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, 4 October 2021

the final programme

Adapted from the eponymous Michael Moorcock novel and premiering in UK cinemas on this day in 1973, the Robert Fuest sci-fi, action production (thanks to the introduction from The Flop House), the plot centring around the quest for post-humanism beings—perfect and self-propagating—is a post-modern Prometheus story that shares a lot of energy and aesthetics with the roughly contemporary Abominable Doctor Phibes. Bent on carrying out the taboo and contro-versial plan of a recently deceased mad scientist and bring human kind into a new age and out of an existence condemned to near post-apocalyptic wasteland, Miss Brunner—a sado-masochistic techno-magician—instigates the epiphanical sequence, causing her to merge with the protagonist, a suave playboy physicist and son of the man scientist called Jerry Cornelius and dispatching with the henchman named Dmitri who had helped bring their plot to fruition—briefly manifesting as some sort of messianic figure to herald a new age before devolving into a caveman (see also). The creature, as it escapes the secret lair, observes that it is indeed “a very tasty world.”

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

functional discourse

We quite enjoyed this latest edition of Merriam-Webster’s Word Matters podcast with veteran podcaster (going on fifteen years, from back when I had a couple of Ricky Gervais episodes included on the MP3 playlist on my TomTom GPS navigator) Mignon Fogarty (also known as Grammar Girl) and the panel discussion on an approach that’s neither pedantic, precious nor prescriptive about language but rather focused on inclusivity and clarity as language is not about cultural, class signalling or shibboleths but rather getting one’s message across with minimal distraction for the recipient. That said, we particularly liked learning that one only throws down the gauntlet (a piece of armour meant to protect the wrists and hands) to issue a challenge to a duel whereas one runs the gantlet (from the Swedish gatlopp for a street run) as a form of hazing.

Sunday, 29 August 2021

come doused in mud, soaked in bleach as i want you to be—as a trend, as a friend

Ahead of the album’s official release later in the third week of September, a Boston radio station (call sign WFNX from 1983 to 2012 and one of the first commercial broadcasters to play alternative rock) hosted by DJ Kurt St. Thomas premiered Nirvana’s Nevermind, playing the entire recording on this day in 1991. Launching four singles and an unexpected success, both in critical reception and sales, the album is credited with bringing the various genres of the Seattle grunge movement into mainstream media, awarded several honours and reissues. Despite having recreated the cover art with underwater photoshoots for the album’s tenth, seventeenth and twenty-fifth anniversaries, the then infant model has filed a lawsuit against the band for lifelong damages for exploiting his image.

Saturday, 28 August 2021


letraset press: a collection of instant lettering dry-transfer sheets (see previously) from Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals 

the woman who stared at the sun: the circumstance and contributions to astronomy of Hisako Koyama who helped hone our understanding of solar cycles 

a good walk spoiled: an in-depth look at how golf course exacerbate the housing shortage  

couch gag: a clever individual shares their construction of a miniature replica of the Simpsons’ purple television set that plays random episodes 

one week supply: a podcast discussing Damn Interesting’s curated links section 

the china syndrome: a super-tunnel simulator that illustrates the quickest, shortest routes to connecting points around the globe—see also  

tartu snail tower: the spiralling skyscraper in Estonia’s second city  

the art of letters: a typographical study from Mark Gowing

Monday, 3 May 2021

this is npr

With this day marking the first on-air original programming from Nation Public Radio a half-century ago after the previous year’s passage of the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act, NPR and its member stations reflect on and renew their unique mandate to serve and amplify a listening audience that mirrors the fullness and diversity of the United States. The network’s original mission statement charged and championed its affiliates as being the source for “information of consequence” that helps the celebrants of human experience be “enlightened participants” in society. All Things Considered was the first segment broadcasted.

Saturday, 1 May 2021


Spurred on by the success and controversy of the “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast from two years prior, Mercury studios and RKO Radio Pictures granted screen-writer—collaborating with Herman J. Mankiewic, producer, director—an unusual degree of autonomy and creative-control for his first feature, with Orson Welles’ (see previously here, here and here) influential and critically acclaimed drama Citizen Kane premiered on this day in 1941 at the Palace Theatre on Broadway. Cinematography, light and flashback heavily informed the genre Film Noir, as well as the biographical structure and pace of the film appearing again and again as storytelling and filmmaking models with echoes of the meta-medium of the press as a Faustian character, an untameable and compelling force of nature established going forward.

Friday, 16 April 2021


oh, i travel—a sort of licenced troubleshooter: a lexicon of the Bond franchise in all its forms 

riptide: an homage to the pre-code (previously) Hollywood actress Norma Shearer 

dead pilots’ society: CBS Summer Playhouse and similar vehicles were venues for anthologies of failed television shows—see also  

la vie รฉlectrique: Albert Robida’s 1893 vision of the future includes a remote courtship by means of a tรฉlephonoscope 

the sensational she-hulk: Marvel comics hand-lettering from Reagan Ray—previously  

buzz-saw: the ancient shark-like Helicoprion had spiral tooth-whorls 

reinventing the wheel: engineers in Seoul develop transforming, load-bearing tyre using principles of origami—see previously  

oh—the pint pot, half-a-pint, gill pot, half-a-gill-quarter-gill, nippikin and the brown bowl: conventional measurements of liquid (see also) anticipated the next in a binary fashion  

shaguar: if Austin Powers were to be revived today, he would have been cryogenically frozen in 1991

Wednesday, 31 March 2021


Despite having encountered such constructions previously by name and even using all the time when speaking of evolving tastes and palettes and obsolescence, we failed to appreciate how retronyms build vocabulary and track those changes and advances mentioned just above. Distinct from backronyms and neologisms, the term was coined by journalist and NPR president Frank Mankiewicz in 1980 and refers to a newer name given to an existing object or artefact to differentiate it the original version from a more recent one, whereas no need for clarification had been required beforehand. Some examples include land-line, snail mail (as distinct from email—see also), plant-based meat, American-English, Game Boy Classic and reduplication as in requesting ‘coffee’ coffee. Many more to ponder in the podcast episode below, which also includes a discussion on the twenty-seventh letter of the English alphabet, the ampersand.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

radio caroline

Named after the daughter of JFK photographed dancing in the Oval Office and interpreted by the founder and chief backer Aodogรกn Ronan O’Rahilly (*1940 - †2020) as representing the playful disruption of government business and joyful rule-breaking, the pirate broadcaster (see also) that was never actually circumventing the law as it operated from international waters aired its first regular programme set on this day in 1964—transmitting from a retrofitted passenger ferry anchored off Felixstowne, Suffolk, just beyond the jurisdiction of any one who could object to their activity. Established like its Dutch and other European counterparts to undermine the monopoly that the BBC had over the radiowaves and the pressure that record companies exerted on stations, dictating that their popular songs dominate, Radio Caroline broadcasted from five different ships through 1990 before moving to satellite radio and community AM bands in select areas, continuing today on the internet. Limiting programming to day time hours so as not to interfere with Radio Luxembourg, the station, with news reports at the top of the hour, was extremely popular with homemakers and children and left a lasting impression and alterative from mainstream commercial music. Do give them a listen.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

prepared piano

We were happy to be introduced to a new type of technique, intervention signature to French composer and pianist Benoรฎt Delbecq’s style and showcased in his latest album “Weight of Light.” Inspired by John Cage’s 1938 Bacchanale, the preparation involves careful selection and placement of items, reeds and twigs being Delbecq’s preferred disruptors, between or on the strings and hammers to create a mysterious, uncanny timbre outside of the instrument’s characteristic range, as illustrated in the video below.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

spaghetti images

As Kottke reports, determination and engineering designed to optimise the surface area for sauce saturation has paid off with the debut of a speciality, niche past shape called the cascatelli—Italian for little waterfalls, a success for Mission: Impastable. There is so far no indication whether or not this creation will be soon joining the ranks of other speciality, utilitarian and decorative shapes (see previously here, here and here) but we can nonetheless appreciate the intention and would be eager to try a forkful alla puttanesca with parmigiana reggiano.

Monday, 15 March 2021


antikythera mechanism: researchers rebuild a model of the ancient orrery, analogue computer using the latest cutting-edge technology  

uncertain times: learning from pastoral professionals to cope with volatility 

syncopated rhythm: turn your typing to piano jazz—via Swiss Miss 

long ambients: Brian Eno (previously) explains the origins of the genre with the teaching aid of William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops  

cargo cults: blockchain’s open ledger threatens to undermine efforts to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels—see also  

cleopatra’s needles: the strange obsession with Western powers taking trophy Egyptian obelisks and the transportation challenges involved

Wednesday, 3 March 2021


spongmonkey: though not a cultural shibboleth for myself personally, this history of the Quiznos’ submarine sandwich franchise’s mascot was an interesting object lesson in internet culture—via Miss Cellania  

backmasking: fun with that portrait animation application, via Super Punch  

puce chintz alert: a truly cursed McMansion built in 1978  

micro-face: a fascinating, multistage look at the process of acquiring a super hero with the Planet Money podcast  

garage mahal: vlogger pays house-calls to the ostentatiously wealthy, asks what they do for a living

previous tenants: buildings that used to be a Blockbuster video rental shop—in the tradition of This Used to be a Pizza Hut—via Things Magazine

Friday, 19 February 2021

si un jour

On this day back in 1942, Winnipeg and the surrounding area staged a simulated attack and occupation by Nazi Germany in order to spur the public into purchasing more war bonds and change the attitude of citizens not directly impacted by the fighting efforts overseas called If Day—or in French, “If one day…”
The large scale exercise that involved some thirty five hundred Canadian troops acting both as defenders and invaders and the municipal government was fully committed to the project, the mayor and lieutenant-governor of the province arrested and replaced by a Gauleiter and civilians were harassed and subject to curfew and severe restrictions on civil liberties. With the help of volunteers, the entire operation only cost Winnipeg around three thousand dollars and netted nationwide over two billion dollars in victory bonds—the fundraising effort not only contributing to the push in Europe but also raising the profile of the urgency of the matter for all of North America, whose press outlets also covered the event. Learn more from Futility Closet and listen to a whole podcast on the subject at the link up top.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

your house is on fire and your children are alone

Courtesy of a film recommendation by one of our favourite podcasts, The Flop House, we learn of the 1963, Oscar-nominated film by Frank Perry that analyses the psycho-social toll of the Cold War that really speaks to the uncertainty and the fears harboured over our current collective crisis and what totems we rally to preserve through selective ignorance. Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis (previously) from just a year prior, following the protocol of classroom drills, teachers escort their students home at a rural elemental school after a warning siren sounds. Absent independent verification on the veracity of the alarm, no one is sure whether it is a false warning, a test or not. Some of the students’ parents dismiss these distant, abstract events as they frantically search for a fall-out shelter that can accommodate them all. One girl is ejected, with the claim there is not enough space and goes off to take refuge in a discarded refrigerator—introducing that trope, though her classmates don’t abandon her or forget about her altogether.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

drahtfunk im amerikanischen sector

From the first broadcast on this day in 1946 from the switchboard exchange of the Reichspost on WinterfeldtstraรŸe in West Berlin for the next several months until a medium wave transmitter could be procured and installed, news and political reporting from the US occupational authorities for the German people, counterprogramming to what was regarded as a propaganda put out by the Soviets, could only be distributed over telephone lines, hence the original DIAS call-sign before becoming RIAS—Rundfunk in the American Sector. Following the Berlin Blockade (previously), the terrestrial sender broadcasted each Sunday at noon the chimes of the Freiheitsglocke installed in the Schรถneberg Rathaus, modelled off the Liberty Bell, followed by a short recitation from the “Declaration of Freedom.” Expanding into entertainment with the station’s own orchestra and choir, RIAS and related stations came to cover almost all of West and East Germany (see link up top), on the air until 1993, when facilities and frequency slots were handed over to Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

black, brown and beige

The extended jazz orchestral ensemble piece by celebrated musician, bandleader and composer Duke Ellington (*1899 – †1974) performed as his debut concert in Carnegie Hall on this day in 1943 was a tone poem framed as a parallel history of the Black experience in America. A concert album with Mahalia Jackson was released in 1958. Learn much more from Indiana Public Media and listen to interviews about the significance of the piece and performance and hear the second and third movements of this narrative symphony.

Thursday, 7 January 2021


We quite enjoyed the panel discussion and examples explored in the descriptive phenomenon also called Janus words of enantiosemy—that is when term carries multiple meanings and can be its own opposite in a sense. 

Whereas some cases in English were distinct words with different spellings that converged over the years, like cleave which can signify both to separate and to adhere, others are single words, usually nouns made verbs, with the understanding that one can either suffer or permit—take away or add to, like sanction, oversight, dust, seed and bolt and left—to fix and to flee. The concurrence, which is surprisingly not taxing to understand given context, is not limited to linguistic fossils and the drift of centuries but is still occurring with terms like table, to bring up a topic or postpone its discussion, negative taking on their opposite connotations and drop in the sense of to abandon or to premiere. German has a few Beispiele other than equivalents to the English language ones as well including allerdings which is both however and naturally, of course and the term ausleihen—common with a few other languages—that is literally (another and sometimes dread-inducing auto-antonym) will you borrow me a dime, a distinction reliant on context.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021


We always enjoy—albeit too often only vicariously and not as active readers who’ve done the assignment beforehand—listening to episodes of the BBC World Book Club and are usually drawn in, intrigued to add a new title to the pile, by a thoroughgoing discussion that some might call spoilers but strike me more as insights from the author. A recent instalment featuring poet, lyricist and novella-writer Sigurjรณn “Sjรณn” Birgir Sigurรฐsson, sometimes collaborator with The Sugarcubes and Bjรถrk and his now very timely 2013 work Mรกnasteinn: drengurinn sem aldrei var til (Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was) about identity, otherness and escapism through cinema in Reykjavรญk just as the nation is granted independence and the island is visited by the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. Visit the link up top to listen to the programme and learn what’s next on their reading list.