Saturday 4 November 2023

wait a second (11. 096)

Whilst the leap second (previously), by dint of their frequent insertion, can cause havoc for computer systems, meant to compensate for the drift between the drift between official Earth time and variations in the planet’s orbit around the Sun, the suggestion for their replacement with a higher order of magnitude every half-century by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) by a Leap Minute has been met with opposition. The Russian delegation, according to the Bureau international des poids et mesures, is opposed as its satellite global positioning system, GLONASS, competing with the US-standard GPS won’t be fully synchronised until 2040 as well as the Vatican, which has concerned itself with accuracy in time-keeping since its inception and the advent of the Gregorian Calendar, as well as the technology community, citing the annoyance of these drills (the difference between Atomic Time and Universal Coordinated Time), a longer gap in resetting the clocks could result could result in a lapsed skill set and the subsequent experiential debt could lead to short-sighted problems that contributed to the y2k problem.

Wednesday 11 October 2023

archiatra pontifico (11. 051)

Via our faithful chronicler, we learn that this day in 1958, sharing the anniversary with quite a few other events of pith and circumstance, that our friend Pope Pius XII (see previously) suffered a posthumous indignity at the hands the hands of his personal physician Riccardo Galeazzi-Lisi, a trained optometrist later stripped of his office and medical license and banished from the Vatican for life for leaking photos of the dying pontiff to the magazine Paris Match. Claiming that Pius expressed a wish to be not embalmed and his organs removed in the usual fashion but rather preserved after the model of Christ, Galezzi-Lisi concocted a special treatment of oils and resins (plus wrapping the body in cellophane) claimed would make the papal corpse incorruptible. The unseasonable heat of that early autumn, however, undermined any effectiveness that treatment might have had and the body decomposed rapidly, curtailing the viewing of the faithful and necessitating the regular relief of the Swiss Guard standing watch, overcome by the stench. For the remainder of the procession and funeral service, the casket was closed and sealed and may have exploded from the pressure of gaseous discharge as a result of the accelerated autolysis and putrefaction, thankfully not witnessed by the public.


one year ago: Barbarella (1968), ancient animation, a Coming Out simulator plus a declassified map of nuclear targets

two years ago: the micronation of Rose Island

three years ago: an appreciation of the Smiley Face, a system for coding emotional facial reactionsSt Gummarus plus the debut of Saturday Night Live (1975)

four years ago: more on the moons of Jupiter plus the better letterer’s corner

five years ago: pรคntsdrunk,  more on Coming Out Day, the technical mastery of chindลgu, a moon moon plus The Secret Life of Plants

Monday 2 October 2023

via xx settembre (11. 035)

The decisive battle marking the concession of Pope Pius IX and the unification of the Italian peninsula with the capture of Rome and the dissolution of the Papal States, in existence since 756, donations of various Frankish rulers to the Church over the centuries occurring a couple of weeks prior, the Italian prime minister organised a plebiscite to legitimise the annexation of Rome as the newly formed kingdom’s capital on this day in 1870. An overwhelming majority of eligible voters assented to being incorporated, with the pontiff left jurisdiction to the area surrounded by the ninth century enclosures built on the orders of Pope Leo IV to protect St Peter’s Basilica, but Pius protested, calling himself captivus vaticani. His predecessors took on the mantle until the matter—whether the pope was a subject of the Kingdom of Italy or whether the Holy See was an independent body without territory—was resolved by the Lateran Treaty of 1929, with no diplomatic relations existing between Italy and the Vatican prior and Italian royals and supporters of the Risorgimento summarily excommunicated. 


one year ago: assorted links to revisit, more on snail compasses plus Gulf War II (2001)

two years ago: Peanuts remixed, more on US exceptionalism plus a classic from Musical Youth

three years ago: Colonialism and Abstract Art (1936), more musical mashup annuals from Hood Internet,  Trump contracts the COVID-19 virus plus the caretaker presidency of Edith Wilson

four years ago: more links worth revisiting 

five years ago: the fight to save a remnant of ancient forest in Germany plus thumbnails of terrain

Thursday 22 June 2023

sparizione di emaneula orlandi (10. 827)

Disappearing seemingly without a trace, the Vatican teen (her father was a lay employee of the papal household and the family had free run of the grounds) who mysteriously vanished on this day in 1983 whilst returning home from music lessons, a choral member and flutist of the Pontificium Institutum musicae sacrae, is currently under investigation by the Holy See, which after nearly four-decades of near silence on the matter has directed a re-examination of testimony and reports into the case of Emaneula Orlandi—thanks to relentless petitioning by her older sibling Pietro to find out the truth, at the behest of Pope Francis. Rumours arose, mostly sourced from unverifiable accounts, that Orlandi was a runaway, lured into a trafficking racket with exorbitant commissions for selling Avon products and adopting the persona of Barbarella, transmuting into conspiracy theories including that she was being held in ransom as leverage for the release of would-be assassin of John Paul II, as an East German Stasi operation under orders of the KBG, kidnapped in the wake of the Vatican Bank collapse and money laundering scandal in order to force the payments of restitutions, and is hidden in London mental hospital, kept as collateral for nearly forty years. The probe is currently under investigation by the public prosecutor’s office in Rome and has been the subject of a recent Nexflix documentary.

Monday 15 May 2023

rerum novarum (10. 743)

Rejecting both socialism and unchecked capitalism, with support for private property as well upholding labour rights and the formation of unions, Pope Leo XIII (advocate for workers as well as a flask-carrying aficionado and spokesman for Vin Mariani) this day in 1891 issued the above encyclical—from its incipit (On Revolutionary Change in the World) with the subtitle Rights and Duties of Capital and Labour—which is considered a foundation text of Catholic social teaching and the movement for workers’ justice. Seeing socialist regimes as an encroachment on the church’s role of imparting morality, rather than an ideological system administered by the the state, Leo warned that the seizure of individual possessions and transferring ownership to the community failed to redress the plight of the working-classes and moreover mandating a contract between employees and employers, honest work for honest pay and a dignified livelihood that contributes to class harmony as well as enshrining that jobs be free from unsafe and immoral tasks endangering body soul, privileging the poor over those enjoying a large bounty of temporal blessings.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

cathedral of the pope (10. 286)

While outside of Vatican City proper, the archbasilica and other properties of the Holy See are accorded extraterritorial status within Italy pursuant to the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the Major Papal, Patriarchal and Roman Archbasilica Cathedral of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in Lateran, Mother and Head of All Churches in Rome and in the World (Archibasilica Sanctissimi Salvatoris ac Sanctorum Ioannis Baptistae et Ioannis Evangelistae ad Lateranum) is fรชted on this day on the anniversary of its dedication in a tradition dating back to at least the twelfth century. The oldest public Christian church in the Western world, St John in Lateran, Emperor Constantine I donated the edifice to Pope Sylvester I (previously a palace for the empress) in 324, and in addition to many works of art, papal tombs also house the Scala Sancta, the Holy Steps, relics that comprised the staircase of the praetorium of Pontius Pilate and sanctified with the footsteps of Jesus, retrieved by Constantine’s mother Helen. In a tradition going back to sixteenth century and the reign of Henry IV of France, Emmanuel Macron is ex officio the first and only canon of the archbasilica.

Monday 22 August 2022

7x7 (10. 078)

ultima generazione: climate activist glue themselves to the Vatican’s Laocoรถn  

little gold statue special: MST3K’s take on the 1995 Oscars 

larder and pantry: photographer Richard Johnson’s compelling series on root cellars–via Everlasting Blรถrt 

a garbler of spices: an eighteenth century specialised position 

canting arms: heraldic rebuses to puzzle 

biblioclasm: to combat book bans and censorship, the Brooklyn Public Library is issuing free cards to all US adolescents  

yangtze: drought in China reveals ancient statues of the Buddha normally submerged–see also here and here–and is also causing shortages in hydroelectric production

Thursday 4 August 2022

7x7 (10. 037)

@artbutsports: juxtaposing scenes from professional sports with classical painting  

nearly right: an intriguing Chinese language t-shirt circulating on social media  

sommelier: a Rube Goldbergesque contraption that we would be far too impatient for  

flying down to rio: a profile of movie star Lolita Dolores Martรญnez Asunsolo Lรณpez Negrette 

requiescat in pace: an obituary of antipope Michael, who believed that there had been no legitimate pontiff since Vatican II  

wikenigma: compiling a compendium of unknowns—via Pasa Bon!  

pop cars: visit an exhibit of Andy Warhol’s colourful automobiles alongside the classic models that inspired them

Wednesday 6 April 2022

stanze della segnatura

Born on this day (or possibly 28 March) in 1483 (†1520—on the same day), the artist mononymously known as Raphael—Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino—would go on to become one of the trinity of Italian High Renaissance art alongside Leonardo and Michelangelo, prolific despite his relatively early death, working in Umbria, Florence and finally in Rome under the patronage of two popes, the majority of his creations on display in the Vatican. Reflecting his Neoplatonic ideals, arguably his best known, commercially duplicated work is The School of Athens (Sculoa di Atene, complemented by The Parnassus and the Disputa on opposite walls), a suite of frescos commissioned between 1509 and 1511 to decorate the rooms of the papal palace with a celebration and revival of the arts and sciences and cameos of philosophers portrayed by contemporaries.

Thursday 18 November 2021

narthex and nave

On this day in 1626, on the thirteen-hundredth anniversary of the consecration of old St Peter’s by Pope Sylvester I, the new papal basilica (Basilica Santci Petri Vaticano) planned by Popes Nicholas V and Julius II with construction starting more than a century earlier was heralded as complete. Financed chiefly through the selling of indulgences, with the Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg being a major advocate for this fund-raising method, sparking the objections of a certain Augustinian monk.

Thursday 4 November 2021

museo pio-clementino

Through the lens of Michelangelo failing in a competition to restore the iconic sculptural ensemble Laocoรถn and His Sons (previously) affords us another chance to examine the subject matter, a priest of either Poseidon or Apollo, who respectively was either guilty of the transgression or potential crossing the line in exposing the Trojan Horse for what it was or for breaking his vow of celibacy. Pope Julius II commissioned a contest to determine the best design proposal to restore a conspicuously absent arm for the central figure. Both Michelangelo and Raphael—related to the judge, the Vatican’s chief architect—lost to an artist called Jacopo Sansovino’s outstretched arm. During an excavation in 1906, the arm was recovered and positioned in accordance with Michelangelo’s original suggestion.

Monday 25 January 2021

collezionare capolavori

Though in stasis and awaiting visitors, the storied and seldom seen Torlonia Marbles from a private collection are gathered together for public viewing for the first time, resulting from an agreement four decades in negotiation and agreed upon four years before the exhibition was scheduled to open. Not only was the loan to Rome’s Capitoline Museum controversial and fraught with compromise and conciliation, there’s some intrigue associated with its collectors as well—the family once the bankers and economic advisors to the Vatican and master and model for the attainment of prestige and status through art collecting.

Thursday 14 January 2021

laocoรถn group

Likely the same statuary ensemble praised by Pliny the Elder as the pinnacle of aesthetics (see previously) nearly a millennium and a half prior to its rediscovery, the figures twisted in agony depicting Trojan priest Laocoรถn and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus attacked by sea serpents was excavated on this day in Rome in 1506. Commissioned for Emperor Titus, the work by sculptures from the Island of Rhodes, Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus, the iconic grouping is considered to be the baldest, immediate expression of suffering without redemption or reward, and there is no single definite myth or backstory behind this portrayal recorded in marble. There’s no honour in death and their gods will not save them—as contrasted with the bulk of the art in the Vatican’s holdings, of passion (suffering) and martyrdom—where Laocoรถn is also on display. It was unearthed in a vineyard, prompting Pope Julius II to immediately dispatch Michelangelo to the site of the excavation to ensure the art was properly conserved, immediately acquiring it for his patron and put on public display that same year.

Friday 18 December 2020

presepio, threepeeo

For this long slog of a year, the Vatican has elected to showcase a profoundly different manger scene that while we think all find this somewhat other than expected and some taking more exception with the choice of the display than others of nineteen to-scale figures executed in terracotta sourced to a crรจche that pupils and art teachers made for their town, selected from a Nativity Scene consisting of fifty-four pieces in total—steeped in the tradition of the earthenware—over a ten-year period from the mid-1960s to the mid-seventies.

There’s a helmeted astronaut in attendance as a nod to the contemporaneous 1969 Moon landing plus a centurion that some are comparing to Darth Vader (see link above), though the sculpture pre-dates the franchise by a few years. As one observer enthusiastically commented, it would be a nice ensemble—in miniature—for heath and home. Previously on tour in the 1970s in Israel, Palestine and Trajan’s Forum in Rome, the selection echoes the Pope’s missive from last Christmas—Admirabile signum—that it is customary and expected to include symbolic, contemporary characters to make the display busier and better address the everyday nature of holiness and grace.

Sunday 1 November 2020

volta della cappella sistina

Having worked on the monumental commission of Pope Julius II to decorate and adorn the chapel restored by his pontifical predecessor Sixtus IV for the past four years (the hall was originally under a midnight blue roof studded with gold-leaf stars), Michelangelo was able to present his crowning, defining achievement of High Renaissance art (previously) for the first time on this day in 1512 to the public in all its virtuosity and range of figural poses and presentation. The central frescos relate nine allegories from the Book of Genesis and were completed in reverse order, beginning with Noah’s Drunkenness and finishing on All Hallows’ Eve with the Creation of Eve and Adam—barely time for the paint to dry—when the scaffolding was removed and the first guests admitted on the anniversary of his patron’s 1503 election to pontif.

Friday 24 January 2020

les domains franรงais ร  l’รฉstranger

Though we cannot say for sure but a minor scuffle during a visit to Jerusalem by the French head of state that echoed a pointed altercation by a popular predecessor—whether a stunt or not—did nonetheless afford a fascinating, convoluted look into the small territorial claims, property-holdings (see also here and here) that the country has beyond metropolitan France.
The Church of Saint Anne—the mother of Mary and erected in the twelfth century during the regency of Queen Melisende under Crusader rule, at the site of a grotto that was believed to be a play spot of her young daughter, was reportedly gifted to Napoleon III by the Ottoman sultan in gratitude for his intervention in the Crimean War. In addition to this medieval structure at the head of Via Dolorosa, France lays claim (all disputed) to three other sites in the Holy Land, the Villa Mรฉdici in Rome, seven churches and crypts in the Vatican and the historical home of Victor Hugo on the UK dependency of Guernsey and the ensemble of buildings on Saint Helena where the disposed Napoleon (see previously) was confined.

Monday 22 May 2017

polity et pietat

Geopolitics are making things seem a little bit meaningless right now, and sorry that the world is going a little fascist—but this too will pass.
The media echo chamber and the own signature time dilation that the US regime is causing (weeks stretch out to full four year terms) seem insurmountable but provided that we are not complicit in our own destruction and hold tyranny to account, we won’t descend quietly into that unreality where bluster and bombast and magical-thinking (those essential oils are going to have to step up their game with the impending cuts to health care in America) become the standard tool-box for diplomacy, legislation and policy execution. Perhaps a papal audience was intended to be another petulant and hollow photo-opportunity but maybe Dear Leader, who has so far been rather impervious to the world—secure in his narcissism, might get a more transformative lecture than he was expecting.

Monday 13 March 2017

sxsw or urbi et orbi

The BBC’s technology correspondent catches up with Bishop Paul Tighe, Vatican representative and papal social media handler, in attendance at the South by Southwest conference.
The Holy See will also be presenting a panel discussion on Compassionate Disruption, which has attracted a lot of attention, but the interview focused on the forum that essentially launched the media platform Twitter a decade hence and the papacy’s uncomfortable but determined embrace of the social network five years ago. Pope Francis’ directive is that tweets are at minimum to be encouraging and if one deigns to enter into that discussion, one should try to avoid the negative elements out there.

Wednesday 4 January 2017

cibo, gente, e spasso

Despite vocal protests by residents and officials—though cosmetically, probably not raising much ire as other fast-food franchises and tourist-tat already saturate the corridors radiating out from the tiny nation-state, another outlet of a much maligned nutritional hegemony-monger opened for business near the Holy See and for the first time, occupying real estate owned (but without being accorded extra-territorial status) by the Vatican.
We’ve been known to patronise this establishment in the past but I think it’s really too much to suffer the Golden Arches within sight of Saint Peter’s—or anywhere else not keeping with character of its host neighbourhood, and resolve to be a little bit more finicky going forward. No matter how architecturally sensitive or neutral the faรงade might be made, it’s hard to imagine fitting, deserving locales other than newer subdivisions or buried within the catacombs of an airport or shopping centre, not even considering how such fare assaults local culinary tradition. It seems a little disgraceful and one would think that the property-owner would have more say about its tenants and isn’t so cash-strapped as to have no choice in the matter. What do you think? Just like quarters and communities, there’s no group so culturally impoverished that there’s no cooking heritage to displace.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

porta sancta

Recognising what the world needs now, Pope Francis threw open the Mercy Gate of the Lateran Archbasilica (the Pope’s church as the Bishop of Rome) and declared an extraordinary Jubilee Year—a decade earlier than the next scheduled time of forgiveness and reconciliation, which are announced periodically at quarter- or half-century intervals.
Ordering the door to be unbricked (sealed in earnest outside of these periods), the Pope promises that this message of grace will counter the violence and fanaticism in the world—and in people’s hearts. Quite a few basilica-major around the world, including Saint Peter’s in the Vatican and Santiago de Compostela in Spain, have their own Holy Doors and their own tradition and millions of pilgrims are expected to pass through these thresholds over the next year. The Papal Bull—Misericordiรฆ Vultus—allows for bishops everywhere to declare his own Mercy Gate for this Year of Jubilee. After the ceremony and reflection, the faรงade of San Giovanni in Laterano became the canvas to promote mindfulness of another urgent threat to peace, environmental degradation, with a light-show of projected images of the natural world.  His Holiness is primed to act on Mother Nature’s behalf as well.