Saturday, 15 December 2018


bouquet: floral masterpieces recreated with living flowers

plenary session: climate activist Greta Thunberg delivers a powerful message to those gathered at Katowice

coming attractions: a mashup of all the biggest movie trailers of 2018

the notorious rbg: supreme court justice is amazingly resilient

rebel scum: gorgeous, retro Star Wars style propaganda posters

hot neptune: researchers locate an exoplanet that’s slowly being evaporated by its host star—via Slashdot

patchwork pojagi: the beautiful kimonos and accessories of South Korean textile artist and educator Chunghie Lee

please enjoy responsibly: funny suggestion for a Christmas time drinking game

Thursday, 13 December 2018


shorthand: deaf researchers are innovating science communication

inventas∙vitam∙iuvat∙excoluisse∙per∙artes: the questionable rebranding the of the Nobel prize (see also)

the shape of water: aerial photography reveals the beauty of meandering streams, rivers and water courses

fairytale of new york: an appreciation of The Pogues’ classic ballad

kobe hyakkei: more on the woodblock print artist Hide Kawanishi’s impressions of post-war Kobe compared to contemporary photographs

the glories of science: winners of the Royal Society photography contest—a scholarly association for the advancement of knowledge of the natural world 

Sunday, 9 December 2018

hallmark holiday or that’s what christmas is all about, charlie brown

Our faithful chronclier, Doctor Caligari’s Cabinet, informs that today in 1843—coinciding with the serial publication of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol which very much rehabilitated the festive season in England and beyond, industrial designer and museum administrator Sir Henry Cole (*1808 - †1882) too busy to pen personalised messages to all his friends and colleagues for the holidays commissioned Royal Academy illustrator John Callcott Horsely to create for him a set of pre-printed greetings on cardstock.
Still working out its franking system—the first postage stamp only introduced two and a half years earlier, Horsely also designed pre-paid postages envelopes that allowed well-wishers to post the cards for a penny throughout the Empire. Also on this day in 1965—perhaps with this bit of history in mind, CBS first aired the A Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Reportedly, producers and the network were convinced that the special would prove to be a monumental failure and threaten the Peanuts franchise, fretting over the pacing, tones, lack of canned laughter (a television standard at the time), the unconventional, jazzy soundtrack and the rather incongruent moment of reading Bible verse. The first commercial Christmas cards were mired in controversary and considered blasphemous in part for depicting a child imbibing an adult beverage along with his parents, probably contributing to their commercial success. Enjoy the Vince Guaraldi Trio perform the Linus and Lucy suite and other songs for the programme.


Our ever intrepid adventurer over at Amusing Planet takes us on a surprising tour of an abdandoned mine tunnel converted during the early 1970s under the Hague Convention for the “Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict” into a bunker for historically significant documents, dating back to the tenth century up to modern times with some one and a half million contextual artefacts (originals like the blueprints for the Dom zu Köln or Pope Leo X’s communique threatening to excommunicate a monk named Martin Luther) contributing from archivists across Germany coming in annually.
This shelter, called the Barbarastollen, named after Saint Barbara—the patroness of miners among others—and for the support beams of the unfinished mine shaft, which the Christmas, like the traditional German fruit-cake like Christmas bread, Stollen, is  near Freiburg im Breisgau in the Black Forest, and one of five world-wide with the others being Vatican City and three vast underground chambers in the Netherlands, has foregone modern formats which could surely accommodate the breadth and depth of human knowledge up to the moment in the seven hundred metre long stacks, instead keeping with the tried and tested method of document storage and retrieval, barrel upon barrel of microfilm—the media positioned to weather a nuclear war and at least a millennium, readable by means only of a magnifying glass and a little sunshine. Read more at the link up top.

Thursday, 6 December 2018


betamax xmas: we get reintroduced to a nostalgic, internet classic—via Waxy

optician sans: a sleek free font from ANTI Hamar and Fรกbio Duarte Martins

i heard you on the wireless back in ‘sixty-two: a whole universe of pre-MTV music videos

premiรจre arabesque: guitarist Kyle Schaefer arranges and performs Claude Debussy’s early masterpiece in progressive rock style

modernistmas: an updated gallery (previously) of Brutalist and Post Modernism gingerbread houses for the holidays 

Wednesday, 5 December 2018


Doing some Christmas shopping, I managed to complete the circuit through the capitals of Wiesbaden and Mainz, inspecting the high streets and markets and seasonal decorations besides. Conceding a bit of magic that one experiences at night with all the lights, it was nice to walk through the squares without so much of the crush from the crowd and take in the Nativity Scenes (Krippe) and Christmas carousels (Weihnachtspyramide), especially liking how the seat of the Second German Broadcaster (ZDF oder Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) incorporated one its mascots, the Mainzelmännchen that signal station identification, into the decoration.

I also took the chance to re-visit St Stephan zu Mainz, a Baroque church heavily damaged during the aerial bombing of the city during World War II but rebuilt in the early 1970 and showcasing stained glass windows designed by artist Marc Chagall in the nave and quires. A tour led by a deacon invited us to bask and mediate in the uniquely cobalt light.
I then visited the monumental Christuskirche, a Renaissance-revival building that was also severely damaged during the war—whose high dome is visible from the other side of the Rhein.
Back in Wiesbaden, I walked through the Christmas market held in the square in front of the Rathaus and around the red brick Marktkirche and later went to see how the Kurhaus had decorated for Christmas and its upcoming balls and fรชtes and found this stunning poinsettia tree in the casino’s foyer.

Monday, 3 December 2018

operation faithful patriot

Everlasting Blört introduces us to the extensive portfolio of Barcelonan artist Riki Blanco via his unappologetic (accomodations for inexcusable behaviour should always be called out) portrayal of Trump’s unending campaign stunt, which even the Pentagon can’t abide by calling a mission for its political overtones that not only represents a patently xenophobic Navidad whose goal of disinvitation during the holiday season means that many soldiers deployed to the southern frontier are spending it away from their families and friends, ordered to lob tear gas canisters at massing migrants—for some, fulfilling an errand sought after.

Sunday, 2 December 2018


village dรฉtruit: exploring nine ghost towns in northern France—via the inestimable Nag on the Lake 

¤: : a short animation celebrating the obsolete coins of the member states now using the euro

no longer part of the squad: the art of unfriending prior to social media—via Things magazine

onomatopoesie: a conservancy for endangered sounds—via Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals

holidays are coming: a primer on Advent season—a movable, malleable fest

Monday, 26 November 2018


black mirror: a local Chinese business woman is publicly pilloried when an AI misinterprets an ad on the side of a bus as the jaywalking CEO—via Slashdot

cover art: vintage, non-fiction paperback jackets animated by Henning M Lederer

drainspotting: a memory-match game played with decorative Japanese manhole covers (previously here and here)

wallflower: Cecilia Paredes camouflages her subjects against bold floral patterns

l’anis del mono: artist Omar Aqil models Pablo Picasso’s abstract paintings in three dimensions with everyday objects

christmas evil: White House continues the decorating tradition of transforming the residence into a nightmarish hellscape

christmas is just around the corner

Spotted by Miss Cellania, one town’s art centre (which shall remain anonymous) has been decorated with Christmas festoonery that references Banksy’s famously self-destructing masterstroke (previously here and here) whose performance art and meta-commentary is becoming a meme of its own.  I suppose it follows that a tree would shred into garland after all, sort of like the palm fronds from Palm Sunday burnt for the ashes of Ash Wednesday.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

seasons greetings

Though there will be no long snow-bound, winter’s nap for H and I, we will be busy with Christmas celebrations over the next few days and we’ll be taking a pause for station identification. Thank you one and all for visiting (we cannot say it often enough) and we hope for a bright and happy holidays for everyone and we’ll see you again real soon.

Friday, 22 December 2017


daft the halls: a fun, festive musical compilation in the style of the artists, via The Awesomer

tulip mania: companies unrelated to cryptocurrency craze are garnering attention by adding “blockchain” to their names

not to scale: Tanaka Tatsuya’s creative dioramas comprised of tiny people interacting with everyday objects, via Nag on the Lake

jรณlnar: the yuletide Icelandic Ogress Grรฝla seems far more formidable than Krampus (more on her extended family here), via Miss Cellania

bowling for elves: a look back at the viral 1999 computer game that circulated by email and the ensuing scare that made the public more wary about cyber-security

tuin der lusten: an animation studio reinterprets Hieronymous Bosch’s triptych Garden of Earthly Delights (previously) with contemporary vanities

Friday, 1 December 2017


stellar cartography: Google Maps venture out into our Solar System and chart the planets and natural satellites

circling the drain: research suggests that all the antidepressant medications flushed away are making fish antisocial and withdrawn

musical instrument digital interface: what the virtuosity of plant life can say about consciousness

festtage: a humourous and insightful primer for German Christmas season—for the uninitiated

neutralidade da rede: to imagine the US without protections against blocking and throttling, one need only look to the situation in Portugal

low earth orbit: Russian cosmonaut claims to have sampled extra-terrestrial bacteria from the hull of the International Space Station

in praise of air: a four stanza poem printed on an oversized panel at the University of Sheffield campus purifies the air it extols

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

lamp under a bushel

Having just learned of the name of the decoration myself through its gentle lampooning on BBC Radio 4 Friday Night Comedy, I appreciated reading more about the Christingle, featured as Atlas Obscura’s weekly object of intrigue. The comedian in the show could only justify adorning an orange with a red ribbon if one wanted to distinguish it from other oranges whilst one is attempting to retrieve it from the airport baggage claim conveyor belt.
Now we know, however, that a German Moravian (Herrnhuter Brรผdergemeine) minister in the sixteenth century invented the Christingle as an allegorical device for children to teach them about Jesus—the red ribbon symbolising Christ’s blood and the candles’ flame representing enduring joy, the oranges being introduced later. The skewers of dried fruit or candies represent the bounty of the world and the four seasons. Also known for their advent stars, I wonder if this other Moravian tradition might spread as well, but perhaps not for all times and all occasions, like in the movie theatre—which the comedian above was reprimanded for by ushers for partaking in.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

รณรพekkur eรฐa gott (naughty or nice)

Reports that one Icelandic Christmas figure, Kertasnรญkir, remains popular but might be slipping in the rankings with the younger demographic, I had to investigate more into these so called Yule Lads and what roles they played in the season’s celebrations.
The sons of mountain-trolls, the Yule Lads (jรณlasveinar) are said to come to town during the thirteen days preceding Christmas Eve (compare to Twelfth Night that marks the end of Christmastide), often bringing in tow their ferocious Yule Cat that was to devour children whom did not receive new clothes for Christmas (or perhaps those recalcitrant ones that complain about getting socks) whereas the Yule Lads mostly have a taste for human leftovers, and visits each child to mete out rewards or punishment according to the child’s behaviour (though the centuries and modern parenting practises seem to have mellowed them significantly). Kertasnรญkir is the Candle-Thief (candles being made of tallow and therefore edible) with other popular brothers being Stรบfur, a stubby one known for steeling pans to gnaw the crusts left on them, or Hurรฐaskellir, who plays distraction by slamming doors at all hours so his compatriots can commit mischief unimpeded.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

the ghost of christmas pluperfect

Collectors’ Weekly has a nice reflection on the diaphanous and sparkly things that have fuelled how we frame Christmas time, hitting on how strange it is to think that our shared nostalgia—even having lived in Germany for all these years, a place stepped in its own tradition and exporter (in the Victorian Era—and much later, their glassmaking expertise) of many of the standard customs—for the most part don’t reach back to time immemorial but rather to post-war America and Mid-Century Modern style.
Despite all the fossilised lyrics of carols, in fact, almost all that’s not the reserve of the space-race and the burgeoning atomic age seems to be sourced back to the nineteenth century, and with Christmas’ revival (which quickly became something terrible and consumer-oriented), Victorians sought to keep it something pure and authentic—turning away from machines and mass-production and launching the Arts and Crafts movement. The spectre of materialism was always there but was particularly difficult to stave off after the austere years of all manufacturing going to the war effort and then industry finding itself surfeit with raw materials and excess capacity and beat swords into plow-shares—and tinsel and coffee-makers and vacuum-cleaners. Santa Claus was even accredited as an astronaut (and as a cosmonaut) to be tracked by NORAD. Reaching back even further, the holiday, supplanting Saturnalia, has always had its share of ulterior motives and customs that have the most curious and conflated origins but it’s no reason to humbug Christmas—nor to despair over its meaning and its keeping

Friday, 18 December 2015

ghost of christmas weird

Dangerous Minds curates a truly bizarre gallery of antique Christmas greetings cards, gathered from various sources, whose message and associations with cheer and the season are rather—through the filter of a given vintage—lost on modern audiences.
There’s Krampus, of course, who’s a much greater deterrent to naughtiness than a lump of coal—which I’d wager that some Victorian street urchin would be very grateful to receive, but beyond this cautionary example these salutations are just fraught with surreal imagery—duelling frogs, dead sparrows, revolting sparrows, murderous emus and polar bears. What’s truly classic is universal and enduring (kittens, perhaps) and maybe these cards illustrate the consequences of things passing out of style and humour becoming obsolete. Be sure to check out Dangerous Minds to pursue the full selection.

Thursday, 17 December 2015


purl two: upon request the BBC would send out the knitting instructions for the Fourth Doctor’s iconic scarf

uppruni: a young Bjรถrk reads the Nativity story for an Icelandic television audience

food pyramid: Vox examines at different ways nutritional guidelines are influenced and imparted globally

zodiaco: Salvador Dalรญ’s astrologic menagerie plus a hint into the obsession the artist had with his departed elder brother, Salvador Dalรญ

tween: proposed EU rules would raise the social media age of majority to sixteen

Saturday, 5 December 2015

dies vitiosus

The indispensably brilliant daily chronicler, Doctor Caligari, begins his detailed, far-reaching time-capsule by disabusing us about the pickle hidden in the Christmas tree, which was never some tradition enshrined in German holiday customs until one American retail fairy-tale marketed it as one—which we’ve ascribed to, as well. Incidentally, 5 December also marks the date that the last episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus was aired in 1974, and further back in 1484 (with allowances for the calendar reform) when Pope Innocent IIX endorsed with papal bull, the auto de fey of the feline variety, including the familiars of witches and their human wards, which resulted in the Black Death and Protestantism. Be sure to consult Doctor Caligari’s Cabinet regularly for what daily ripples we are living with.

Friday, 12 December 2014

santa’s little helpers

Writing for The Daily Beast, columnist Sally Kahn reminds us how big warehouse distributors exploit workers, especially those brought on to take up the holiday slack, with a telling decision upheld in the courts.
Though happily in Germany, these elves can go on strike—and over lesser injunctions—for America’s sweat-shops there seems to be little hope, and no great change of heart for these grinches seems forthcoming. This stint is not an insignificant one, not paying workers for the time at the end of each shift they spend being subjected to mandatory screenings and searches to make sure that they are pilfering any merchandise, especially considering that this same company will be awarded (for its tracking and logistics expertise) government security contracts and help maintain that list of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.