Sunday 4 February 2024

previously unheard of roofing details (11. 324)

Via Things Magazine, whilst not calling the search over and declaring an end to the project McMansion Hell (previously) has encountered its antithesis in the US state of Alabama’s whimsical Smith Lake Castle perched on the cliff-face of a mountain some one hundred metres over the water’s surface, an artificial reservoir in the northern part of the state created from mining and damming operations, a Stausee, the nearest settlement named in honour of Bremen. Built in 1980, this five-million dollar property, this house has, is everything from its bright interior that invites scrying into its nature, architectural tropes customised to unbelief with trappings of luxury, simultaneously post-modern and theme-park. More to explore at the links above. There are still many levels to ascend before one gets to where God is sitting.

Wednesday 1 November 2023

drei haselnรผsse fรผr aschenbrรถdel (11. 087)

The Czechoslovakian-East German co-production of the Bohemian variation of the fairy tale (Tล™i oล™รญลกky pro Popelku, Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella) opened in theatres on this day in 1973. Enduring and shown around Christmas time and making the circuit through the channels much like It’s A Wonderful Life the primary filming location was Schloss Moritzburg between Meissen and Dresden. The village is in a frenzy as the royal entourage will be stopping en route to their nearby castle, with rumours that the eligible Prince (portrayed by Rolf Hoppe) will choose a bride during the local fรชte. Cinderella’s step mother keeps her busy with menial and seemingly impossible chores in order to keep the competition to a minimum and showcase her less attractive and wicked step-sister. Doves, however, come to Cinderella’s assistance and finishes the tasks, affording her the free time to wander in the woods and encounter the prince and his hunting party, who are impressed with her equestrian skills. Later gifted three wish-granting filberts, Cinderella is able to regale herself with various disguises to become the King-of-the-Hunt as well as the belle of the ball.

synchronoptica 

 one year ago: another penny black, assorted links to revisit plus the Word of the Year

two years ago: another Word of the Year plus a starting point to restore our burning world

three years ago: The Mask (1961), the Sistine Chapel opened to the public plus indigenous characters in comics

four years ago: a space odyssey, World Vegan Day, more mushrooming plus Blade Runner

five years ago: Trump activates the army to guard the border, movie ratings, an Ansel Adams’ photograph plus a bio brick


Friday 22 September 2023

6x6 (11. 013)

schedule f: Trump and the Heritage Foundation’s plan to dismantle the administrative state, replacing federal workers with sycophants—via Miss Cellania  

chinoiserie: a grand tour of Rococo era architectural follies as homage and aspiration to Eastern aesthetics—see also  

disco demolition night: more on the publicity stunt that incited a riot and brought down a whole genre of music 

agrostology: of grasses and lawns  

we’re safety now, haven’t we: US federal consumer safety commission drops an album that includes some bangers—but hardly for the first 

time swing time for hitler: new audio book by Scott Simon explores how Nazis banned jazz as degenerate art and repurposed it to dispirit the Allies—with more on Lord Haw-Haw and other propagandists

 synchronoptica

one year ago: MERS-CoV (2012),  the premier of West Wing (1999), Putin addresses the public and announces a draft plus an early Hobbit computer game

two years ago: assorted links to revisit plus Fiddler on the Roof (1964)

three years ago: Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in state, the last day of summer, more links to enjoy plus dazzling skylines made of dot-stickers

four years ago: exploring the Messel Pit plus a highly idiosyncratic language

five years ago: rehabilitating coral ecosystems with electricity, an AI makes college course catalogues, typhoon naming conventions plus an M-class exoplanet

Friday 1 September 2023

limes regis (10. 976)

We are treated to a field-trip, courtesy of Strange Company, along an ancient footpath called the Ridgeway that clings to chalk cliffs of Berkshire Downs along the Salisbury Plain down to the Thames at the Goring Gap, the narrow river valley between Reading and Oxfordshire, the Ridgeway—described as the oldest trail in Britain and in use for over five-thousand years, the high ground a preferable trade route since travellers could spot potential highwaymen and marauders. Tour highlights include several ruined castles and forts and megalithic monuments.

Tuesday 11 July 2023

7x7 (10. 874)

fit for a king: a selection of ersatz castles for sale in the US 

caliology: corvids using anti-bird spikes for nesting material
100ยบ in the shade
: mapping tree shadows 

free agent: labour force of the outsourced talk about the effects of the AI revolution—via Waxy  

ravensbourne: finding the lost rivers of London—see previously  

involuntary memory: the aetiology of earworms 

cheese royal: Burger King in Thailand introduces a menu item composed of twenty slices of American cheese

Sunday 7 May 2023

codex gigas (10. 725)

The largest extant medieval manuscript in the world, this “giant book” (Obล™รญ kniha) was saved from destruction when the medieval royal palace of Stockholm went up in flames by being thrown from a window on this day in 1679. Taken from Prague as spoils of the Thirty Years; War by Swedish forces, the illuminated tome (weighing in at 75 kg) contains the complete Vulgate Bible and other thirteenth century reference material and is known for picture of the devil that takes up a full page with no other text—so prominently featured according to legend due to a pact with Satan by one of the monk scribes in exchange for allowing him time to completely transcribe the text before the source material was overdue.

Saturday 28 January 2023

halt—who comes there? (10. 506)

Via Strange Company, we are directed towards the Gentle Author’s visit to the Tower of London and privileged to accompany her taking part in the oldest, unbroken military ceremony in the world, a nightly vigil that has taken place through war and plague for over seven centuries, “The Ceremony of the Keys” executed faithfully by the Yeoman Porter, locking the main gates for the night at ten sharp. Photographed by Martin Usborne, granted a rare license and access since at the request of the sovereign the pomp and protocol has never been filmed,  visit Spitalfields Life for more on this ancient ritual, the repetition kept up without stint or remiss.

Saturday 3 December 2022

6x6 (10. 357)

yuletide: Spitalfield’s Life welcomes the Festive Season with George Cruikshank’s illustrations—see previously  

isle of vaila: a remote mansion in the Shetlands comes on the market—via Strange Company  

hoops and loopholes: NPR’s Planet Money surveys the US tax code and tax-exemptions  

curds and whey: the ecosystems that make up our cheeses—via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links  

sight and sound: a once-a-decade poll of critics and filmmakers rates the top one hundred movies of all time  

the duchy of rutland: a Christmas at Belvoir Castle

Friday 25 November 2022

le mont-saint-michel au pรฉril de la mer (10. 332)

Always grateful for the chance to revisit Mont Saint-Michel (previously here, here and here), we enjoyed this artistic observation from Atlas Obscura of the abbey and the bay from the painterly perspective of a satellite (see also) under the low angle of the winter sun, with the spires of the monastery casting a shadow on the quicksands and tidal waters. More about the history of the eleventh century religious retreat and place of pilgrimage and its environs at the links above.

Sunday 11 September 2022

blร r drochaid shruighlea (10. 125)

As part of the First War of Scottish Independence, on this day in 1297, the forces of Andrew Moray and William Wallace took the strategically important crossing of the River Forth and defeated the English armies of the Earl of Surrey and Hugh de Cressingham, the much reviled treasurer of the English administration in Scotland and suggested the losing course of action—which cost him his life by flaying and reportedly ended up being turned into a belt and thongs. After Scottish king John Balliol submitted to Edward I, landholders, the clans were made to acknowledge the overlordship of England, soon afterwards precipitating a revolt. Wallace teamed up with Moray in Dundee and marched on to Stirling (see previously)—commanding a contingent of agile spearmen to advance on the English heavy cavalry. Taking control of the Stirling Bridge, it became impossible for the English to send reinforcements, thus retreating to the stronghold of the castle and effectively surrendering the Lowlands to rebel forces. In the aftermath, Wallace was proclaimed Guardian of Scotland, and the pictured tower is a nineteenth century monument to his exploits in view of Stirling Castle and the Forth crossing.

Sunday 4 September 2022

pegelstand oder die grรผne herz deutschland (10. 108)

 

Afterwards we embarked on a circuit of the series of five progressively higher reservoirs (Stauseen) built from 1935 over the next decade to harness hydroelectric power by damming and flooding river valleys. 

Though a sparsely populated area, villages had to be abandoned and resettled when constructing the Hohenwarte and its gravitation cascade that turns potential energy kinetic were constructed and owing to the low water levels because of the global drought (and floods) we thought we might witness PreรŸwitz or others rise from the waters but we’ve been spared the worst so far. The forests were dry and the pines especially dying but an evening of steady rain was some reprieve. 


We saw various gradients and differentials from high vistas before choosing a campsite near Ziegenrรผck, heir to some more patrimony now underwater. 


Packing up the following day, we completed our tour with the reservoir at Burgk and its eponymous castle and keep, a quite well preserved residence dating from the Middle Ages and seat of the House of ReuรŸ, a princely line who named all male children Heinrich, in honour of Barbarossa’s son, Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. 

The engineering and the attendant landscaping was impressive and inchoate. On the way back, we visited the town of Saalburg on the Bleiloch reservoir that had the atmophere of beach resorts along the Baltic Sea.








 

Monday 29 August 2022

drizzle, drazzle, druzzle drome—time for this one to come home (10. 094)

Alternately titled St George and the Dragon and The Seven Curses of Lodac, the 1962 adventure fantasy by Bert I Gordon (King Dinosaur, The Amazing Colossal Man, Village of the Giants, etc.) loosely based on the legend of St George and his conquests was subjected to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment, airing for the first time on this day in 1992. Our hero in this version, George (Gary Lockwood, later Lieutenant Commander and navigator Gary Mitchell on the Enterprise and astronaut Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey)—of royal parentage but fostered by a sometimes ineffectual sorceress played by veteran actor of stage and screen Estelle Winwood—embarks on a quest to rescue the princess Helene and prevent her from being fed to the dragon of the evil wizard Lodac, played by the equally esteemed Basil Rathbone.

Thursday 28 July 2022

west lothian (10. 023)

Though certainly the numerous landmarks we saw did not disappoint, quite a few places we visited were closed for access and undergoing repairs, including one of the final stops we made at the royal palace of Linlithgow. We had a nice time touring the grounds, the Peel, and learning about its residents of renown including the Steward line,




James V, his daughter Mary Queen of Scots—subject of royal intrigue and crisis of succession and the first target of the so called Rough Wooing, who found allies in France and the papacy coinciding with Henry VIII’s turning away from the Church in Rome and eventually forced to abdicate herself in favour of her infant son James VI & I, ruling a united England, Scotland and Ireland—but the inter court was closed pending repairs. From a safe distance, H tried launching his drone for a glimpse from above but the gulls tried to hunt it down and had to quickly abort the mission. Linlithgow was originally established as an English fort to disrupt the supply route between Edinburgh and Stirling castles (the baby Mary was spirited away to the more defencible latter), destroyed and rebuilt for the monarchy, embellished over generations until falling into disrepair from disuse as courtly life was now centred in The south. The palace lies on the banks of the eponymous loch in the city centre behind the church of Saint Michael with its modern steel steeple and has a gangway with the dates and reigns of all the Scottish kings and queens. Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, who kept Mary confined to various castles in England after she relinquished her title and claim and eventually had her beheaded—after eighteen years—for conspiring against her majesty, is not referred to by her ordinal designation and rather as Palatine Electoress as she never ruled over Scotland. To this end, after the coronation of the current monarch, some Royal Mail post boxes were vanalised, objecting to Elizabeth II because there never was a first.

eilean donan (10. 022)

In search of coffee and a light lunch and more intent to explore more of the northwest Highlands’ natural beauty, we happened on the small tidal island at the confluence of three sea lochs named for Irish missionary Donnรกn of Eigg—a saint martyred when trying to convert the Picts—with a very spectacular and picturesque castle that was once the stronghold of Clan Mackenzie, demolished for their involvement in the Jacobite rebellion, garrisoning a contingent of Spanish mercenaries and a magazine of gunpowder, prompting the English government to send in three heavily armed frigates to quell the uprising, in the early seventeen hundreds but restored over two decades in the early twentieth century according to its original thirteenth century design. 

Once the focus of clan feuds, the castle and its destruction—and subsequent rebuilding—is seen as a symbol of resistance and loyalty to the House of Stuart. The striking building has had several cameos in film and television, including The Highlander franchise, Braveheart and the 1999 Bond movie The World is Not Enough, as well as the short, once thought lost film Black Angel that features the castle and island prominently and was exclusively screened as a double-feature with The Empire Strikes Back in UK cinemas in 1980.

Sunday 24 July 2022

unthirldom (10. 014)

After six years of heavy battles to establish full dominion over Scotland, the last bastion of resistance to rule by Edward I of England, Stirling Castle (updated with pictures of ours) finally fell on this day in 1304 after four months of besiegement under attack by a dozen war machines—towers, battering rams and catapults, hails of cannon balls, Greek fire and possibly a primitive form of gunpowder

Impatient with the slow progress though the Scots garrison holding the castle were ready to sue for surrender at this point commissioned a more massive trebuchet from master architecture James of Saint George to be christened the Warwolf. Edward refused the request of William Oliphant, constable and commander, until he got to test his Warwolf. Once the castle was taken, all the landed-gentry excepting William Wallace pledged their fealty to King Edward.

Friday 22 July 2022

and i would walk five hundred more (10. 011)





Following the North Coast 500 back towards the North Sea and open waters, we stopped at the stately ancestral home of the Clan Sutherland in the Highlands, Dunrobin Castle, the medieval fortification extensively remodelled in the 1830s in Scottish Baronial style for the second duke—whose father was a touch megalomaniacal having commissioned a colossal statue of himself build atop Ben Bhraggie visible at every point in the county and whose land reform practises were responsible for the Highland Clearances, landowners evicting crofting communities (tenant farmers) to make room for the far more profitable raising of sheep for wool.  

Dunrobin takes its present form thanks to these gains. We opted not to take the guided tour owing to the large amount of tour coaches parked in the forecourt—including a Rotel bus with a sleeper carriage (see previously) so instead we walked around to the beach of the Firth of Dornach to see the residence from that side before later claiming a patch of strand as our own.

Friday 24 June 2022

daytrip: bacharach am rhein

For a work-outing, we took a cruise on the Rhein from Rรผdesheim to the picturesque village dominated by the twelfth century fortified castle, Burg Stahleck, overlooking the Steeg gorge and Lorelei valley, and once residence to the advocatus (Vogt) of the archbishop of Kรถln but now a youth hostel. We spent the afternoon on the portico taking in the view, having hiked up from the river bank. Along the way we passed not so much as an architectural folly—though it looked the part and the castle itself was destroyed during the Thirty Years War, abandoned and not restored in its present form until 1927 (see also) and pointedly as a retreat for Hitler Youth and re-education centre, in the Gothic ruins of the Wernerkapelle, the unfinished chapel preserved in this state as a reminder of Germany’s and Christianity’s rampant, historical intolerance of other peoples and other faith traditions, the shell of a structure itself originally dedicated to the memory of a youth supposedly murdered by the region’s Jewish residents who were in turn expelled and their property seized—a common ploy and false excuse at time, and put into context with a dedication and prayer from Pope John XXIII, asking for forgiveness and reconciliation. It was a bright and glorious day out of the office by the privilege of the photogenic ought not sanitise the past but rather enhance our understanding of it. 


 

Saturday 14 May 2022

mise of lewes

Reviewing the chronicle of historic events that happened on this day, I was reminded of something spotted on our 2016 trip across England and this marker in the town of Lewes that commemorated the settlement (a rare English term from legal French, the past participle of mettre—to put) struck on this day during the

Second Barons’ War in 1264 between embattled Henry III and the rebellious gentry under the leadership of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. On the brink of civil war, displeased with high taxation and tribute and foreign influence in the royal court, landholders and king negotiated a series of reforms that placed policy decisions in a council of magnates but was soon diluted and returned to status quo ante bellum, particularly after arbitration by Louis IX, a champion of royal prerogative and who certainly didn’t want a revolt on his hands, fighting broke out again at the fields of Lewes. Though with his victory,
Simon de Montfort was effectively made ruler of England, he was not able to hold power or maintain a stable government was was himself killed one year later during the Battle of Evesham. The monument to the battle and peace treaty was erected in 1964, the seven hundredth anniversary.  It was a nice occasion also to revisit some impressions (which I think we’ve not shared before) of this ancient town in Sussex with castle ruins and venerable brewery.

Sunday 8 May 2022

himmelsscheibe




Coming home from Saxony we took a detour and finally got the chance to check out the Arche Nebra—a museum and planetarium near the archeological site where the prehistoric skydisc was discovered. The actual artefact is usually kept in Halle and was presently on loan to the British museum as part of an ancient astronomy exhibit that couples it with the megalithic timepieces like Stonehenge and the nearby counterpart, the Goseck circle, a solar observatory from neolithic times—but there were plenty of detailed replicas on hand to study and gain an appreciation in situ of this rather overwhelming tool. From the perspective of the promontory where it was discovered (Fundort), the golden bands ringing the edge form an arc precisely corresponding with the Sun’s pendular journey between the peak of the Brocken and the peak of the Kyffhรคuser in the Harz rising and setting at the spring and autumn equinoxes and indicating by the appearance of the New Moon and its proximity to the Pleiades (see above) when to plant and whether the year will be a common year or will need an intercalary month inserted to keep the stars aligned with the cycle of the seasons, this earliest known representation of the Cosmos features no gods or heroes, only the calendar of the night sky. In the area, we also stopped at the village of Zingst on the Unstrut river to inspect this manor house by the road that looked like it had seen time conscripted as a factory with the addition of an industrial smoke-stack and the vista of the largest medieval castle complex—similar in scale and composition to the Wartburg—in middle Germany, Burg Querfurt, something to see another day.

Saturday 4 December 2021

townscaper

Via Web Curios, we had a lot of full building our own thassolocracy in the lagoon cell-by-cell with this aesthetically intriguing and genuinely calming diversion with animated, embellished utopia-builder, replete with architectural conventions to discover, for instance a tower composed of alternating red and white blocks will turn into a lighthouse. Copying the link and pasting it later will let you continue your civil engineering work in progress. Give it a try and share your creations with us.