Wednesday, 15 March 2023

8x8 (10. 612)

scheele’s green: more on the poisonous, synthetic shade—via Messy Nessy Chic 

terroir: BBC’s Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course  

family business: a look at the oldest-continuing operating hotel in the world, by shifting definitions (see also)

contagion: banking stocks drop as investors lose confidence after the failure and intervention for Silicon Valley Bank (previously)  

xerox alto: a half-century on (see previously), we are still living with the legacy of one of the first home computers—via Kottke  

ghostwatch: a BBC mockumentary that spooked viewers

$: the first instance of the dollar sign in print—see previously 

arsenic and old lace: an astonishing murder ring of earlier twentieth-century Hungary

Monday, 20 February 2023

die fringer (10. 560)

Via the new shelton wet/dry, though the ring-finger finger-ring by conceptual artist Nadja Buttendorf from 2016 was intended as prosthetic extension and not anticipating our tenuous times and injecting doubt into what we perceive and are presented, criminals and others seeking alibis, plausible deniability and not be subject to dragnet surveillance might indeed don glitchy accessories (see previously) to call into question the admissibility of trackers and footage.

Saturday, 7 January 2023

cupoty (10. 391)

Courtesy of Kottke, we are enjoying perusing the top one hundred entries for the Close-Up Photographer of the Year competition. There were too many outstanding images to choose from but we especially appreciated those who took the time to consider the toadstool, up-close and intimate, like Barry Webb’s huddle of Cribraria, a type of slime mould. The contest for 2023 opens already in March so plenty of time to get tiny.

Sunday, 3 July 2022

double indemnity

Premiering in Baltimore on this day in 1944 before nation-wide release three days later, Billy Wilder’s (see previously) noir masterwork starred Fred MacMurray as an life insurance salesman and Barbara Stanwyck as a provocative housewife who conspire to murder the latter’s husband for the survivor benefit of his insurance policy, which has a clause that doubles the pay-out for freak accidents. Told in flashback, the score by Miklรณs Rรณszsa has a leitmotif of a running string tremolo to introduce the criminal activities of the partners against the husband.

Saturday, 12 February 2022


forum gallorum: step into this unassuming salon to inspect a piece of Roman London, reminiscent of discovering this shopping mall in Mainz—via Nag on the Lake  

burds: just a fun little cleanse—cartoony birds hopping about—via Waxy  

shred, white and blue: the totally normal and perfectly legal ways the White House handled official records 

neft daลŸlarฤฑ: a decaying offshore oil platform in the middle of the Caspian Sea  

the thoughtful spot: the Phrontistery (ฯ†ฯฮฟฮฝฯ„ฮนฯƒฯ„ฮฎฯฮนฮฟฮฝ, Greek for the thinking place) catalogues a treasury of rare and obscure words—via Kottke  

gumshoe: the bygone era of the hotel detective—via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump  

be mine: the Lupercalia and the origins of Saint Valentine

Sunday, 19 September 2021


Discovered on this day in 1991, the human, natural mummy named ร–tzi (previously) was found by a pair of German tourist on the east ridge of the ร–tztal (Venoste) Alps spanning the Italo-Austrian border believing that this five thousand year old corpse was the remains of a more recently departed mountaineer and immediately summoned the authorities, the forensics department turning the case over to the archeologists. Frozen and exquisitely preserved, scientist were able to study his clothes, shoes and tools as well as the contents of his stomach, bodily composition, toxicity and glean a lot of about his civilisation’s lifestyle, diet and technical prowess.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

tatort, tรคtort
Arriving in Sweden, our first stop was the Brick Gothic, Art Nouveau town of Ystad that’s the setting of the popular detective series (Skandi-Krimi—whereas the Swedish near homophone just means a locality rather than a crime scene) called Wallander with the eponymous police inspector and enjoyed exploring the old town with mix of eras going back to medieval times plus a well appointed church and monastery.

Tracing the coastline south, we picked a campground in the pine dunes by the beach at Lรถderup. Cooking outdoors and pitching the tent and generally roughing it are part of the fun of course and I liked the beach view for doing the dishes. I noticed an innovative use for the ubiquitous IKEA squeegee, Lillnaggen, as a doorstop by camp staff that seemed quite fit to purpose. This campsite was a staging spot for the next day’s agenda with a trip first to the megalithic stone ship, Ale Stenar.

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

watching the detectives

Adapted from the 1929 novel by Erich Kรคstner with screenplay written by Billy Wilder, the adventure film directed by Gerhard Lamprech Emil und die Detektive opened on this day in 1931 in Berlin at the Kurfรผrstendamm Theatre. The titular young boy is dispatched by his widowed mother from their provincial home on Neustadt (a generic anytown name, like Springfield, and usually appended to the name of the river it’s on) in the Weimar Republic (see also) to Berlin with a sum of money to deliver to his grandmother and cousin, Pony Hรผtchen. En route, Emil makes the mistake of accepting candy from a stranger, is knocked out and awakes to find the Marks missing. Emil then solicits help of neighbour youths who style themselves “detectives.” They eventually apprehend the stranger that mugged Emil, who is revealed to be a wanted bank robber and the gang receives a large award for his capture. Remade five times over the decades, the movie established several cinematic tropes including drugged sweets and innovative camera techniques.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

taxi nach leipzig

This evening, fifty years ago marked the first broadcast of the long running German crime serial Tatort (“crime scene”—see previously), a ninety-minute stand-alone case investigated by a familiar case of characters, on Sundays following the evening news at eight on channel NDR, Norddeutsch Rundfunk.

The premier episode revolved around the unidentified body of an adolescent discovered at a rest stop near Leipzig, and the East German authorities call on their Western counterparts for help when it is determined that the victim is wearing Western articles of clothing. The request for assistance is abruptly called off, prompting on of the West German detectives to launch his own investigation when it is learned that the bringing this death to light may scandalise a prominent chemist. Even if there is a language barrier or you do not really care for police procedurals, the appreciation for this suspenseful, funky opening sequence by Klaus Doldinger still in use today by is universal.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

web of deception

On this day in 1999, Bruce Miller was found murdered in his scrapyard in Flint, Michigan, victim of a conspiracy between his wife Sharee Paulette Kitley Miller (*1971) and her online liaison Jerry Cassaday—who was convinced to carry out the shooting by Sharee for Miller’s money, arguing a divorce could not generate enough alimony since the couple had only been married for a few months. Mortified by his actions, Cassaday, a former police officer who knew forensics and thus how to commit a perfect crime, took his own life afterwards and Sharee was apprehended the following February after finding their chat logs, printed out and left in a briefcase along with Cassaday’s suicide note.

Individuals should know that their actions (even in that then new media) have consequences and have been sentenced accordingly but I wonder in what ways does hindsight temper judgment. What do you think? Sometimes time vilifies and exculpates but never universally and one has to wonder about our own naivety. With headlines like “Murder by Instant Message,” the investigation and trial were recorded as the first internet based homicide.

Friday, 30 October 2020

nutshell studies revisited

Our thanks to Open Culture for giving us the opportunity to return to the murderous miniature dioramas of Frances Glessner Lee, which with the help of a generous endowment for Harvard University helped to establish and transform the art and science of forensic analysis and post mortem medicine. Building on her infatuation with detective novels, Lee shows that not all crime scenes betray an open-and-shut-case, even at a diminutive one-twelfth the scale. Much more to explore at the links above.

Saturday, 28 December 2019


Via Dave Log v.3 (broken link unfortunately) we’re well acquainted with the Unclaimed Baggage Processing Centre in Enterprise Alabama that sells on lost and never claimed luggage from the airlines and more recently were given a tour of Paris’ but we were heretofore unfamiliar with the logoistics behind reuniting when possible, warehousing then auctioning off lost items from Germany’s railways as told in this visual storyboard from the New York Times.
Nearly a quarter of a million items, from the mundane to the esoteric and inexplicable—steeped in more mystery when one considers how one might lose track of certain treasures much less be unable to follow up on their whereabouts, are found every year in stations, on the platforms and left in the trains. A team of a dozen curators headquartered in Wuppertal try to deaccession their collections through research and detective work and find their owners.
Once all efforts have been exhausted, items go under the hammer, auctions held weekly on Platform 1. Though it would be a bit of a railway journey in itself but I’m going to resolve to check the city and the Bahnhof for the clearance event out one Thursday afternoon soon.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

fount of ambiguity

Ultimately sourced to the public affairs office of an aluminium manufacturer and required reading for all who matriculated through the agency, thanks to the CIA CREST scheduled releases to the public domain after fifty years the slim forty page, mimeographed volume on the intelligence service’s guide to semantics intersecting with proxemics, forensics and profiling through achieving clarity in communication and effective inquiry. The brochure in its entirety is available over at Muckrock and though somewhat dated still offers time-tested methods for recognising and deflecting fake news with means-testing that seems obvious but is something we’ve conveniently forgotten. The evergreen lament that “too much government is bad for business” is deconstructed through semiosis—offering that you will probably garner some enemies, at least temporarily rather than disabusing anyone—but some basic clarifying questions should be put to that rather meaningless (for the target) assertion.

Friday, 12 February 2016

tatort oder der kommissar’s in town

Though truthfully I cannot say I consider myself a dedicated fan of the series—though I usually have it on in the background and make it a point to gyrate to the funky opening soundtrack—I think that I must give it another go after reading Dangerous Minds’ appreciation of Tatort, a crime-scene investigatory franchise that has regular parallel plot-lines in a dozen different cities within the German Sprachraum. The series has aired for four decades presently and its thousandth instalment is coming up soon. The tribute highlights some of the best episodes and offers a lucid explanation to the nonpareil format to outside audiences—however much we might already fancy ourselves forensics experts thanks to CSI and Law & Order. I have caught glimpses of familiar sights in the show’s extensive venues, especially Leipzig, beforehand—and although a recent chapter was filmed between Frankfurt and Wiesbaden, I was a little let down that Wiesbaden’s screen-presence was severely limited and confined to an underground carpark—though I could be reasonably certain I recognised it.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

zoinks, jinkies and denouement

The Hanna-Barbera cartoon franchise Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? was conceived in response to parental concerns that the particular Saturday morning line-up, which consisted of Space Ghost, the Herculoids and Tom and Jerry, was too violent. Producers were initially infatuated with the idea of doing a spin-off of the Archie syndicate that featured a teen band who happened to slip off fight crime and solve mysteries in between gigs. The whole concept still needed re-working because these bandmates (with a cowardly mascot) were in pursuit of actual ghouls—rather than some villainous human disguised that those meddling kids would unmask at the end of each episode—and came across as rather too scary. The second, familiar version had its cast of characters drawn directly from the old-teenagers portrayed on the series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis—Norville “Shaggy” Rogers voiced by DJ Casey Kasem and based on the template of beatnik Maynard G Krebs (Bob Denver, later of Gilligan’s Island fame) and Velma Dinkley is lifted from the tomboyish Zelda Gilroy (portrayed by Shelia James Kuehl presently a member of the California State Senate) as a couple examples.
It’s strange to think how all supernatural and superstitious elements were debunked by the show’s finishing scene—excepting the canine sidekick who was retained from the original proposal, of course, and one that could talk (I don’t recall a musical inclination, the Archies’ dog played the bongos)—and I suppose that expectation, moral placated fretful parents. The title character was named reportedly after the scatting verse at the end of Strangers in the Night rather than Detective Chief Inspector Walter Dew, who investigated the Jack the Ripper murders and some other gruesome crimes in turn of the century London, plus cases cat-burglary and forgery. It would not have even occurred to me to connect these two sleuths and wonder, had not I learned that the Inspector, in pursuit of a fugitive, had once travelled under the name Mister Dewhurst. It made me think of some of the reoccurring distant relations (this series was keen on extended families, too, it seemed and everyone had their pedigree) like those who lived on Doo Manor, or cousin Scooby-Dee, Dixie-Doo or Sandy Duncan.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

cat-burglar or level-boss

Though often subtly alluded to and perhaps the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, nineteenth century gentleman burglar turned international criminal syndicate mastermind, Adam Worth, is virtually unknown. Celebrated in his day—albeit no one knew his true identity as he hob-knobbed with Europe’s elite and discreetly ran a network of underlings who committed the actual robberies, and always without violence—the cardinal code of his organisation being never to use firearms, Worth managed to elude capture by Scotland Yard and other national police forces, as well as the sleuths of Pinkerton’s Detective Agency.  Some one ought to make a movie about this original gangster.
Worth operated at a time when associates referred to “baby-face,” gums, sister, lumpy—or by some other physical attribute in case of any eavesdroppers, and though while based in Paris, Worth was faced with none of those stakes that fostered a criminal underworld in America with Prohibition, Worth did open and run the first Bar Americain in the city, which held on its upper-storey an illicit gambling hall that could be transformed in an instant into a sedate salon peopled by figures lounging and reading newspapers through some ingenious pneumatic works that hid the gaming tables when trouble approached. There was also a sense of respect above this honour among thieves displayed by Worth’s own arch-nemesis in the personage of Allen Pinkerton, who had spearheaded the hunt for Worth for decades in the US (where he regularly chanced to visit his parents, who knew nothing about his exploits), London, Paris, Greece and Constantinople, who was relentless like Inspector Javert’s relentless chase for fugitive Jean Valjean but ultimately held the outlaw in high esteem.

Monday, 30 June 2014

รฆtherial or to catch a thief

Technologically savvy forensics experts in Germany (the broadcast is only in German) see great potential in exploiting inchoate but measurable aberrations in the environment—specifically the electromagnetic fields generated in any indoors area by electrical sockets.  The not completely hypothetical situation that researchers hope to stage and test the refinement of their gauges involves the story of a murder most-foul.  A woman has been killed, the experiment supposes, and in the absence of any physical evidence, damning or exonerating, the investigators have no way to eliminate or prosecute one of the suspects over the other, the woman’s husband or their neighbor.

Screams and a struggle, without corroboration, however do not go without an audible-footprint, at least indirectly—thanks to the unique and indelible cycling of electricity delivered over alternating current, there’s a time-stamp running in the background of any audio or video recording—that can pinpoint when and where the recording was made and if it was edited, no matter how cleverly or professionally done.  While Big Foot and UFOs are not necessarily in the vicinity of AC power sources, informants and confidential sources usually are and governments are hoping to be able to catch whistle-blowers in the act.  So much for crime-solving, but the poor woman’s death was not captured by any means—conventional at least, but supposing the attacker carried on his person some sort of electronic device, that electric hum would echo in a complimentary way to the method of exposing a snitch.  Though any change or disruption power would be infinitesimally small, one’s devices and electronic accessories can also be exploited, like seismographs, picking up any change in the electromagnet landscape.  Even though the mobile phone forgotten (given that that cell-phone is not already tattling or building an alibi in other ways) in the attacker’s pocket derives no charge from the electricity lurking in the wall socket, via induction, that external power source disrupts the phone’s internal current, in tiny but telling ways, and imprinting the signature of one’s whereabouts at any given time.  Atoms are judged to be perfectly elastic, capable of forever bouncing off one another without drag one experiences on the macroscopic level, but there are certain tell-tale stress-marks that have to do with the optimal, most efficient alignment of a wire in a circuit. While these are not measurable performance-metrics at the moment—that we know of, and exceedingly small it looks like such static might be of vital interest in the near future.