Sunday 25 February 2024

11x11 (11. 380)

sure, write stuff for free—but write it for yourself: maintaining one’s creativity in the bleak media sector brickwalling and the loss of journalistic records  

rage-baiting: viral Tik-Tok couple troll influencer culture with such precision most don’t realise it’s satire—via Super Punch  

the paint explainer: a primer on the twenty-seven amendments to the US Constitution—via Memo of the Air 

dark dimensions: there’s a new theory about where dark matter might be hiding  

the sony smartwig: a 2016 patent granted for a connected hairpiece one pairs with their phone for tactile feedback 

the navel on an orange is a mutation that created a conjoined twin: weird information to dispense on a first date—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links 

the riker manoeuvre: small towns with monuments to Star Trek characters—via Marginal Revolution  

selectric funeral: the Boston Typewriter Orchestra hopes to appear in NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert with this submission  

awful yet lawful: US Supreme Court to entertain grievances on social media moderation for deplatforming hateful and dangerous content  

multi-level marketing: a supercut of huckster Donald Trump’s merchandising scams 

you can out-buzzfeed buzzfeed after all: media group in takeover talks with UK’s The Independent—see previously

Friday 23 February 2024

10x10 (11. 374)

walden 7: photographer Sebastian Weiss captures the epic nature of an outstanding apartment block in Barcelona 

shootball: January Sixth themed pinball machines and other Republican swag at the Conservative Political Action Conference—see previously 

swimming with sharks: an overview of the hidden terror that’s haunted, informed humanity for millennia  

google blobs: the animated emoji character set that ought to be brought back—via Web Curios 

38°n: a news source on North Korea rex melly: the riches of Mansa Musa of the Mail Empire—adjusting for inflation and other factors, possibly the wealthiest person in history 

shift to socials: Vice Media is folding, laying off hundreds of journalists—via Waxysee more  

pale usher: introducing a blog mini-series on Moby Dick with a curious etymology  

every sperm is sacred: following the ruling in Alabama that grants personhood to frozen embryos—and the subsequent suspension of IVF treatment for fear of legal implications—conservative think tank forming Trump’s policy wants to end recreational sex 

batpole: homes with alternate stairwells—see previously

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

synchronoptica 

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

Thursday 1 February 2024

we don’t service your type here (11. 311)

Incredibly just introduced in 1994 (we thought that font snobbery and people, ourselves included, being so vested in these details had been going on for much longer), we enjoyed this excerpt from a new book outlining the history of the much-maligned Comic Sans, designed by Microsoft employee Vincent Connare (also creating the typeface Trebuchet and the rather cryptic levitating businessman emoji) in order to give a friendlier look for a new user interface the company was developing, more legible and scalable than the default Times New Roman, inspired by comic book captions and speech bubbles. Despite its reputation as ugly, ubiquitous and misuse, studies have shown that its superior legibility can help with retention and comprehension, particularly for those with dyslexia and Connare takes no offence to the endless barrage of insults. More on Thomas Steeles’ book at It’s Nice That at the link above.

synchronoptica

one year ago: The Bird Cage (1973) plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: Bush meets Yeltsin (1992), more links to enjoy, Late Night with David Letterman (1982) plus a classic Neil Young album (1972)

three years ago: Kepler’s Cosmic Bowl, Anglicisms in Greek, Imbolc, more links, a historical sci-fi glossary plus a huge graphic design archive

four years ago: Trump on trial by a jury of his peers, the overcrowded mail-order mattress field, AI facial morphs plus an immersive art experience

five years ago: Iceland’s prime minister, disembodied intelligence, more mass-transit upholstery plus women’s suffrage in Switzerland

Wednesday 31 January 2024

8x8 (11. 309)

that spells primbci: Neuralink begins trials on human volunteers—see previously  

infinite craft: drag and drop fundamental elements to make new materials, from Neal Agarwal—previously  

gboard caps: search engine Japan team designs a hat (ๅธฝใƒใƒผใ‚ธใƒงใƒณ) that types  

double feature: more command-line movies from ASCII Theatre—see previously  

once you pop, you can’t stop: the weird and secretive world of crisp flavours—via Present/&/Correct  

vier-tage woche: German companies experimenting with a four-day workweek to ameliorate labour shortages  

zetetic astronomy: a mid-nineteenth century experiment that spanned the Flat Earth movement  

beta-testing: a few well-reasoned counterpoints for the mechanical Turk hucksters and AI-evangelists

Tuesday 30 January 2024

8x8 (11. 307)

1,44mb: some Japanese ministries are phasing out the requirement of submitting official documents on physical media 

forensic linguistics: language experts and crime-solving 

jurassic lark: Poseidon’s Underworld recaps the 1960 cinematic experience Dinosaurs!  

painting with plasticine: Olive Harbutt, daughter of the medium’s inventor, creates art in this 1958 short  

: Letraset fill patterns—see previously 

throwing eggs: popular Chinese card game Guandan may receive sanction for the classroom  

esperantido: linguist Manuel Halvelik created an auxiliary diglossia to make translations sound more archaic 

omnichord: Suzuki brings back the portable music-maker from 1981

Saturday 20 January 2024

dropcat (11. 282)

hough easily accomplished with publishing and word processing software—adding epigraphic letters or initials (from the Latin intialis, meaning that which goes first), the dropcap poses particular challenges for web typesetters, we learn via Good Internet, between scaling and kerning. And while not completely typographically satisfying (but it’s our feline friends so willing to overlook a few gaps in formatting in this exacting science), this experiment to generate figurated majuscule headers with AI illustrates how challenging it can be to get a font, wrapping and layout right—and although automated and tailorable, printers and sorters are not obsolete. Much more about about the methodology and the chance to create one’s own typeface Gwern at the link above.

Saturday 13 January 2024

nuance (11. 264)


Via Kottke, we discover the Emoji Kitchen by Jennifer Daniels that allows one to combine and remix emoji (see previously here and here) as symbols for different accents, ranges of expressions and moods for angry kisses, pensive cowboys and forlorn robots to capture all the feels as well as some truly surreal abstractions (available directly only for certain platforms), like monkey cactus or monocled dustbin. See what you can come up with.


 

Tuesday 9 January 2024

⢹⣇ (11. 255)

Via the latest instalment of Clive Thompson’s Linkfest, having explored ambigrams in the past, we were quite taken with this compilation of braille transformations collected by Sean M Burke (in Unicode) that convey a certain unexpected poetry and symmetry—like pondering the I-Ching for those unfamiliar, and would be a worthwhile effort to be able to re-orientate and read them for oneself. Much more to explore and contemplate at the links above.

Tuesday 26 December 2023

9x9 (11. 218)

inukshuk: CGP Grey grades the flags of the Canadian provinces—see previously  

omnibus: a compilation of the best books of the year 

52 things: Kottke shares some inspired, superlative gleanings from the past twelve months 

black smokers: hydrothermal vents evolved to prey on benthic Santas  

editors’ picks: some of NPR’s favourite, possibly overlooked stories of the year  

in a big country, dreams stay with you: assessing the size of YouTube—via Waxy  

there are two kinds of bubbles: speculation on the speculative nature of artificial intelligence from Cory Doctorow  

font foundry: the year in typography  

first nations: the contentious, selective display of tribal flags at the Oklahoma state capitol

Sunday 10 December 2023

conte du pourquoi (11. 178)

Generally in the International System of Units, as Futility Closet informs, the abbreviation of metrics are only afforded an uppercase character when the unit of measure is a personal namesake—see also—like the newton, ampere, joule, siemens, volt, hertz and kelvin, but the litre, particularly for jurisdictions with the inheritance of the Imperial System and one still singularly holding-fast, the litre was especially fraught for researchers for its potential to be confused with the digit 1. To avoid this confusion, most scientific and labelling authorities adopted a scripted โ„“ as a volumetric symbol, but conventions still held in the US, Canada and Australia. Originally as an April Fools’ Day hoax, Kenneth Woolner of the University of Waterloo created the fictional heir to a sixteenth century wine bottle manufacture concern who purposed an industry standard (famously conventional), Claude ร‰mile Jean-Baptise Litre, to promote the use of an upper-case L. I do hope that Litre had a full, fake biography.  The account was re-printed as fact by an IUPAC journal in 1978 as factual, and though subsequently retracted, the exception is now allowed.

Monday 4 December 2023

sparkle, sparkle (11. 164)

OpenAI and services offering AI powered recommendations and enhancement, like conference transcription and summaries (quite literally turning a meeting into an email) are representing their synthetic-backed features with the emoji ✨ to convey a non-lexicographically sanctioned sense of wonder and magic—which of course is a nice corollary to Arthur C Clark’s “indistinguishable from magic” law whereas any sufficiently opaque process might impel one to conclude the same. This friendly little flourish also begs the question, like with the distinction between online and IRL activities, what it means to label something becoming ingrained and manifest in everything.

Thursday 9 November 2023

button copy (11. 106)

Via Curious Brain, we enjoyed this short montage from Daniel McKee (previously) to music by Resonate that cycles through international traffic signs, showing the variations through different countries on warnings and restrictions. The title refers to the retroflective elements that follow the contours of sign legends caught by oncoming headlamps.

Sunday 29 October 2023

colly (11. 083)

Via Waxy, we are directed to a rather brilliant 1995 undergraduate thesis on Amiga-based ASCII art (previously) and its use in BBS in the late 1980s to early 90s. With a friendly competition emerging among enthusiasts, a typographer’s repertoire was brought together in a volume—a text file—referred to as collies, and due to the display constraints of terminals accessing the bulletin boards, custom logos, indices and menus were limited to grids of eighty-by-twenty-five characters but were also meant for scrolling through. The bachelor candidate accentuates their essay by creating their own collection of type-specimens documenting work (and procrastination) on this paper, intended to be viewed continuously, with an addendum on the challenges of finding and hacking a suitable dot-matrix printer to accomplish the effect in hardcopy.

Friday 1 September 2023

the perils of penelope (10. 975)

Via ibฤซdem, we are referred a seemingly endless, seemingly exhaustive (there must be a reason for the particular signage and an attendant tale of tragedy) and international gallery replete with all pictogram figures in all variety of calamities as cautionary tales (see also) about potential dismemberment, electrocution, restricted areas and especially slips, trips and falls.

Wednesday 30 August 2023

)|( (10. 971)

Via Hyperallergic, we are introduced to the art of Victor Ekpuk through an exhibit revealing social injustice through a patteran of secret symbols developed by the Ekpe of southeastern Nigeria called Nsibidi (see previously). As a contributor to the state-run press under the dictatorship of General Ibrahim Babangida in the 90s, Ekpuk developed his practise, along with satire and allegory, in defiance of increasing government censorship to call attention to corruption and inequality. More to explore at the links above.

 synchronoptica

one year ago: the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Britain’s Manhattan Project plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: a collection of news music, more links to enjoy, Hey Jude (1968) plus a headline grabbing spectacle from 1871

three years ago: the Washington-Moscow hotline (1963) plus suburban, subterranean fantasy worlds

five years ago: more links worth revisiting,  Everybody Dance Now, plus a Rex Factor-style podcast on the lives of the popes

six years ago: kudzu farming

Tuesday 8 August 2023

33 spaceships for another planet (10. 931)

Via friend of the blog Nag on the Lake, we thoroughly enjoyed contemplating these otherworldly compositions by Karla Knight that use schemata and alien glyphs to craft evoking something ancient and pictogrammatic. Check out Knight’s whole portfolio here and explore how her work is a study in evolving diagrams and flow-charts.  

synchronoptica

one year ago: Nixon resigns (1974) plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: your daily demon: Berlith plus another MST3K classic to enjoy

three years ago: motivational sessions for the long-distance runner, Xanadu (1980) plus a selection of LEGO user-interfaces

four years ago: Abbey Road (1969) plus more on the very American problem of gun violence

five years ago: more McMansion Hell,  a World War I Allied advance, Trump brand asbestos plus more links worth the revisit

Tuesday 1 August 2023

7x7 (10. 919)

istj: while gladly gone the way of Harry Potter House in many circles, Chinese placement agencies are obsessing with Myers-Briggs personality types  

hapsburg ai: generative chat programmes trained on derivative synthetic output becomes recursive and untenable—via Kottke  

pittura infamante: the Florentine legal tradition of the rogues’ gallery—via Miss Cellania 

 ๐•: flashing sign with new logo dismantled in San Francisco’s Twitter headquarters after neighbours complain 

:a font family inspired by an Ancient Roman typeface continues a centuries’ long dialogue of the printed word  

watermark: to distinguish generative writing from human, we could possible assign it its own Unicode alphabets—via Language Log  

the belt and road initiative: Italy is vocal with its regrets over signing on to China’s foreign policy push and infrastructure development programme

Sunday 30 July 2023

9x9 (10. 915)

polly pocket: following the success of Barbie, all the Mattel branded toys promised their own feature films 

freshmen fifteen: a nifty conversion tool in the style of Neal.Fun—via Pasa Bon! 

ugly american: the dark side of trends in tourism—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (lots more to check out here) 

a sunday in the park with georges: the pointillist work by Seurat recreated in Wisconsin—see previously

eimreiรฐin: what became of trains in Iceland 

you gotta pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues: we appreciated this reminiscence about the Ringo Starr tune  

meteorological optical phenomenon: more on the Sun’s green flash as it disappears from the horizon  

seybold seminars: the outsized influence of desktop publishing conferences—see also 

return to tender: another exquisite John and Faith Hubley short courtsey of Fancy Notions

Monday 24 July 2023

bye-bye blue bird (10. 903)

Rebranded as X, Elon Musk who owns the transformed social media platform which he plans to ultimately recreate as an everything-app akin to China’s WeChat, presumably replacing the bird logo across all devices once updates are pushed through, announced that tweets will henceforth be stylised hash marks as well, though the roll-out seems a bit uneven. Calling for submissions, Musk promised he would make the change immediate with a good enough monogram was proposed, and the ๐• selected seems to be a decorative insignia from the Monotype foundry’s Special Alphabets 4 font. The choice may prove provisional, however. The original x.com was co-founded by Musk—later rebranded as Paypal after Mush was unceremoniously ousted as CEO.  Though we’d given up on the site some time ago, we’ll still miss our little friend.

synchronoptica 

one year ago: the fall of Stirling Castle (1304) plus the sea cave of Smoo

two years ago: assorted links to revisit,  highbrow smut, a party in a box plus a student animation project that previsions CGI

three years ago: Congresswomen Bela Abzug, St Christina the Astonishing plus El Topo (1970)

four years ago: artefacts and equipment that travelled to the Moon,  the United States v Nixon (1974) plus re-tweet remorse

five years ago: the thagomizer, mapping the brain of a fruit fly plus the god of satire