Monday 26 February 2024

handmaids’ tales (11. 384)

We are turned towards a coupling of sermons, one from a Methodist preacher from 2018 and another more recent commentary from the pulpit of US politics, that highlight the hypocrisy of American fundamentalism and championing the unborn, privileging potential and the least complicated, objectionable over those inconvenient actualities of the poor, unwell, indigent and alien who might not be sufficiently grateful or not present a challenge for the societal arrangement and power structures that put them in this situation to begin with, which—if redressed could take care and truly foster the former as well. The second piece has a more satirical tone but delivers the same message and both are worth reading in full.

Sunday 25 February 2024

11x11 (11. 380)

sure, write stuff for free—but write it for yourself: maintaining one’s creativity in the bleak media sector brickwalling and the loss of journalistic records  

rage-baiting: viral Tik-Tok couple troll influencer culture with such precision most don’t realise it’s satire—via Super Punch  

the paint explainer: a primer on the twenty-seven amendments to the US Constitution—via Memo of the Air 

dark dimensions: there’s a new theory about where dark matter might be hiding  

the sony smartwig: a 2016 patent granted for a connected hairpiece one pairs with their phone for tactile feedback 

the navel on an orange is a mutation that created a conjoined twin: weird information to dispense on a first date—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links 

the riker manoeuvre: small towns with monuments to Star Trek characters—via Marginal Revolution  

selectric funeral: the Boston Typewriter Orchestra hopes to appear in NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert with this submission  

awful yet lawful: US Supreme Court to entertain grievances on social media moderation for deplatforming hateful and dangerous content  

multi-level marketing: a supercut of huckster Donald Trump’s merchandising scams 

you can out-buzzfeed buzzfeed after all: media group in takeover talks with UK’s The Independent—see previously

Monday 19 February 2024

8x8 (11. 364)

moses j robinette: for US Presidents’ Day, researchers find that Lincoln pardoned Biden’s great-great grandfather  

we are a nation in decline, a failing nation: with an incredible lack of empathy or courage, Trump compares the murder of Alexei Navalny to his own legal and political woes—see more  

you never forget your first: the evolution of the holiday that started as a celebration of the birthday of George Washington—see up top

first wives’ club: searching for the likeness of Martha Washington and AI creative chaos

ask not what the drama can do for you, but what you can do for the drama: Real Housewives catchphrases for the American presidents 

stats: scholars access American administrations—Lincoln still number one, with FDR displacing Washington—and Biden ranked in the top fifteen, via Miss Cellania 

non-interventionism: America’s isolationist’s policy on the up-wing—see previviously 

i cannot tell a lie: George Washington’s parents are rather upset he chopped down that cherry tree

aaron burr, sir (11. 363)

Though not exactly a fugitive from justice having been acquitted four times owing to vagaries in constitutional interpretation and the definition of allegiance and insurrection but fleeing from a warrant issued by Thomas Jefferson, the former vice-president of the United States was arrested on this day in 1807 in the now abandoned settlement of Wakefield, Alabama on the bend of the Tombigbee River, spotted by a federal land surveyor, on charges of high-treason. Remanded to nearby Fort Stoddert, Burr was already infamous for his deportment during his final year in office for engaging in a duel with his political rival, former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, fatally wounding the latter but never charged with a crime, despite the illegality of the act, and was en route to Spanish West Florida, seeking new political and entrepreneurial opportunities. Though the extent of his support, domestic and international including ties to Britain, was never firmly established and his designs unclear, Burr (maintaining his innocence throughout) was accused of using his connections to form a breakaway republic in the territory of Texas, some claiming his ambitions extended to Mexico, the entirety of the Louisiana Purchase or the continent, with his backers numbering from fewer than forty individuals to upwards of seven-thousand plantation owners and army officers. The indictment ultimately failed on questions of the definition of an overt act of treason, executive privilege and dependence from the judiciary as well as fabricated, doctored testimony, and Burr went into self-imposed exile to Europe, first with British supporters until expelled for trying to foment revolution in Mexico and then to Napoleon's France where he was similarly rebuffed, before destitute and heavily in debt the disgraced politician returned to New York to practise law, marrying a wealthy socialite widow (divorced four month later for bad business dealings) under an assumed name in order to avoid creditors. The former unincorporated settlement where Burr was apprehended, with no affinity with the novel, other than dint of popularity, was named after the eighteenth century book by Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield: A Tale, Supposed to be written by Himself—a fictitious memoir.


one year ago: Discordianism, the anticipatory capacity of chatbots plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: a memorable All in the Family episode, an AI museum docent, Roxette in China (1995) plus more links to enjoy

three years ago: your daily demon: Amduscias, more links worth the revisit, Winnipeg’s simulated Nazi occupation (1942) plus an update on a nightmare flag

four years ago: naming planets 

five years ago: emoji as admissible evidence, a baroque version of Bad Romance, Brexit illustrations plus IKEA pledges to clean up its act

Sunday 4 February 2024

previously unheard of roofing details (11. 324)

Via Things Magazine, whilst not calling the search over and declaring an end to the project McMansion Hell (previously) has encountered its antithesis in the US state of Alabama’s whimsical Smith Lake Castle perched on the cliff-face of a mountain some one hundred metres over the water’s surface, an artificial reservoir in the northern part of the state created from mining and damming operations, a Stausee, the nearest settlement named in honour of Bremen. Built in 1980, this five-million dollar property, this house has, is everything from its bright interior that invites scrying into its nature, architectural tropes customised to unbelief with trappings of luxury, simultaneously post-modern and theme-park. More to explore at the links above. There are still many levels to ascend before one gets to where God is sitting.

i never did believe in miracles but i’ve a feeling it’s time to try (11. 321)

Swapping out the working-title of Yesterday’s Gone, Fleetwood Mac—during a turbulent time in the band’s career with non-stop touring for their last album, drug use and relationship breakups for many of the members as well as changes for personnel—released on this day in 1978 their eleventh studio album on this day in 1978, an instant worldwide success of a soulful and confessional nature and features some of the group’s most enduring tracks. Teased as singles “Don’t Stop,” “Dreams,” “You Make Loving Fun” and “Go Your Own Way,” all dominated the charts for weeks at a time and taken as an anthology of the members’ anguish and optimism is considered one of the greatest records of all time.

Thursday 1 February 2024

emotional support muppet (11. 312)

The dear child furry red muppet from Sesame Street Elmo did a social media check-in with his substantial number of followers with a seemingly innocent and innocuous question: How is everybody doing today? The responses immediately went viral with over ten thousand comments and a hundred million views, underscoring a deep sense of widespread despair and anxiety and enlisting Elmo as a therapist ready to take it all in, though the trauma dumping was a lot to lay on any single individual. A lot of us are going through a lot, and by Tuesday as replies were still coming in with Elmo and friends giving supportive answers, having read through the overwhelming amount of messages, shared, “Wow! Elmo is glad he asked! Elmo learned that it is important to ask a friend how they are doing. Elmo will check in again soon, friends! Elmo loves you ❤️”

Friday 26 January 2024

12x12 (11. 294)

brownstone: Gotham Gothic rowhouses as playing cards  

wall of eyes: Radiohead spinoff artist Jonny Greenwood’s latest album 

scrabblegram: a form of constrained writing using all one hundred tiles of the game  

blackula: a look at the brave inversion of exploitation cinema  

research purposes: profiles in the pornographers of Wikimedia who image and caption—see also—human sexuality, via Web Curios  

parks & rec: a map of sites in the US funded by FDR’s New Deal programme—via Waxy 

best laptop 2024: readership, AI and the collapse of media outlets  

nullification: Texas governor, alleging the US federal government has failed to protect the country from an immigrant invasion, hints at secession  

the compaynys of beestys & fowlys: revisiting how animal groupings (see previously on the subject of venery) received such colourful names—via the morning news  

schluckbildchen: sixteenth century edible devotionals  

mixtape: Kim Gordon, formerly of Sonic Youth, raps her grocery list in new song Bye Bye 

ephemerama: a growing archive of modern illustrations from circa 1950 to 1975—via Things Magazine


one year ago: more trompe l’oeil paintings, assorted links to revisit plus pie-chart studies

two years ago: morphing logos plus more links to enjoy

three years ago: zorbing, the Council of Trent (1545), Australia Day, more links worth the revisit plus Tubman on the twenty

four years ago: modular, prefab kiosks plus the first television demonstration (1926)

five years ago: the longest government shutdown in US history, architect Sir John Soane plus all the world’s writing systems

Monday 22 January 2024

goody goodwife (11. 286)

Written as an allegory for McCarthyism, the Red Scare during which left-leaning views were repressed and politicians and private individuals were systematically repressed over fear of Soviet infiltration and Communist influence with most accusations ultimately found to be exaggerated if not outright false, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible had its premier performance on this day in 1953 at the Broadway Martin Beck Theatre. Speculating with the opening narrative (following on with each act) that the theocratic society of the Puritans, isolation and unstable conditions contributed to the paranoia and hostility, the play is set in colonial Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Though some liberties were taken to fully limn out the litigants and the sentenced, most of the names and events are dramatised from court records.


one year ago: US Supreme Court rules on Roe v Wade (1973) plus artist Sophie Hollington, AI on fantasy glam rock plus the door gods of the Lunar New Year

two years ago: the new normal (2003), Our Town (1938), AI suggests breakfast cereal plus a 1972 interview with David Bowie

three years ago: the death of Queen Victoria, another MST3K classic plus unnamed implements

four years ago: assorted links to revisit,  the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb corrected, Trump and the tabloids plus an upcoming auspicious date

five years ago: artist Max Guther, a celebration of blank video cassettes plus Apple’s 1984 commercial

Monday 15 January 2024

goodbye grey sky, hello blue (11. 269)

With the basic premise for the series appearing first two years earlier in an unsold pilot that aired in a segment on the anthology show Love, American Style (titled “Love and the Television Set,” and reworked for broadcast as “Love and the Happy Days”), the network’s interest in the project, a sitcom portraying an idealised vision of coming-of-age in the mid-1950s US Midwest that was a nostalgic appeal to the that generation some two decades removed when director George Lucas cast the actor playing teenager Richie Cunningham, Ron Howard, in American Graffiti, and Happy Days debuted on this night in 1974. Whilst moderately well received by audiences during its first two years, waning viewership prompted producers to retool the format and brought the ancillary character of one of Cunningham’s friends, a high school drop-out and greaser Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli (played by Henry Winkler), into one of the main roles. Running for eleven seasons and spawning several spin-offs including Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy and Joannie Love Chachi, the household institution was criticised for its interventions (now regarded as tropes) to revitalise the show, as with the insertion of new characters (lampooned with Poochie on The Simpsons) and franchise attempts above, and for, into its fifth season, idiomatically and literally “jumping the shark” when the Fonz is launched over a live shark on water-skis as an indicator that a story arc has exhausted its core-content and passed its peak by repairing to exaggeration and sensationalism. The series was nonetheless popular for several more years.

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.

Friday 29 December 2023

new echota (11. 222)

Signed on this day in 1835 in the American state of Georgia in the tribal capital, negotiated between a presidential administration favourable of Indian removal—the coerced expulsion had been in the works since the 1820s but John Quincy Adams was a strong proponent of tribal sovereignty—and a minoritarian faction of the Cherokee people, without the involvement or consent of the principal chief nor the national council, the treaty’s terms provided a framework for the annexation of all Indian lands east of the Mississippi watershed and relocate tens of thousands to territories further west, displacing other indigenous populations. Ratified the following March, the treaty became the enforcement and authorisation for the Trail of Tears, the assenting party hoped to secure the best possible terms for their removal after Georgia lawmakers had abolished independent governance of Cherokee lands and severely curtailed civil rights, including due-process, arguably and possibly correctly assumed that it would be taken from them regardless.

Monday 25 December 2023

reductio ab hitlerum (11. 213)

DC attorney and author Mike Godwin who made the eponymous observation in 1990—an inevitable hyperbole that the originator never expected to have so much currency—that the longer an online political discussion grows, invocations of Nazis approaches one hundred percent as commentary of rhetorical excesses. After years of cross-breeding in the wilds of the internet, the maxim framed slightly differently by philosopher Leo Strauss earlier as a fallacy that we would now recognise as whataboutism (playing the Nazi card), Godwin, in deference to Strauss’ construction and in light of recent the recent, revitalised vitriol of Trump rallies—calling his political enemies vermin and poisoning the blood of the nation, detention camps and promises to only be dictator for a day, encourages interlocutors to play the trump card not as a discussion stopper but rather as an alarm and conversation starter.


one year ago: the first Nativity Scene

two years ago: a white Christmas, the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, Gorbachev resigns (1991) plus deciphering the shorthand of Charles Dickens

three years ago: Seasons Greetings plus Voyage, Voyage

four years ago: Celestial Greetings, Unwords of the Year plus AI Christmas carols 

five years ago: Martian rovers

Wednesday 20 December 2023

write-in campaign (11. 198)

In a narrow, historic ruling by the state Supreme Court, justices in Colorado concluded that Donald Trump is barred from the primary ballot, citing the 1868 fourteenth constitutional amendment’s Civil War-era Disqualification Clause (see previously), for engaging in insurrection in encouraging the January Sixth attack on the US Capitol and threatening to overturn the electoral process. The campaign to re-election Trump immediately filed an appeal with the US Supreme Court to overturn the state’s decision. The decision includes a stay through the fifth of January, the deadline for inclusion in the state’s March Super Tuesday initial round of voting, to give Trump the chance to fight the ruling and if challenged by the high court, Trump’s name will be included on the ballot for the Republican primary. Should other states issue similar bans, it could make it difficult to impossible for Trump to secure the GOP nomination, though other Republican candidates are threatening to boycott Colorado altogether. President Biden is not included on the Democratic ballot for New Hampshire’s upcoming primary over a long-simmering dispute within the party about what states and regions should get the first say in determining how nominees will fare in the broader field and proposing to move the prime spot from New England to a more diverse location.

Wednesday 13 December 2023

operation red dawn (11. 187)

Codenamed after the 1984 World War III invasion scenario of the US by a coalition of the Warsaw Pact and Latin American countries—starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze as resistance-fighters—a task force of American soldiers apprehended deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein on this day in 2003, having disappeared and gone into hiding shortly after the US invasion, discovered in his hometown of ad-Dawr near Tikrik, holed up in a foxhole or spider-whole with guns and three-quarters of a million dollars in cash. The site where Hussein was captured, Wolverine 2, is also a reference to the teenaged band of guerrilla fighters of the movie. Put before a special tribunal called by the provisional authority and interim government (which many characterised as a creature of American jurisdiction and a show trial not representative of an independent Iraq) six months later and found guilty of crimes against humanity for genocidal campaigns against the Kurdish and Shiite populations during the war with Iran and subsequently executed at the trial’s conclusion and having exhausted appeals in November of 2006.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

the battle of versailles (11. 145)

Similar to the surprise coup of this other culture rafinรฉe, high stakes challenge from earlier in the same year, the historic fashion show held on this day in 1973 at the famous venue in order to raise funds for its restoration. Organised by the museum and government forum’s curator, the event pitted French designers, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Carin, Marc Bolen and others against Americans Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston and Oscar de la Renta before an invited audience that consisted of artists and celebrities like Andy Warhol, Princess Grace, Marie-Hรฉlรจne de Rothschild, Jane Birkin, Liza Minnelli and Josรฉphine Baker (the last two performing for their respective sides). The show was legendary (more here) and the mostly French spectators were stunned with the American designs and models, a new benchmark set for representation with eleven Black women on the catwalk and shifting the industry in a way that brought respect and legitimacy for the US contribution and the palace which had seen better days was rebuilt.


one year ago: Christopher Isherwood’s I am a Camera plus Word of the Year: Gaslight

two years ago: the duet from Dirty DancingAdvent season plus some COVID comic-relief

three years ago: your daily demon: Furcas, Trump at the kiddie-table, assorted links to revisit plus the Great Bed of Ware

four years ago: a visit to a local museum plus a Thanksgiving pageant

five years ago: barely maps plus a proposed change to the UN Security Council

Saturday 25 November 2023

l’etoile du nord (11. 140)

The state flag of Minnesota, as TYWKIWDBI informs, is undergoing a redesign (see previously here and here and here) to modernise the banner and refine the jumble of tiny symbols emblazoned within, keeping the lodestar but to the regret of many residents forgoing the loon and happily removing the imaging the of the Native American riding off into the sunset with a settler ploughing the field in the foreground. Subject to public input, the redesign will be finalised by the committee from a selection of six finalists by the new year. The clean abstract look reminds me of the flags of the prefectures of Japan—which whilst not uniform, do have a cohesive look to them and wonder if the rest of the American states ought not to follow this example of vexillological reform for more of a corporate branding. The flags of the German states, notwithstanding the coats-of-arms—which can be complicated affairs but follow the rules of heraldry or blocks of patterns, and are like the rule-of-thumb prescribes, recognisable and can be drawn from memory. More at the links above.

Thursday 23 November 2023

kid, have you rehabilitated yourself (11. 133)

Courtesy of Open Culture, we are treated to an animated version of Arlo Guthrie’s counter-culture Thanksgiving tradition—the talking blues spoken-word track for his eponymous 1967 album, a lightly embellished account of the artist’s arrest for littering, illegal dumping, a run-in with the law that jeopardised his suitability for the draft for the Vietnam War, the record protesting US involvement in the conflict. Alice Brock, the titular hostess, bailed Guthrie and his co-accomplice out of jail. Despite violent content and outdated, objectionable language bordering on slurs, no radio station observing the tradition of airing it on the holiday, no fine has ever been issued by the American Federal Communications Commission and with subsequent performances, the artist has changed a few lyrics and lines and inserted some topical asides. The arresting authority, William J “Officer Obei” Obanhein, whom became a life-long friend with Guthrie after the song was released, was a model for Norman Rockwell (previously) appearing as a police figure in his depiction of the inauguration of John F Kennedy and schools de-segregation but not, despite popular and fitting misconceptions, The Runaway, which featured another state trooper at Joe’s Diner in a neighbouring village.

Friday 17 November 2023

the streisand effect (11. 124)

US teens and young adults are not stanning (the term itself taken rather ironically from an Eminem rap song as a portmanteau of stalker and fan about a fictional encounter with an obsessed, ardent admirer whose pleas to get the artist’s attention turn desperate and deadly and this complex and unsavoury form of adulation has been simplified into shorthand for something short of support and mild interest) terrorist and al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Rather this supposed trend of discovery on the escapingly recent past through bin Laden’s Letter to America is a moral panic triangulated with an unrelenting attack on the TikTok platform for its virality and tenuous connections to the Chinese government and the war in Palestine and generational division, and raises serious questions about how we can (selectively) gauge shares and views and how exposure (propelled in part through censorship and timorous outrage) is different from indoctrination.

Saturday 11 November 2023

constructive ambiguity (11. 113)

Credited as the prime negotiation tactic of US diplomat Henry Kissinger, employed both as a way to mask an irreconcilable impasse when sides remain far apart on an issue and as a means for both parties to save face and claim concessions from the other. Postponing true resolution is in retrospect disparaged as papering over systemic and deeper conflicts for its tendency for subsequent eruption for a temporary stay. Examples include the Shanghai Communiquรฉ, considered America’s first expression of the one-China policy during Nixon’s visit and the so called “Six-Point Agreement”—both brokered by Kissinger—and the latter signed on this day in 1973 at the Kilometre 101 of the Cairo-Suez highway. At inroads after the first phase of peace talks to end the Yom Kippur War achieved little progress in de-escalation with the encirclement of the Egyptian army by the Israeli Defence Forces and neither side willing to withdraw. Provision B of the settlement was ambiguously worded so as to incentivise further negotiations to go back to status quo, which both sides choose to interpret as favourable to their cause: Egypt as clear mandate that Israel would surrender its claim on their territory and for Israel a disentanglement of belligerents without the obligation for capitulation.