Saturday 30 December 2023

mcmxcvi (11. 227)

Due to the periodic nature of the Gregorian calendar, 2024 corresponds precisely to the year 1996, twenty-eight years ago. We can speculate further what historic events from that year might resonate with the coming one, like in January, with the re-election of Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority, the February peaceful transition of power in Haiti and a ceasefire in Sarajevo, March’s intimidating military exercises conducted by China along the coast of Taiwan, April’s Hutu genocide in Burundi, the arrest of the Unabomber, Israeli’s Operation Grapes of Wrath as retaliation for terrorist attacks perpetrated by Lebanon, May’s Port Arthur massacre which prompts Australia to introduce a nationwide ban on gun-ownership, the truce in Chechnya or the election of Benjamin Netanyahu, July’s cloning of Dolly the Sheep, the re-election of Boris Yeltsin or the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta Georgia, August’s first three-parent human baby, November’s re-election of US president Clinton. We also have the choice of recycling the calendars from 1968 or 1940.

Sunday 25 June 2023

l’oiseau de feu (10. 834)

The premiere work for then virtually unknown composer Igor Stravinsky debuted on this day in 1910 at the Palais Garnier, performed by the company Ballet Russe to critical acclaim, immediately solidifying him through this collaboration with choreographer Michel Fokine as an international figure in operatic productions and orchestral virtuoso. Staging, set and costume designs were quite phenomenal but the music alone was enough to propel Stravinsky’s career, The Firebird (see previously) tells the hero’s journey of protagonist Prince Ivan, based on the folktale, who becomes lost during a hunting expedition, loses his party and strays into the enchanted realm of the malevolent wizard Koschei the Immortal, kept deathless by keeping his soul in a pin in a magic egg. Ivan captures but spares the life of the Firebird, who is both boon and curse for her captors, who offers a feather as a token of gratitude to summon her aid in a moment of dire need, which comes when the prince confronts the wizard.

ะฒะพััั‚ะฐะฝะธะต (10. 832)

More than half-way to the capital under lockdown and preparing for a siege with the whereabouts of Putin unknown, a negotiated truce brokered by Alexander Lukashenko at the behest of the Russian president saw Wagner group boss call off the march to Moscow with blanket amnesty for the mercenaries who participated in the insurrection (with the option of enlisting in the regular army) and the boss Yevgeny Prigozhin’s exile to Belarus, facing no criminal charges. Praised for his efforts in preserving peace within the federation, Lukashenko can possibly use the de-escalation as a bargaining chip to forestall the its planned annexation by Russia and prevent deployment of Belarusian armed forces in the Ukrainian occupation and the abrupt turn of events leaves more unresolved, particularly the standing of Russian leadership, brought to the brink by the tantalising promise of rebellion.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit 

two years ago: jimoto—local favour, weird vintage McDonald’s commercials plus word jazz on colours 

three years ago: more on exonyms and demonyms, Rhode Island’s name gets less racist, Blade Runner (1982), butterfly spotting plus returning the Lamentation of Christ 

four years ago: the first Rainbow Flag flown (1978) plus Dutch bicycle culture 

five years ago: cutting off Qatar, a trip to Urspringen plus the adventuresome Piccard brothers

Saturday 24 June 2023

ะผัั‚ะตะถ (10. 830)

Mercenary forces of the Wagner group have mutinied following escalating tensions between the organisation’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and the Russian Ministry of Defence, with allegations that corruption and incompetency has squandered initial successes in the invasion of Ukraine and talk of the MoD nationalising these soldiers-of-fortune after rather unrestrained criticism which dismissed Russian pretexts for occupation as only benefiting the parasitical elites who depend on the grace and favour of Putin to retain their standing. Wagner troops captured Rostov-on-Don, the command and control centre in the occupied Donbas region and have crossed over into Russian-proper territory, reportedly marching onward to Moscow. Characterising the oligarchs and the extreme inequality between the comfortably oblivious and those families sending their sons to fight and die for an illegal and pointless war as a prelude to the social unrest that sparked the 1917 revolution against the aristocracy, Prigozhin apparently brought the wrath of the Russian army on one unit, firing missiles at a camp of Wagner troops—though this open provocation quickly transformed into a rallying point with a column advancing first to the southern city of Voronezh. In response, Chechnya has mobilised its military against the attempted coup in order to “preserve Russian unity” and the Kremlin has increased security. Events are unfolding at an unprecedented speed and some voices are pronouncing the beginnings of if not a civil war then surely a severe blow to Putin’s hold on power.

Thursday 8 December 2022

8x8 (10. 372)

low-poly: needlepoint designs based on vintage video games—see previously 

ghost mall: visiting a virtually abandoned yet very much open for business shopping centre in New Jersey 

zenosyne: from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (previously here and here)—that feeling that time is getting faster  

digichromatography: a survey of the seconds, the raw files, of Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky’s documentation of the Russian Empire is a study in the development of colour photography—see also  

the pandoravirus: the melting Siberian permafrost is reviving long dormant but viable germs  

q-zone: a racing timeline of the most popular social media from 2003 to the present  

์‚ด: South Korea will abandon traditional age-reckoning in favour of an international recognised counting method beginning next year 

akka-arrh: Atari reprises a 1982 arcade game that was never released commercially as it proved too challenging for test-audiences

Wednesday 31 August 2022

gefahren warten nur auf jene, die nicht auf das leben reagieren (10. 099)

Hailed as a visionary abroad but with a bit more complicated legacy domestically, the former Soviet leader whose political quiver included perestroika and glasnost has passed away, aged 91 after a protracted bout of sickness, effectively ending the Cold War by trying to salvage what was beyond saving. His decisions not to use force to hold power or prevent the toppling of the Berlin Wall or against waves of declarations of independence ushered in a peaceful revolution, though Gorbachev survived long enough to see those reforms undermined and undone by the invasion of Ukraine and attempts to reestablish Russia’s former sphere of influence. Thank you Mister Gorbachev–we hope your outlook for the world ultimately holds and we regain our senses.

Tuesday 1 February 2022

we come not as enemies but as allies

Following the announcement from their respective presidents that Russia will stop targeting the United States and her allies with nuclear weapons and the US responded with the same pledge plus a concerted effort on both sides to reduce the stockpile of warheads down to no more than twenty-five hundred, Boris Yeltsin meets with his American counterpart, George H. W. Bush, on this day in 1992 at the country retreat of Camp David to make the formal declaration that the Cold War was over—expanding on an announcement first made during the Malta Summit in 1989 between Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev just weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Monday 31 January 2022


As part of the US participation in the International Geophysical Year, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory launched its first successful satellite, Explorer I following the Soviet Union’s Sputnik I and Sputnik II, into orbit and beginning the Space Race with America’s entry-on this day in 1958. Remaining aloft and functional for some one hundred and eleven days, the payload consisted of various sensors and detectors to measure cosmic radiation and micrometeor impact and was instrumentation array was designed and installed under the direction of astrophysics professor James Van Allen of the University of Iowa. Explorer I discovered the zone of energetic particles enveloping the Earth that forms as a result of solar wind caught and shaped by the planet’s magentosphere and Van Allen’s namesake belts which protect the atmosphere from obliteration by solar flares.

Saturday 22 January 2022

the new normal

On this day in 2003, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fielded questions during a press conference, including Charles Groenhuijsen a Dutch reporter from Nederlandse Publieke Omroep, who spoke to the mood of reservation and doubt in the coalition of the willing: “But now the European allies. If you look at—for example—France, Germany also a lot of people in my own country … [I]t seems that a lot of Europeans rather give the benefit of the doubt to Saddam Hussein than Geroge Bush. These are US allies. What do you make of that?” After some prevarication, Rumsfeld replied, “Now you’re thinking of Europe as German and France. I don’t—I think that’s old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the centre of gravity is shifting to the East.” Heralded later as the German Worte des Jahres—altes Europa—it was embraced by many politicians as a badge of integrity for their well-founded skepticism and reluctance in contrast to what some regarded as opportunistic realignment for New Europe.

Saturday 25 December 2021

fait accompli

Having persuaded the Supreme Soviet to vest within the office of president (a different entity altogether from the Presidium whose chair was sometimes conflated by Western governments and press) all executive powers for an amount of time not to exceed two years—like the Roman tradition of appointing a limited-tenure dictator, during this time of transition and upheaval, incumbent just since mid-March of 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev, his position strengthened by withstanding the failed August Coup but unable to reverse the party’s decision for dissolution, announced his resignation as commander-in-chief at the Kremlin before television cameras broadcasting internationally on this day in 1991. Expressing remorse for the breakup of the union, Gorbachev at the same time welcomed the reforms of a market-economy, greater political and religious freedoms as well as the end of the Cold War and its attendant brinksmanship, the Supreme Soviet the next day voted itself out of existence, allowing the Soviet Union to expire at midnight 31 December (Julian Christmas of course falling on the seventh of January on the Gregorian calendar but not reinstated as a holiday until 1992, with New Year’s the big celebration—see also) with the Russian Federation the successor to all Soviet Institutions.

Monday 15 November 2021

nec temere, nec timide

With the above motto meaning “Neither rather nor timidly,” the Free City of Danzig / Wolne Miasto Gdaล„sk was established on this day in 1920 under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles following the peace of World War I. Created as separate from the post-war German republic (populated with the overwhelming number of residence and sandwiched in between Kรถnigsburg, Kaliningrad) and the Republic of Poland as a League of Nations protectorate—with limited self-autonomy and bound with Polish customs, the city council was infiltrated by 1936 with representatives pushing to rejoin Germany, having been granted independence once under Napoleon Bonaparte and recaptured by Prussia after the Battle of Leipzig in 1814—the most recent declaration of self-determination being a compromise between territory was annexed as Reichsgau Danzig-WestpreuรŸen, mirroring status quo ante bellum, to exist as a contested land until the end of conflict.

Saturday 13 November 2021


uap: an interview with former US DoD head of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Programme says that “Tic-Tac” craft have been observed by the navy for decades  

dutch angle: dramatic tilt in cinematography  

comrade kiev: an exquisitely curated collection of posters from Soviet times  

p68/dulcimer: a prototype of the iPod—which celebrated its twentieth birthday last month—via Twisted Sifter  

subjective distance: more on the ordering of adjectives and the unwritten rules of language—see previously 

quesos y besos: a soft goat cheese from Spain beat out many contenders to be awarded the top prize for the annual World Cheese Awards  

shoulder-surfing: a patent to discourage lookie-loos with a screen blur for those without the proper headgear and glasses—via Slashdot 

discopter: Alexander Weygers patented the design for the first UFO flying vehicle decades before the craze in sightings and visitations

Thursday 11 November 2021


silent haitch: the voicing of this letter is “still a significant shibboleth”—a look at h based on modern usage and notes on wh by Alfred Leach  

kinship and pedigree: genealogical mapping shows historic spread and retreat of surnames for British Isles and much of Europe 

rural free delivery: a superb, thematic collection of vintage picture postcards—via Things Magazine  

zeta reticulans: a tarot deck from Miguel Romero features the history of UFOlogy  

ั‚ะต ัะฐะผั‹ะต ะบะฐั€ั‚ะธะฝะบะธ: collection of avant-garde children’s book illustrations from the USSR 

retromod: Hyundai brings back its 1986 luxury Grandeur with a fully electric powertrain 

trebuchet: another start-up envisions flinging satellites into space via spinning centrifuge—see previously  

get lost losers: a rock band flotilla entertaining the cargo crews stuck in the seemingly insurmountable backlog waiting to unload containers at the ports of Los Angeles

agent of chaos: agnotology, the study of deliberate spreading of confusion

Wednesday 6 October 2021

a creature unknown to science

A half a century ago, Soviet television screens were introduced to a stowaway transported in a box of citrus fruits to an Eastern Bloc Anytown and leaves an outsized legacy today. Cheburashka (see previously) in several incarnations, originally created by the author Eduard Uspensky—sort of a Russian Dr Seuss, was not only a vehicle for imparting the universal values of resilience and ostracisation but also a means to criticise the more orthodox and demanding elements in Soviet culture and politics. Much more at the links above.

Tuesday 5 October 2021


heir apparent: after over a century, Russia hosts a royal wedding for a member of the Romanoff family

9m²:a luxury apartment in Tokyo that makes very efficient use of space—at more than twice the size, my work-week flat feels rather sprawling and and ilunder-utilised 

pandora’s box: a trove of leaked records, following on from the Panama papers shows how the wealthy and connected hide their riches 

faux mcdoo: a fake McDonald’s in Los Angeles for filming purposes, via Messy Nessy Chic 

tx-33: new lows attained in gerrymandering and voter-marginalisation 

full circle: a retrospective exhibit of Judy Chicago  

deuce court: a demonstration of medieval tennis  

ะฒั‹ะทะพะฒ: cast joins crew aboard ISS to film scenes of the first movie shot in microgravity

Wednesday 29 September 2021


kรกdรกr cube: a practical, mass-produced boxy house (Magyar ร‰pรญtล‘mลฑvรฉszet) from Communist-era Hungary is staging a comeback 

the new english canaan: revisiting the banned publication that mocked American’s puritanical ways—see also  

you’ve got a habit of leaving: the first single from the unreleased David Bowie album, coming in January

merfolk and melusine: tritons and mermaids entertained by enlightened minds 

facebookland: the social media giant ought to be treated like the autocratic rogue state it is—via Waxy 

roll over beethoven: a team of musicologists using artificial intelligence complete the composer’s unfinished tenth symphony—to premier in Bonn next month, via Kottke  

ะณะพัั‚ะธะฝั‹ะน ะดะฒะพั€: a rotating arch for a shopping arcade in St. Petersburg—via Pasa Bon!

Sunday 19 September 2021

ะทะพะฝะด 5

Despite being taken previously over a communications test conducted in March 1961 with the mannequin Ivan Ivanovich at the helm and despite gaffes and giveaways included in the tape-recording on board the space craft that featured among other mission protocols a military choir performing and a cosmonaut narrating preparing borscht—activities neither suited for the narrow confines of a capsule nor an environment of microgravity intended to signal to any eavesdropping parties that this wasn’t actually a crewed exercise, the Americans once again on this day in 1968 misinterpreted a practical joke by the USSR’s space programme.

While originally slated to carry human members, the Zond 5 mission, authorities fearful of the bad publicity over another accident, carried aloft various biological samples for a lunar flyby, including wildflowers, fruit fly eggs and a pair of tortoises to see if they could survive circling the Moon. As a consolation for the cosmonauts that weren’t able to accompany this living payload, a simple relay was rigged up by the radio engineers to make it appear that they were transmitting from the probe, reading off telemetry and even proposing landing. US intelligence of course intercepted these shenanigans, which caused considerable international consternation and geopolitical turmoil with the Americans afraid that the Soviets would beat them to this final, arbitrary end-goal of the Space Race, to the discount of Russia’s other technical achievements and important firsts—all except the last Apollo missions. Whether meant for a wider audience or not, cosmonauts throwing their voices was characterised as a hoax and may have informed America’s own conspiracy regarding the authenticity of the Moon landing. Concluding after a single orbit, none of the biological specimens were worse off for the trip.

Tuesday 7 September 2021

spoiler candidate

Via Super Punch, we are directed to reporting from the Guardian on opposition candidate standing for the Duma from St. Petersburg, Boris Vishnevsky, is facing two other contenders running with not only nearly identical names (they’ve preserved their patronymics), his challengers having changed their names for the ballot, but who have altered their appearance physically and digitally to look like the candidate. It is hoped that these political doppelgรคngers (the real Boris bothered to wear a necktie) will split the vote and allow the incumbent to retain his seat. It’s the next level of misnegation, obfuscation to “Vote No on Yes to the Proposition Rescinding the Ban on Anti-Mask Mandates” and would hate to give America’s GOP this tactic for their arsenal.

Monday 6 September 2021

second city

Known as Leningrad since 1924 (following the death of its namesake), the sixteenth century Russian port town on the Neva and erstwhile capital had its original name, St. Petersburg, restored on this day in 1991 by the result of a citywide referendum held that June. Through the changes, locals referred to their home simply as ะŸะธั‚ะตั€ for short and the oblast colocated there still bears the former designation of ะ›ะตะฝะธะฝะณั€ะฐ́ะดัะบะฐั.

Friday 3 September 2021


Via Web Curios, we thoroughly enjoyed this scrolly-telling celebration of Ukrainian independence, having just recently observed its thirtieth anniversary, adopted by parliament on 24 August 1991 in the aftermath of the failed coup when party hardliners tried to reassert control and reverse the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev, which not only presents the country’s history but moreover lauds its accomplishments, culture, attractions and other highlights with splashy call-outs and a touch of Doge-level mawkishness that compels one to read through to the end.