Saturday 24 February 2024

back-end analytics (11. 377)

Though tacking the prefix smart on appliances and/or connecting them to the internet of things has a mixed record and has raised many alarms over privacy concerns, this scandal revealed by a glitch in a vending machine, one of an array of banks of automats installed at the University of Waterloo in Ontario really illustrates how—as with contracts for delivery robots surveilling other campuses to collect dragnet data in jurisdictions with less stringent protections—innovation is just a cheap veneer for marketing and demographic stockpiling. No one was expecting, much less consented to, being subject to a facial recognition programme when it came to this transaction. The smart snack dispensers are being replaced with more traditional and less sinister ones, hopefully something more tried-and-true that take coins and display their selection behind glass, rather than on screen.

Thursday 26 October 2023

fun-sized (11. 076)

Our trusted AI wrangler Janelle Shane has been running experiments on generating trick-or-treating goodies (see previously) and sorting them by what one might like to keep or swap, to gauge the capabilities of various platforms and monitor improves, both marginal and significant. The latest iterations are much improved and are generally more accurate and less glitchy with the printed word but still have some way to go. In what’s described by Shane as the ‘kitten effect,’ where one specific example might turn out passably accurate, all these models tend to seize up and degrade when asked to produce multiple individuals—one cat as opposed to a basket of kittens. It’s nonetheless a relief that there’s some weirdness left in the wrappers. Smndy or Cearbiers might be good to try, but the best houses give out the full-sized candy bars.  Much more at the links above.

Saturday 5 March 2022

achtung baby!

We thoroughly enjoyed this episode of The Allusionist podcast that explores the ephemeral nature of warnings obilge and the limits of translation through the lens of the of the cautionary statement—in thirty-four languages—included with the toy prize as small-print pamphlets in Kinder Eggs/Kinder รœberraschung produced on a global scale, though still unavailable in certain jurisdictions in this format, by Italian confectioner Ferrero (as Kinder Sorpresa or Ovetto Kinder) as examined and considered by sociologist and ethnographer Keith Kahn-Harris. What makes the cut internationally as a language for inclusion in one’s corner shop? What counts as correspondence in this regulatory, disclaimer tone? More food for thought below.

Monday 22 November 2021

mary’s boy child

Originally composed by Jester Hairston (*1901 - 2001) for a roommate's birthday party under the title “He Pone and Chocolate Tea” and the calypso tune later adapted to a holiday song in 1956 after Mahalia Jackson’s 1954 recording “Mary’s Little Boy Child” for Walter Schumann's Hollywood Choir, re-released the following year as a single, the performance by Harry Belafonte (previously) reached and held the top spot on the UK Hit Parade on this day in 1957.  A Christmas standard since, it was the first hit single longer than four minutes and there was also a disco cover-version by Boney M. in 1978 that also topped the charts.

Thursday 12 August 2021

veruca salt

 

Released in cinemas in the United Kingdom on this day in 1971, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder and Peter Ostrum was a commercial success, the box office taking in more than the film’s budget in its first run and was produced over the course of five months at the City of Mรผnchen gasworks in West Germany, costs at the time being significantly cheaper than elsewhere with the final sequence of the Wonkavator flying over the rooftops an aerial shot of Nรถrdlingen, the town built in an ancient meteor crater. The author of the original story, Roald Dahl, ultimately disowned the finished product with the over-emphasis on Wonka rather than Charlie and the addition of musical numbers outside the Oompa Loopa choruses, including Ach, so fromm from the romantic opera from Friedrich von Flotow’s Martha during the rather terrifying Wonkawash segment, appearing in Phantom of Opera, re-worked as a swing song, performed on the Disney short “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met”.

Friday 29 November 2019

uplifting stats

Via Pasa Bon!, we discover a yearlong campaign by Information is Beautiful (see previously), inspired by among other things the disabusing trends illustrated in Hans Rosling’s Factfulness, to release an infographic daily that features enlightening good news and positive trends (trajectories and the headlines not necessarily being the same thing). From their recently featured charts we glean among other things that Iceland had legally mandated equal pay for equal work for men and women, the precipitous fall of the cost of renewable energy, Africa and South America is quashing malaria and there is now a fourth type of chocolate aside from dark, milk and white with ruby.

Thursday 1 August 2019

rรผtlischwur

Inspired by the Federal Charter dated to early August of 1291 when three Alpine cantons committed to a pact of allegiance, the Old Swiss Confederacy, something semi-legendary and romantically depicted in Friedrich Schiller’s William Tell—since 1891 and codified as a public holiday in 1994 Switzerland has set aside this day (Schweizer Bundesfeiertag, Fรชte nationale suisse, Festa nazionale svizzera, Fiasta naziunala svizra) to recognise its founding.  The Rheinfall waterfall is illuminated for the observance and the Rรผtli meadow on the shores of Lake Lucerne where the oath is traditionally believed to have been sworn hosts an organised celebration as do municipalities across the land.

Monday 10 June 2019

luftbrücke

Though I am not sure why the commemoration didn’t take place last June when the Western powers tried to shore up Germany currency and head off inflation and continued economic recession precipitating a blockade on West Berlin, well behind Soviet lines of control, or when the blockade ended on after midnight 12 May 1949 or when deliveries officially stopped at the end of the fiscal year, the Wiesbaden Army Airfield, named in honour of General Lucius Clay, who thought up and commanded the operation, is celebrating the Berlin Airlift’s seventieth anniversary and remembering the lives of one hundred and one individuals who lost their lives in the breakneck execution of such a logistical feat.
Calculating out the ration of food and fuel (nearly two-thirds of the total cargo of some two million tonnes was coal) that each citizen and soldier required, thousands of missions—at their highest tempo, some fifteen hundred sorties per day, brought food, materiel and rotations of soldiers in and out of Tempelhof from a dozen sending aerodromes. It is estimated that the US heavy bombers repurposed as the largest capacity carriers travelled one Astronomical Unit in all during the course of the year—that is, the distance from the Earth to Sun, one hundred fifty million kilometres.


 The event included an air-show with formation flights of vintage aircraft and other military vehicles and equipment, reenactors, numerous exhibits on the history and context of post-war geopolitics and aid to rebuild Europe, including the Marshall Plan and the CARE programme.
 There was also a USO revue that in part recreated the 1948 troop show that Bob Hope hosted held in the same hangars for the pilots and crew in Wiesbaden, a Big Band performance plus special guests, including witnesses to history along with Colonel Gail “Hal” Halvorsen (*1920)—known as the Berlin Candy Bomber (der Rosinenbomber) for his Operation Little Vittles that parachuted chocolate parcels to the children of the divided city.

Wednesday 10 January 2018

plat diagram

Via Present /&/ Correct, we’re treated to these clever and cosmopolitan bars of chocolate that are partitioned out to match the layout of world capital cities’ centres. Inside the wrapper there’s a legend to the map of landmarks.


Thursday 8 October 2015

humbug or the great pumpkin

Although the annual, apparent retrograde motion of seasonal marketing campaigns (though by now I suppose that we have entered that time-frame for which it might be appropriate to begin thinking about one’s costume—at least in those places where Halloween emerged organically—if these items hadn’t been on display and promoted since weeks now) might be off-putting and fatiguing enough any traditionalist who enjoyed the anticipation, no matter what transpired in the end. I always had a spare bag of chocolates in case we ever got a visitor. SuรŸes oder Saueres! I want keep the spirit of the season, however exported and commercialised (that’s a tortured old saw), always.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

poki-poki or irregular polygons

I did not realise that Japanese has a wealth of onomatopoeic words that not only mimic the sound of things but also the texture and shape of things—sort of like zig-zag in English but I imagine more evocative, and much less did I guess that they could be expressed so intuitively, in chocolate form.
Phenomimes (gitaigo ๆ“ฌๆ…‹่ชž) they are technically called, those words that manage to impart this sort of directional, tactile meaning. That, however, is precisely the geometric proof given by the award-winning design studio, nendo, in the Parisian trade show annual competition, Maison et Object. At the link, you can learn more about this textured words and how their meanings ring perfectly in context.

Thursday 14 March 2013

cracker-jack

I’ve always thought that candies, like colas (and more adult beverages too), attain this strange sort of nostalgic immortality and despite insolvency, changing tastes, and increasing competition seem to remain on-offer, even if in a subdued, bottom-shelf sort of way.

Dots, Tab, Shasta, the medleys of grab-bag treats with half-forgotten names can be had with a little intentional departure from the latest fads and reminiscing. I guess I don’t have any such cravings myself but I appreciate the traditions and cult status surely. There were two news items in the past few days that caused me to wonder about our treat icons, mascots, really, apart from whatever chemical concoction is the delivery vehicle. Due to regulation that prohibited the inclusion of “non-nutritive” items within food (and I guessed it was a more recent restriction to protect young children from swallowing their prize inadvertently), German Kinder รœberraschung chocolate eggs were considered contraband in the US.
Disa- ppointingly, the product, which side-steps the arcane proscription by designing the eggs to be split apart and isolating the prize inside with a protective membrane so no one could choke on it by accident, is not from the same makers and surely won’t have that Dyson’s Shell made with the same quality. The fact that the American producers include “Choco” as part of their name makes me fear that the quotation marks are deserved. I do wonder what nutritive content might be encased in chocolate, but nonetheless, the carapace is important. The other story concerned the reanimation of the Twinkie planned by Hostess’ successor company. While it is surely hard to keep an incorruptible, indestructible snack off the shelves, I wonder if for even the most avid fans whether this is a positive development, since some experiments in should maybe be allowed to expire gracefully.

Sunday 6 January 2013

kakao oder heiรŸe schokolade

Wanting to finish off the Christmas chocolate (at least symbolically, since there’s too much but one can always gnaw at a santa) for Twelfth Night and Epiphany (Dreikรถnigstag) and feeling a little sorry for brutally biting into it, I was reminded of an interesting and detailed history of chocolate and hot cocoa, which have both been somewhat slandered in recent years—especially cocoa, distinct from hot chocolate—that is surprisingly full of machismo and bravado, which I read recently on a clever new blog called the Art of Manliness.
Cocoa, rather and not the blog, throughout most of its venerable history until contemporary times was unapologetically macho and a bit chauvinistic. From time immemorial, cocoa was not merely reconstituted for children on cold mornings, but a holy and privileged source of vim and vigour for the Aztecs, Olmecs and the Mayans of Mesoamerica as valuable a commodity as gold, and even after European contact and commercialization of cocoa and its derivatives, still remained an elixir of heroes, promoted to bullfighters, soldiers, explorers, and firefighters. The qualities of this tonic were diluted somewhat with the discovery of how to deliver chocolate in solid form, but the article, in addition to tracing that development, presents a good analysis of constants, like the substance’s nutritional and chemical benefits, cult and reputation. There are quite a few interesting tangents offered to explore in the chain of custody that follows this drink of warriors to its present-day representatives.

Monday 19 December 2011

navidad or chili incarnate

Did you know that chili was a reconstitutable ration for the pioneers of the old West? The dry ingredients were pounded together in bricks and taken on the trail, so one just had to boil water later on. I called this vegetarian Christmas chili because one could add a Christmas chocolate to the cauldron. I was afraid that chocolate in chili might either result in a treacly sweet taste or have no taste at all, like Stone Soup, but one could smell it cooking and the dish came out pretty good and it was almost as easy to make as just adding water.
• Some olive or cooking oil
• 1 small Onion, 1 clove of Garlic minced and chopped
• 1 can of diced Tomatoes (with peppers)
• 1 can of Kidney Beans
• 1 can of Garbanzo Beans
• 2 cups (about 500mL) of Vegetable Broth
• 2 teaspoons ground Cumin, 2 teaspoons Chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt
One small chocolate Santa, about one ounce (50 grams)

Cook the chopped garlic and onions for about five minutes over high heat in a large pot, and then mix in the broth, canned goods and spices. Bring to a boil then reduced to low heat and cover. Stirring occasionally, cover and allow chili to simmer and thicken for about 90 minutes. Ten minutes prior to serving, plop in the chocolate and mix well.