Friday 2 December 2022

8x8 (10. 352)

fomites: turns out that COVID virus can stay of some grocery items for days—see previously    

fabulous fakes: an engrossing documentary about a Chinese painter whose specialty is creating pictures in the style of Van Gogh (see also) and travels to see the originals  

baguettes, bell-ringing and bee-keeping: UNESCO inscribes more human treasures  

foghorn: a celebration the floating lighthouses called lightvessels  

geopolitics is for losers: the infectious idea was concocted to account for defeat and hold influence  

gen-x studs terkel: the death of boredom is the biggest loss of a generation—a conversation with Joe Hagan  

viva magenta: Pantone announces its colour for the coming year—previously here and here 

such freedom: social network drops policies in place to limit the spread of misinformation on COVID

Saturday 5 November 2022

this is a dynamic list and may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness (10. 275)

Via the always engrossing Web Curios, we find ourselves directed down a rabbit hole that is anything but a listicle in this collection of fallacies and factoids that make up Wikipedia’s (multilingual) muster of common misconceptions. We’ve covered some folk etymologies, like the pretence of “ye olde pub,” our that X-Mas wasn’t an assault on Jesus, but the supposed four-letter initialism formed from the phrase (also not true) “fornicating under the consent of the king” was a new one to us. Another misconception dealt with the radio-listening public’s response to Orson Welles’ 1938 adaptation of H G Wells’ The War of the Worlds, with not a wide audience share tuned in, newspapers elaborated isolated incidents of panic to undermine its competitor as a medium for advertising. Contrite at first, the broadcaster, CBS, later came to embrace and perpetuate the myth. There’s a non-exhaustive though quite comprehensive list of falsehoods and biases to be disabused of to be found at the links above.

Tuesday 18 October 2022

the beeb (10. 234)

Just over two years after the first live public broadcast, sponsored by the Daily Mail and hosted by Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company and featuring a performance by Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba (of toast fame) captured the public imagination with the possibilities of this new technology—despite a distinct disdain for such frivolities and the potential to impede other more official or newsworthy communication on the part of the government, the General Post Office, the licensing authority, was overwhelmed with over a hundred requests to establish radio stations. Eager to not follow the same career into chaos as with the largely unregulated expansion of the radio network in the United States, officials proposed the issuance of a single license jointly owned by the leading wireless receiver manufacturers. The British Broadcasting Company Ltd was founded on this day in 1922, its centenary, by John Reith as its general manager, with the abiding directive to “inform, educate and entertain.” On New Year’s Eve 1926, the commercial enterprise was dissolved and reconstituted as the crown-chartered British Broadcasting Corporation.

Friday 14 October 2022

confirm receipt (10. 223)

Having previously been acquainted with the calling cards of citizens’ band and Ham radio operators, we appreciated this entree into QSL postcards exchanged around the world—and beyond—through this study by graphic designer Richard Bova on the standards, codes and curated selection of cards from across the globe.

Saturday 17 September 2022

7x7 (10. 141)

jezero: Perseverance explores a Martian crater  

lingthusiasm: an interview with xkcd author Randall Munroe on hypothetical questions about language and orthography—via Language Log  

achievement unlocked: a radical redesign for Girl Scout badges—see also  

3½, 5¼: an interview with the last purveyor of floppy disks—via JWZ  

emoticons: more on the IPA, EPA (English Phonotypic Alphabet), Issac Pitman and other champions of spelling reform from Shady Characters  

jazz and cats: the life and surrealistic art of Gertrude Abercrombie  

earth below us: outstanding images from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Contest

Monday 12 September 2022

nosewise (10. 127)

Courtesy of the latest edition of You’re Dead to Mesee previously—and the panel discussion on animals in the Middle Ages, ranging from superstitions, scientific inquiry to animals standing trial, ecclesiastic courts usually trying wild creatures, excom-municating a swarm of locust for instance, whereas civil courts hearing cases involving domestic animals, we learn of the fifteenth century hunting treatise by Edward Norwich, Second Duke of York, The Master of the Game, a position the duke held in the court of Henry V. The volume not only includes several chapters devoted to different quarry, techniques and canine-care, it moreover includes a listing of nearly eleven hundred names that would be appropriate for such working animals, All Manner of Hounds, including the above, Nameles, Clenche, Bragge, Tullymully, Flithe, Honyball, Synfull, Garlik and Troy. His lordship, however, forbade anyone naming a pet Norman—presumably after the recently lost duchy, which does seem like a good name for a good boy. Here is the whole list within the manuscript for you to tag your pet—or yourself.

Thursday 1 September 2022

a, e, i, o, u—and sometimes y (10. 103)

As part of an engrossing, thoroughgoing examination of the alphabet’s terminal letters and the semi-vowels, our modern w’s and y’s and their received orthography and form, The History of English Podcast, in the latest episode, informs that the in the prevailing Blackletter or Gothic scribal style, the risers (see also) are referred to as minims—the simplest stroke, the “i” and the source of our modern minimal and derived terms (hence, “I do not care one iota”) and these vertical elements, making for the quickest recording and transcription with a quill, sacrificed legibility for the sake of speed and economy of space—the word itself and others with m’s, n’s, u’s and i’s looking like a picket fence. Scribes found idiosyncratic ways of making texts clearer and reducing transmission errors by adding a tittle or a jot, and using a “y” for an ending “i.” Much more at the links above.

Friday 26 August 2022

time in a bottle (10. 087)

A favourite topic here at PfRC being the subject of time and time-keeping and having previously covered topics of Roman hours, the French Revolutionary Decimal Calendar, Time Zones, Knocker-Uppers and Daylight Savings Time, we quite enjoyed this latest instalment of You’re Dead to Me—the comedy podcast that takes history seriously, that explores both the want to escape the tyranny of clock and how in its measurement of time, our horizons are broadened beyond the immediate to the eminent. Following one tradition that informs the generally agreed upon standard, it was the Roman conquest of Greek Sicily and bringing back the sundial of Syracuse as a war trophy and putting it on public display (despite being calibrated for Sicily-time) was the beginning of regimented time-keeping with the fabulist Titus Maccius Plautus lamented of this new installation in the forum during the Punic Wars, duplicated all over the empire, “May the gods damn the man who first discovered the hours—when I was a boy, my stomach was the only sundial, but now what there is isn’t eaten lest the sun say so.” Much more to explore at the links above.

Sunday 14 August 2022

brackets, in kilohertz, closed brackets (10. 058)

In winter of 1978 in response to a newly brokered international broadcasting frequency allocation scheme, much of the BBC’s presence on the radio dial shifted and to pass this information to the listening public, the Broadcasting Corporation commissioned the a capella vocal ensemble The King’s Singers to harmonise a series of psalm settings to list the changed stations. It was released as a single by EMI Records as the transition was coming into effect called “Some Enchanted Wavelength.” After this pause for station identification, the public became endeared to the group for the 1984 televised documentary series on minstrel traditions in Western Europe called The Madrigal History Tour in deference to the Beatles’ album. Listen to more announcements in anticipation of the 23 November changes, please click here.

Sunday 5 June 2022

eleven benevolent elephants

We quite enjoyed this selection of British tongue-twisters, which struck us more as vocal exercises aimed at improving enunciation and fluency rather than a word game—particularly a wicked cricket critic and many an anemone sees an enemy anemone—that served as a segue for a particularly fabled announcer’s test to be presented cold and with no preparation to prospective radio and television talent as a gauge of their pronunciation skills, memory and recall and breath control, asked to deliver the following without mistake, hesitation or rushing for lack of oxygen. 

  • One hen
  • Two ducks
  • Three squawking geese
  • Four Limerick oysters
  • Five corpulent porpoises
  • Six pairs of Don Alverzo’s tweezers
  • Seven thousand Macedonians in full battle array
  • Eight brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of Egypt
  • Nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller-skates with a marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth
  • Ten lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep who all stall around the corner of the quo and quay of the quivery all at the same time

Now say that two times fast. It was to be repeated back in the style of a cumulative song, with each verse getting increasingly longer.  There are of course several variants of the semi-legendary audition. More rhyming challenges from Futility Closet at the link up top.

Saturday 28 May 2022

the tiffany problem

Although as a given name it has a pedigree of over eight hundred years, the English, Bretagne version of the feminine form of ฮ˜ฮตฮฟฯ†ฮฑฮฝฮฏฮฑ, given to those born on the Feast of the Epiphany, it strains credulity to use in a historical, fictional context because we believe the name to be something thoroughly modern. Welsh-Canadian fantasy writer Jo Walton (see previously) was inspired by this counter-anachronism to coin the titular quandary as a stand-in for our recency biases—moreover the illusion that what’s recently popular is in fact recent—and the disconnect in how we perceive past and preface.

Friday 13 May 2022


sagittarius a*: the Event Horizon Telescope captures images of the Milky Way’s Black Hole—previously  

sluggo: “Music from Nancy”—via Waxy  

click-wheel: with the announcement that the last iteration of the iPod is being discontinued after two decades (see also), enjoy this first commercial advertisement  

anamorphic camouflage illusion: the Phantom Queen optical effect  

รผbersetzer: Google Translate adds languages using Zero-Shot Machine Translation, now facilitating communication among one hundred and thirty-three different languages  

white dwarf: astronomers witness a nova in real time

Thursday 12 May 2022

whistle-stop tour

Also available in audio form, 99% Invisible presents a thorough-going appreciation of locomotives, ranging from how the dining car gave us the curious dimensions of the diner and a Scott Joplin rag-time composition on the intentional ramming together of two engines and the temporary city that sprung up to watch this train-wreck to theory and praxis of Japanese railways.

Tuesday 22 March 2022


situation of opportunity: a giant soft pillow urban intervention on the streets of Amsterdam—via Messy Nessy Chic 

floor plan: highly detailed drawings of Japanese hotel rooms  

you can’t take it with you: the coffin tradition of the Ga people of Ghana  

photogenic: Tom Hegen captures the symmetries of solar farms  

hobbiton-across-the-water: maps and paintings of Middle Earth curated on-line—see previously  

this is a test—this is only a test: a look at the history of the US emergency broadcast system—see previously  

long life to the lord of men: jade burial suits from the Han dynasty  

anchors in the afterlife: a collection of non-human resting-places

Thursday 17 March 2022

leipziger straรŸe

Via friend of the blog Nag on the Lake, we quite enjoyed this stroll down familiar albeit empty streets of Leipzig (see also) after-hours guided by this collaboration from Nรธvae and Dom Waits of Brotfabrik with a House/Haus setlist of a dozen electronic melodies anticipating a time to come when these scenes might be livelier.

Sunday 6 March 2022


wayfinder: Polynesian palm frond and seashell navigational charts  

zoned for resimercial: reaction offices and the future of the workplace  

the final nail in the coffin: a proposal for a casket one drills in the ground  

such freedom: a convoy of truckers whose grievance is less clear picks up some hitchhikers along the way in the form of a la carte conspiracy theories 

fashion forward: RIP to Elsa Klench (*1930) host of the long running Style segment on CNN  

don’t know much about geology: James Sowerby’s 1884 illustrated study of catastrophic British mineralogy  

the neutra house: the hilltop compound that belongs to Red Hot Chilli Pepper Flea has strong evil villain lair energy—and is on the market—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links  

glonass: mapping tools and satellite imagery as a prelude to the information war over Ukraine

Wednesday 2 March 2022

earthship ark

Our gratitude to the aptly recursive and veteran podcast Stop Podcasting Yourself (previously) for the viewing recommendation in the ambitious and acclaimed Canadian sci-fi series from author Harlan Ellison (as Cordwainer Bird) and featuring the adaptions of stories of Ursula K Le Guin, Arthur Heinemann and others which despite the trappings of low production-value is genuinely intriguing and compels one to watch more. Starring Keir Dullea from 2001: A Space Odyssey and only lasting for a single season in 1973, the sixteen episode arc of The Starlost is set in a multigenerational colonial ship of dozens of connected biospheres in the late twenty-fourth century of Earthling refugees seeking a new home after the destruction of their own.

Sunday 30 January 2022

man-from-mars radio hat

Via the always outstanding Sunday Links from Nag on the Lake, we are introduced to the predecessor to the Walkman and the earbud in the dual tube radio fitted into a pith helmet debuted in March 1949 by inventor Victor Hoeflich—most of whose work consisted of novelty items and making the Hawai’ian lei more ubiquitous through his machine that churned out paper versions of the traditional wreath. Aggressively advertised and memorable, the mobile device did not sustain sales nor attract and retain early adopters with the marketing campaign winding down the following year. With the development of the transistor, pocket radios would become possible some five years later. Much more at the links above.

Friday 21 January 2022

aack one

Though I admit that I would be burying the lede if I didn’t confess that I would have turned to this excellent and highly recommended podcast mini-series on the Cathy comic strip (1976 - 2010) and its author Cathy Guisewite by Jamie Loftus for the mere fact the concluding episode is entitled Guisewite Shut, it is a subject worth revisiting—rather unfairly dismissed and reviled as a trope of “the four basic guilt groups,” it’s a much more subtle and nuanced ocial commentary on generational transitions and power dynamics.


wheelie bins: a collection of municipal-issue recycling bins from across the UK—via Pasa Bon! 

filmovรฝ plakรกt: a gallery of vintage Czech movie posters  

1 000 trees: drone footage showcases Heatherwick studios’ Shanghai shopping centre  

northwoods baseball sleep radio: a fake game with no jarring sounds designed for podcast slumber  

holkham bible picture book: a 1330 curiosity that illustrates select passages from the Old and New Testaments  

the great british spring clean: projects and programmes (see also) sponsored by Keep Britain Tidy