Wednesday, 13 September 2023

sacred stuggle (10. 999)

Arriving his private armoured train over the sliver of a shared border between Russian and North Korea, Kim Jong Un (whom rarely leaves the country) with Vladimir Putin at the Vostochy cosmodrome to tour the facilities and discuss a weapons deal, occasioned by Russia running a deficit on munition shells due to the protracted invasion of Ukraine and turning to the heavily stockpiled peninsula dating from the Cold War, reportedly offering in exchange to the isolated and destitute nation food aid and expertise in developing reconnaissance satellites in furtherance of the developing atomic weapons programme. Though once opposed to allowing unstable neighbours going nuclear and participating in sanctions against North Korea for its pursuit, Russia now seems willing—as with its cache of drones from Iran, to take these risks including the possibility of selling on technologies to arms-dealers even less allied and a bipolar geopolitical landscape with the West on one side and Russia’s sphere of tenuous influence. Kim reaffirmed his support for “to defend its state sovereignty and protect its security” echoing rhetoric used to justify invading Ukraine and Putin graciously accepted his counterpart’s invitation for a state visit.


one year ago: the Poet Laureate’s tribute to the Queen, the Beatles’ Apple Electronics venture plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: your daily demon: Marchosias, more links to enjoy, the first teenage all music and dance show plus the release of Super Mario Brothers (1985)

three years ago: dissecting the original COVID hotspot, more on radio alphabets, The Stand, the stately manor that inspired Wuthering Heights plus St Venerius

four years ago: more links to enjoy

five years ago: willpower and endurance, more on the monomyth plus an ad-filled rocking chair

Saturday, 26 August 2023

vernacular architecture (10. 966)

Midcentury Modern embassies and consulates commissioned by the US State Department between the years 1948 and 1962 at the height of the Cold War were not only outposts of ideology, as an interview with historian David B Peterson for an upcoming retrospective on the architecture of democracy, diplomacy and defence reveals but also host to quite extensive outreach programmes and to project culture and the values of progressive and open societies—though considering American’s own practises of apatheid, it’s a rather hollow image. Numerous star architects and luminaries of the day were involved and most compounds had a publicly accessible area for lectures, libraries and exhibition spaces. The chapter on the embassy of New Delhi designed by Edward Durell Stone (the MoMA, Radio City Music Hall and the Kennedy Centre) looks particularly interesting. More from designboom at the link above.

Wednesday, 23 August 2023

rosaviatsiya (10. 960)

Unsurprisingly given the series of defenestrations and accidents involving those critical of the Russian government and how the mercenary chief signed his own death warrant and was living on bored time with an aborted coup—angry with the direction that the invasion of Ukraine had taken and his march on Moscow halted, charges of treason in exchange for disbanding the Wagner Group and exile to Belarus, the crash of a private jet travelling from the capital to St Petersburg was still a chilling reminder of Putin’s vengeance and a stark warning to the opposition. The civil aviation authority immediately reported that Yevgeny Prigozhin was on the manifest of the flight and that he and nine others (among those other senior leadership from the private army) on board were dead—though it is still unclear what exactly has transpired. Putin, in South Africa attending a BRICS conference, has not yet responded to the news. Mr Prigozhin, related to the summit of emerging world economies, recently produced a recruitment video for soldiers of fortune on the continent.

Saturday, 12 August 2023

barrel traps or buoy knife (10. 938)

Though it kind of seems otherwise, we know we haven’t dedicated more reportage to the Texas governor’s pontoon-bridge to deter immigration from Mรฉxico than Trump’s bombastic Border Wall. The prop is political pandering of course to worst elements of the Republican Party’s constituents assembled by subcontractors and will likely break apart and damage infrastructure or be disassembled as a violation of international law. We did not know, however, that between the orange buoys, there’s a circular saw, nearly hidden from sight. Barbaric and overly-aggressive, calling this modern enhancement medieval is unfair to our pre-Enlightenment progenitors, and as with machines of torture back then, there was no industrial push to equip every castle with chamber of horrors with threat and rumour being more coercive and corrective and the surplus of such devices the handiwork of enterprising tour guides. Something as gruesome as the Iron Maiden was misconstrued reconstruction of the much tamer—yet humiliating Schandmantel (Coat of Shame—a wooden vessel sometimes lined with metal on the inside to be worn for punishment) which has an analogue in the image of the bankruptcy barrel. The Texas implements of inhumanity are very real. 


one year ago: Scientology’s Sea Org Day, the first Model-T (1908) plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: Willy Wonka (1971), the closing ceremony of the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics, an exhibit of ephemera from events cancelled due to COVID, a Roman fast food kiosk, a WikiHow illustration worth a thousand words, a handbag inspired by a pasta box plus Avon paperbacks

three years ago: more on the new US Space Force, the Democratic ticket, the first IBM PC plus the martagon lily

four years ago: preparing to revisit the Bretagne  

five years ago: the cart before the horse, silver thistles plus a photograph from Art Kane featuring the Harlem music scene

Tuesday, 1 August 2023

7x7 (10. 919)

istj: while gladly gone the way of Harry Potter House in many circles, Chinese placement agencies are obsessing with Myers-Briggs personality types  

hapsburg ai: generative chat programmes trained on derivative synthetic output becomes recursive and untenable—via Kottke  

pittura infamante: the Florentine legal tradition of the rogues’ gallery—via Miss Cellania 

 ๐•: flashing sign with new logo dismantled in San Francisco’s Twitter headquarters after neighbours complain 

:a font family inspired by an Ancient Roman typeface continues a centuries’ long dialogue of the printed word  

watermark: to distinguish generative writing from human, we could possible assign it its own Unicode alphabets—via Language Log  

the belt and road initiative: Italy is vocal with its regrets over signing on to China’s foreign policy push and infrastructure development programme

Tuesday, 11 July 2023

operation sober popeye (10. 872)

Also known under the codenames Motorpool and Intermediary-Compatriot and repudiated as an unacceptable tactic in warfare after leaks in the Pentagon Papers and unwelcome press coverage with a US Senate resolution passed on this day in 1973, the military cloud-seeding program carried out from 1967 to 1972 attempted chemical modification of the weather with the aim of extending monsoon seasons and disrupting the North Vietnamese supply-chain along the Ho Chi Minh Trail by soften road surfaces and causing landslides. Operations in secret extended over Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Despite its highly classified nature, the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, the unit chiefly responsible for the tests, publicly and prominently used the slogan “make mud, not war.” The American people deciding that such measures had no place on the battlefield, weather disruption falls presently under the auspices of the Environmental Modification Convention.  


one year ago: the Hollywood Bowl (1922), Avogadro’s Number (1811) plus Fischer v Spassky (1972)

two years ago: Fleetwood Mac by Fleetwood Mac (1975) plus a megalithic stone ship in Sweden

three years ago: a visit to the Ehrenburg on the Ehrbach

four years ago: a delayed release of “Space Oddity” (1969), the uncontrolled deorbit of Skylab (1979) plus France approves a digital services tax scheme

five years ago: a collection of samurai clan banners, a disclaimer on social media that comes too late, America’s garbage politicians sit for a family photos plus Trump attends a NATO summit

Monday, 10 July 2023

7x7 (10. 871)

terracotta army: new excavations in Shaanxi reveal the site contains more than the familiar infantry unit—see previously  

mizhuvkhamy: a group of Ukrainians documenting the graffiti left by Russian occupiers for future research on the invasion 

jazz kissas: the ambient sounds of Japan’s listening cafรฉs—see also 

i never thought i’d be cheering for zuckerberg: in response to the runaway success of Instagram’s Twitter mode, Elon Musk threatens to sue, resorts to name-calling  

adequacy decision: EU rules that Big Data has sufficient controls in place, with the US to monitor compliance, to allow transfer to US servers  

vilnius: developments to watch during this week’s NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital  

dromolaxia vizatzia: Bronze Age tombs of unknown rulers discovered in Cyprus

Saturday, 8 July 2023

lone star (10. 867)

Truckloads of giant meter-diameter buoys arrived on the Rรญo Bravo to be assembled into a floating chain of obstacles to prevent individuals from Mรฉxico from crossing the river and into Texas as part of larger programme to deter migration, but as David Martin Davies reports, like many other initiatives facing legal challenges, this experimental yet unoriginal and pricey idea may not only prove ultimately ineffectual, dangerous to life and limb and result in further negative environmental impact for the beleaguered waterway, it may also flaunt international law, potentially altering the flow and the border between the US and Mรฉxico. Opponents also note that the buoys could become unmoored—no infrastructure or ecological assessments were conducted prior to the planned installation (end product visualised)—and float downstream and cause damage to bridges.

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.

Monday, 19 June 2023

8x8 (10. 820)

north american aerospace defence command: cache of Cold War era briefings and slide show presentations scanned and shared on the Internet Archive—via Super Punch  

yellowhammer: Alabama enshrines an official state cookie  

clipart: AI generated images disrupting the portfolio of stock photos that helped create it 

playlist: fish music may help revitalise coral reefs  

lui, sait juste ken: a clever double-entendre in French ad-copy for the Barbie movie 

the killer rabbit caerbannog: more on the trope of deadly bunnies in medieval manuscripts—see previously  

apple core: computer giant taking on venerable Swiss Fruit Union, other in a trademark dispute—via Slashdot  

sci-fi edition: Poseidon’s Underworld reviews a 1979 issue of Starlog

Saturday, 3 June 2023

bellona (10. 783)

Daughter of Jupiter and Juno and sister to Mars, Vulcan, Lucina, Discordia and Juventas, the Ancient Roman goddess of warfare was celebrated on this day in the Republic and Empire by a cult of priests whom mutilated themselves to make a blood sacrifice and placate this deification of madness and frenzy in battle. The majority of rites dedicated to Bellona were equally gory, though fearful of a volatile deity, most worship was not for public spectacle. Her main temple on the Campus Martius with station located through the expanse of the Empire (St Peter’s Minster in York was originally a temple dedicated to her) had an extra-territorial status, the equivalent of modern day embassies and consulates, where ambassadors from foreign states could stay, not allowed to enter the capitol or colonies proper, and could meet representatives of the Senate for negotiations. If diplomacy (fฤ“tiฤlis) and states became belligerents (bellicose and before the consonant shift, duel come from the name of the goddess), the high priest would launch a javelin over the column of war (columna bellica) to formally declare hostilities.

Sunday, 28 May 2023

williamsburg, as a site, was the site of the first representative assembly and the second university in the colonies which then became the united states–it has been a particularly appropriate place in which to rededicate ourselves to these principles (10. 772)

Hosted in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia and remarkably the only international meeting chaired by Ronald Reagan during his administration, the ninth annual summit of the Group of Seven—an informal gathering of the richest, industrialised countries—opened on this day in 1983, running through 30 May, and was attended by French president Franรงois Mitterrand, West Germany Chancellor Helmut Kohl—their predecessors having first proposed such a forum in 1975—the Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the Italian Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani, the Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, the Prime Minister of the UK Margaret Thatcher, plus the president of the European Commission, Luxembourgish statesman Gaston Thorn. Though normally reserved as a venue for resolving and harmonising trade and monetary policy amongst members, Reagan shifted the focus to missile deployment in Europe aimed to encourage the Soviet Union to return to disarmament negotiations in Geneva. Having met with Thatcher for bilateral consultations ahead of the summit, the UK and the US wanted support from the G-7 to affirm NATO’s stance on basing Pershing II rockets in Turkey and West Germany, pressing others for agreement despite the objections of Mitterrand and Trudeau, this concord was considered essential for Reagan’s first encounter with Gorbachev for talks two years later.

Friday, 19 May 2023

9x9 (10. 752)

x-date: unless a compromise is found to work with the statutory debt ceiling, the US could default on paying its bills and unleash chaos in global financial markets 

the house of mouse: Disney is cancelling plans for a billion dollar Florida annex—and shuttering its immersive Star Wars experience resort hotel—in an ongoing feud with the state’s arch-conservative governor  

garbage patch kids: creepy dolls being washed ashore are auctioned off to benefit marine habitats—see also 

superimposition: researchers at the Zurich Institute of Technology create the world’s largest ‘Schrรถdinger’s Cat” 

the great silence: we are probably not alone in the Universe but we might as well be—see previously  

random access memory: previously unreleased tracks from retired duo Daft Punk  

interior design: browser-based application to create and share voxel rooms, via Waxysee previously  

byte-dance: American state of Montana passes a ban of the social media platform TikTok over conflated fears of violations of users privacy  

seat at the table: G7 summit hosted in Hiroshima—with nuclear deterrence on the agenda

Thursday, 18 May 2023

6x6 (10. 749)

unartificial: city of Vienna is using AI feline-added artwork to promote its inspiration—via Miss Cellania  

paved paradise: the American obsession with car storage and its attendant ills  

world police: US military bases around the globe—see previously here and here 

sour grapes: the art of the sulk as a form of indirect communication and social-leveller  

bakerloo line: an incredible schematic of the Piccadilly Circus under- and overground by Renzo Picasso—see previously 

uhohlingo: a AI that generates language learning lessons—and tends to be notoriously wrong

Monday, 15 May 2023

mama ลกฤ! (10. 742)

Having enjoyed all the performances from Eurovision Song Contest from Liverpool Saturday—we didn’t stay up late enough for the voting but saw the returns the next day—we appreciated this linguist insight into the penultimate entry from Croatia’s Let 3 (Flight Three, known for their progressive, sometimes subversive performances and lyrics) whose consonant collision can be understood as a reference to the Cyrillic letter ั‰ (pronounced in Russian like the -sh in Welsh-sheep and in Ukrainian like cash-chest—see previously) and has ostensibly an anti-war message, narrowly edging out the other national favourite that had an even clearer rebuke against Vladimir Putin, keeping within Eurovision guidelines against overt politics. The digram means nothing in itself in Croatian, though as band members explain it could signify a moan of pleasure, a blood type or a mediative mantra. More from Language Log (including a video clip of the number) at the link above.

Saturday, 13 May 2023

8x8 (10. 737)

what is a strikebreaker: past gameshow champion Ken Jennings to host Jeopardy! during its final episodes for the season, crossing the picket line during the Writers’ Guild protest  

captain’s table: a tour of the Hamburg-America Line’s SS Prinzessin Vitoria Luise—the world’s first purpose built cruise ship, launched in 1900 

the big four: the dominant professional services networks providing auditing and assurance advise clients on how to cheat their way through compliance inspection 

bull-boards: more on the Osborne brandy mascot that’s become an icon of Spain 

get your kicks on route 66: ahead of its centenary, the historic American highway gets a much needed refurbishment—via Miss Cellania 

c’est le dernier qui a parlรฉ qui a raison: ahead of tonight grand prix in Liverpool, a look back on the geopolitics of Eurovision—see also, see previously 

lucky duck gets private equitied: the latest cartoon fro, Ruben Bolling—see previously, see also 

home port: despite the ban, cruise ships are still docking in Venice  

scabs: Starbucks announced closure of three franchises in Ithaca, New York has nothing to do with the workers’ decision to unionise

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

9x9 (10. 728)

daily double: Jeopardy! had a all-fonts category with answers in the typefaces they were looking for as the question—via Kottke  

on the eighth day: a 1984 BBC documentary on nuclear winter preparedness—see previously 

a la carte: a century of cultural changes captured in restaurant menus—see previously  

ใ‚ซใ‚ฏใƒ†ใƒซ: an award-winning small Tokyo ex-urb defined Japanese cocktail culture 

that’s so fetch: tech retreats from the Metaverse to the new hotness  

exciton condensates: physicists find a link between photosynthesis and strange states of matter  

cabin crew: the argot of airplane travel 

mutually assured destruction: new analysis of the same Cold War  

grundvig: font-founder Reinadlo Camejo transforms a Copenhagen church into a typeface

Monday, 24 April 2023

forschungensreaktor haigerloch (10. 695)

The nuclear test facility, the final experiment of Uranprojekt of Nazi Germany, discovered the day previously by the US and the British Special Forces unit Alsos, created as mission under the aegis of the Manhattan Project to coordinate foreign intelligence on atomic research and activity—a heavy water nuclear pile, housed in a cliff cellar used for beer storage and obscured by a castle chapel and disguised as a spelunking centre near Tรผbingen was brought offline on this day in 1945 during the last phase of War World II and dismantled, with the attendant scientists and materials brought back to America as part of Operation Paperclip. Under the direction of Werner Heisenberg, the aim of the undertaking was to harness the power of nuclear fission, though the research never moved beyond the experimental stage and later assessments concluded that critical mass would have required a set-up one and a half times larger, for weaponisation or as a practical output of energy. Crossing the front with the 7th Army, Alsos members moved over the Rhein and apprehended physicist remaining at research facilities, a cyclotron, in Heidelberg, and scoured the region for other trials to forestall capture by the advancing Soviet army and eventual French occupying force, whose arrival the same day prompted assessors to downplay its significance and immediately disassemble the laboratory and remove the contents to Munich, headquarters of the American Zone. Heisenberg and the other internees learned of the bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August and expressed gratitude that their tests were a failure and would have never produced such a weapon but rather a power-plant. Since 1980, the site has hosted a museum on nuclear reactors with the original five cubes of uranium on display.

Tuesday, 11 April 2023

9x9 (10. 667)

pass****123: a visualisation of pilfered passwords aggregated from various leaks and breaches

event horizon: a streak of young stars may be the wake of a supermassive black hole ejected from its host galaxy  

pop: speeding locomotives in an animated short by Yoji Kuri—see previously  

you sank my battleship: leaked NATO plans for bolstering Ukraine’s military were first circulating on a Minecraft gaming forum—more here  

what, me worry: a celebration of the long life and career of cartoonist Al Jaffee 

bierpulver: the Neuzeller Klosterbrรคu, known for other innovative libations, introduces a dehydrated beer that one needs only add water to   

example handshake: a look at the squelch of the dial-up modem  

trapezoidal flux deviation: an alternative proposal for the non-existence of exoplanets—via the New Shelton wet/dry  

a generator and a discriminator: AI can crack most users’ passwords in under two minutes—via Dam Interresting’s Curated Links

Tuesday, 4 April 2023

liittyminen (10. 654)

founding of the organisation in 1949, Finland’s accession to NATO, approved by all members in under a year and prompted by Russian aggression in the region more than doubles its the size of the border abutting the Western alliance and Russia. In a process that saw its formal beginning in last May, along with neighbouring Sweden, Finland abandoned decades of military nonalignment for increased security and mutual, multilateral response.