Monday 3 June 2024

while bill clinton plays the sax (11. 604)

On this day in 1992, Arkansas governor and presidential candidate William Jefferson Clinton appeared as a guest on The Arsenio Hall Show. Clinton’s future Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, Hilary Clinton and actor Terri Garr also guested on the programme. After a memorable rendition of Elvis Priestley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” on the saxophone, the host quipped that it was “nice to see Democrats blow something besides an election.” The appearance (more of the segment from C-SPAN) is now seen as pivotal in his campaign and curried popularity among young voters, whom prior to the airing trailed in third place behind George HW Bush and then-undeclared spoiler candidate H Ross Perot, jumping twenty-one points in the polls the next day.

Tuesday 21 May 2024

8x8 (11. 570)

nicht abgeholtes gepรคck: the main station in Freiburg has a mystery vending machine where one can buy unclaimed items left in delivery lockers—see previously 

the ahramat branch: a long ago dried up arm of the Nile may explain some of the mystery behind the building of the Pyramids of Giza 

takenoko: a public service announcement for when the bamboo shoots sprout, one of Japan’s traditional seventy-two microseasons—see previously 

endless shrimp: the American seafood chain was private-equitied into bankruptcy and not by dent of its generous promotions—more here

first draft: in a since deleted post, Trump advocates for a “united Reich” in a video featuring hypothetical newspaper headlines following his reelection  

on the town: the story behind the ten-year-old who in 1947 spent a week in San Francisco with twenty dollars 

we call it maize: an interesting hypothesis that ancient Incan stonework and other architectural elements may be an homage to corn kernels  

out-of-order: broken and unused vending machines from around Japan—via Cardhousesee also


one year ago: Croatia Diplomacy Day, a classic from David Bowie, an evergreen piece on American gun-violence plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: Ok Computer, a rainbow fifty pence coin for Pride, more feathered friends plus Amelia Earhart crosses the Atlantic

three years ago: your daily demon: Beleth, Elton John in the Soviet Union plus trace a raindrop from river down to the sea

four years ago: vintage Las Vegas logos, an avant-garde art show (1951) plus The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

five years ago: the White Night Riots (1979), regional airline logos, OK Cola, African air-carriers, one hundred and twenty years of photography plus a camera on a sushi conveyor belt

Sunday 12 May 2024

about some useless information supposed to drive my imagination (11. 554)

Recorded at the RCA Studios in Hollywood on this day in 1965 a week after Keith Richard’s wrote the song and played a rough version of the introductory and driving riff in his sleep captured on a cassette recorded, two-minutes of acoustic guitar strumming before hearing the pick drop and the rest of the tape was filled with Richards’ snoring and Mick Jagger’s lyrics contribution poolside in Clearwater, Florida, the single’s release on 4 June immediately solidified the success of The Rolling Stones with an iconic and recognisable musical hook, ranking on charts internationally and is consistently counted among the greatest rock songs of all time, whose themes critiquing commercialism, dithering between cynicism and a plaintive protest, were quite revolutionary and could be perceived as threatening to older audiences.



one year ago: philosophy bros plus early computer art

two years ago: a celebration of locomotives

three years ago: the affection of felines, an NFT defined, assorted links to revisit plus putting one’s website to bed

four years ago: the united states of Voronoi, an AI entry for EuroVision, a socially-distanced press conference plus the soundtrack to Flash Gordon

five years ago: a list of silent letters plus a way to help out the unbanked

Saturday 11 May 2024

ampas (11. 553)

Founded on this day in 1927 by head of the studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer producer Louis B Mayer in order to create an organisation to mediate labour disputes without the need for outside, independent trade unions and improve the image and reputation of the film industry with input from prolific actor and matinee idol Conrad Nagel (who would six years later go on to establish the Screen Actors’ Guild) and thirty-five other professionals including Mary Pickford and Harold Lloyd, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was to hold an annual banquet but no mention of awards at the time. During the Great Depression, the Academy lost credibility as an arbitrator when it came to labour negotiations and gradually pivoted towards its present role as an honours society, with meritorious awards for “distinctive achievement” in one five branches—acting, directing, writing, technical accomplishment and producing—eventually becoming known as the Oscars. Around the same time, the Academy founded the first film school in collaboration with the University of Southern California, a library charged with collecting all publications about movies and state-of-the-art screening venue for members.

Saturday 4 May 2024

the recording academy (11. 540)

Originally presented as the Gramophone Award on this day in 1959, as our faithful chronicler informs, the first ceremony was hosted simultaneously in California’s Beverly Hilton and the Park Sheraton in New York City—though not televised live until 1971 (although the second confusingly took place later that same year, hosted by Frank Sinatra and was aired on NBC)—and had its roots in the Hollywood Walk of Fame project with industry executives realising that their top artists might not receive the same level of recognition as film stars. Following the tradition of the Oscars, Tonys and Emmys, the organisers first proposed calling the honours the Eddies after Thomas Edison (see also), inventor of the phonograph before eventually settling on the Grammys. Twenty eight trophies were awarded for the first ceremony including winners Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie with record of the year going to Nel Blu, Dipinto di Blu (“Volare”) by Domenico Modugno and The Champs’ Tequila taking Best Rhythm and Blues Performance.

Thursday 2 May 2024

national day of reason (11. 530)

In response to the statutory observance of the National Day of Prayer—codified into law at the urging of conservative evangelical preacher Billy Graham in 1952 during the Korean War with US president Harry S Truman signing a bill proclaiming that each subsequent administration was to declare this annual holiday on the date of his choosing—this secular counter-convocation has been held on the first Thursday since 2003 by humanists and freethinkers to assert freedom from religion after unsuccessfully petitioning the federal government from endorsing the former, supported by public monies and time for Christian-dominated religious ceremonies. The latter having gained in popularity in recent years as a demonstration that nonbelievers can contribute to their communities in positive and life-affirming ways and be good without god, activities include organised food drives, blood donations and giving to other charities.

Wednesday 1 May 2024

beginners’ all-purpose symbolic instruction code (11. 526)

The original version of the general-purpose programming language (see also) developed by Thomas Kurtz and John Kemeny of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire designed in mind to build computer literacy for those outside of speciality fields executed its first code with immediate user-feedback and released after the initial demonstration on this day in 1964. With simpler and more intuitive syntax, the compiler was put into the public domain and immediately spawned several dialects based on terminals’ operating systems and memory constraints and was ideal for porting and inclusion for the growing mini- and microcomputer market for enthusiasts and hobbyists (I can remember being very pleased with some of my programs, however basic) and considered to be the first user-friendly family of high-level languages.

Sunday 28 April 2024

i got this in the second world war ii (11. 521)

Receiving its popular-become-historic designation on this day as a result of a poll conducted by the American survey company Gallup in 1942, with—no spoilers—the 1914-1918 global conflict referred to as “The Great War” or the “European War” by the US until they entered it in earnest in 1917, there were plenty of journalistic antecedents for calling the new crisis World War II, imbuing by force of habit, in much the same way we refer to contemporary geopolitical struggles as World War III, both hyperbolically and litotically. US president FDR called it such in press conferences but not particularly liking the term as too neutral and nothing one could get behind, he directed Gallup to ask the public. Roosevelt’s own suggestion was the Survival War, with the War for Civilisation or the War against Enslavement being other contenders—compare with the Soviet name, “The Great Patriotic War.” After fighting had subsided in Europe and the war was ending in the Pacific Theatre, FDR’s predecessor Harry S Truman signed a request in September of 1945 from his Secretary of War to make it official.

Sunday 21 April 2024

cartoon all-stars to the rescue (11. 506)

Airing the Saturday following the observance of 420 during the height of America’s War on Drugs and not too many years removed from Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign and other relentless public service announcements—via learn via our faithful chronicler—that the McDonald’s charity arm financed the production of a crossover simulcast featuring the Muppet Babies, Alf, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Looney Tunes and DuckTales, the Smurfs, Garfield, Alvin and the Chipmunks and others was broadcast on this day in 1990—probably giving rise to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Space Jam, despite unpopular reception. In the style of A Christmas Carol (this sort of nostalgia is a toxic impulse and this is what it gives you) the popular cartoon characters stage an intervention for an adolescent marijuana-user to forewarn him of the consequences of his actions if he does not amend his wayward ways (compare to this 1974 rather psychedelic remediation targeted to an earlier generation that grew up with a lot of this content and franchises). The special was also screened in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil.

Monday 8 April 2024

the first tuesday after the first monday in november (11. 478)

Co-sponsored as a bipartisan measure by Republican Barry Goldwater and Hubert H Humphrey, both loosing in recent years their respective bids to become US president, the Senate voted to make Election Day (in even numbered years) a biannual, paid federal holiday on this day in 1974. Despite passage in the upper chamber of Congress, the amendment never came to the floor in the House of Representatives. Though not quite a perennial push, the proposal has seen multiple attempts to revitalise the legislation and ensure less conflict between work schedules and civic duties, most recently during last year’s session and before that in 2019. Voting in Europe is held on Sundays.

Wednesday 3 April 2024

ltc (11. 465)

Underscoring the need for synchronised communication for astronauts and orbiting satellites with terrestrial counterparts, the Biden administration has directed NASA in conjunction with other federal and international authorities to develop a standard of time for the Moon (Coordinated Lunar Time, like UTC) and other celestial bodies by 2026, coinciding with Artemis. First proposed by the European Space Agency last year, presently activities on the Earth’s satellite are coordinated based on the launch site and headquarters—for instance, the Apollo expeditions were on US central time with Houston’s Mission Control and Chang’e were on the Chinese time zone, ironic considering how lunar cycles have set time on Earth since we began reckoning. Gravity affects the passage of time relative to Earth and the shifting discrepancies could lead to mapping and ranging errors, with America hoping to establish a benchmark for all space-faring operations to adopt as more venture outward.

Monday 1 April 2024

aprilschertz (11. 462)

Reprinted from an uncredited German magazine in LIFE in 1938 shortly after the day of pranks, the accompanying blurb and recognises the tradition in the foreign press (see also here and here) in this innovation of a beetle that can repair runs in stockings and acknowledges that domestic newspapers have fallen for the hoaxes in the past, with Germany’s news outlets practising more discretion, restraint when it comes to political jokes and sticking with the absurd.

Sunday 31 March 2024

timestamp (11. 460)

Though factors involved cannot purely be reduced to the effects of global warming, melting polar ice caps redistributing the mass to the Earth’s equator with other dynamics in play like seismic activity, the prospect of subtracting a leap second to compensate for the lag observed between the solar day and international atomic time does nonetheless—particularly given industry opposition to the adjustments in the first place—seem like a rather outsized development. Scheduled irregularly when the difference is seen to approach six-tenths of a second and bit less than a whole one with a half a year’s lead time for computer networks and servers to prepare, the process is controversial since it can lead to disruption and confusion, twenty-seven have been added since 1972, with the latest on New Year’s 2016. Owing primarily to tidal friction from the world’s oceans and centrifugal force, the Earth is not spinning slower but timekeepers are responding to the cumulative effects of applying precision time to a variable but since 2021, researchers found that the diurnal rotation was increasing, prompting the authoritative body to consider negative leap seconds to reorient the hour and minute and avoid a more significant shift.

Monday 25 March 2024

dionysian incarnation of the word (11. 450)

First reckoned by Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguus (the Humble) in 525 but his Computus for determining the date of Easter not widely adopted until the ninth century, his convention of Anno Domini was conceived as way to number regnal years breaking with the old system of Roman eras that continued the memory of rulers who often subjected Christians to persecution and repression. Reaching back five centuries, cross-referencing traditional dating systems, Olympiad years, biblical accounts and the reign of consulships, prone to inaccuracies and some confusion and fraught with the Roman idea that great figures would live out lives only in whole years, his calculations were confounded and not synchronised with any extant calendar, the logic behind the ultimate decisions made obscure by design, possibly wanting to tamp down on the influence of certain branches of the faith who believed that the end of the world was imminent and the resurrection of the dead would come five hundred years after the birth (conception, incarnation, nativity) of Jesus, the common era beginning with year one on this day five hundred twenty-four years prior, by demonstrating that it had already passed.


one year ago: a Trump rally in Texas

two years ago: Lady Day plus Ring of Fire (1963)

three years ago: your daily demon: Aguarรจs, a huge NFT portfolio, St Dismas, Like a Prayer (1989) plus assorted links to revisit

four years ago: more links to enjoy

five years ago: elegant, animated GIFs to teach maths, COBRA started as a pyramid-scheme, an unusual time-piece for Lent in Austria plus more links worth revisiting

Sunday 24 March 2024

11x11 (11. 448)

inauspicious beginnings: a rift opens up in a group of official astrologers employed by the Sri Lankan government to pick ideal dates for new years rituals  

disco arabesquo: record label Habibi Funk aims to introduce Middle Eastern vintage music to wider audiences 

typecraft: a transformative font foundry in India 

the allegory of the cave: on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the film’s premiere, we may be still trapped in the Matrix 

banjaxed and bockety: two curious Irish terms 

der buch der hasengeschichten: Tom Seidmann-Freud’s 1924 collection of hare fables 

working for tips: bizarrely robot baristas will accept gratuities, in a service sector landscape already fraught with insecurity and precarity—via tmn  

the juice is on the loose: a sequel thirty-six years in the making, reuniting the original cast—via Miss Cellania  

international system of typographic picture education: an archive of the pictograms of Gerd Arntz—see previously  

pocket full of kryptonite: the preponderance of alternative rock songs about Superman in the 1990s, 2000s 

prosopometamorphopsia: a new study on generalised social anxiety disorder tries to see from the perspective of those with a rare condition that causes faces to appear distorted, demonic—via the New Shelton wet/dry

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.


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 14 March 2024

ฯ€ (11. 420)

As our faithful chronicler reminds, today marks the annual celebration of the mathematical constant pi, expressed in US calendar conventions 3.14 (we also get the chance on the twenty-second of July, Pi Approximation Day, from the notional fraction known from the time of Archimedes—first observed in 1988 by physicist and curator of the the San Francisco Exploratorium Larry Shaw, and since designated by the US Congress and UNESCO as the International Day of Mathematics. Activities include learning about the irrational and transcendent number and its properties, memorising and reciting its digits, called piphilogy and relies on mnemonic techniques, such as composing so called piems—a portmanteau of the Greek symbol and poem in which the letter count of each word equals the corresponding digit: to the fourteenth decimal place, “How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy chapters involving quantum mechanics,” and eating circular foods. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology also traditionally dispatched its college admissions decision letters to applicants on this day.

Thursday 7 March 2024

dies solis (11. 407)

Though not the first sabbath observed as a day of rest, reflection and worship, on this day in 321 CE, Constantine the Great ordained that the Sun’s Day, styling himself as Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun, as the non-work day for urbanites of the Empire, with workshops closed and magistrates taking this venerable day off—though allowances were made for those in the agricultural sector, whose harvest and husbandry usually couldn’t stand on ceremony. Having declared tolerance for Christians a decade earlier with the Edict of Milan and later convoking the Council of Nicaea, Christianity adopted this Roman week-structure.

Thursday 29 February 2024

6x6 (11. 388)

365,2422: an explanation of leap years and calendar alternatives 

ladies’ privilege: leap day customs—via Strange Company 

29 february: more on the necessity of quadrennial correction—see previously 

la bougie du sapeur est sans reproche: the satirical French newspaper published only on leap days, making it the most infrequent publications in print, with its next Sunday supplement not out until 2032  

intercalary days: holiday drift and other events that happen every four years  

366: a scheduled agenda and play-list list how one might celebrate the day from the last time we had one—be happy that tomorrow is not 30 February


four years ago: the sacrifice of the village of Elam in Plague Times

eight years ago: a vocabulary lesson, lodges of the Hakka region plus on trial for destruction of precious cultural property

twelve years ago: more quadrennial events

Wednesday 28 February 2024

paleofutures (11. 387)

Via Waxy, we come across a retrospective volume of predictions for the world of 2024 solicited from luminaries and futurists from half-a-century earlier collected by The Saturday Review for its own Golden Anniversary (established in 1924 as compendium of essays and reportage on a wide range of subjects, folding in 1986). A retrospective to better see the way forward, it features hopeful assessments by ecologist Renรฉ Dubos, who popularised the maxim to “think globally, act locally” in his capacity as advisor to the UN and foresaw sounder and smarter environmental policies, the honorific “Madame President” for the United States contrasted by a more sobering view of continued wage-inequality and glass-ceiling, Trans-Atlanticism versus nationalism, and Issac Asimov forecasting that while computer prognostications were not perfect, they would be a requirement for insurance liability purposes and decision-drivers in medical treatment. There are also quite a few boldly wrong and aspirational claims by human rights champion Andrei Sakharov like orbiting power-plants, large scale terraforming and quadruped electric cars that would prance over prairies with minimal impact and didn’t require roads, along with Neil Armstrong’s poignant reflections of decades of continued space exploration and exploitation. On the other hand, Werner von Braun accurately predicted the world wide web, email and teleworking plus their implications. Much more at the links above.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit

two years ago: the Horodecki House of Kyiv, Guernica vandalised (1972) plus the paper art of Charles Young

three years ago: more on the Mountain Dream tarot, the finale of M*A*S*H* (1983), artist Edward Hopper plus redesigning the hypodermic emoji

four years ago: ranking ringed-planet emojis plus hauntingly familiar images from the 1918 influenza pandemic

five years ago: anti-Catholic sentiment and the Lincoln assassination conspiracy, resurfacing a lost urban river plus more links to enjoy