Wednesday 10 July 2024

gallery of the louvre (11. 678)

On the occasion of the record-setting auction in which the pictured painting fetched an incredible three-and-a-quarter million dollars on this day back in 1982 (going to a private collector but on public display), we take a look at the artist, better remembered for his contributions to telecommunications, Samuel Finley Breese Morse. 

First establishing his credentials at a portrait artist and having a success career, several US presidents sat for him, Morse turned to invention in his late forties after encountering a fellow-passenger on a steam ship back from Europe who taught him about electromagnetism and demonstrated some experiments for him. Setting aside the subject painting in 1832 (finished the following year and contains thirty-eight miniature versions of the museum’s treasuressee also), Morse developed a single-wire telegraph, improving on European systems, and overcame the problem of signal-strength and range, a limiting factor, by the addition of relays to boost the distance transmissions could be carried from a few yards to dozens of miles. Patents were awarded but Morse’s invention was not unique or as foundational (see previously here and here) as he liked to present it. Adopted as the international standard for telegraphy, Morse would go on to contribute to his eponymous Code a few years later.  The first public demonstration was held at a steelworks in Morristown, New Jersey with an electronic missive—rather cryptically the message was “A patient waiter is no loser,” sent to a factory two miles away. 

Wednesday 22 May 2024

v 16.0ฮฒ (11. 572)

The Unicode Consortium is proposing the inclusion of seven emoji for the standardised catalogues referenced by operating systems and will be under review through the beginning of July, when expected to be officially adopted. Though uniform and universal (with some exceptions), it will be some time before we can use a leafless tree to convey climate change and drought or the exhausted eyebag expression in general as platforms add their own vernacular in a process that can lag for several months. In addition to these pictograms, scripts from west Africa, India and Nepal are being added as well as new Japanese ideographs plus some four thousand Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and a historic Albanian set of characters and symbols from legacy computing.

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

 synchronoptica

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 23 February 2024

and the oscar goes to (11. 373)

Ahead of the Academy Awards to be held on 11 March, the always excellent Kottke, who just turned nineteen, directs our attention to film critic Wesley Morris’ appreciation of outstanding performances in categories that don’t exist but should. We especially appreciated ‘Best Acting in a Mirror’ and ‘Best Acting over a Landline,’ which both seem like an especially displaced skill by the same technology, like period suspension belief over mysteries that would be easily dispatched with and resolved by modern standards though some of the scenes are transcendent of place and time. And yes, the ceremonies are worth it for the GIFs, example not pictured, alone.

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.

Friday 5 January 2024

9x9 (11. 243)

sine cure: many jobs in the tech sector are busy work and inducements to stymie the competition—via the New Shelton wet/dry  

smooth operator: one-hundred eighty songs and other cultural touchstones turning forty this year 

shake your hips, puppet legs: a David Byrne dance tutorial—via Nag on the Lake  

crackberry: a physical keyboard attachment for one’s smart phone  

the rise and fall of ziggy stardust: the chance encounter with Vince Taylor, the inspiration for the David Bowie persona 

 long live friendship: the Cantonese version of Auld Lang Syne (see previously) performed at the handover ceremony of Hong Kong in 1997  

the (disco) sound of music: a Meco-like dance rendition of the classic tracks (see previously) from Sarah Brightman  

pole position: the Vectrex, the 1982 revolutionary but mostly forgotten video game console, gets a second look 

mobile aloha: an off-the-shelf, DIY robot that can perform complex tasks and chores—via Waxy

synchronoptica

one year ago: US mid-term elections

two years ago: two Star Wars adjacent films set in 2022Twelfth Night plus building the Golden Gate Bridge

three years ago: Waiting for Godot, Moonstone plus an unusual patent-filing

four years ago: puffy planets, the asteroid Eris, mobile car-chargers plus Nazi name mandates

five years ago: notes on Dante plus animal sounds in other languages

Sunday 3 December 2023

9x9 (11. 160)

caput apri defero, reddens laudes domino: an annual procession dating back to the fourteenth century that marks the beginning of Christmas season in London 

pingxiety: an update on the aerospace engineer’s anti-smart phone—see previously  

settled law: a carol to reaffirm that Die Hard is in fact a Christmas movie  

pocket universe: scientists in Germany re-create the Cosmos in a test tube to tweak the laws of physics for this primordial simulation  

pilea peperomiodes: the Chinese money plant goes by another common name for good reasons  

such fun: noun and adjectival usage of the intensifier on either side of the Atlantic  

anthrobots: researchers have created tiny, living robots from human cells that could one day patrol for diseases and repair damaged tissue  

there used to be a house at 6114 california street: a interview at home with Anton LaVey in 1967—see previously—via r/Obscure Media  

coquito ho ho: a guide to festive variations on classic cocktails

Thursday 9 November 2023

pin (11. 104)

The startup called Humane, launched by two former Apple engineers, hoping to introduce an alternative to time-stealing smart phones and touch screens, has unveiled its brooch-like wearable, powered by AI that does not need to be paired with other gadgets, and designed for interfacing with large language models rather than apps, geared towards talking and voice commands (also through gesture and showing it objects) rather than focusing on typing and visuals. Though there is no display, AI Pin can project images with a laser onto the user’s hand. For privacy and disclosure to others within ear-shot, the “Trust Light” blinks when the badge is activated (no listening for a wake word) and collecting data. Though the question remains whether this new device, a lapel pin, might meet the same fate as Google Glass and other augmented reality accessories, the launch demonstration included a round of feats, including an email inbox, message summary, presenting one’s meal to it for nutritional information, navigation and real-time translations.

synchronoptica

one year ago: the Lateran Basilica, an archaeological discovery in the muddy ruins of a bath house plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: another MST3K classic plus prioritising driverless technology over pedestrian safety

three years ago: World Freedom Day, unfortunate juxtapositions, a vaccine for COVID under development, a synonym for Schadenfreude plus Poe’s Dream-Land

four years ago: the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) 

five years ago: a resort on the Adriatic, single-use as Word of the Year, the veil of ignorance plus Kristallnacht (1938)

 

Tuesday 25 July 2023

7x7 (10. 905)

home taping is killing record industry profits: the 1981 moral panic over mixtapes  

lisa lionheart: labour force participation through the many careers of Barbie  

swipe left: patrons of 1920s Berlin nightclubs could flirt via pneumatic tubes—via Messy Nessy Chic  

the rivers and harbours act: Texas Department of Justice sues governor for refusing to remove a stretch of buoys that violates federal and international law—see previously  

sickbay: the Pirate Surgeon’s Journals—via Strange Company  

comeuppance: it’s time for the annual census on the River Thames—see previously 

a lot of skill, hand-eye coordination—it’s cheap and legal: video arcade addiction was seen as a threat to prevailing social values in 1982

 synchronoptica

one year ago: Ullapool and environs plus Wester Ross

two years ago: a colour advertisement on black-and-white TV (1967), Einstein on the Beach (1976), Thomas ร  Kempis plus a mosaic along the Thames

three years ago: Trump’s mental fitness, proto-Wikipedia (2000), more on the US Space Force, St Cucuphas, Nixon in China vis-ร -vis today’s relations plus more on stock characters and archetypes

four years ago: RIP Rutger Hauer plus a doctored presidential seal

five years ago: a neo-classic Delphic festival (1927), a student project that may have unwittingly identified targets of value in the Gulf War, anti-social media, Mid-Century Modern minimalism plus the hunt for subsurface water on Mars

Wednesday 28 June 2023

10x10 (10. 840)

⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️: Neal Fun’s (previously) infuriating password game  

ceiling cat: the European Souther Observatory in the Chilean mountains discovered a feline nebula

bad odds: wagering on climate change to bring the danger and risk to present and personal 

backstage: newsletters (from 1962 to 1980) published for Disneyland crew members, scanned in full—via Super Punch  

homage to magritte: a 1974 tribute in five vignettes to the Surrealist artist 

independent legislature theory: US Supreme Court strikes down suit that would cut checks and balances and judicial review of laws passed 

monkey bars: the first jungle gym (see previously) was built in hopes of teaching children about three-dimensional space and Cartesian coordinates 

magma: mining volcanoes could provide a more ecologically-friendly way to extract metals  

power of ten: NASA’s coding commandments focused on testability, readability and predictability that keeps critical systems safe and running in outer space  

goodnight phone: an interactive web comic for our shared present—via tmn

synchronoptica 

one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus a surprise session of the January Sixth hearings on the US Capitol Insurrections

two years ago: body language, the UN International Criminal Court (1993), Miss Continuous Towel and other spokesmodels plus Pitman shorthand

three years ago: a corporate typeface, a performative masculine simulator game, Martian meteors plus cataloguing one’s possessions

four years ago: the Stonewall Riots (1969), surveying Titan plus bringing back the chestnut tree

five years ago: Paul Simon on Sesame Street, silent cooking videos, assorted links to revisit plus combating fake product reviews

Tuesday 6 June 2023

7x7 (10. 790)

fowl-mouthed: Apple’s newest IOS to tweak auto-correct feature that turns a common expletive to “ducking” 

supars: librarians in the 1970s foresaw the coming age of inter- connectivity and distributed learning and helped design the tools for it 

olive grove: climate change bringing new crops to Canada’s Pacific Northwest 

pop 101: a guided formulaic approach to composition  

magic kingdom: research finds that fungi sequester a third of carbon emissions—via Slashdot  

fact-checking: the rise, fall and rebirth of Snopes

ski googles: Apple previews new prototype AR/VR headset—to be on the market next year

Thursday 1 June 2023

the annoying thing (10. 780)

Originally shared as an MP3 audio recording of a student in Gothenburg called Daniel Malmedahl imitating the sounds of a two-stroke engine revving (Tvรฅtaktare) in 1997 that was picked up as a signature sound for Formula One Racing in 2001, the concept, with the addition of a CGI character, became a ring-tone licensed and rather aggressively marketed in 2004 and on this day in 2005, just a couple of weeks after being released, its incarnation as a Eurodance, techno song by Axel F became the number one single in the UK and a summer hit (internationally—tube de l’รฉtรฉ), beating out the likes of Cold Play in the charts. This enduring cult classic, which is periodically called into service, saw more than a dozen remixes, concert tours, a video game, a documentary plus an unrealised television series and feature film. Deng deng!

Sunday 23 April 2023

me at the zoo (10. 693)

As the first ever video uploaded and shared to the platform YouTube, the nineteen second amateur clip that did not so much document a moment but rather was an announcement that illustrated the possibilities of the tilt to video and the ramifications the accessible technology had in store for the coming generation of self-publishing and broadcasting. Contributed by YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim on this day in 2005, the same day as the website went public, the platform was acquired by Google the following year, after realising the site’s full potential.

Monday 3 April 2023

9x9 (10. 652)

eieren blazen: egg blowing was all the rage in the Netherlands in the 1950s  

autofill: Google search recommendations illustrated  

sim card: a mobile phone museum, with a special exhibit of the ugliest—via Messy Nessy Chic  

horsell common and the heat ray: the 1978 War of the World’s concept album featuring Yes and Richard Burton  

vexing vexillogy: CGP Grey grades US state flags—see previously 

airspace: Alex Murrell on the ‘Age of Average’—via Kottkesee also  

if the engine jumps the track: another in a series of derailments—thankfully this time with no fatalities—yields some amazing photographs but a few beer or two, via Super Punch 

katkhakali: the dance of the ‘speaking hands’ about the myth of Kali and Travancore, a 1981 Soyuzmultfilm short  

peepshi: a complete guide to deconstructing Easter candies for festive onigiri

Monday 6 February 2023

negative test (10. 529)

Approached by Facebook executives with a request to run an experiment tweaking power demands of certain applications to make using them drain one’s phone batteries, a data scientist refused to do so on ethical grounds citing that by dint of the sheer volume of users—in excess of one billion individuals—some were bound to be negatively impacted by a dead phone, lost, stranded or otherwise able to purchase items or verify their identity or alternatively to be gaslit by ones own gadgets, was fired and revealed the existence of this rather sinister experiment (see also) in a lawsuit suing for wrongful dismissal. Details beyond the allegations are sparse since the plaintiff’s employment contract included a clause for binding arbitration, effectively surrendering his right of recourse to legal remedy and submit to the decision of a judge paid a retainer by the social media enterprise.

Wednesday 11 January 2023

civics lesson (10. 407)

Citing the precedence of public nuisance laws which stopped a vaping manufacturer from marketing to young people, a school district in Seattle, Washington is filing a non-frivolous lawsuit against social media outlets, alleging that TikTok, Facebook, Instagram et al are exploiting vulnerable psychologies and creating addicts for their own profit and precipitating a widespread hardship for students and the education system that services them. The attendant mental health crisis—a challenge for the best equipped and dedicated counselling professionals—is a distinct disservice, siphoning precious resources and time from curriculum for intervention and threat-response stemming from distressing and intimidating posts, compiling a growing list of intentioned maladies. What do you think? The school board hopes that this injunction is a first step for students everywhere.

Thursday 15 December 2022

7x7 (10. 386)

de-evolution: Dangerous Minds interviews Devo’s Gerald V Casale  

santa baby: Cher’s 1975 Christmas Show—see previously  

risky ebay alternative: a round-up of poorly considered gift ideas from Tedium 

๐Ÿ‘️‍๐Ÿ—จ️: an infinitely recursive Game of Life—see previously—via Waxy  

going to be out of pocket today: a Gen-Z lingo quiz—via Language Hat⊙  

december will be magic again: a 1979 BBC Kate Bush Christmas Special with guest star Peter Gabriel  

crack that whip: the group’s signature song was inspired by Thomas Pychon’s Gravity’s Rainbow

Friday 9 December 2022

data dump (10. 373)

Although unashamedly US-centric, the just-published Year in Search retrospective from Google nonetheless yields some insights for this past year and our collective engagement with the news and trends. 

It seems that we were less interested in chasing memes and more focused on the news and an interesting feature (America only apparently) allows one to find popular search terms locally. There are several categories–plants, pets, people–of analytics to parse and contrast and the top ten searches (with apparent recency bias) worldwide were: 

  • Wordle
  • India vs England
  • Ukraine
  • Queen Elizabeth
  • Ind vs SA
  • World Cup
  • India vs West Indies
  • iPhone 14
  • Jeffrey Dahmer
  • Indian Premier League

The top news queries were: Ukraine, Queen Elizabeth’s passing, Election Results, Powerball Numbers and Monkeypox. More at the links above.

Sunday 16 October 2022

7x7 (10. 229)

symphony of the birds: CBS Radio director Jim Fassett’s 1960 experimental arrangement  

home row: Google Japan develops a long, horizontal keyboard for messy desks—reminded us of the iPhone Taller that doubles a guitar  

benevolent dictator: a profile of President Kevin Baugh and his micronation of Molossia—via the New Shelton wet/dry  

kunstradfahren: a graceful bicycle ballet by a skilled practitioner of this 130 year old sport  

barcalounger: ten homes whose decor is tied together with classic Eames chairs—see previously

unreliable narrator: microbrews and hipster beer names  

peer-reviewed: birdsong helps alleviate human anxiety and paranoia

Tuesday 13 September 2022

8x8 (10. 131)

le milieu du monde: influential Swiss director Alain Tanner has passed away at 92  

zodiaco: we liked these astrological sign matchboxes from Josรฉ Marรญa Cruz Novillo—see previously  

circadian rhythm: an infographic comparing sleeping patterns across the animal kingdom  

landscape, portrait: a relatable, cautionary comic from xkcd  

punching down: US Republican governors ask Joe Biden to be less generous with his student debt forgiveness plan  

moxie: Perseverance’s experimental oxygen generation—via Super Punch 

trap set: chimpanzees in Uganda demonstrate their signature drum-beats, can communicate across great distances 

maรฎtre ร  penser: French New Wave film pioneer Jean-Luc Godard has exited the scene, aged 91