Monday 27 May 2024

9x9 (11. 585)

super easy, barely an inconvenience: if cats had podcasts  

minor arcana: a metaphysically intelligent™️ tarot reading—via Web Curios  

fleeting moments: a concept camera that only delivers ephemeral poetry based on the subject in the view-finder—via Clive Thompson’s Linkfest  

the ghana must go: as ubiquitous as the IKEA bag but more practical, this tartan sack from Japan by way of Hong Kong contains multitudes  

god’s influencer: following a second miracle attributed to his intercession, the first Millennial saint is canonised  

atlas shrugged: AI-apocalypse Jennifer Lopez vehicle from James Cameron garners negative reviews but we found it enjoyable—going in blindly and wondering if it wasn’t part of the Duneiverse and setting up the Butlerian Jihad 

long averages: advances in the understanding of probability fuelling casino gambling—via Damn Interesting  

planchettes and re-enchantment: LLMs are haunted things toc-cat-a in b-major: Noam Oxman personalised musical pet portraits—via Waxy


one year ago:  a portrait of a dog, Berlin’s Mouse Bunker, a study of incomplete cubes plus men and women duelling in the Middle Ages

two years ago: a pact between NATO and Russia (1997), a dragon in Essex plus assorted links worth revisiting

three years ago: mojibake, font sizes, the Golden Gate Bridge (1937), relocating geese plus Dune manga

four years ago: more links to enjoy, a rock-climbing inspection, weasel iconography plus Trump 2.0 would be far more fraught

five years ago: getting around in Swiss Saxony

Tuesday 12 March 2024

8x8 (11. 416)

studio nue: the meticulous and immersive sci-fi illustrations of Naoyuki Kato  

landsat lens: virtual rewinding maps created with historic satellite imagery

drawing for nothing: a growing e-book of storyboards and character studies from unfinished, shelved animation projects—via Waxy 

hag horror: Poseidon’s Underworld explores the genre with 1971’s Blood and Lace 

แน—s (t → ♾️) = 0: researchers find algorithms that only quantum computers can solve—via Damn Interesting—see previously  

all these worlds are yours, except europa: NASA reveals the plaque its probe will carry to Jupiter’s icy moon later this year  

rednaxela: unusual toponyms, including the named terrace in Hong Kong believed to be Alexander transcribed right-to-left, as was the practise in the past  

fantomah: outsider comic book artist Fletcher Hanks


one year ago: assorted links to revisit, domino theory (1947) plus more words with no English equivalent

two years ago: more links to enjoy,  World Day Against Cyber Censorship plus Mamma Mia (1975)

three years ago: the cosmography of William Fairfield Warren (1915), artist Caterina van Hemessen, St Maximilian of Tebessa, occultist Austin Osman Spare, listening to maps, more isogloss maps plus a celebration of veteran memes

four years ago: St Serafina plus COVID travel bans take effect

five years ago: resurrection plants

Friday 5 January 2024

9x9 (11. 243)

sine cure: many jobs in the tech sector are busy work and inducements to stymie the competition—via the New Shelton wet/dry  

smooth operator: one-hundred eighty songs and other cultural touchstones turning forty this year 

shake your hips, puppet legs: a David Byrne dance tutorial—via Nag on the Lake  

crackberry: a physical keyboard attachment for one’s smart phone  

the rise and fall of ziggy stardust: the chance encounter with Vince Taylor, the inspiration for the David Bowie persona 

 long live friendship: the Cantonese version of Auld Lang Syne (see previously) performed at the handover ceremony of Hong Kong in 1997  

the (disco) sound of music: a Meco-like dance rendition of the classic tracks (see previously) from Sarah Brightman  

pole position: the Vectrex, the 1982 revolutionary but mostly forgotten video game console, gets a second look 

mobile aloha: an off-the-shelf, DIY robot that can perform complex tasks and chores—via Waxy


one year ago: US mid-term elections

two years ago: two Star Wars adjacent films set in 2022Twelfth Night plus building the Golden Gate Bridge

three years ago: Waiting for Godot, Moonstone plus an unusual patent-filing

four years ago: puffy planets, the asteroid Eris, mobile car-chargers plus Nazi name mandates

five years ago: notes on Dante plus animal sounds in other languages

Tuesday 2 January 2024

splendid china (11. 237)

The thirty-hectare property in Four Corners Florida now host to the Margaritaville Resort, it was a originally developed as a miniature park in 1993 featuring scenery and monuments of the mainland was first conceived by a former educator from Taiwan after the successful prototype in Shenzhen outside of Hong Kong. That same year the attraction was taken over by the travel and tourism branch of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, eventually ousting the founders and was accused of becoming an instrument of propaganda, with protests ensuing over the new exhibitions on Tibet, Mongolia and Eastern Turkistan and a ban on school field trips to the site in the proximity of Disney World. The miniatures were looted after its closure a decade after its founding. More at Weird Universe at the link above, including a video tour of the grounds from 1996.

Tuesday 29 August 2023

7x7 (10. 970)

pagerank: Google has lost the quarter-century battle over overindexing versus useful search results—via Waxy  

1 346 000/km²: a tour of what was once the most densely populated area in the world, a largely ungoverned Chinese exclave within the territory of Hong Kong—see previously here and here  

corner suite: a visit to a unique corporate headquarters in Czechia with an office in an elevator—see previously 

lunar codex: an archive and time capsule of human creativity launched to the Moon—see also  

motor overflow: sticking out our tongues during complicated manual tasks reveal truths about our brains’ connections—via Damn Interesting  

gone to pasture: an abandoned luxury development in China overtaken by farmers and livestock—via Messy Nessy Chic

cryogenics: Wordpress offers to archive one’s digital estate for a century


one year ago: another MST3K classic plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: the chemical element meitnerium, the founding of Greenland, white-winged doves and saguaro cactuses plus introducing Nirvana (1991) 

three years ago: mystic Manly Palmer Hall, Wuppertal’s Schwebebahn, inventor Otis Frank Boykin, liturgical cheese plus Netflix (1997)

five years ago: Trump lashes out against perceived social media bias against him plus Keith Houston on the history of emoji

Sunday 26 February 2023

8x8 (10. 575)

of bunkers and bridges: the government fall-out shelter behind Reykjavรญk’s Bรบstaรฐakirkja 

the outfit says soundgarden, and the zine says bikini kill but the bedroom set definite says chemical brothers: the new historical American Girl Doll is from the 90s  

hobbyist for hire: a tribute to the amateurs that inform so much of our professional base knowledge 

tiger by the tail: exploring the forgotten history of the big cat on the edges of Hong Kong  

a project for a metropole: the impossible, monumental architecture proposed eighteenth century influencer ร‰tienne-Louis Boullรฉe—see also 

ahh ridiculous: the 1960 space exploration film 12 to the Moon, with an international crew, which also received the MST3K send-up 

internyet: a look inside the obscure Russian agency charged with censoring the web

Thursday 23 February 2023

8x8 (10. 566)

scoby: manufacturing electronics out of a kombucha culture  

ngc 1433: more incredible infrared imaging of neighbouring galaxies from JWST  

meanwhile back at the manse: documenting changing American architectural aesthetics in Barbie’s Dream Home  

recalculating: Karen Jacobsen—the original GPS voice multi-modal: code-switching in texting in Hong Kong  

kbbl: music streaming service is offering AI hosts with generative chatter—via Super Punch  

55 cancri ๐›ฟ: a collection of the most bizarre exoplanets discovered so far  

fomes formentarius: introducing the fungus that has the potential to replace plastics

Thursday 31 March 2022

court of last resort

Since the return of the former British colony to China in 1997, UK justices have sat on the High Court of Hong Kong to ensure and safeguard the laws and liberties accorded to this special administrative area. The pair of senior judges on the Courts of First Instance and Final Appeal, however, recently announced their resignations, with immediate effect, declaring the their continued presence no longer a tenable situation and no longer wanted to appear as an endorsement or legitimasing factor in the erosion of the city’s freedoms. Recent changes to the administration of Hong Kong and its relation to the mainland have caused any degree of meaningful autonomy to dwindle.

Sunday 9 January 2022

rms queen elizabeth

Whilst undergoing renovations to be re-christened as the “Seawise University,” the gargantuan ocean liner launched in 1938 and named in honour of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, caught on fire and was capsized in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong on this day in 1972. Tycoon and shipping magnate Tung Chao-yung had bought the decommissioned cruise ship with the intention of making her into a float international campus for a semester at sea programme two years earlier and there was some speculation that either insurance fraud or sabotage by Chinese ship-builders played a part in the destruction. The wreck was salvaged to prevent risk to other boats passing through the bay but about half of it remains at the bottom of the harbour and was the setting of a secret annex of MI6 in the 1974 Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

this day in colonial history

Commemorated as Australia Day, the First Fleet under the command of Admiral Arthur Philip arrived in Sydney Harbour to found the first permanent British settlement on the continent in 1788. This is also the 1841 anniversary of the formal possession of Hong Kong when Commodore Gordon Bremer arriving at a headland (since moved inland due to coastal reclamation) named Possession Point, the former park developed as a hotel and in the 1980s with the terminal for ferry service to Macau. Finally in 1855, the Point No Point was signed under considerable duress on the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula (so named for its appearance from a distance as a promontory but receding as one nears it) in the territory of Washington, with the original inhabitants, the Skokomish, Chimakum and S’Klallam peoples, ceding their land in exchange for a small reservation, concession along the Hood fjord.

Sunday 27 September 2020

panda diplomacy

Via Nag on the Nag’s expertly curated Sunday Links (always a lot to explore here), we are introduced to the latest obsession, research rabbit hole from the contributors of Artsy magazine in this 1861 portrait of a pedigree Pekingese by German transplant painter Friedrich Wilhelm Keyl, who specialised in the subject and received many commissions from the court of Victoria and Albert. Though living a contented to all appearances and happy eleven more years in the lap of luxury, there’s a dark side to little Looty and her role as a political prop—sort of like Nixon’s Checkers speech.

Charmingly called after the diminutive for the spoils of war by the queen, this example of the exclusive companion breed reserved for the Imperial family of China was one of five Pekingese dogs found guarding the corpse of a lady who took her own life in 1860 as an Anglo-French exhibition force advanced on the Old Summer Palace (The Garden of Perfect Brightness and royal residence) and under the orders of Lord Elgin in retribution for an earlier failed peace treaty began to ransack the place at the height of the Second Opium War. The plunder and destruction took a force of four thousand men three days to carry out, owing to the palace’s monumental size. The sentimental portrait takes on new meaning when looking at it through the fraught historical context of colonialism and is still a matter that the European powers are coming to terms with. Not to be outdone by his father that stole the Marbles, Elgin’s (who also served as governors of Jamaica, Canada and India) wanton act forced the capitulation of the Qing Emperor and ceded the rest of the Kowloon Peninsula to the crown colony of Hong Kong. Posing before a Ming vase that was surely also part of the pilfered treasure, you can detect a hint of saudade and longing her eyes. We’d like to give back Looty her old name as well.

Thursday 10 September 2020

overseas logogram

The peripatetic polyglots at the helm over at Language Log direct us to a host of for the nonce Sinographs from Hong Kong which could be described as neologism—rather neographisms or visual portmanteaux inventing characters by mixing the component parts and meaning-bearers from different glyphs to form something nuanced and paraliteral.  The pictured example seems to borrow selectively from ้Žฎ้œ (zhรจnjรฌng, that is combined calm, poised) but taking on a new context in this form as equanimous and not un-dispassionate, unshaken.
As one reader commented, this zhรฌzร o (ๅˆถ้€ , making characters) is reminiscent of the 1987 publication originally to be entitled Mirror to Analyse the World: The Century’s Final Volume by artist Xu Bing but was instead ultimately called after the Chinese term tiฤn shลซ that itself originally was reserved for divinely inspired writing (akin to speaking in tongues) but came to signify gibberish in “A Book from the Sky.” Very much up to the interpretation of the reader, the bound edition limited to a single print run, the book is composed with a set of four-thousand characters (comparable to the lexicon of modern Chinese writing) and imitate natural language on the page in terms of diversity and frequency but are wholly made up, nonsense words, as if a book in a Latin script were filled with Wingdings. The above banners, however, have a meaning and message that can be puzzled out.

Wednesday 1 July 2020

bl 23

Ostensibly to prevent interference in territorial affairs and required under the twenty-third article of the Special Administrative Region’s Basic Law, police authorities had the chance to inaugurate the newly enacted security legislation by conducting mass arrests of demonstrators marking the anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong (see previously) from the UK to China in 1997.
Protesters were arrested and detained for unlawful assembly and for advocating for Hong Kong independence. Globally the response to what is perceived as heavy-handed encroachment in reaction to ongoing civil unrest that began around March 2019 over proposed changes including extradition to the mainland for those accused of sedition and other crimes to stand trial instead of facing justice in local courts has been one of consternation with UK pledging to fast-track citizenship for residents born under British rule who seek to leave.

Saturday 30 May 2020

a riot is the language of the unheard

As anxious rage spreads across the US in response to the fatal and brazenly entitled manner—it was all filmed—that George Floyd (*1974) was detained over an alleged attempt to pass on counterfeit currency, the outrage at the injustice was institutional and a generous in the making, though Trump’s series of conspicuously violence inciting comments from his garbage pulpit (that again acted responsibly by flagging his words as incendiary while another swaddles itself in agnosticism and neutrality).
These protests are not about Trump no matter how he might have fanned the flames and made a bad situation much worse but rather seeking to restore a justice denied and rebel to reverse the sickening racial divide that has come to define America, with the only appreciable contribution of that doltish, impeached pretender being to have sewn such distrust in the media that the protests would take aim at an ally outlet—either that or Trump has brought in agitators to attack his own enemies, a tactic that the Republicans and their propagandists like to accuse the left of. The unrest—the National Guard is being deployed supported by military police units in a second domestic action after they were sent to the southern US border in support of wall building operations—will without a doubt be used as a pretext for postponing the election or calling its veracity into question. In other events that transpired at the same time, all rather backhanded set-backs presented as accomplishment Trump decided to postpone his hosting of the G-7 Conference when Merkel announced that Germany would not send a delegation until and unless there was dramatic improvement in the handling of the pandemic that’s also raging unabated across America, but only adding that the membership is outdated and wants to bring Russia and India to the table when the summit is finally held at some undetermined future date. The US severs its ties with the World Health Organisation and strips Hong Kong of its favoured status, undermining its position as a financial hub. Finally, for the first time in nearly a decade, the US has regained the ability to conduct crewed space missions from its own territory—although this is not really a restoration of core competencies as the work is being contracted out and has for an end goal not the enhancement of science or exploration but rather the commercial ventures of orbital tourism, prospecting the Moon and assembling a merchant marine force to fight off any claims-jumpers or extra-planetary activities that the US disapproves of. No one confuses destruction for up-building and no one wants to see their city razed but sometimes such actions are the only means to change

Saturday 4 April 2020

bauhinia × blakeana

In anticipation of a post-colonial Hong Kong with the banner being first hoisted and flown during the transfer ceremony that took place 1 July 1997 onwards, on this day in 1990 the National People’s Congress approved the design for a new flag featuring a stylised five-petal flower of an orchid tree on a China red background to replace the defaced Union Jack on display since UK acquisition in 1843 after the Opium Wars. The design was submitted by a member of the selection committee, local architect Tao Ho (*1936 – †2019), whom unsatisfied with the entrants he had reviewed so far was inspired by a bauhinia blossom he found in his garden for its symmetry and dynamism.

Monday 24 February 2020

urban oases

Via Present /&/ Correct, we really enjoyed the calming and inviting symmetries from on high from photographer Hoi Kin Fung with this aerial study of the now sadly endangered fountains and common areas of public housing estates in Hong Kong. The Housing Authorities’ policy dates back to a devastating fire in 1954 that consumed thousands of makeshift buildings leaving many homeless and prompting the government to intervene. Many of the apartment towers were constructed at that time with prefabricated designs referred to as Old Slab/New Slab, Cruciform and Ziggurat.

Wednesday 9 October 2019

a synallagmatic act

While former the former colonial outposts of Hong Kong and Macau are far better known, the port city of Tianjin (ๅคฉๆดฅๅธ‚, Tientsin) in the northern part of the country on the Gulf of Bohai hosted no fewer than nine concessions (small territories “leased” to foreign powers and because of this contractual nature are not subject to international law) granted at the turn of the last century by the Qing Emperor.
Reasoning that trade and missionary work would destabilise the empire, China tried to restrict such activities to special economic zones but was rather relentlessly pressured to allow in more international businesses. For their militaries’ role in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion (the Yihetuan—Righteous Militia—Uprising, ็พฉๅ’Œๅœ˜้‹ๅ‹•) that sought to overthrow the dynasty and expel foreign consuls, Belgium, Austro-Hungary, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US were given districts in the city along the Pei Ho (Hai River) and at the railhead that linked the north with the capital. These quarters were self-contained and had their own shops, barracks, schools, churches and hospitals. War, shifting allegiances and revolution have overseen the return of all of these holdings to China and outside of diplomatic compounds the majority of remaining concessions with extraterritoriality are cemeteries and monuments of foreign wars maintained by the sending nation—the exceptions being Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and the Khmeimim Air Base in Syria.

Friday 12 July 2019


After the storming of the Legislative Council building on the 1 July anniversary of the 1997 return of the former UK crown colony of Hong Kong to China, protesters have embraced non-violent ways of continuing to express their displeasure and fear that the residents of territory will see liberties erode further.
Taking a cue from the Lennon Wall in Prague, activists have canvased any available space with colourful self-adhering notices, an outlet that’s passive and anonymous enough to keep most individuals out of danger but still one that the authorities cannot easily ignore and now the symbols themselves incite rallies around pro- and anti-government camps. The title refers to the spontaneity of the walls as “blossoming everywhere.” These mosaics, with tens of thousands of missives advocating for freedom and democracy, originate from a central display in Hong Kong five years earlier, erected during the Umbrella Movement, a seventy-nine day occupation of the city to demand transparency in municipal elections—which were perceived to be controlled by Beijing. Protesters carried umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas that the police lobbed at them to break up the crowds.

Saturday 1 July 2017

boundary street

Though arguably the sunset for the British Empire occurred that moment when they could no longer operate unilaterally and the US opposed their seizure of the Suez Canal and the seaways of the Arab Gulf in 1956, those in attendance for the transfer of sovereignty ceremony for Hong Kong on this day in 1997 expressed a palpable sense of the UK’s imperium having come to a close.
Although Hong Kong island and Kowloon peninsula (with that unsupervised exclave within an enclave) were ceded to the UK in perpetuity under the terms of the Treaty of Nanking and only the New Territories around Hong Kong bay were subject to a ninety-nine year lease, but during negotiation between the Chinese government and Prime Minister Thatcher in the mid-eighties, the UK conceded that Hong Kong could continue to be prosperous without the full territorial integrity enjoyed for the last century. And with assurances that the residents’ previous capitalist system and way of life would remain unchanged for the next fifty years. While Hong Kong residents enjoy considerable autonomy and is considered a separate jurisdiction by other nations and international organisations, there is also a sense of incursion and abandonment from its former metropolitan. When the handover occurred, few would have predicted that China would have produced economic centres—bastions of finance and industry—to rival the former colony’s allure. Nonetheless, however, that capital diminished to an extent and Hong Kong, because of its special status, soon became more of a harbour to park wealth and facilitate money-laundering. Thinking strategically, perhaps if Hong Kong had remained unique as an economic powerhouse it was hoped that Hong Kong’s model would become something infectious for the mainland and result in the spread of democracy. With tensions rising on each successive anniversary, it’s becoming less and less clear whether Hong Kong’s culture and politics will be suffered lightly for the next thirty years.

Thursday 6 November 2014

nine dragons

Via the ever-engrossing maker of fine hyper-text products, Kottke, comes an interesting glimpse at the former Chinese enclave of Kowloon Walled-City in the former British exclave of Hong Kong.
Originally purposed as a garrison to oversee salt trade, the property remained nominally under Chinese control when the territory was leased to the British but the matter of administration was disputed, with the compound by turns becoming depopulated and abandoned, and eventually transforming into a den of iniquity and refuge for thieves, beholden to no authority. Prior to its demolition in 1993, Kowloon Wall-City housed an amazing thirty-three thousand residents, living vertically stratified in an urban environment of their own design. Somewhat covertly, just before being razed, a group of architects and civil-engineers from Japan had thoroughly documented and photographed the place, including detailed cross-cut and cut-away schema, illustrating the resourcefulness of the denizens and economy of dimensions.