnational regions* do not have their own emojis) and that Dear Leader’s supporters were pricelessly duped into waving flags with the Russian tri-colours at a conservative political summit before he addressed the audience (they were confiscated by ushers), the vice-president unfurled the banner of Nicaragua to show America’s commitment to Israel.
Granted the two flags do look somewhat alike on a tiny screen and we all make mistakes, but perhaps people should avoid shorthand and symbolism and particular forums if it’s only going to cause more and more political gaffs.

*Contentiously, Danish Greenland, Norwegian Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Caribbean Netherlands, Hong Kong, Macao, Spanish Ceuta and Melilla, French Mayotte, the US Virgin Islands, the Falklands, Gibraltar, Tristan da Cunha and the Channel Islands have their own flags, with perhaps more on the way.

Saturday, 29 October 2016


A very clever artist and architect in Tokyo is being honoured the country’s most prestigious design award for his world map—which, through some geometric transformations, finally corrects to a great extent for the distortions of Mercator-projection on a flat surface, the so called polar flair that makes Greenland look bigger than Africa. Find out more about the Authagraph map at the link up top.

Friday, 24 June 2016

common market

The only other quasi-precedential withdrawal from the European Union was in 1982 when after devolution and greater independence from metropolitan Denmark, Greenlanders held a plebiscite and by the same narrow margins (a fifty-two/forty-eight split) voted to leave.
The chief motivation to leave (a decision that suddenly reduced the landmass in the then fledgling European Community by about sixty percent) was the fishermen of Greenland being told how much they could catch and then sharing that quota with trawling powerhouses. Negotiations between Kรธbenhavn, Nuuk and Brussel took over three years, but the untried exit mechanism, Article 50 that came with the Treaty of Lisboa of 2007, was not yet in place and no things being equal in the parallels of recent times (in terms of complexity)—one can rest assured that the EU and the UK will reach a new, neighbourly deal in no time. Maybe this was one of those times that America tried to buy Greenland wholesale. I think it was around this time that the US Three and a half decades on, Greenland, wishing for greater leverage and protection to curb other manufacturing nations from flooding their domestic markets, is now contemplating returning to the EU.

Monday, 6 June 2016

hinn best land sem solinn skinner uppa

In 1868, swelling with pride over expansionist’s ambitions and the recent procurement of Alaska from an imperial Russia fraught with the sorry prospects of a fire-sale and the acquisition of a few Caribbean properties from the equally distressed Danes, the spree did not end there and not only tried to annex Greenland (an offer repeated during the Cold War) but also Iceland, as Neatorama reminds. The case for annexation was based mostly on the decades’ old accounts of travelogues, which was probably the source for the idea that the two were ironically named to dissuade prospectors, and though the soon to be independent island would have surely been a jewel in imperial America’s crown, the Icelanders weren’t having it. Fortunately, after such outlays on dubious returns, the US Congress was not buying this proposal either and the purchase was not pursued further.

Friday, 4 December 2015

marchons or rearranging the deck chairs

Icelandic artist and activity ร“lafur Eliasson working with geologist Minik Rosing have salvaged tonnes of icy obelisks, already doomed to their consummation, from the breaking front of Greenland’s glacial ice sheet and transported to them to central Paris, where delegates attending the crucial COP21 climate conference can witness them melt.
This is a pretty powerful statement and it’s highly recommended you visit the link and see more of Eliasson’s projects, but none to my mind was as stirring as the subdued Paris en Marche, when after the public rally was cancelled due to heightened security concerns and gatherings were banned, thousands brought pair by pair shoes to stand in for the absented protesters.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

the hunting of the snark

First sighted and described through second- or third-hand accounts in the third century BC, the unicorn—or monoceros was for centuries embellished with the rich lore of mythology, though this legendary creature had no truck with myths and heroes as it was believed to be very much part of the animal kingdom, though cryptic and elusive. The creature even figured, in its classic form, in the ancient iconography of India, whence the original came. Being unable to observe the shy creature in its natural habitat and unable to produce a specimen, big-fish stories circulated of the fierce and violent steed, who might only be tamed in the presence of a virgin—apparently also a a rare beast that couldn’t just be left in some forest as bait, what with dragons to be appeased.

Received Arabic advanced pharmacology further articulated the healing, anti-venom potency of its horn—the ivory and medicine derived from it is called alicorn, but most medieval had to settle for the horn in powdered form—for which they’d pay handsomely. The possibility of being drugged while wined and dined by potential rivals was a very real fear for the nobility—which such murderous intent not relegated to the underclasses until modern times. And up until the time artist Albrech Dรผrer was able to issue thousands of copies of his prints, people in Europe seemed willing to accept the traditional accounts of encounters with what to modern ears becomes instantly a rhinoceros and not some lithesome horse with a horn. Whether the public grew sceptical, especially with the increasing conflation with Christianity as an excuse for the inability to deliver evidence of an actual unicorn, or whether it had already been poached to extinction, I cannot say, but some enterprising Dane saw an opportunity and went whaling off the coasts of distant Greenland, hunting an even more unlikely creature, the narwal, and passing of its spiral tusk as the genuine article. Those with means paid even greater amounts for prized exemplars of horn. Eventually this ruse was revealed by a Danish physician after having been allowed to continue for decades, however, the public fascination was not diminished but rather encouraged by this confirmation. There was a strong belief among natural scientists that all terrestrial and aquatic animals had counterparts, like the behemoth and the leviathan or landlubbing people and merfolk. Acknowledging that there was such an incredible fish to be found only made people more convinced that the unicorn was still out there to be found.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

ultima thule or rรฉcit

At one of those book exchange kiosks, one of those in the wilds that is the natural habitat of literature, I discovered the author Paul Auster through his work entitled The New York Trilogy. Though some of the aspects of his writing remind me of a few of his contemporaries that are also counted among my favouries, like Thomas Pynchon, Umberto Eco and Don DeLillo, but in this series of noir, hard-scrabble detective stories that broach existential mysteries there is a subtle philosophical injunction that is a sort of anti-story-telling. Not meaning that his characters are not vivid or inhuman or that there is no plot to follow, but a lot of the narrative comes through allusion and the real events that transpire are the allegories of monologue. The failings and missteps of the characters are not hamartia, tragic flaws, but rather a deconstructing, I think, like trying to look past the mental language of perceptions and prejudices at the world and oneself independent of a particular framework.
There’s also a theme of isolation—but the mood is not one of loneliness or ostracising but maybe another aspect of the failure that’s understood to be dismantling—highlighted in meta-references and evocative footnotes. Using the fable of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum as a point of departure (incidentally, everyone always expected the Spanish Inquisition, since they always announced their purges with a thirty day grace period), Auster relates the true tale of intrepid Danish explorer Peter Freuchen and his harrowing experience weathering a blizzard in Greenland. Freuchen had buried himself in an ice cave for shelter and though he was worry about the pack of wolves sniffing around above ground, his more immediate concern was that his igloo, his universe was slowly shrinking around him. With each breath, the ice walls grew thinker by a hair’s breadth, threatening to enclose him fully. Freuchen, however like Auster’s characters, lived to tell the tale. I am looking forward to reading more of his works.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

mercator projection

Biologist and television host, Joe Hanson, also hosts a truly splendid blog, featuring discussions—which for instance discuss the practice of flattening out the globe (more ovoid than a sphere) in two dimensions and depending on ones centre of focus makes Greenland seemingly as big as the continent of Africa with a study in phrenology. This vignette also explores other representations that try to depict a more accurate picture. I just wonder what sort of inculcations that these examples instilled in the classroom—either an ever-present awareness of the exaggeration or a smug pride.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

my name is blue canary; one note: spelled l-i-t-e

Our beautiful, ultra-modern bird-feeder hangs rather neglected on the balcony.  I believe that the birds in this neighbourhood have an embarrassment of choices when it comes to dining options--even in the dead of winter, and they seem to prefer to poke around in the rain gutter just above, rather than visit this bird-house
Perhaps part of their hesitation, however, rests in the fact that I once brought home this other accomodation, which I later realized was purely ornamental: (as Admiral Akbar would proclaim, "It's a trap!") there is no floor, no levels, only a steep drop to the bottom for any unlucky visitor, but with an escape hatch in the back.  Hopefully, eventually, the birds will discover that this is here for them. 
Speaking of architectural idylls, I came across a very elegant website that showcases the strange and innovative in design spaces, with recent stories featuring plans for a nuclear-powered garrison-town under the ice of Greenland, a London underground map that reflected climate change and the sea level rise, and council-housing for London's future working-class robot population.

Thursday, 31 December 2009

2009 rewind (MMIX)

What a banner year!  H and I have done a lot, including getting a posh new apartment on the little river bank, went to Rome, career-development and returning to school (both as an alumnus and a new student), traveled to Washington DC and New York, getting a new car and many other fine fittings and adventures. 
Here are a few other world happenings, as best as I can recall, though I am prone to make stuff up and fill in my own details:

January:  Russia cuts off natural gas supplies to Europe through the Ukraine; Obama is inaugarated as US president; Iceland becomes the first national victim of the burgeoning financial crisis; Virgin Galactic is founded near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico; the Eagle Eye weapon nearly causes a worldwide technological black-out through an electromagnetic pulse; Ricardo Montalban and John Updike pass away.
February:  US and Russian spy satillites collide in orbit and dust Siberia with debris; Iceland, hobbled by bankrupcy, kicks out its old regime and elects a lesbian as chancellor; the financial crisis in the housing and automotive industries picks up tempo; Natasha Richardson dies after a skiing accident.
March:  The International Criminal Court in the Hague issues warrants for the genocide in Darfur; NASA lauches a space telescope to search for extra-solar planets; England and the US start quantitative easing to spur the economy.
April:  The UN introduces the World Digital Library; the swine-flu outbreak in Mexico prompts worldwide panic; stratetic arms reduction talks between the US and Russia fail; Bea Arthur and JG Ballard pass away.
May:  North Korea ratchets up its nuclear warhead program; Russia's once and future tsar becomes more and more assertive; it was revealed that Don Rumsfeld advised George Bush's Iraq-a-attacky-two with Biblical prophesy; a giant, angry Elizabeth Taylor attacks New York City, later to be known as Cloverfield 8; Dom DeLuise and Roh Moo-Hyun pass away.

June:  The WHO calls H1N1 pandemic and progress is monitored closely as nations compete for access to vaccine supplies; Greenland becomes more emancipated from the Kingdom of Denmark; Michael Jackson and Fara Fawcett and David Carradine pass away suddenly.
July:  The Uyghur uprising continues in China; the fragility of worldwide economy is exposed on several fronts; Swiss banking laws are made more transparent; Karl Malden and Walter Cronkite pass away.
August:  A typhoon devastates Taiwan; 2009 is a year of anniversaries, including the 60th of the founding of NATO and the 20th of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Tienamen Square protest; Corazon Aquino and Eunice and Teddy Kennedy pass away.
September:  Members of the G-20 gather for a third time this year in Pittsburg to prevent a second financial collapse; Sarkosy announces he will not seek a second term as the job of the French president is fatiguing; Niel Bohr and Patrick Swayze pass away.
October:  ESA astronomers announce the discovery of many exo-planets, including two outstanding one's that fit the anthropomorphic, Goldie-Locks' criteria; Claude Levi-Strauss passes away.
November:  The CERN super-collider goes back online after failing to cause a rip in space and time; former PM Tony Blair is denied the first permanent seat as European Union president, with Merkel and Sarkosy opting for lesser luminaries; the Czech Republic joins the EU; the aspirations of Dubai were proved to be not viable, as the city-state asked to be forgiven its massive debts; NASA finds significant deposits of water on the Moon.
December:  The Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is of uncertain success; Barack Obama accepts the Nobel Prize for Peace; "unstable" persons abush Silvio Berlusconi and the Pope; Obama is criticized for failing to protect America from the underpants bomber, while meanwhile Russia prepares to launch a rocket to destroy an asteroid which may come close to Earth in 2029; Kim Peek (the Rainman), Roy Disney and Brittany Murphy pass away.