Tuesday 29 March 2022

vilnius group

Constituted in May 2000, member countries Slovenia, Slovakia (having already undergone its Velvet Divorce in 1993, the date falls on the anniversary of the 1990 compromise that ended the so called Hyphen War, Pomlฤkovรก vojna, started in 1989 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union on what to call themselves and how to share a territory with two identities) Romania, North Macedonia, Lithuania (its capital the namesake), Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Albania to lobby as a group for NATO inclusion, all aspirants acceded to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on this day in 2004 with the exception of Albania, Croatia and North Macedonia (under the Adriatic Charter) joining in 2009 and 2020. The former association closely maps with the composition of the Visegrรกd Group, another former pooled campaign for European Union membership and presently a regional economic cooperative.

Monday 14 March 2022

prvรก slovenskรก republika

Under considerable pressure from Nazi Germany, the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia declared independence and became a client state of the Third Reich on this day in 1939. The next day Germany invaded and occupied Bohemia and Moravia, establishing a protectorate administered from Prague castle, having annexed the bordering Sudetenland in September 1938 following the Munich Agreement. Slovak troops were conscripted into fighting resistance forces in Poland and against Russia, and liberated (having attempted their own revolt and uprising in August 1944) by the advancing Red Army in 1945, the territory was reincorporated into Czechoslovakia. Again securing independence on New Year’s Day 1993 in what’s called the amicable Velvet Divorce, the Republic of Slovakia does not consider itself the successor state to the war time puppet regime but rather the Czechoslovakian government-in-exile of Edvard Beneลก. History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

Wednesday 9 March 2022


catwalk: the home of architect of Vittorio Garatti in Milan—via Messy Nessy Chic  

inktrap: a Japanese typeface design book from 1957—via Present /&/ Correct  

operation danube: the Soviet invasion of Prague (see previously) in pictures—via Everlasting Blรถrt  

east-enders: a retrospective look at women protesting for peace in the 1980s in London  

river antban country club: blindly, an AI tries naming golfing ranges (see previously

carrousel: Logan’s Run plus spin-offs—see previously

bones mccoy: a compilation of Deforest Kelley pronouncing  

not chav: a fresh perspective on London’s council houses

Saturday 19 February 2022


Via the always interesting Web Curios, we are quite impressed with the comprehensive skill demonstrated by a AI museum docent called Digital Curator and its ability to instantly assembly a sizeable exhibition sourced from the collections of institutions in Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to explore the evolution of the depiction of an object, artefact or theme across the ages, styles and movements. Of course one can select from a range of parameters and enter one’s own key terms (however disparate and juxtaposed)—or like this gallery generated for the nonce, ask for a random curation. Try it out and be sure to send us an invitation to your showing.

Friday 7 January 2022

poฤรญtaฤovรก hra

Via Things Magazine, we discover an emulator archive of computer and arcade games created by the Slovak programming community in the late 1980s—available for download in their original versions or as English translations. More at the links above including all exhibits at the National Design Centre in Bratislava.

Saturday 7 August 2021


Due to the above titled iconoclasm movement that left many Catholic churches bereft of their religious symbols and saintly relics from Protestant furore that sought to destroy what was regarded as idolatrous figures (see previously) during the Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Vatican ordered suitable replacements be found and promptly installed.

Thousands of skeletal remains were exhumed from the catacombs of Rome, lavishly dressed and decorated, like this day’s celebrant, Donatus of Mรผnstereifel, reportedly a second century Roman soldier and martyr. Quickly rising through the ranks after enlisting, Donatus (sharing his feast day with several other liked-named saints) was part of the famed XXII. Legion—known as Fulminatrix, the thundering ones, and was assigned to the personal security detail of Marcus Aurelius (previously). Engaged in the Marcomannic Wars on the Danube march, the legion was outnumbered and nearly defeated until saved by a sudden storm that frightened off the Goths and Samaritans. Although the emperor wanted to credit his magician with summoning the storm, Donatus insisted it was his Christian prayer circle and gave thanks to God. The emperor had them all killed. Said to have been entombed in the Catacombs of Saint Agnes, Donatus’ remains were re-discovered by Pope Innocent X in 1646 and translated to the town on the Rhein near Bonn, acclaimed patron and protector from lightning strikes and invoked for a good grape harvest. Popular throughout the Rhineland as well as Donauland, Donatus also enjoyed a cultus in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Luxembourg, Slovakia and Austria.

Monday 2 August 2021

the manhattan project

The phenomenon of nuclear fission only just discovered and prompting the United States to eventually establish its own research programme, with the endorsement of Albert Einstein Hungarian physicist Szilรกrd Leรณ (*1898 - †1964) dispatched his letter to president Franklin D. Roosevelt on this day in 1939. Immediately comprehending the ramifications for energy production or warfare having conducted experiments with less fissile materials and unable to sustain a chain-reaction, Szilard first in mid-July thought to warn Belgium as their colony in the Congo held the largest known reserves of uranium and was fearful that the Germans could persuade them to part with it handily, not realising what they were trading away and had recruited Einstein to speak on his behalf through consular channels as Einstein was friends with the Belgian royal family. With the closing salutation, “Yours truly,” the letter began: 

In the course of the last four months it has been made probable – through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America – that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future. 

Specifically citing the suspension of the sales of uranium from occupied Czechoslovakia and on-going research in German universities, Szilard further conjectured that while it probably was not feasible to miniaturise the components necessary for a nuclear reaction for portable bombs and mobile warheads, he did believe it likely that the process could be accommodated on board a ship that could attack a city from the harbour. FDR (his reply pictured) was delivered this executive summary plus a longer, more detailed explanation of the science underpinning his forewarning.

Friday 11 June 2021

london international surrealist exhibition

Held at the New Burlington Galleries off Savile Row in Mayfair from this day through 4 July 1936, the organising committee hosted works from several popular and influential artists of the movement, including Alexander Calder, S. H. Tauber-arp, Victor Brauner, Gala and Salvador Dalรญ, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Mirรณ, Pablo Picasso, Len Lye, Renรฉ Magritte and Paul Klee and attracted a thousand visitors per day with Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, the US, the UK, New Zealand, Italy, Roumania and Czecho-Slovakia represented and distinguished presenters delivering a series of lectures to large assembled audiences. Salvador Dalรญ wore a diving helmet whilst giving his seminar on fantรดmes paranoรฏaques authentiques and nearly suffocated at the dais and had to be rescued by poet David Gascoyne with a spanner.

Monday 31 May 2021

my soul doth magnify the lord

Celebrated as a minor feast day in the Catholic and Anglican rite, the Visitation marks the episode in the Life of the Virgin when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, leaves Nazareth to see her cousin Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist and help with when she went into labour. The traditional day of 2 July is retained in Slovakia and Germany (Mariรค Heimsuchnung) for historical reasons and associated pilgrimmage opportunities. Upon their initial encounter, Elizabeth and John in the womb experience and inflowing of divine grace—prompting Elizabeth to praise her cousin, the experience also new to her—for her faith, forming some of the rubric of the Hail Mary, to which Mary gives in response what’s now referred to as the Magnficat, the canticle that is taken from the exchange as recorded by the Gospel of Luke.

Monday 26 October 2020


letterpress: an appreciation for Peter Pauper publishing  

no retiring wall flower: a fascinating look at the hydraulics of star fish  

geologic record: a gallery of some of the stranger amber fossils found  

truly toastmasters: learn effective communication techniques from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology lecture honed over four decades  

jindล™ich halabala: rediscovering the classic furniture and signature style of a Czechoslovakia designer  

via di propaganda: the history of the street in Rome speaks to design and dogma  

hot off the presses: Distributed Proofreaders celebrates the uploading of its forty-thousandth volume

Friday 16 October 2020

valerie and her week of wonders

Debuting in theatres on this day in 1970, the cinematic adaptation by director Jaromil Jireลก of the eponymous 1935 novel Valerie a tรฝden divลฏ from Czechoslovakian surrealist writer Vรญtฤ›zslav Nezval, the disorientating horror film is considered a pioneering part of the scene’s New Wave movement (see also). This exploration sexual awakenings through a vampiric lens blends in elements of classic folklore structure, including a talisman in the form of heirloom earrings, stolen, bartered-over and ultimately swallowed for protection. Below is the movie in its entirety dubbed into Italian and with English subtitles.

Thursday 28 May 2020


According to the director’s original vision, the iconic and arresting prop from the 1968 cinematic adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey and a character in its own right (see previously) was to be a transparent hulking block of acrylic.  After having the two tonne megalith delivered—fulfilled by Stanley Plastics, a speciality company near Portsmouth, it failed the camera test and Stanley Kubrick went with the matte black basalt structure that we’re familiar with.
The Tycho Magnetic Anomaly has an exacting ratio of 1 : 4 : 9—1 : 2² : 3³, suggesting that the sequence extends out beyond our three spatial dimensions. Although the transparent version was mothballed and gathered dust in a studio backlot for years, the rejected prop did see a second career in the hands of Slovakian artist Arthur Fleischmann (*1896 – †1990), who was generally besotted with modern materials like Lucite and Perspex (also creating the UK Pavilion for Expo70) carved it into a sparkling “Crystal Crown,” unveiled by the Queen herself on the occasion of her Silver Jubilee. The commemorative artefact can still be visited at St. Katherine Docks just downstream of the Tower of London.  More to explore at Amusing Planet at the link above.

Monday 13 April 2020


The second day of Bright Week—the Octave of Easter, is a public holiday in Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia as an extension of Eastertide and events sometimes traditionally include egg races and other activities to use up, put away the festoonery—a pretty practical idea, which in parts of central Europe, including parts of Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary and Ukraine they had down to a science, once at least though the practise seems to be less and less common.
Called in Polish above and Oblรฉvaฤka in Czech, “Wet Monday” (or simply Dyngus Day by diaspora) was chance for adolescents to throw water on each other and flirtatiously beat each other with willow branches that made up traditional egg trees and decorative boughs. With suspected roots in pagan fertility ceremonies and the welcoming of spring countered by Christian missionaries trying impose their religion on the natives, linguists conjecture that ล›migus refers to baptism—an involuntary or unwanted one at that, going all the way back to the conversion of Mieszko I, the Duke of the Poles in 966 (coincidentally also on this day)—and Dingnis—from the old German for ransom—refers to the tribute that one can pay in leftover eggs to avoid getting doused or whipped.

Sunday 17 November 2019

sametovรก revoluce

Commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of what had been inscribed on calendars across the globe as International Students’ Day, when in 1939 Nazi forces stormed the University of Prague and arrested over twelve hundred pupils and professors, the series of demonstrations that precipitated from this gathering, massing to a half a million people, turned against the Communist ruling party of Czechoslovakia.
The first large-scale and enduring rally since the Prague Spring, the peaceful Velvet Revolution, riot police often rebuffed with flowers and the spirit of change being something quite infectious and not limited to the metropolitan areas, the name for the movement being selected by the dissident students’ translator Rita Klรญmovรก (*1931 – †1993) and later the country’s last ambassador to the US before splitting into its constituent republics, and continued through the of the year, unseated the ruling Old Guard, opened the borders and brought about the first democratic elections held in the country since 1946 with rebel poet and human rights activist Vรกclav Havel (*1936 – †2011) voted into the office of president on 29 December.

Thursday 3 October 2019

prager botschaft

To prevent further exodus to the West Germany via Prague, the government of East Germany closed its border with Czechoslovakia on this day in 1989 after some seven-thousand political refugees had camped out on the grounds of the West German Embassy and were granted safe passage on special trains bound for the BDR. The Velvet Revolution is fomenting at the same time as unrest in Berlin, Leipzig and elsewhere ensues and once the border is reopened a month later, another group of East German asylum-seekers cross into Hof, a West German frontier town.

Monday 20 August 2018

praลพskรก jar

Fifty years ago, the reform efforts of the government of Czechoslovakia were brought to a standstill and reversed with the invasion of the Soviet Union with the materiel support from three other Warsaw Pact nations, with some two-hundred thousand troops and two thousand tanks and the arrest of First Secretary Alexander Dubฤek, with many more fleeing into exile, who spearheaded the movement known as the Prague Spring.
Over time, a half a million troops would occupy the country, advancing from beyond the country’s borders after an ostensibly successful round of negotiations concluded earlier in the month, coming an unexpected shock to the people of Czechoslovakia who believed that their interpretation of socialism, a mixed system that held protections for individual freedoms of expression might be the way forward. The Soviets saw the push for political liberalisation and move towards decentralisation of economic and foreign policy as a threat to the Eastern Bloc’s cohesion as a unified front against bourgeois values.

Tuesday 24 April 2018

the firemen’s ball

To celebrate the long career of the recently departed Czech screenwriter, director and professor Miloลก Forman Coudal Partners refers us to a gallery of international movie posters promoting his earliest works.
Though perhaps better known for his later contributions of the award-winning One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Hair, Amadeus, The People vs Larry Flint and Man on the Moon (the Andy Kaufman biopic), Forman’s final 1967 film in his native Czechoslovakia before self-imposed exile portrays a series of disasters that befalls a small town with endemic corruption and the inadvertent outcomes of the best-intentioned plans. Recognised as a cutting satire of Eastern European politics, the film was banned in perpetuity after the Warsaw Pact invasion of the country (a countermeasure to the Prague Spring of reformist Alexander Dubฤek) in the night of 20 August 1968.

Saturday 26 March 2016

pneumatic danube

The much vaunted hyper-loop looks like it have its ground-breaking ceremony soon, but not shuttling passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco, in California as originally envisioned, but on a circuit along the Danube (Donau) from Koลกice to Bratislava, Slovakia, to Vienna (Wien) and on to Budapest, Hungary. Driving, the journey would take around eight hours, but passengers aboard the hyper-loop trains would complete this route in just under an hour. That would be a pretty keen way to explore the region and be home again in the evening.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

ausreise oder hiobsbotschaft

As Germany and Europe prepare for a series of summits to address the current refugee crisis, this day, twenty-five years ago, saw the resolution of another asylum-campaign, which seems to have a vastly different character from contemporary migration but there may be more similarities than first meet the eye. The Embassy of West German in Prague (das Prager Botschaft), housed in the Baroque Palace Lobkowicz, was the refuge of thousands of East Germans in flight from the oppressive regime—who managed to travel to Czechoslovakia and scale the walls to camp in the compound’s garden.
Overcrowding was becoming problematic as embassy staff tried to care for hundreds seeking sanctuary and climbing the barriers on a daily basis, and the West German government covertly (so as not to appear as a bad host) negotiated with the governments of East Germany and the Soviet Union to work out a deal that eventually granted the refugees safe passage to West Germany, announced by BDR Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher from the balcony of the palace on the evening of 30 September to the encampment below. This first chink in the Iron Curtain was followed and overshadowed by other momentous events in the later in the Autumn, but this stand against the DDR regime is commemorated with a metal sculpture of an East German Trabant by local artist David ฤŒernรฝ on the embassy grounds.