Wednesday 22 May 2024

ร  votre santรฉ (11. 574)

Via Messy Nessy Chic, we are treated to a tasting-tour of a late fourteenth century wine cellar (la cave)—one of the more historic and storied sites in Alsace, beneath the twelfth century Hรดpital civil de Strasbourg, today a preeminent teaching-hospital but twain with viniculture as it touches many aspects of French society. Traditionally different varietals were prescribed for specific ailments and over the centuries grateful patients bequeathed the institution with a portion of their harvest, amassed in the cellars and creating a present legacy of over one hundred thousand premium bottles sold annually and a regimen of wine-cures that were only officially discontinued in the mid 1990s. Financing the upkeep of the institution, proceeds are reinvested and now go to new medical equipment but seen today as no longer Hippocratic—the Greek physician a proponent of such treatments—but rather hypocritical to mix inebriation with healthcare, the hospital accomplishes this volume of sales without advertising. More from BBC Travels at the link above.

Friday 19 April 2024

est! est!! est!!! (11. 498)

The unusual triplicate name of the wine region of Montefiascone in Lazio (Latium) originated in a possibly apocryphal legend from the twelfth century when in April of 1111 bishop Johann Fugger, a noted gourmand and member of a house of prominent bankers and venture capitalists from Augsburg who supplanted the Medici family and controlled much of the economy of Europe through the seventeen hundreds, travelled to Rome to witness the coronation of Henry V, King of Italy, Germany and Burgundy, by Pope Paschal II and sending ahead his prelate, possibly called Martin,  as majordomo to scout out places along the route offering the best wine, instructed to write in chalk “there it is” on the doors of the finer establishments serving vinum bonum, and so impressed with the offerings of one local tavern punctuated his rating with urgency for the entourage. Though not heavily exported, the name has certainly proved as good marketing for the Etruscan Montefiascone and with the final resting place of Fugger in the commune’s main church of San Flaviano, with the inscription, “Est est est ∙ Propter nimium est ∙ Johannes de Foucris ∙ dominus meus ∙ mortuus est” (Here, here, here [a common epitaph, or possibly cause of death was ruled too much Est]—because it is too much, my master is dead) it is reported that Fugger decided to stay and not continue the journey. The wine pairs particularly well with Roman cuisine like fried artichokes and calamari.


one year ago: technological anti-solutions, a classic from Blondie (1980) plus Neil Agarwal gives us a stratospheric tour

two years ago: another MST3K classic, persistent COVID denialism plus renovating the Kodak R&D building

three years ago: the Salyut programme (1971), more MST3K, a Google Earth time lapse, shelters build after San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake plus the changing interiors of the Oval Office

four years ago: the Lada, keeping up with the news, Mambo No 5 (1999), more McMansion Hell, Animal Crossing tarot, St Expeditus, a pioneering virologist, failed attempts at wildlife photography plus a goatforsaken place

five years ago: an extended weekend, Mid-Century Modern  maps, the bees of Notre Dame, more accidental art plus an optical illusion to parse

Sunday 14 April 2024

6x6 (11. 488)

dolia: new research reveals Roman wines to be of premium quality, contrary to conventional wisdom, and comparable to modern European standards 

second amendment rights: factors informing the arming of America 

ready player two: the ghost of a departed loved one preserved in an untouched video game console 

a supposedly fun thing that i’ll never do again: the story of Zenith, David Foster Wallace’s (previously) cruise experience—via Nag on the Lake  

on brand: a look at the author of reinstated 1864 legislation in Arizona—see more 

last of the summer wine: the untimely demise of the once trendy, effervescent piquette

Friday 22 March 2024

off his meds (11. 443)

Via TYWKIWBI (indeed), we learn that Dr Lecter’s famously creepy quip from Silence of the Lambs, the psychiatrist turned cannibalistic serial killer consulted for insight to help catch another, “A census taker once tried to test me—I ate his liver with some fava beans and nice Chianti” is more than a memorable quote but also a subtle joking admission that he’s not presently adhering to his prescribed pharmacological regimen. The fictional doctor’s most aberrant tendencies could be managed with a class of drugs called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (a rather blunt instrument from the 1950s used to treat a whole range of disorders with various levels of success), which Lecter would of course know as well as the contraindication of this particular repast, all noted for having high levels of tyramine (as well as blue cheese) and could cause dangerous side-effects—the kind of adverse chemical reactions that the poor grapefruit usually gets blame for. In the novel by Thomas Harris that the 1991 film is adapted from, mostly faithfully, the better-paired wine is Amarone is mentioned but was presumably substituted for cadence in delivery by Anthony Hopkins and as something audiences would be more familiar with.

Wednesday 20 March 2024

toddy and crank (11. 437)

Via Nag on the Lake and Weird Universe, we are referred to a delightful reprint (circa 1941) of an advertisement for a Colonial Williamsburg public house called Chowning’s Tavern whose verso gives a scale of the temperance or intemperance of various potables from the drinks menu from 1789. “A moral and physical thermometer small beer, grouped with water and milk, disposes one to “Health, Wealth, Serenity of mind, Reputation, long Life and Happineลฟs.” Whereas Gin, Anniแบ›eed and Rum has the attendant vices of Swindling, Perjury and Burglary leading to the Diseases Dropลฟy, Madneลฟ and Melancholy and the Punishments of the Poor-houลฟe, Jail and Whipping. We are all on the spectrum and can have maladies without picking one’s poison—see if you can tag yourself.


one year ago: middling large numbers

two years ago: World Storytelling Day plus Easter origins

three years ago: Leipzig’s boy choir,  the science of pasta, Roman Emperor Thrax, reflections of dadaism plus St John of Neopmuk

four years ago: the Spring Equinox, assorted links to revisit, pandemic payments plus cats and dominos

five years ago: Bed-In for Peace (1969),  Apollo press kits, exercises in root system domestication, EU copyright reform, calls to expel the US ambassador to Germany, myth retold through physics plus creating landscapes with AI

Thursday 18 January 2024

7x7 (11. 278)

you are not a product: the demise of the social network Ello’s ambitions  

right: US to UK export Word of the Year—see previously  

mystic pizza: a new popular regional style from the US state of Connecticut  

arbustum: ancient Roman wine-growing techniques and forest agriculture may help battle modern climate change  

sora-q: Japanese space agency is poised to land a transforming robot on the Moon  

gloogo: a lexicon of words that don’t exist yet but should (see also) from Burgess Unabridged—the source of the term blurb  

๐„: time spent pausing is a worthwhile pursuit—see also on the fermata

Saturday 30 December 2023

dรฉfi de janvier (11. 223)

Introduced with various levels of societal and political traction since about a decade in the US and the UK, the abstinence campaign Dry January (translated as January Challenge) is not being endorsed by the government of France, contrary to the urging of addiction experts who want more to be done to address the risks of alcohol, as out-of-step with French culture and traditions. What do you think? A keen imbiber himself, the president is seen as a strong advocate of the wine industry and that a meal without it was “a bit sad,” and at the same time overall consumption has been seen to drop rather precipitously.


one year ago: 2022 in review, recycling calendars, the union of soviet republics, Swedish words of the year, more General Knowledge quizzes plus more year-end lists

two years ago: more calendar recycling plus an AI suggests New Year’s resolutions

three years ago: assorted links to revisit, more calendrical correspondence plus Ra-Ra-Rasputin

four years ago: more words of the year from Sweden,  more links to enjoy plus novelty New Year’s eyewear

five years ago: intercalary days, In the Land of the Silver Birch, 2018 in review plus Starcrash

Sunday 10 December 2023

conte du pourquoi (11. 178)

Generally in the International System of Units, as Futility Closet informs, the abbreviation of metrics are only afforded an uppercase character when the unit of measure is a personal namesake—see also—like the newton, ampere, joule, siemens, volt, hertz and kelvin, but the litre, particularly for jurisdictions with the inheritance of the Imperial System and one still singularly holding-fast, the litre was especially fraught for researchers for its potential to be confused with the digit 1. To avoid this confusion, most scientific and labelling authorities adopted a scripted โ„“ as a volumetric symbol, but conventions still held in the US, Canada and Australia. Originally as an April Fools’ Day hoax, Kenneth Woolner of the University of Waterloo created the fictional heir to a sixteenth century wine bottle manufacture concern who purposed an industry standard (famously conventional), Claude ร‰mile Jean-Baptise Litre, to promote the use of an upper-case L. I do hope that Litre had a full, fake biography.  The account was re-printed as fact by an IUPAC journal in 1978 as factual, and though subsequently retracted, the exception is now allowed.

Tuesday 21 November 2023

7x7 (11. 129)

last mile-problem: 2003 ad from a defunct automotive line lampooning the absurdity of cars—especially redesigning cities around them 

broken record: the cover of the UN’s Environmental Programme Emissions Gap Report  

whistle-blower: ufologist who testified before the US Congress urges declassification of documents on alien technology for America to get ahead of the coming, catastrophic leak  

whole heap of zing: new studies may have found the culprit in the phenomenon of the red wine headache  

oculi mundi: a gorgeous and interactive collection of antique and ancient depictions of the world to peruse—via Maps Mania  

keith number: seemingly recreational, rare and hard to find repetitive Fiboncci-like digits whose sum are a whole of its parts 

the marshmallow test: famous experiments in psychology recreated in LEGO


one year ago: an early exercise craze

two years ago: assorted links worth revisiting

three years ago: the Nurnberg Trials (1945), more links to enjoy, artist Magritte plus cardboard cat shrines

four years ago: more Words of the Year, a Trump appointee turns, Martha Gellhorn plus reforming Ukrainian exonyms

five years ago: the Mayflower Compact, more links to enjoy, a ram registry plus the backstory of an IKEA poster

Sunday 10 September 2023

6x6 (10. 993)

wordwhile: whilst Damn Interesting takes a short sabbatical to recoup and regroup, try their fun word game  

home-ec: kakeibo (ๅฎถ่จˆ็ฐฟ) the century-old method of household budgeting devised by Motoko Hani, Japan’s first woman journalist  

germinating hope: seed art with a message at the Minnesota state fair  

bullet points: an encomium for the co-creator of PowerPoint Dennis Austin (RIP)  

vim and vigour: more on the nineteenth century cocaine-fortified wine—see previously 

 ☕️๐Ÿซ: more on universal words, Betteridge’s and Cunningham’s law—browse through the comments


one year ago: Hey Jude (1968), links to enjoy, more telling the bees plus more assorted links to revisit

two years ago: St Aubert, the ecological importance of oyster-beds, comparable to coral reefs plus even more links worth revisiting

three years ago: the largest basilica in the world, artist Marianne von Werefkin, a devastating earthquake in Constantinople (1509), the original and the reprised Fresh Prince, burning skies plus Hongkonger neologisms

four years ago: the dissolution of the Austrian Empire (1919), Boris Johnson suspends Parliament, Sharpiegate plus more assorted links

five years ago: Denver airport plays up conspiracy theories,  towing an iceberg to the desert, an innovative wind-turbine plus the premiere of X-Files (1993)

Wednesday 24 May 2023

the judgment of paris (10. 763)

Aptly alluding to the myth of a scorned guest and chaos agent, Eris, the goddess of Discord—who was not invited to the marriage ceremony of Greek hero Peleus and sea nymph Thetis and tossed a golden apple into the wedding party to be awarded to the fairest, a bone of contention that sparked the Trojan War, an international jury of wine experts convened in the French capital on this day in 1976 to carry out a blind-tasting—ultimately rating varieties of Napa Valley wines as superior to the historically more esteemed French vineyards. The results of course sparked controversy—top honours going to a 1973 chardonnay from Chรขteau Montelena and a cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars whereas the opposite outcome was rather a foregone conclusion, and marked a pivotal moment in the California industry (see previously) with a follow up match in 2006 on the event’s thirtieth anniversary that re-certified the standings.

Wednesday 15 March 2023

8x8 (10. 612)

scheele’s green: more on the poisonous, synthetic shade—via Messy Nessy Chic 

terroir: BBC’s Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course  

family business: a look at the oldest-continuing operating hotel in the world, by shifting definitions (see also)

contagion: banking stocks drop as investors lose confidence after the failure and intervention for Silicon Valley Bank (previously)  

xerox alto: a half-century on (see previously), we are still living with the legacy of one of the first home computers—via Kottke  

ghostwatch: a BBC mockumentary that spooked viewers

$: the first instance of the dollar sign in print—see previously 

arsenic and old lace: an astonishing murder ring of earlier twentieth-century Hungary

Thursday 4 August 2022

she keeps her moรซt & chandon in a pretty cabinet (10. 035)

Though unclear if the attribution is entirely accurate as sparking did not become the dominant style of the wine region until the nineteenth century, this day in 1693 is the traditional date ascribed to the invention of Champagne by Benedictine monk and cellarer Dom Pierre Pรฉrignon at the Abbey of Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers and our abbot can certainly be credited with innovating the techniques and practises of in bottle fermentation, which beforehand was an acute occupational hazard since if wine was bottled prematurely, they would become literal time-bombs liable to explosion due to an excess of carbon dioxide. Pรฉrignon further championed purity in wine-making and prescribed a set of protocols for harvesting and crushing grapes. The popular quote of Pรฉrignon’s first impression of drinking his Champagne— « Venez mes frรจres, je bois des รฉtoiles » (“Come quickly my brothers, I am tasting the stars!”)—is also unfortunately a fin de siรจcle marketing myth meant to distance the drink’s associations with decadence and tie it to the diligence of a hard working monk.

Sunday 6 June 2021

overnighter: frรคnkische weinorte

H and I took a drive in familiar territory through the vineyards of Franconia in the Main River valley between Kitzigen and Schweinfurt, taking a couple of ferries that crossed the winding Main as it coursed through the hills and came to the storied vineyard there where we had previously been treated to a wine-tasting tour, after a visit of the town of Volkach with an ensemble of medieval buildings in its walked centre. 

Next we marvelled at the Mainschleife—a closed bend technically but a way to describe a river form with sinuous curves, otherwise a Mรคander, Meander, from the vantage point of the Vogelsberg, a small retreat and gastronomy at the top of a promontory. 



Fording the river with another ferry, we stopped next in the village of Escherndorf—another spot full of character and vintners plus a wedding chapel with a grotto on a hill overlooking the settlement below dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, built after a Franciscan nun from Volkach made a pilgrimage there and returned with a keepsake, with the support of the original community on the Franco-Spanish border in the Pyrenees. Instead of the usual Stations of the Cross, the path up to the chapel was lined with decorated wine barrels and there was a giant cast that could be loaned out as a tiny party room, complete with coolers for the wine. 

Next we left for our last stop on the Weininseln, the Wine Islands with the village Sommerach, not only known for the viticulture and area monopoly for the Cloister Schwarzach (previously, which we didn’t visit this time around due to a dramatic shift in the weather) but also for the unique character of the estuaries and their protected status as nature reserves. 

Staying at a pitch just outside of one of the more famous wine-producers, regionally known for its Silvaner, I needed to self-administer my first COVID Schnelltests, letting it rest on the floorboard until we were sure it was negative—something unexpected but that I was happy to do to keep us all happy campers. We explored Sommerach some more, which was in the process of reopening itself and everyone was wonderfully day-drunk—last time we visited, it was ill-timed in the middle of their wine fest, a very serious and well-attended undertaking. 

The central part of the Old Town, flanked with cafes and wine-sellers was the church of Saint Eucharius and the monumental fountain featuring the archangel Michael—not Saint George—slaying a dragon. Returning to the campgrounds, we explored the shoreline and encountered a gaggle of strange ducks.
While I had noticed the odd tall—or long duck before, seeing them act as a group, not waddling but marching double-quick time headlong, H and I were amused and a little confused—learning later that this particular breed of mostly flightless, mostly quackless ducks are called Laufente, Indian Runner Ducks (possibly from Jakarta—see also—but no one really knows their origin, bred to be walked to market), which while prolific egg-layers don’t possess the instinct to nest or rear their young and so have to be watched over by their caretakers.

Sunday 21 February 2021


Marking the end of a nine-day festival honouring familial ancestors called Parentalia (dies parentales, ancestral days), as historian and poet Ovid records in his book on Fasti, Romans across the Empire were prohibited in worship of the gods and instead were to visit the tombs of their departed and lay wreaths and leave offers of violets, salt and wine-soaked bread. More elaborate votives were permitted but this was sufficient to appease the spirits and the practice was strictly enforced, lest Rome return to a time when Ferฤlia was neglected and restless ghosts haunted the streets. As with most Roman holidays, observance was mostly a domestic, private affair and what public rites were held are an obscured and confused accounting, the only surviving description involving a drunk woman holding seven black beans (see also) in her mouth and lighting incense over the grave of a mouse, and sewing shut the mouth of a fish—then proclaiming, “Hostiles linguas inimicaque uinximus ora,” I have gagged spiteful tongues and muzzled unfriendly mouths.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

i got an empty cup, pour me some more

Though attested in the figurative sense to mean unfinished business since the nineteenth century and associated with the deleterious effects of too much drink until the turn of the century and the end of the Victorian-era, it is most likely a folk etymology, a backronym popularised by George Orwell’s 1933 Down and Out in Paris and London that the term hangover came from the Two Penny Hangover—the reported practise of draping the homeless or inmates of workhouses over a length of rope for a night’s accommodations. More comfortable that sitting up for the night or on resting on the cold stone floor—also maximising the number of lodgers per square metre—but the rope was promptly severed at five in the morning with the unfortunates tumbling and sent on their way. Language check and illustration both bookendings from Messy Nessy’s latest peripatetic internet journeys—with a lot more to discover at the link above.

Wednesday 8 August 2018


glou glou: TYWKIWDBI regales us with an overview of new wine terminology

ะณะพั€ะพะดะฐ́-ะฟั€ะธ́ะทั€ะฐะบะธ: a visually stunning gallery of abandoned places in Russia, via Things Magazine

voluntarily generated pilomotor reflex: studying goosebumps produced at will is a lot more intriguing than it first appears

i’ve got to break free: Freddie Mercury trains with the Royal Ballet in 1979

der phantashische film: German animator Heinz Edelmann, best known for his work on Yellow Submarine, created a psychedelic opening sequence for broadcaster ZDF

south street squidport: as sort of a reverse trap-street, one online mapping service is creating neighbourhoods and districts according to the branding of advertising agencies

Sunday 26 November 2017

liquid courage

There was a study, survey published earlier this week—from the British Medical Journal and not some suspect source desperate for some viral break-through—that’s really been cycling around in my head as I’ve encountered different citations on how different types of alcoholic beverages elicit different emotional and physical responses from drinkers.
Despite the authority and confirmation of consensus, it struck me as highly anecdotal and of dubious scientific-value to know that tequila was emboldening or that red wine made one sleepy—sleepy! or that white wine was apathetic, agnostic. I wasn’t impressed as broadly I wouldn’t think those characterisations were that revelatory. The research, however, was an appeal to those who did not share this common fate or those who drank as a means to recreate these deleterious but predictable emotional milieu in order that one better understands his relationship and motivation as perhaps abnormal, unhealthy and destructive. That is a scientific approach that I can support and knowing that one’s efforts might not carry their intended consequences is important—except like in most things, self-medication comes at the cost of self-diagnosis

Friday 18 August 2017

an army marches on its stomach

Though the idea has spread far and wide at least on informal terms, the French were the first in the seventeen-hundreds to acknowledge and commission the commissariat corps styled vivandiรจred or cantiniรจres. These women were for the most part affiliated with those on the battlefield and could provide far better fare and refreshment than what the military was capable of providing. These women at the front also experienced quite a lot of mission-creep—often omitted in histories, figured quite large in the outcomes on the battlefield.

Thursday 29 December 2016

blue laws or dรฉsuรฉtude

Neatorama features an interesting overview of sumptuary laws and practises from around the world that really prompts one to think about the relationship of different societies when it comes to alcohol consumption and how varied those jurisdictions are.
Where and when the sale and imbibing is suffered or permitted has as many or more regulations, regimes and schedules as tax code. From prohibition to the quirky and unenforceable laws, comparing and contrasting the different rules made me think of this mid-century French sobriety campaign that recommends no more than a litre of wine per day, which is debatably dรฉsuรฉtudinal—that is, no longer custom and lapsed, obsolete advice. Did you know it is illegal to be found drunk inside a public-house in England? Or that the small-batch absinthe outside of Switzerland is missing rather key ingredients? I can imagine that some of these laws are so codified to encourage domestic consumption and is a matter of pride and patriotism.  What local regulations strike you as odd and byzantine?