Friday 24 May 2024

6x6 (11. 581)

gyermekvasรบt: the Budapest Children’s Railway, a functioning training project founded in the Communist era—see previously 

funny farm: an Ancient Greek agricultural emulator 

beacon hill: Massachusetts millionaire surtax surpasses revenue targets—via Miss Cellania 

he spends £1 a week on his hair: early reviews of British pop icons—via Strange Company 

god mode: a world simulation where the user has complete dominion—via Web Curios 

east side story: a documentary about musics in Warsaw Pact countries—see previously

Sunday 21 April 2024

10x10 (11. 503)

knock, knock, knock—who’s there: the authorship debate between William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson over the joke format  

charlotte braun: the untimely demise of the Peanuts’ foil to Charlie Brown 

yay, newfriend: more on the ELIZA experiment and AI paramours 

io: Juno space probe reveals a gigantic lava lake on the Jovian satellite’s surface 

he mad: Trump has to sit quietly through court proceedings 

occult chemistry: a 1908 theosophical text by Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater with diagrams by Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa 

captive market: private equity comes after US prison commissaries 

democracy dies in darkness: news media and the paywall dilemma 

the colour of pomegranates: more on Armenian filmmaker Sergei Parajanov 

is this a red flag: the Jane Eyre edition

synchronoptica

one year ago: more efforts to offset Labour Day plus a hitch-hiking companion on a Martian rover

two years ago: another classic from Prince (1985), the burial place of the Red Baron plus Disney and the culture wars

three years ago: the Tomorrow Show with special guest, duplexes in the Rรผhrhgebiet plus a mystery photo

four years ago: the Principality of Hutt, the founding of Rome (753 BC), a curatorial showdown, MS DOS coding, oil prices go negative, Texas exploits a crisis plus the Sabre Dance

five years ago: Easter greetings plus a return visit to the Völkerschlachtdenkmal

Wednesday 10 April 2024

is this the leto boy i worked for? (11. 481)

Though advertised as a clip-show of highlights from the past hundred minisodes, an unexpected, rather absurd visitor, America’s newscaster emeritus, Dune-loving Tom Brokaw, steals the spotlight of the Flop House to pitch his musical version of the Frank Herbert epic—incorporating elements of Fiddler on the Roof—far superior to the HP Lovecraft Historical Society’s 1979 and 2001 revival parody A Shoggoth on the Roof by He Who (for legal reasons) Must Not Be Named, like the above lyric from the lament of mentat Thufir Hawat for his protรฉgรฉ Paul Atreides. In the tradition of the best musical homages from The Simpsons, there are some really clever numbers explored to a lesser or greater extant on the expense of the exasperation of the co-hosts. As the sequel premieres, Brokaw also teases a part two with the template of Sweeney Todd. We also very much enjoyed the leitmotif from A Baliset Player on the Sietch of the Bene Gesserit Gaius Helen Mohiam with the lines “How can I hope to make you understand don’t you move your right hand. Keep it that small box or I will land on your neck with my gom jabbar,” inspired by “Far from the Home I Love.” Listen and subscribe at the link above. Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dune. 

 synchronoptica

one year ago: 12 Angry Men (1957) 

two years ago: the first 3D studio release (1953), assorted links to revisit plus random ID cards

three years ago: the Thelema Book of Law, the Statue of Anne (1710) plus a glossary of television terms

four years ago: German and Finnish COVID-19 terminology, a memorial service for the Notre Dame fire, William of Ockham plus more links to enjoy

five years ago: vintage volvelles, a reversal on dollar coins, the Moka Pot reissued, shopping per horoscope, imaging a black hole plus punitive tariffs on the EU

Thursday 21 March 2024

unima (11. 438)

First celebrated in 2003 after a suggestion from member artist Javad Zolfaghari from Iran, the annual observance sponsored by the International Puppetry Association, Union Internationale de la Marionnette, originally incorporated in Prague in 1929 and later headquartered in Charleville-Mรฉziรจres in the Ardennes and itself an affiliate of UNESCO through the International Theatre Institute. Marked by education, outreach, puppet making workshops and watching puppet shows, this year’s theme is the climate and one can learn more at the link above. The US chapter of UNIMA was founded by Jim Henson in 1966 and is based in Atlanta, Georgia and host to their world congresses, held periodically.

synchronoptica

one year ago: pieces of the Moon plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: St Benedictus

three years ago: your daily demon: Bael, Napoleonic Law, an idiosyncratic web museum plus the world plastic model capital

four years ago: lockdown, Trump’s response to the pandemic, the US Peace Corps shuts down, machine mentorship plus an official Welsh font

five years ago: a balloon trip around the world

Thursday 29 February 2024

world of pure imagination (11. 390)

As with other disastrous and disappointing venues, last week’s fiasco surrounding what was billed as an immersive family event organised by the House of Illuminati did not fail to garner a viral attention over this sad and pricy—up to £ 40 for a group ticket and spurring angry visitors to call the police and shut down the attraction that same afternoon (I recall similar reportage over dull and expensive Christmas Carnivals and Winter Wonderlands—Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory Experience. Contrary to an advertisement campaign aggressively enhanced by AI, the venue was in a largely empty warehouse in Glasgow sparsely festooned with a few candy-themed props, a bouncy castle and some vinyl printed backdrops from the above ad guided by poorly costumed actors. One photograph that emerged of this Oompa Loompa, looking herself rather humiliated to be party to this all around flop, adding insult to injury by framing her as some dreary technician at a meth lab, but awarding (or cursing) her with some standout meme-treatment and twice interviewed about the mortifying few hours. Rightfully skeptical about the gig posted on a jobs site, the professional actor, children’s entertainer and yoga instructor, she walked into a slapdash production not fully thought out but couldn’t back out of the contract (none of the cast was paid ultimately) and hope she might bring a little redemptive fun to the show. Much more from Super Punch at the link above.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

9x9 (11. 351)

planisphere: explore the fifteenth century Mappa Mundi—made by a Venetian cartographer and monk map who never left the lagoon  

high rollers: the character and history of burlesque shows  

robots.txt: a tiny text file that has been the underpinnings of the internet is unravelling due to AI 

a load-bearing day: the confluence of several celebrations, including Ash Wednesday (be furiousing rather than fasting), Valentine’s and the Luni-Solar New Year  

my unfortunate incarceration: the abundant prison-tech alliance is a brutal harbinger of what’s to come

bulletisation: the functional literacy crisis in reading comprehension—via the morning news 

service sector: some large companies requiring AI-informed personality tests for vacancy applicants  

disco vicar: some Anglican churches and cathedrals opening for parties  

news deserts: explore local journalism and those newsrooms hanging on—via Maps Mania

Monday 12 February 2024

itinerarium angliรฆ (11. 346)

Reminiscent of this strip map showing all the cursus publicus of the Roman Empire, Futility Closet directs our attention to this seventeenth century road atlas project presented to Charles II mapping the main routes of England and Wales from cartographer John Ogilby. A choreographer and dance master before suffering a debilitating accident, turning to translation, producing authoritative versions of Aesops Fables as well as Virgil and Homer (derided by some academic contemporaries but since rehabilitated for their scholarship), re-establishing the tradition of the theatre following the Restoration, in which he played a major role as master of ceremonies and speech writer, before turning to publishing, Ogilby the impresario was adept at reinvention. Spanning the three nations in one hundred illustrated plates, a two-volume pocket version of Britannia was printed in 1757 after several editions for the library shelf. Though considered the imprint for uniformity of scale and the standard adopted by later mapmakers and surveyors, it notably omitted the way to Liverpool. Taken up by later printing concerns, Britannia Depicta; or Ogilby improv’d was produced well into the the Victoria Era.

 synchronoptica

one year ago: assorted links to revisit, the involuted generation plus every TARDIS interior

two years ago: Germany’s Institute for Population Research, The Dance of Death (1912), calibrating the JWST, more links to enjoy plus Amen Corner

three years ago: bad bird namesRhapsody in Blue (1924) plus prints of today’s catch

four years ago: disinformation wars, photos of Soviet Moldova plus the people’s choice award for Wildlife Photography

five years ago: dying news outlets plus SVG street maps

Saturday 10 February 2024

willie loman (11. 340)

Premiering on Broadway on this day in 1949, the two-act drama by Arthur Miller (previously) set in Brooklyn was largely informed and inspired by the playwright’s chance encounter two years prior with his uncle Manny Newman in a theatre lobby in Boston showing one of his own pieces. Rather than congratulating his nephew on his success, the struggling travelling salesman immediately launched into an update on how well his cousins were faring, appearing in the play as Happy, Biff and Ben, and how despite his poor prospects and barely surviving life constantly on the road with a hustling subsistence that’s echoed contemporarily with the allure and disappointment of the gig-economy his uncle was building a legacy for his fail-sons, aspiring to the successful but departed, haunting presence of the eldest Ben. Father and Biff, a would be professional football player, in the course of the day try to secure more stability in their careers and realise the American Dream, with Happy sacrificing and long-suffering but a womaniser like Loman, but it plays out as a Greek tragedy. Winning a Tony and a Pulitzer prize, many critics consider it among the best plays of the twentieth century. The first cinematic adaptation came two years later in 1951 with direction from Lรกszlรณ Benedek.

Wednesday 7 February 2024

dark arts (11. 331)

Whilst most town councils either rescinded the ordinance or made the application process for an exception to policy a routine and perfunctory one, the legislation of the Hypnotism Act of 1952 is still on the books in some jurisdictions and subject to a blanket ban, prohibiting public performance of mesmerism or inducing a trance-state due to perceived dangers of making an audience, singly or en masse susceptible to suggestion. Proving ruinous to a scheduled comedy routine, an entertainer (without apparently having to resort to putting local authorities under) successfully appealed for the municipality to rescind the law and grant a license (the exemption not needed under the statue to practise hypnosis for clinical and therapeutic purposes) to go ahead. Though public attitudes have changed significantly for the latter with the method widely accepted in medical settings, the former stage acts is notably low and venues risk-adverse and putting responsibility on the performer.

Monday 22 January 2024

goody goodwife (11. 286)

Written as an allegory for McCarthyism, the Red Scare during which left-leaning views were repressed and politicians and private individuals were systematically repressed over fear of Soviet infiltration and Communist influence with most accusations ultimately found to be exaggerated if not outright false, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible had its premier performance on this day in 1953 at the Broadway Martin Beck Theatre. Speculating with the opening narrative (following on with each act) that the theocratic society of the Puritans, isolation and unstable conditions contributed to the paranoia and hostility, the play is set in colonial Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Though some liberties were taken to fully limn out the litigants and the sentenced, most of the names and events are dramatised from court records.

synchronoptica

one year ago: US Supreme Court rules on Roe v Wade (1973) plus artist Sophie Hollington, AI on fantasy glam rock plus the door gods of the Lunar New Year

two years ago: the new normal (2003), Our Town (1938), AI suggests breakfast cereal plus a 1972 interview with David Bowie

three years ago: the death of Queen Victoria, another MST3K classic plus unnamed implements

four years ago: assorted links to revisit,  the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb corrected, Trump and the tabloids plus an upcoming auspicious date

five years ago: artist Max Guther, a celebration of blank video cassettes plus Apple’s 1984 commercial

Monday 1 January 2024

rest in power (11. 234)

Continuing a long-standing tradition, Chris the Barker (previously) has made another Sgt Pepper’s style collage as a tribute and remembrance to those who have passed in 2023, updated until the last minute and reaching back all the way to the beginning of the year lest we forget any legends lost. It’s a crowded assembly to reflect on and features a key—also in the style of the album’s liner notes. Pee-wee Herman, Dame Edna, Sinรฉad O’Connor, Tina Turner, and Jane Birkin feature prominently but also includes political figures and cross-over moguls like Silvio Berlusconi, Jerry Springer and Gina Lollobrigida as well as Bobi, the oldest dog ever, and the Sycamore Gap tree who get their visual obituaries.  Shared on X, we can’t locate a reference to the death of Twitter on the cover however.

synchronoptica

one year ago: a new addition to the family plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: St Telemachus, the umbrella patented, Hearts of Space, rogue waves plus Dinner for One

three years ago: making it through 2020, your daily demon: Ose, a Scooby Doo clone, the Julian calendar plus the launch of VH1 (1985)

four years ago: welcoming 2020, Unix time plus Star Wars on a synthesiser 

five years ago: ringing in 2019, banning single-use plastics, generated automobiles plus more on Ultima Thule

six years ago: more welcoming the New Year, the corrugated sculptures of Warren King plus artful thinking

Tuesday 26 December 2023

resume your seat, little sister—i want you to stay fresh and pretty—for gentlemen callers (11. 217)

Premiering in Chicago on this day in 1944, Tennessee Williams’ (previously) first critically successful work propelled the playwright to stardom from relative obscurity. The memory play which includes strong autobiographical elements—excusing the unreliable narrator—recalls the trials of the Wingfield family, an absent and abusive father, a faded southern belle of a mother, a long-suffering son that supports them in his St Louis apartment with a dull job at a shoe warehouse and his older sister, a painfully shy individual with a slight disfigurement from a childhood illness and retreats into her own world of fragile figurines. With Tennessee Williams popping up frequently, I am realising that a lot of what I used to think about mental health and its aberrations was informed by such histrionics and wonder if anyone else was similarly influenced.  Despite its long runs and revival and many radio and television adaptations, it was only made into a film twice—once in 1950, with Jane Wyman and Kirk Douglas, and then again in 1987, directed by Paul Newman and starring Karen Allen, Joanne Woodward, James Naughton and John Malkovich.

Sunday 24 December 2023

aรฏda (11. 211)

When originally approached by the Ottoman Pasha Isma’il of the Khedive of Egypt to produce an opera celebrating the opening of the Suez Canal—see also, Giuseppe Verdi declined. Later, however, presented a libretto set sometime in the Old Kingdom, a stretch of three millennia, by famed French Egyptologist and archeological authority Auguste Mariette, the composer ultimately conceded. Delayed by the ongoing Franco-Prussian War (see above) that prevented the elaborate scenery and costumes from being shipped from Paris, the opera eventually debuted in Cairo on this day in 1871. Egyptians forces have captured the titular Ethiopian princess and her captor, military commander Radamรจs, is caught in a love triangle with the pharaoh’s daughter, whose affections go unrequited, his desire for his prisoner and loyalty to his king and country. One of the most famously choreographed scenes is the Grand March from act II, below, when Radamรจs enters triumphantly, the chorus chanting “Gloria all’Egitto, ad Iside (Glory to Egypt and to Isis),” through the Gates of Thebes and is granted anything he wishes as a reward for his services.

Saturday 23 December 2023

hรคnsel und gretel (11. 209)

Premiering on this day in 1893 at the Weimarer Staatskapelle, the fairy-tale operetta by siblings Adelheid Witte and Engelbert Humperdinck and conducted by Richard Strauss was a much lauded adaptation of the Grimm Mรคrchen (somewhat toned down for audience appeal) for its folk-inspired musical motifs and has become a Christmas time staple. A family of poor subsistence farmers—broom-makers by trade—have a sudden boon when Father sells a bunch of his wares at good prices to villagers from beyond the forest preparing for a festival and want to clean their homes, returning with quite a bounty of food for them. Meanwhile Mother has sent her indolent children, who would rather play and complain about how hungry they are than attend to their chores, out to Ilsensteiner Wald at the foot of the Brocken to gather strawberries. Expositionally, Father says that that place is the home of the evil Knusperhexe (‘nibbling witch,’ usually played by the same singer as Mother) who lures away children with promises of treats and transforms them into gingerbread. Father and Mother rush to the enchanted woods to find the children but they very much have a handle on the situation.

Sunday 3 December 2023

i just don’t see why blance should shove a broken bottle in stanley’s face—couldn’t she just take his abuse with gentle good humour? (11. 161)

Premiering at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway on this day in 1947, Tennessee Williams’ Southern Gothic play (previously) narrates the experiences and trajectory of a former southern belle who loses her teaching job and the family home to creditors and with no other prospects, moves in with her younger married sister and husband in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Deceptive and critical of her new hosts, Blanche Dubois is acting out of self-defence and deflection to not own her series of bad choices, including an early marriage to a gay man and an affair with a student that led to her dismissal from the school. The original cast showcased the talents of Kim Hunter with Jessica Tandy and Marlon Brando and the name comes from a streetcar line (discontinued by the time of the cinematic adaptation in 1951 and replaced by a bus service) that ran not far from the playwright’s own apartment when living on Toulouse Street.

Thursday 16 November 2023

edelweiss, edelweiss—every morning you greet me (11. 122)

Opening on Broadway on this day in 1959 after an eight-performance audition cycle in New Haven and Boston, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with book by Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay was based on the 1949 memoir of the matriarch and lead character, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, and the slightly fictionalised adaptation for the stage in set in Austria just before the Anschluss and annexation in 1938, we follow Maria, who vacillating on her decision to join a convent, has meanwhile become a governess to a large family. Maria is endeared to her charges as well as to their widowed father, Captain von Trapp. Opposed to the Nazi occupation, they all (now baroness) eventually flee Salzburg, with the help of the nuns, and escape to America. Musical numbers which have become show-tune standards include “My Favourite Things,” “Climb Every Mountain,” “So Long, Farewell” as well as the titular songs.

 synchronoptica

one year ago: the Arecibo Message (1974), an edible rescue drone plus the Artemis mission to return to the Moon

two years ago: the Feast of Saint Matthew

three years ago: Word of the Year: Lockdown, an architectural fancy-dress party, the Day of the Icelandic Language, the day before yesterday plus an early draft of Take on Me

four years ago: Word of the Year: Climate Strike, headlines from 2029 plus ugly Christmas sweaters

five years ago: assorted links to revisit plus Word of the Year: Toxic

Sunday 29 October 2023

il dissoluto punito (11. 082)

The two act masterpiece, commissioned after his successful tour of Bohemia and finished just the night prior, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (see previously) Don Giovanni opened in Prague’s The Estates Theatre on this day in 1787. The adaptation of the centuries old Spanish legend of Don Juan, a haughty libertine and lecherous young noble, believes no one can resist his overtures or match his wit until encountering on that is unmoved and singularly unimpressed, the vengeful funerary statue of the angry father of his first sexual conquest, killed by Giovanni in a duel. Inspired by the character Il Commendatore (Don Pedro), a statue was installed in 2000 in the forecourt of the theatre, which still hosts performances of the opera.

synchronoptica

one year ago: places lived and just past through plus a last day in Crete

two years ago: Constantine’s victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge,  Orinoco Flow (1988), a Mario marathon, celebrating a Renault classic, a collection of horror GIFs plus the end of the Salem Witch Trials

three years ago: assorted links to revisit plus referring to parents by the names of their offspring

four years ago: the political alignments of Mario Kart characters

five years ago: Italy battles the EU over its fiscal policy, Merkel to not run again for party chair, synthetic traditional Chinese medicine plus more on Angela Merkel stepping down

Sunday 17 September 2023

heaven, sir—and hell, too—it’s the same place, you see (11. 005)

Punctuated with highly humorous dialogue yet dealing with serious subjects of class, spirituality and redemption, the premier play of of Sutton Vane (who turned to acting and writing as therapy after his experiences in the trenches during World War I left him shell-shocked) opened on this day in 1923 and was an instant success, resounding for audiences and critics alike. The stage piece relates the story of a group of seven passengers who are the sole compliment of a huge ocean liner with no crew save for a steward who attends them and who eventually helps them reconcile to the fact their destination is the afterlife and prepare them for judgment by the Examiner. Immediately moved to a larger venue due to its popularity and optioned by Broadway pre-production, adapted as a cinematic release three times and saw numerous revivals—including a season directed by Otto Preminger and starring Vincent Price, despite their difference, the passengers slowly realise that their lives were intertwined and alternately aid and antagonise one another under the watch of the Charon-like barman. The full radio play in three acts is below:

synchronoptica

one year ago: the debut of M*A*S*H* (1972), assorted links to revisit, Emperor Norton I plus a consequential forgery

two years ago: The Persuaders!rewilding one’s attention plus more links to enjoy

three years ago: Hildegard von Bingen, tour guides, words with only plural forms, the musical stylings of Ady Zehnpfennig, the illustrations of Rex Whistler plus the microscopic world announced

four years ago: The Handmaid’s Tale, previously unreleased pictures of David Bowie, spoon-hanging plus more language hapaxes

five years ago: the space shuttle Enterprise (1976)

Friday 15 September 2023

9x9 (11. 002)

you deserve to sit: a comedian’s silly song about their favourite inactivity  

๐Ÿ˜ธ: visit a random feline friend featured on Wikipedia—via Pasa Bon!  

& let it stonde .1. nyght or .2.: a medieval recipe for mead  

montage: the animated collages of Alice Issac  

shrinkflation: a French supermarket chain displaying advisory labels to alert consumers 

word alienation and semantic satiation: one of the laureates of the thirty-third Ig Noble Awards—see also here and here  

consult our extensive archives: veteran broadcaster—and BBC’s first podcaster, Melvyn Bragg celebrates one thousand episodes  

pagliacci: a pizza chef turns melodramatic over a cursed request

synchronoptica 

one year ago: Our Lady of Sorrows plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: forest mascots (1971) plus a Star Trek: TAS classic

three years ago: more Trek with “Amok Time,” illustrations from the children of Charles Darwin, rousing public sentiment following the Gunpowder Plot, life signs on Venus plus a COVID movie-night

four years ago: more on Jupiter’s moons, a hot Colonel Sanders, public crucifixes, Lovecraft in the style of Dr Seuss plus Graphis Press

five years ago: an AI names apples, the Ig Noble Awards, the Great Recession’s Lost Decade plus legalising marijuana confounded by travel regulations

Saturday 26 August 2023

gaberboccus press (10. 965)

Named after a Latin translation of the Lewis Carroll poem Jabberwocky, the multimedia concern founded by the Polish refugee couple Stefan and Franciska Themerson in 1948, we learn courtesy of Languagehat, produced over sixty titles in its three decades of existence—ranging from the collected essays and lectures of philosopher Bertrand Russell, poetry by David Miller and Henru Chopin, the calligrams of Apollimaire to their work works and perhaps most famously a faithful English translation of the pataphysical play by Alfred Jarry Ubi Roi (previously here and here). Eventually sold to a publishing house in Amsterdam, Gaberboccus immediately following World War II was a rejection of the stateless author and political exile, bolstering the International character of their clients and exposing them to a wider audience with a experience and fervour that resists displacement.

synchronoptica

one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus the tyranny and utility of time

two years ago: prayers to saints during plague times ranked plus Steven Spielberg’s a.i. promotions

three years ago: the Isle of Wight Festival (1970), Ten Million Photo Play Plots, Space Force hierarchy, IKEA in Animal-Crossing, guerilla video documentarians plus more unbuilt New York

four years ago: pirate treasure plus the introduction of the Austin-Mini (1959)

five years ago: RIP John McCain plus the Chinese script for women only