Wednesday 17 April 2024

metaphysics of quality (11. 495)

Finally published after receiving one hundred twenty-one letters of rejection for the manscript, the fictionalised autobiography of author and philosopher Robert M Pirsig recounts the seventeen day cross-continent odyssey with his his son as a vehicle to reconcile and reconnect with his past self, driven insane by speculation on the nature of the Good and subjected to electro-convulsive therapy which irretrievably changed his personality. Pilgrims who trace his journey from Montana to California can pay homage to the motorcycle subject to repair, newly acquired by and on display at the Smithsonian. Along the way, the unnamed narrator encounters a foil in a friend who chose not to learn how to care for his expensive bike, hoping for the best but relying on professional mechanics when things do go wrong, and in contrast is able to trouble-shoot his ride, a comparative jalopy—framing the trip with many dense and introspective discussions on knowledge, belief and value—and argues persuasively that one can accept, embrace the dichotomy of the rational and romantic (like Nietzche’s Apollonian/Dionysian division) to avoid falling into gumption traps, the motivation that drains enthusiasm, reinforcing reluctance to change and adjudge situations as they come with less pragmatism. The discursive diary of ideas was for a generation a way to bookend the counterculture movement and temper some of the exuberance and idealism, like the schism in the narrator’s own mind, and function and flourish in a world beset with rules, norms and progress. Pirsig offers the disclaimer that, despite the title, his work should “in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practise. It’s not very factual on motorcycles either.”


one year ago: Bavaria wants to bring its nuclear power plants back online

two years ago: more on interstellar interlopers, Dolly Parton wardrobed like Easter eggs plus assorted links worth revisiting

three years ago: more links to enjoy, Zalgo text plus a UFO sighting in Aurora, Texas (1897)

four years ago: more links worth revisiting, an observation confirming the Two Body Problem, some sporting music plus the invention of hiking as a pastime

five years ago: even more links to enjoy plus the World Chess Association logo

Wednesday 3 April 2024

9x9 (11. 464)

avis de rรฉception: Gertrude Stein first draft of her manuscript for The Making of Americans returned by a publisher  

greener pastures: ranchers embrace the benefits of virtual fencing  

แผ€ฮบฯฮฑฯƒฮฏฮฑ: philosophers weigh in on why we do things against our better judgment—via Kottke  

classroom setting: The Function of Colour in Schools and Hospitals (1930)  

haute couture: McDonald’s fashion in France  

heliopause: a NASA-endorsed app designed to photograph the North American total eclipse 

rhapsody in green: warm earth music for plants… and the people who love them 

could’ve been a contender: for what would be his hundredth birthday, some screen highlights of Marlon Brando

peer review: the Journal of Universal Rejection


one year ago: assorted links to revisit

two years ago: Planet of the Apes (1968)

three years ago: musical hypercards, more links to enjoy, missionary cats plus Blue Moon (1961)

four years ago: vintage railway memorabilia plus drawing elephants sight unseen

five years ago: the Marshall Plan (1948), more links worth revisiting plus conserving Soviet Almaty

Friday 22 March 2024

intersection of prose and code (11. 442)

Via Web Curios, we are directed to the third annual anthology of an experimental webzine described as a “journal of literature made to exist on the on the internet” called The HTML Review. A selection of works radiating outwards as spokes from the issue are collected that incorporate both an essay or fable with an element of the interactive. We too especially enjoyed the “Game of Hope,” which combines John Horton Conway’s cellular automata with Pandora’s Box, and the tangential “Measure a Machine’s Heart” whose passion either ramps up or burns out according to a certain protocol.

Thursday 14 March 2024

7x7 (11. 421)

triple word score: the undisputed champion of competitive Scrabble  

boyard cigarettes: unused geisha footage for an Offworld advertising campaign

statutory interpretation: a forthcoming book on the ideology of originalism and its malleability 

the apprehension engine: custom suspenseful sounds for horror movie incidental music—via Things Magazine  

penmanship: the resurgence of cursive—see previously  

raktajino: a supercut of Klingon coffee in Star Trek: DS-9  

game theory: selfishness and enlightened self-interest through the lens of novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch

Friday 8 March 2024

promissory estoppal (11. 409)

Whilst the lawsuit Elon Musk recently filed against OpenAI might seem frivolous and the domain of tech-billionaires with hard feelings—Musk being an original backer of the artificial intelligence venture, the allegation that co-founder Sam Altman (previously) for breach of contract—essentially harm caused by the broken-promise above—for abandoning its initial vision and mission of forwarding the field for the benefit of all by licensing its interim innovations before the Singularity to Microsoft as a commercial branch of the non-profit. Arguably an incremental improvement (weighing the publicised concerns from people involved with the newest iteration), the plaintiff claims that the release of GPT-4 without transparency and available for a price amounts to a sentient Clippy. Although we don’t believe that this version is thinking and the sought after Artificial General Intelligence, yet—at least, and such altruistic slogans like “Don’t be evil” or “Move fast and break things” tend to backfire—the lawsuit does raise an interesting question for the new Turing Test that I never thought might be an impediment to progress: if OpenAI is motivated to say that the next version for commercial release is only an improvement on the last and not the end goal, then we may never reach it, at least by one estimation and subject to litigation.

Tuesday 5 March 2024

7x7 (11. 402)

beyond the edge: the paradox of an infinite Cosmos  

why don’t you come up some time, see me: vocal fry and the valence of husky voices  

the complete commercial artist: the graphic design that informed modern Japan  

urschleim: primordial ooze as animated putty from 1911 

l’urythmics: an anaerobic exercise routine led by jazz dance pioneer Eugene “Luigi 5-6-7-8” Faccuito  

auteur: an omnibus collection of the most beautiful shots in cinematic history from the Solomon Society—including Barry Lyndon—sure to elicit lots of movie memories 

biosigns: an array of telescopes trained on potentially habitable exoplanets confirm a sample size one in a demonstration of its capability

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.

Sunday 11 February 2024

8x8 (11. 343)

๐Ÿ˜ถ: a Good Internet cross-posting of Good Music, featuring a mix of tracks from Wilco, Kim Gordon, the Beths and many more  

nato backstab: in a Drudge Report style headline, the Huffington Post reports Trump at a campaign event that he might encourage Russia to attack ‘deadbeat’ allies 

internal monologue: philosophers explore new field of the inner voice at the intersection of psychiatry  

compliance moats: anti-anti-monopolists and data-brokers wrangle over regulation 

story-walk: using olfaction with narrative to simulate reflection and retention  

certificate of honourable discharge: explore the best-preserved Roman military diploma (constitutio) in a new 3D exhibit  

grand bargain: US Supreme Court seems poised to keep Trump on state ballots but deny him blanket immunity 

i’m only sleeping: a Grammy winning painted music video of the Revolver track from Em Cooper

Friday 9 February 2024

argumentum ad baculum (11. 337)

Via ibฤซdem, we appreciated these logic lessons (an educational project going for a decade now) that presents concepts of dialogue, rhetoric and debate as well as biases and fallacies, like the below Ad Hominem attack between Lieutenants Sulu Arex Na Eth, with Mister Spock moderating for the rest of the cast of Star Trek: The Animated Series as interlocutors (redubbed—see above—and using footage from the cartoons). The dozens of episodes include short tutorials on petitio principii (circular reasoning), the Straw Man Fallacy, Confirmation Bias and the Sunk Cost Fallacy, the Halo Effect and the benefit of hindsight, various appeals, Tu Quoque (whataboutism) and many more. See how Vulcan logic can put more in your philosophical quiver against sophistry and misinformation.

Monday 29 January 2024

interlocutors (11. 304)

We enjoyed this cross-posting from Aeon and Epochรฉ Magazine in this short essay, enhanced by a cacophonous accompaniment and archival footage by John C Brady on the Socratic dialogue Gorgias, caputured by Plato in 380 BCE (prejudiced against the title figure for promoting pro-democratic, populist sentiment as not a serious thinker, despite the itinerant guru’s acknowledged influence and innovation and outliving everyone at the dinner party, dying aged one-hundred and eight), depicting a symposium by a small group of invited sophists with the debate attempting to uncover the definition of rhetoric and lay bare the flaws in oration and persuasion, positing that rhetoric is not a skill but rather a knack for gratification, re-enforcement and flattery, advancing belief without underlying knowledge.

Tuesday 23 January 2024

and there are twice as many stars as usual (11. 290)

Adapted and recirculated in 2019 on the occasion of another prodigious birth, the 1976 Walt Whitman award-winning verse by poet and nurse Laura Gilpin, from her collection The Hocus Pocus of the Universe, “The Two-Headed Calf” has become a thoughtful refrain for videos, viral and with millions of followers and fans, documenting this polycephalous twin recently born, with many concerned for their wellbeing and quality of life—precious, no matter how short it may be. 

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum. 

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.

Not to disparage farm boys, though they’re always ready to take us, but at least for this night, we are perfect and primed for tomorrow unawares and nonetheless loved.

Saturday 6 January 2024

8x8 (11. 249)

the gift of the magi: the 1952 classic adapted from the O Henry short story 

ed people: Belgian dancer travels the world asking others to teach him their favourite moves—via Waxy

diminishing returns: the Golden Age of solar eclipses is receding  

all i know about magnet is this, give me a glass of water, let me drop it on the magnets, that’s the end of magnets: Trump rally in Iowa  

amicus brief: US Supreme Court agrees to review a ruling by a lower court that disqualified Donald Trump for his participation in the insurrection, could have implications for Maine’s ban

kodachrome: artist Jessica Brill invokes nostalgia by painting found photographs  

my fellow peripatetics: research confirms the therapeutic value of walking 

 kinder der berge: Liechtenstein’s singular domestic feature film—via Strange Company

Friday 5 January 2024

zoo hypothesis (11. 246)

Via tmn, the supposition of renowned astrophysicist Enrico Fermi (see previously, one of several observations, later expanded and championed by others, why we might appear to be alone in the Universe) that advanced extraterrestrial civilisations are keeping terrestrials in the dark about their existence and holding humans under a technological veil is gaining traction—especially in the light of seven decades on, how many exoplanents we have found that could harbour life. Perhaps, like Star Trek’s Prime Directive, there is a general consensus towards stewardship and insulating primitive cultures so not to influence their beliefs and outlook but it hardly seems like something that would be universally adhered to across the vast distances and time of space—though I guess it would only take one to throw a veil over us and any civilisation capable of exploring the Cosmos could surely do so under cloak, at least to us—but I suppose there could be glimpses and difference factions of aliens that think humans and their ilk would benefit and should be afforded a more inspiring and aspirational view (why let us see the stars at all and keep us happily content with our geocentric point of view). What do you think? I suspect the Great Silence is a combination of factors (see above) with intelligence out there being too alien for our comprehension, maybe that we are kept creatures and possibly too uninteresting to be bothered with.

Thursday 28 December 2023

a stone’s throw from the precipice paused (11. 220)

We had background music on for long enough for this intriguing and clever number from Andrew Bird to pop up on the playlist a few times, bundled along side other indy-rock classics and The Magnetic Fields. The song from the 2017 album My Finest Work Yet sounded familiar but hadn’t been overly-exposed because of the seemingly digital-only platform. Named for the Greek king punished by Zeus for trying to cheat death (and also for being a bad host), “Sisyphus” is about the consequences of letting one’s rock roll—or embracing one’s fate to overcome the task. “I’d rather fail like a mortal than flail like a god on a lighting rod; history forgets the moderates.”


one year ago: the end of the draft in the US (1972)

two years ago: A Carol for Another Christmas plus the Feast of Abel

three years ago: Childermass, a Roman snack-bar, specialised geographical knowledge, zodiacal music plus AI Hallmark movies

four years ago: Kanji Character of the YearWikipedia stats plus lost-and-found

five years ago: Trump visiting troops in Iraq, a very slow movie player plus more kanji of the year

Monday 25 December 2023

reductio ab hitlerum (11. 213)

DC attorney and author Mike Godwin who made the eponymous observation in 1990—an inevitable hyperbole that the originator never expected to have so much currency—that the longer an online political discussion grows, invocations of Nazis approaches one hundred percent as commentary of rhetorical excesses. After years of cross-breeding in the wilds of the internet, the maxim framed slightly differently by philosopher Leo Strauss earlier as a fallacy that we would now recognise as whataboutism (playing the Nazi card), Godwin, in deference to Strauss’ construction and in light of recent the recent, revitalised vitriol of Trump rallies—calling his political enemies vermin and poisoning the blood of the nation, detention camps and promises to only be dictator for a day, encourages interlocutors to play the trump card not as a discussion stopper but rather as an alarm and conversation starter.


one year ago: the first Nativity Scene

two years ago: a white Christmas, the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, Gorbachev resigns (1991) plus deciphering the shorthand of Charles Dickens

three years ago: Seasons Greetings plus Voyage, Voyage

four years ago: Celestial Greetings, Unwords of the Year plus AI Christmas carols 

five years ago: Martian rovers

Saturday 23 December 2023

from the depths of wikipedia (11. 207)

Via Super Punch, not only do we learn that Colonel Sanders guest starred on the soap opera General Hospital (on National Fried Chicken Day in 2018, which also exists), there is also a chaotic, esoteric—but serviceable programming language called Malbolge (see also), named after the eighth circle of Hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy, Malebolge, for fraudsters. The level of the inferno itself is divided into ten concentric trenches, bolgias, to segregate the panderers, mediums, grafters, grifters from the thieves and hypocrites and is guarded by a horde of torturing demons called the Malebranche. Someone is trying to kill Sanders to obtain the secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices and has placed a detonation device in the hospital. Because the Colonel knows Malbolge, he is able to disarm the bomb and stop the destruct sequence. Though not such a deep rabbit-hole, earlier in the week we also learned that aptly none of the original text from a 2003 entry on the philosophical quandary “The Ship of Theseus” remains.


one year ago: Chinese internet slang, how to draw Christmas plus more data-visualisations from Daniel Huffman

two years ago: Latinisation of Chinese, Tibb’s Eve, coal-mining operations in Essen cease (1986), the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), graphic designs of Uruguay plus the coat of arms of Paul McCartney

three years ago: assorted links worth revisiting 

four years ago: hortatory Antiphons

five years ago: St Thorlak, investigating glitter plus the Extinction Rebellion

Monday 18 December 2023

proprioception (11. 193)

Having previously pondered the question of embodiment and whether intelligence needed to inhabit an physical form, this study undertaken by the Technical University of Mรผnchen that encourages a robot to explore their own morphology and limits seems intriguing. Rather than coding a model of its design or inferring their structure and strength from external sensors or input from their handlers, this experiment supplements a machine’s image of itself using inertial detectors for a sense of equilibrium and orientation through a series of exercises to plan and refine movements, not only for greater flexibility but also to ingrain safety parameters for itself and those around it.

Wednesday 22 November 2023

freiwirtschaft (11. 131)

Proposed by German-Argentine economist and proponent of market socialism Johann Silvio Gesell—detailed though eventually acquitted by authorities impressed with his argument in his own defence for his part in the in the short-lived, experimental Bavarian Soviet Republic, Freigeld (that is money free from the temptation for hoarding it without the incentive of interest) that decayed and depreciated over time, thus rather than a store of wealth made “worse as a commodity if we wish to make it better as a medium of exchange.” Considering himself a world-citizen and constantly relocating, Gessel arrived in Buenos Aires to open a franchise of a family member’s business coinciding with the 1890 economic depression and the experience informed his thoughts on property and welfare and sought to balance self-interest and liquidity. Like a form of negative interest or demurrage (the cost of holding money subject to a periodic tax), Gessel’s proposed currency would have a limited purchase—before expiry—of a constant value, subject to neither inflation nor deflation, freely exchangeable among other currencies and bear a grid on the obverse of fifty-two spots for monetary authority issued stamps for which the holder must affix one per week for the note to hold its value, the bill losing value as long as it was retained and not spent at the holder’s expense. The experiment was trialled (with certificates and scrip) to some acclaim and continues for a certain extent with limited-time-offers, coupons and local complementary currency.


one year ago: a proposal for a broadcast energy transmitter, assorted links to revisit plus the Beatles’ White Album

two years ago: Angela Merkel becomes chancellor (2005) plus a Harry Belafonte classic carol

three years ago: more on script and spelling reform, the Battle of Ballon (845), more on Angela Merkel, the resignation of Margaret Thatcher, the BBC motion graphics archive plus the Feast of St Cecilia

four years ago: Our Sandman plus more public testimony over the Trump impeachment inquiry

five years ago: Plato’s Stepchildren plus a Thanksgiving greeting

Tuesday 7 November 2023

9x9 (11. 101)

dark universe: Euclid space mission to map the Cosmos and glean insights into the mysterious majority of matter and energy composing it  

the earth dies screaming: an effective but bare-bones 1964 British apocalyptic horror flick from 1964  

go fish: the (possibly apocryphal) origin of the name of the city of Slow Low, Arizona  

qr-monster: the artistry of AI prompters—see previously  

๐Ÿš‰: a teaser for a Backrooms-like game taking place in the Tokyo metro Shinjuku station 

lignum vitae: looted leaves of the Golden Tree of Lucignano recovered 

purity pals: new US Speaker of the House of Representative announces that he and his seventeen year old son monitor each other’s web consumption  

future imperfect: a strangely engaging 1974 series of filmstrips warning against the utopian novel and utopian-thinking orbital plane: an exoplanet’s singular path around a binary star system—via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links  


one year ago: Operation Able Archer (1983), Ukraine to change the date on which Christmas is observed plus a gallery of bad Jane Austen book covers

two years ago: a documentary on picking the wrong venue, a bombing in the US capitol plus the Riace bronzes

three years ago: your daily demon: Bifrons,  awaiting US election results, the collection point for cataloguing art looted by the Nazis plus the first female US vice-presidential candidate announced

four years ago: an unused deck of tarot cards by Salvatore Dalรญ

five years ago: assorted links to revisit, Nixon’s concession speech (1962) plus more from the Center for American Politics and Design


Saturday 16 September 2023

iลฃkuรฎl (11. 004)

Via Futility Closet we learn about the experimental constructed language proposed by linguist John Quijada in 2004 not for common-parlance but rather as an auxiliary language and a systematic approach to reduce the ambiguities of everyday speech and present, convey a logical set of instructions, mark-up protocols for situations calling for precise and succinct statements—for instance, politics, science and philosophy. Highly inflected and suggesting mental processing at a gallop or at least forethought prior to speaking: the two-unit sentence “tram-mฤผรถi hhรขsmaล™pลฃuktรดx” means in English “On the contrary, I think it may turn out that this rugged mountain range trails off at some point.” The pictured script (boustrophedonic if the samples went on to the next line), illustrating in three word-units the possibility of semantic sense rather than organic development, warns to “Be careful, your fork is actually a fennec.” Since 2006, the inventor Quijada has released several progressive rock compositions in Ithkuil, though music seems to us the most forgiving means of expression and relying on entendre and allegory.