Friday 23 February 2024

welcome to my ted talk (11. 371)

Founded on this day in 1984, the first Technology, Entertainment, Design conference of the US-Canadian non-profit media organisation—freely distributing “ideas worth spreading—featured futurist Mickey Schulhof demonstrating the compact disc, invented some eighteen months prior, and the Apple Macintosh with presentations by mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, Nicholas Negroponte (with some rather prescient predictions, see also) and Whole Earth Catalogue’s Steward Brand. Broadening to scientific, cultural, humanitarian and academic topics, the main symposium has been held annually in Vancouver with other events interspersed throughout the year hosted globally and has been available universally under a Creative Commons license online since 2006.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit, Civilisation plus number names

two years ago: more on the Royal Order of Adjectives plus London’s courting of oligarchs

three years ago: Quo Vadis (1951), the names of chess pieces plus Unworter of the Year

four years ago: more links to enjoy, ending NDAs, a superspreader event plus leap days

five years ago: a visit to the Neroberg

Tuesday 20 February 2024

10x10 (11. 365)

royal mews: King Charles’ one of a kind electric Jaguar up for auction—via Miss Cellania  

ppe: the portable nuclear bomb shield, patented by Harold Tiff  

got clearance clarence: after embarrassing blunder over bad travel advice, Air Canada advocates personhood (and limited liability) for its chatbot customer representative 

1776 days: Julian Assange’s long detention and fight against rendition to the US for Wikileaks

that which you call hardee’s, we call carl’s junior: food deserts, prevalence and distribution of casual dining chains in the US 

tigers blood: new singles from Waxahatchee 

daddy daughter day: breakdancing, bitcoin father revealed as a veteran of member of the Christian Coalition and conservative speech writer 

the second in line: Swedish illustrator Mattias Adolfsson—via Messy Nessy Chic  

body armour: Casimir Zeglen, the priest who invented the bulletproof vest  

motorcade: Joe Biden’s Cadillac sedan for sale—via tmn


one year ago: artist creates a prosthetic extra digit plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: more links to enjoy, the subterrene (1972) plus The Shape of Things to Come (1936)

three years ago: introducing the Jeep (1941), a Nyan Cat NFT plus a suite of Japanese pictograms

four years ago: more mass-transit upholstery, RIP Larry Gordon Tesler who invested copy-and-paste, superannuated map styles, the possible extradition of Julian Assange plus the new US ambassador to Germany

five years ago: all the presidents’ meals, a secret meeting between industrialists and the Nazi government (1933), more links worth the revisit, the US emergency broadcast system (1971), vintages mazes plus the bokeh technique

Saturday 17 February 2024

♐︎ (11. 357)

Via Boing Boing, we are directed towards a project by Matt Webb that resulted in this handy app that always points to the galactic centre of the Milky Way, the rotational point coincident with the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* surrounded by about ten million older red giant stars in close proximity. When I got my first model of iPhone, I got made fun of for first playing with the compass before anything else, and I’m not ashamed to say, especially for someone with a poor sense of direction, I still find it engaging even with no particular place to go. With little avowed programming skills and no experience in making apps, the details of realising this undertaking in collaboration with AI are really interesting and illustrative of the cooperative effort—it’s not just summoned into existence but was enabled and was a great leveller, but even more internet was the preamble about Webb cultivating a superpower to orientate himself to intuitively know where this dense, far away region was an imagine the waltz of the cosmos relative to this pivot-point and relative to himself—reminiscent of some insular and aboriginal languages using geographical features, landmarks or cardinal directions rather than the egocentric right and left. Webb’s navigational instinct has since sadly waned but can be supplemented by this little creation, grounding  to know even when it’s below one’s feet.

Saturday 10 February 2024

7x7 (11. 338)

caught between the moon and new york city: taking a harrowing subway ride in 1981  

homing: Nikola Tesla’s love for pigeons and telepathy—via Strange Company 

 : more on the interrobang—see previously  

stringe-watching: the opposite of binging a series to indulge in the experience  

hash mark: the works of artist Ding Yi coinage: TikTok has seen an (irritating) explosion in linguistic novelties to promote niche microtrends—via Miss Cellania  

in the aeroplane over the seas: Neutral Milk Hotel covers for the album’s anniversary 

castro street: Bruce Baillie films Riverside, California in 1966


one year ago: assorted links to revisit, Tapestry (1971) plus a pioneering hypertext novel

two years ago: the Dread Pirate Roberts plus a geographical challenge

three years ago: the Simpsons’ intro, the feast of St Scholastica, vernacular ceramics, no fly free zones plus profiting from conspiracy

four years ago: more Orange Menace

five years ago: more links to enjoy

Saturday 27 January 2024

horsey horseless (11. 299)

Through his 1899 patent for the above automobile mast or grill that fronted the steed of a horsed-carriage to cause less distress in mixed traffic, we are acquainted with the figure of Uriah Smith, Seventh Day Adventist minister, hymnodist, inventor and abolition and pacifism advocate. Disillusioned and disabused from religion following the Great Disappointment when the world did not end as foretold in prophesy but later joining the administration of the Advent church, contributing significantly to its theology and writing their own End Times eschatology, remaining in Battle Creek until expiring on his way to the office in 1903.

Tuesday 23 January 2024

challenger deep (11. 289)

Damn Interesting’s Allan Bellows invites us to accompany the on-going adventures of the Swiss-Family Piccard (see previously also here), who on this day in 1960 reached the ocean floor in the deepest part of the Mariana Trench aboard the bathyscaphe Trieste, designed by father Auguste and co-piloted by son Jacques—marking the first time a vessel, crewed or uncrewed, dove to such extremes, garnering insights in this never before seen environment. Much more at the links above.


one year ago: Stationtostation (1976) plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: an Underground inspired uniform, Charles Lindbergh testifies before the US Congress (1941), artist Ger van Elk plus more on Wordle

three years ago: Earthrise, Bounty Day on Pitcairn, Duke Ellington at Carnegie Hall, the abominable mystery of flowers plus more links to enjoy

four years ago: hell for pendants

five year ago: the Ten Year Challenge for the environment, train-delays knitted, TRON minus the special effects plus artist Annie Wang

Tuesday 19 December 2023

9x9 (11. 196)

mister jingeling: a dozen, beloved department store Christmas characters—see also—via Miss Cellania

bubblenomics: pondering the consequences of when AI goes the way of crypto and NFTs 

indefinite causal order: quantum batteries are powered by paradox—via Damn Interesting  

a winter’s tale: selected readings of Christmas ghost stories—via Things Magazine  

the waitresses: the cynical anti-holiday hit Christmas Wrapping that became a festive classic 

infinite jukebox: a clever AI application that extends songs forever  

high ground: study of the competition for space dominance between the US and China suggests America occupy Lagrange points to counter malign ambitions  

52 snippets: facts gleaned from economics and finance from the past twelve months 

snoopy come home: Gen Z rediscovers and identifies with the Peanuts’ character

Friday 1 December 2023

fifty-two things (11. 154)

Continuing an annual tradition, Tom Whitwell shares some interesting and intriguing things, one per week, learned over the past year. Some of the more tantalising facts (most new to us) include how there was a hourly bank robbery in Los Angeles three decades ago, the apparent kidnapping of solar pioneer George Cove, forest cover in Scotland and England have returned to levels not seen in a thousand years, fake navel tattoos that create the illusion of height is hailed as one of the best inventions of the year plus the advent of psychedelic cryptography, concealed messages that can only be received by those on LSD. Much more at the link up top.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

9x9 (11. 146)

the big easy: Bonapartist diaspora had designs for Napoleon to retire in New Orleans—via Messy Nessy Chicsee also courtesy of Super Punch  

holiday emporium: Kottke’s annual gift guide returns after a hiatus  

triple word score: players and lexicographers are a bit mortified with Scrabble’s new tournament rules  

colophon: the rise and fall of Borders Books 

moonlight towers: during the infancy of electric lighting, there was a predecessor to serial lamps  

pump and dump: insurance companies are exacerbating the climate crisis 

fiat: during the bank strikes of Ireland in the 1970s, pubs stepped in to fill their function—via the new shelton wet/dry  

ai garage sale: haggle with robots for real items—via Waxy  

pas de goulots d’รฉtranglement dans la production: a strange 1940 diagram from linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf presenting French as a factory assembly line

Monday 13 November 2023

luminous flux (11. 118)

Though doing nothing to help those looking up at with the naked eye restore some of the wonder of the unadulterated night sky, a group of astronomers in Russia have taken advantage of a clever hack in the proliferation of LED lighting to diminish the glow of street lamps. Reversing technological advances in observatory by washing out the field of vision—to the point where stars are vanishing at a rate of ten percent per year, scientists are combatting light pollution by making the diodes flicker at a rate imperceptible to humans synchronised with shutters on the telescope’s aperture to capture images of stellar objects only during those milliseconds that the lights are out. Practical trials seem promising in yielding clearer, more detailed exposures. Getting a whole municipality to coordinate their blinking lights seems like a logistical challenge but maybe a worthwhile one.

Sunday 12 November 2023

connections (11. 114)

With an interdisciplinary and humorous approach to the history of science and innovation, the educational television series that first aired on BBC with presenter and writer James Burke in 1978 and distributed in the US by PBS (see also) the following year, will be rebooted as a streaming documentary series after several years of syndication and tribute episodes with the same host exploring, as the original show’s subtitle suggests, an “Alternate View of Change,” tracing the interconnectedness of inventions and events that inform modernity and the course of seemingly unrelated accidents are revealed as the drivers of history. In addition to possible corollaries to his chain-of-events, the series also poses the question of when literacy falters in the face of techno-shock and when the accelerated rate of change becomes overwhelming. While waiting for the next instalment, one can explore the original ten episodes below.


one year ago: the famous photograph of the Loch Ness monster (1934), the Gemini XII mission (1966), the birth of hypertext and the web browser (1989) plus the premier of Absolutely Fabulous (1992)

two years ago: a pioneering trapeze artist, Monsters, Inc, substitute mall Santas, harnessing the powers of silk plus a foggy walk in the woods

three years ago: a concert for a reunited Berlin (1989) plus imagining the Trump Presidential Library

four years ago: an ideal time to go to Mars, Possibly in Michigan (1983), casting to Hell plus a psychedelic ad for movie refreshments

five years ago: a 1929 Ralph Steiner short on water, women’s suffrage in Austria (1918) plus RIP Douglas Rain


Monday 6 November 2023

dak industries incorporated (11. 100)

Via Waxy, we are directed to Cabel Sasser’s decade-long curation of a consumer electronics catalog print editions from company founder and enthusiast Drew Andrew Kaplan who operated his mail-order service out of North Hollywood from the mid-1980s to the early 90s. Assembling the ephemera to complete the collection, a retrospect appreciation of the Golden Age of Gadgetry and it’s a rather fascinating anthology of glossy, ad-filled hand-selected inventories to see what was available and aspirational, including pedometer, heart-monitoring wrist watches, exquisite telephones, synthesisers and all variety of hi-fi and recording media and is certainly worth the slow scroll though this gallery (with links to the complete catalogues) of competitors, antecedents and predecessors, like the iconic though arguably derivative Sharper Image.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit, a Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes classic plus Gustavus Adolphus Day

two years ago: a classic from Cher plus more links to enjoy 

three years ago: clashes in the Gutenberg workshop plus even more links worth revisiting

four years ago: the geometrical art of Lorentz Stรถer

five years ago: low-angle satellite imagery, Meet the Press,  recreating the Old Dutch Masters with packaging material plus an illustrated Roman iterarium

Tuesday 17 October 2023

sun electric (11. 063)

Via Kottke, we are directed to a fascinating technological artefact and possible point of departure, contra-factual in this profile of entrepreneur and inventor George Cove, an early advocate of renewable energy who developed solar panels (and battery storage) not much different from those systems employed today. In 1905. There was a significant interest in this new technology and its potential fuelled by no shortage of media coverage and incremental improvements with attendant cost savings and greater efficiency. Yet the enterprise and Cove’s prospects came to an abrupt halt in 1909 when he was kidnapped and would only be released if he withdrew his patents and shut up shop. Though Cove reportedly refused to give in to these conditions, he was nonetheless released. Whilst some contemporary accounts say that the inventor staged his ransom to generate publicity or was victim of a jilted investor, it seems more likely he was roughed up by a thug sent from nascent Oil, an industry not known to be a friend of the democratising effects that virtually limitless and unfettered energy could provide or willing to pull any punches with the threat of competition. Solar power had no more champions for decades, and although it might be painful and disheartening to contemplate alternate-histories in the face of squandered time, resources and a planet that is burning, the fact that dependence of petroleum wasn’t a foregone outcome of industrialisation and modernity and that energy alternatives always had an uneasy coexistence is something for one’s quiver of hopes and disabusing. More from The Conversation at the link above.


one year ago: St Andrew of Crete,  assorted links to revisit plus RRR

two years ago: the tragical death of an apple pie

three years ago: the taking of Harper’s Ferry (1859), the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, change what the bunny is holding plus more links to revisit

four years ago: The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago

five years ago: pumpkin spice in everything, early Uber, The Republican Club plus more links to enjoy

Monday 16 October 2023

electric boots, a mohair suit (11. 061)

Vis-a-vis this expo coverage from Adobe that included this animated, chameleon dress called Project Primrose as well as a host of other prototype features previewed from the sandbox like a translator that automatically dubs and lip-syncs one’s speech in other languages and posable figures for generative tableaux, we quite enjoyed this look back to the mid-1960s at the dynamic fabrics of engineer, fashion model, wardrobe artist for Joan Baez, and e-textile pioneer Diana Dew. Her miniaturised power source was eventually acquired by the US military for further research applications. Much more from Weird Universe including an appraisal of one of Dew’s dressess on Antiques Roadshow at the links above.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus the revival of Brigadoon

two years ago: St Gall, distilling writing down to its punctuation,  a mushroom atlas plus more links to enjoy

three years ago: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) plus more studies of the human face and emotional expression

four years ago: consequential pieces of code

five years ago: airfields from aboverestoring Nightwatch, John Paul II chosen as pope (1978) plus recruiting for jobs in the Iraqi government

Monday 9 October 2023

7x7 (11. 047)

haus zum walfisch: explore horror film shooting locations of 1970s and 1980s classics, including Suspiria filmed in a townhouse in Freiburg im Breisgau  

concrete feats: a tour of Italy’s Brutalist architecture  

rapid electric vehicle retrofits: an Australian student wins James Dyson Award for an inexpensive conversion kit to make gas-powered vehicles hybrid 

earthshapes: fantastic geography from pilot Joseph N Portney 

larva convivialis: the miniature dancing skeletons of Roman banquets—via Strange Company 

jungian individuation: the Swiss psychoanalyst on the predictive power of Tarot cards 

tune-on: veteran television producer and director on the revival of his Laugh-In spin-off five decades afterwards  

31 days: a month long celebration of the Spooky Season from Laura E Hall—via Waxy


one year ago: assorted links to revisit, World Postal Day plus to slander one’s good reputation

two years ago: more links to enjoy, happy birthday John Lennon, Karl-Marx-Stadt, drag queen tarot plus a visit to the Osterburg

three years ago: The Watcher in the Woods, more Phantom plus more links worth revisiting

four years ago: major military exercise in Germany planned by US forces plus other European trade colonies in China

five years ago: Trump’s legacy of failed businesses, more on the fight to save an ancient woodland plus moving Tokyo’s historic fish market

Saturday 30 September 2023

8x8 (11. 031)

11/9/1989 - 9/11/2001: a thoroughgoing, reflective essay examining the fateful decade defined, bookended by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the September 11 Terror Attacks—via Web Curios  

hail and well met: the surprisingly radical roots of the Renaissance Fair that emerged during McCarthyism and the Red Scare—via Miss Cellania  

whom of which: an interesting and divisive syntactical formation  

imperial airways: Harry Beck’s iconic Underground map for scheduled flight routes—via Things Magazine  

tapped out: a passive approach to desalination that can produce safe and cheap potable water without disrupting the ocean’s natural haline balance—via Kottke  

wassermusik: a tonal analysis of waterfalls  

mr dressup: a documentary about world of make-believe of Ernie Coombs, the Canadian counterpart to Mister Rodgers (previously)  

sleepless in seattle: a scrolling narrative on the invisible epidemic of loneliness and isolation experienced by many Americans—via Waxy


one year ago: ethernet, Business!, assorted links to revisit, more on the Scunthorpe problem plus Putin addresses the nation

two years ago:  a very distasteful sitcom plus revisiting the Colossus of Rรผgen

three years ago: memorialising the shame of Canada’s residential school policy,  International Translation Day, passive voice and reflexive forms, digital world address maps, deconstructing American exceptionalism plus more botanical epithets

four years ago: a farewell to Bauhaus, a remedial lesson on separating one’s trash plus the World Clock of Berlin’s Alexanderplatz (1969)

five years ago: a recipe for mushrooms, BBC Radio 4 (1967), a Chinatown edition of Monopoly plus Leoind and Friends cover Earth, Wind and Fire

Sunday 24 September 2023

kinora (11. 019)

Courtesy of Nag on the Lake’s superb Sunday Links (lots more to explore there), we are directed towards a special exhibit on a nearly forgotten, early twentieth century home entertainment package in the form of an individual viewer based on the mechanism of a flipbook, with a Rolodex-type reel hand-cranked to produce the illusion of motion. Developed in parallel by the Lumiรจre Brothers (see previously here and here) they were working on their Cinematograph—both a projector for audiences in a theatre-setting and a camera for capturing filmed footage, up to six-hundred paper-printed photographs to a roll, the action could be watched through a pair of stereoscopic lenses, and the display includes a demonstration, variant models (including a camera version so one could make their own home movies) and a 3D replica to test the antique technology, exploring both its limits and potential. Public interest eventually focused on the big screen, but several examples and catalogues of shorts remain.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

9x9 (11. 010)

: play around for a moment with the Water web toy—via Miss Cellania and the Everlasting Blรถrt  

green new deal: modelled on FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps, US president Biden creates a federal jobs training and climate protection force  

won’t someone think of the children: UK passes Online Safety bill—see previously  

piramida: architectural photographer Danica O Kus documents the newly-repurposed monument in the Albanian capital of Tirana

nine-man morris: archeologists discover a board game carved in the ruins of an ancient Polish castle  

qed: a tiny Irish child has a brilliant solution to the trolley problem—see previously  

the mascot of ascot: the magnificent millinery modelled by Gertrude Shilling—via Messy Nessy Chic

once i played a tanpura: electronic music from India from the early 1970s—via Things Magazine  

written on water: physicists using an ionic pen and Brownian motion can draw lines and letters in liquid



one year ago: assorted links to revisit 

two years ago: the Global War on Terrorism declared (2001), photographer Charles Cylde Ebbets plus more links to enjoy

three years ago: St Eustace plus running out of hurricane names

four years ago: an AI names mushrooms,  exploring a local wayside chapel, more links plus Randy Rainbow for the Emmy

five years ago: retro web bumpers, a then-and-now of New Zealand’s government, modern-day occupations plus the board game Careers

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


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

Monday 11 September 2023

ฮถ ursae majoris (10. 995)

Still awaiting flying cars (aka roadable aircraft) we were promised, the first pair of fatalities occurred on this day in 1973, when co-founders of AVE (Advanced Vehicle Engineers) Henry Smolinski and Harold Blake were test-piloting a Mizar prototype (named after the lodestar in the Big Dipper) in Oxnard, California. Mating a Cessna airframe to a Ford Pinto, an earlier test-flight had revealed stress of the struts and the deadly crash succumbed to the same design flaw, setting the field back significantly, though one-off developments continue. 


one year ago: an important battle in the Scottish War of Independence (1297)

two years ago: 80s automotive dashboards, avian photograph of the year, the Dead Internet conspiracy theory plus Midcentury Modern home-entertainment consoles

three years ago: a memorable, perfectly timed photograph, Disintegration Loops, fiery skies plus assorted links to revisit

four years ago: US pulls funding for the UN migration agency, more on the art and writing of William Blake plus imagining what’s beyond the frame

five years ago: a web-cam aimed at the North Tower,  an international trombone festival, corporate sponsored space exploration plus the US attacks the International Criminal Court