Friday 9 February 2024

lady wonder (11. 334)

Born on this day in 1924 and later adopted as a weeks’ old filly by Clarence and Claudia Fonda of Richmond, Virginia, and trained by Mrs Fonda with children’s lettered wooden blocks before graduating to an oversized custom typewriter in hopes of establishing equine-human communication—see also—Lady Wonder was one of a number of famous clairvoyant horses, making several predictions for a massive visiting public over the course of the mare’s long life. The outcome of boxing matches, turns in the stock-market, presidential elections (credited with picking the winner for everyone for nearly three decades except Truman’s victory over Dewey, which pollsters and prognosticators couldn’t have guessed were popular subjects but also participated in police investigations, helping lead authorities to missing persons and solving cold cases. Though some skeptics concluded otherwise, parapsychologist J B Rhine assessed Lady Wonder’s psychic abilities, finding that telepathy and extrasensory perception were the only possible explanations. In 1952, the horse shared a by-line in Life magazine on an article about herself and other gifted animals.

synchronoptica

one year ago: colour-coding the Periodic Table plus an omnibus of Olympic pictographs
 
two years ago: assorted links to revisit, a 1982 hit from Trio plus more of the shorthand of Charles Dickens

three years ago: your daily demon: Andrealphus plus more links to enjoy

four years ago: an ancient game piece plus “splendid isolation

Sunday 21 January 2024

8x8 (11. 285)

80s chillpill: a nostalgic, slow-dance playlist 

topdressing: an appreciation of the world’s “ugliest” utility airplane, the Airtruk, designed for crop-dusting in New Zealand—via Clive Thompson’s Linkfest  

future-proof: an advertising campaign from a pen company in the early 1960s strangely forecasts our technological present 

these children aren’t french—they’re american: a retrospective look at the BBC’s language learning mascot Muzzy 

night-climbers: John Bulmer’s photographs of a secretive group that scaled the campus of Cambridge under the cover of darkness—more here  

crochet coral: an evolving nature and craft hybrid project to memorialise and raise awareness about our disappearing reef—see previously—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links 

money pit: a tour of the world’s abandoned airports  

doses & mimosas: a remix by Vintage Culture featuring Zerky

stochastic parrot (11. 284)

Despite having encountered and cited the extremely apt coinage several times in various contexts beforehand, we realised that we never knew the term’s etymology—the leading part’s anyways—as coming from the Ancient Greek for something determined at random or derived from guesswork (ฯƒฯ„ฯŒฯ‡ฮฟฯ‚—also a pillar to prop up a fishing net to mend it) from the office of the stokhastes attempting to predict an outcome by divination, later coming to mean a probabilistic conjecture or augury by allocation. Though a good word of caution against mimicry and anthropomorphising, it does perhaps underestimate the faculties and experience of our feathered friends. More from Language Log at the link above.

Thursday 18 January 2024

ascendant masters (11. 277)

The always excellent Linkfest from Clive Thompson directs us to revisit a 1905 theosophical volume co-authored by Annie Besant, orator, activist for Indian independence and atheist and later adherent of founder Madame Blavatsy, and CW Leadbeater, writer occultist and co-founder of the Liberal Catholic Church, called Thought-Forms, a study of how the human mind “extrudes” these visualisations of experiences, emotions and music into the external world, formed as subtle bodies observed by clairvoyants. Tinted by colour, sympathetic vibrations and the aether as expressions of quality, nature (like the pictured happy thoughts) and directedness, these manifestations are created either by feelings, experience, mediations or in their highest form, music, as in this vision formed from the operas of Charles-Franรงois Gounod. Whilst written for a specific, receptive audience, the astral diagrams have broader appeal and were influential to the world of modern, abstract art, particularly Wassily Kandinski, Piet Mondrian, and Hilma af Klint, and inform to an extent the concept of synaesthesia.

synchronoptica 

one year ago:the High Committee of the French Language plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: the musical stylings of Manuel Gรถttsching plus time flies

three years ago: Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday and Martin Luther King Jr 

four years ago: railbanked railroads, separating entertainment and news plus more links to enjoy

five years ago: more links worth the revisit plus performance of the Diva Dance from Fifth Element

Monday 11 December 2023

a harry alan towers production (11. 179)

Premiering on this day on Comedy Central in 1993, the 1988 sequel, The Outlaw of Gor, is given the MST3K treatment (previously) and showcases the return of the hero Tarl Cabot to the far-off science-fiction, fantasy realm to suppress the designs of the ambitious and wicked queen and her priest-sorcerer in a role reprised by Jack Palance in a series of ridiculous headgear. Loosely based on the series by writer John Norman, the professor and his colleague are transported back to the realm by the Elders using the Home Stone, this episode was screened at several college campuses before its air-date and featured the last invention exchange with Deep-13, ostensibly to recognise the new host’s technical short-comings. 

synchronoptica
 
one year ago: the Kyoto Protocol plus a plan to drain the Mediterranean to flood the desert
 
two years ago: Apollo 17 (1972), assorted links to revisit, a modern gargoyle plus Lily the Pink (1968)

three years ago: we’ve been zucked, science explainers in crochet form plus more links to enjoy

four years ago: 52 more lessons gleaned plus articles of impeachment drawn up for Trump

five years ago: a decisive Brexit vote, subterranean ecosystems, the art of Geoffroy de Crecy, COP 24 plus the inventor of the View-Master

Sunday 26 November 2023

brothers grimmaverse (11. 141)

Apparently there’s a not so subtle effort on the part of Disney to retroactively canonise their range of intellectual property to make every character a part of the same cinematic, fairy tale paracosm. In the new musical fantasy film Wish (made to celebrate the company’s centenary), the protagonist Princess Asha and her rival King Magnifico (with plenty of other references to Snow White) have a final encounter (spoiler alert, I guess) to stop the corrupt sorcerer ruler in this wish-granting based economy concluding as an origin story with the former becoming the Fairy Godmother to Cinderella and the latter trapped in a mirror dimension for eternity and the servant, council of the wicked and cold-hearted stepmother of Schneewittchen. We wonder what other connections might be forced (to get in on the Pixar Theory where events do seem to occur in a shared univere) down the road and mucking about with the timeline. Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.

synchronoptica

one year ago: Aldi’s aisle of shame, Casablanca (1942), the first Christmas film (1898) plus a century (+ 1) of Charles Schultz

two years ago: an undeciphered message hiding in plain sight, assorted links to revisit, a flag-pole maker plus When Harry Met Santa

three years ago: another MST3K classic, more links to enjoy, a sketch a day plus an Austrian village with an explicit name

four years ago: calling a contested presidential election (2000), Anarchy in the UK (1976), criticism directed towards the partition of the Ottoman Empire, the aesthetics of vapourwave plus IKEA designs homeware for Martians

five years ago: merit-based immigration, a map of Britain’s fictional places, the Scandinavian “snowflake” pattern, clever Christmas decorations plus more links worth the revisit

Friday 27 October 2023

9x9 (11. 078)

page rank: the SEO trend of naming establishments X Near Me seems to actually drive customers—via Waxy  

cyanea pohaku: a species of tree discovered right before it was driven to extinction

saint eom: the psychedelic compound of folk artist and fortune-teller Eddie Owens Martin outside of Buena Vista in the US state of Georgia and listed on the National Register of Historic Places  

usonian homes: a pair of Frank Lloyd Wright (see previously) houses on the market in Kalamazoo in the US state of Michigan  

saob: the official Swedish dictionary published after one hundred forty years of work

the united states of guns: another sadly evergreen post about how an armed society is not a free society   

happiness hotel: a luxury kennel once occupied the grounds of New York City’s Lincoln Center 

report of my death having been most industriously circulated by several of the london daily newspapers, would the times permit me to contradict the same through your valuable columns and refute the account: sculptor John Ternouth, designer of the plinth for Nelson’s Column, was surprised to learn of his premature demise—via Strange Company  

i am altering the deal—pray i don’t alter it any further: Amazon’s Alexa is ending inoperability support with severe punishment for those who try to hack their way around it

Wednesday 25 October 2023

8x8 (11. 074)

hilma af: a planned towering gallery for the Swedish artist realised as a virtual reality experience  

papercraft: gorgeous moderne four palette architectural models to make 

the book of hallowe’en: a 1919 illustrated, syncretic study of the appropriated holiday in the spirit of the Golden Bough  

swarm charms: a go-to guide of medieval bee spells 

trainspotting: an omnibus post on avoiding rail collisions including a nineteen century timetable still in use 

reconstruction: the sounds of ancient languages—see also 

the logo is formed from minifig hands: the new LEGO Dune playset  

flow-chart: a study on the abandoned shopping-carts of America  

you may touch the artefacts: a gallery of early internet relics from Neal Agarwal—see previously

 synchronoptica

one year ago:  further adventures in Crete

two years ago: the US Invasion of Granada (1971)

three years ago: a hexadecagonal country retreat, SS Crispin and Crispinian plus pandemic gods and heroes

four years ago: a lyrical headline (1924), a video game atlas plus the world’s first erotic boutique proprietress 

five years ago: The Master Key of Futurity, virtual restaurants and ghost kitchens plus programming a more ethical Pac Man

Thursday 7 September 2023

tyromancers (10. 989)

Via Nag on the Lake and Weird Universe, we discover a divination practise perfectly suited to our gang of turophiles in the form of telling one’s fortune by watching cheese congeal and coalesce and noting its characteristics—dating back to the Middle Ages, a time when people frequently consulted objects at hand for guidance. One technique described was for eligible individuals to inscribe the names of potential partners on a cheese and the first to moulder would indicate the best match. More at the links above.

Thursday 17 August 2023

gรถtterdรคmmerung (10. 949)

A translation of the Norse term Ragnarรถk, the final cycle of the tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner (previously) premiered on this day at the Festspielhaus of Bayreuth in 1876. The play opens with the Norn sisters (analogue to the the Moirai, the Greek Fates who weave mortal destiny) braiding their wyrding rope and foreseeing an avoidable future with Walhalla burnt and in ruins and the “twilight of the gods.” The cord breaks when they begin to contemplate the curse of the ring of power, Andvaranaut—that would reveal gold and other precious items to its wearer, stolen by the god Loki and given to Hreidmar, King of the Dwarves, with a curse to bring eventual destruction to its owner, Prince Fafnir stealing the ring from his father and transforming himself into a dragon to guard it and his hoard of treasure, himself slain by Siegfried and gifting the ring to Brรผnnehilde—and lamenting the loss of their foresight retreated into the Underworld. With this token recovered from the dragon’s lair as a symbol of his fealty and faith, Brรผnnehilde dispatches our tragic hero on a quest along the Rhein.

Sunday 25 June 2023

l’oiseau de feu (10. 834)

The premiere work for then virtually unknown composer Igor Stravinsky debuted on this day in 1910 at the Palais Garnier, performed by the company Ballet Russe to critical acclaim, immediately solidifying him through this collaboration with choreographer Michel Fokine as an international figure in operatic productions and orchestral virtuoso. Staging, set and costume designs were quite phenomenal but the music alone was enough to propel Stravinsky’s career, The Firebird (see previously) tells the hero’s journey of protagonist Prince Ivan, based on the folktale, who becomes lost during a hunting expedition, loses his party and strays into the enchanted realm of the malevolent wizard Koschei the Immortal, kept deathless by keeping his soul in a pin in a magic egg. Ivan captures but spares the life of the Firebird, who is both boon and curse for her captors, who offers a feather as a token of gratitude to summon her aid in a moment of dire need, which comes when the prince confronts the wizard.

Thursday 8 June 2023

seรฑor wences (10. 793)

Never having occurred to us beforehand, we were delighted to learn (among other things) of the unusual etymology of the patently unusual—though at least for us, taken for granted—word ventriloquism, the first recorded use in the debunking volume by Reginald Scot The Discoverie of Witchcraft, published in 1584 from this latest episode of the podcast The History of English: The Spoken History of a Global Language (previously), as a Latinate version of the Greek term for a gastomancer (ฮตฮณฮณฮฑฯƒฯ„ฯฮนฮผฯ…ฮธฮฏฮฑ). Attempting to dispel the superstitious belief that stomach grumblings (see also) were the voices of the departed relaying messages to the living, interpreted by said ventriloquist (literally belly-speak)—the most famous example being the Pythia or Pythoness, the high priestesses of the Oracle at Delphi, Scot tried to persuade his readers with the more rational explanation of digestion, hunger or indigestion and not to heed these adepts who claimed the ability to interpret these noises, in line with trying to offer mundane reasons for other supernatural occurrences. It wasn’t until the eighteenth century, however, that the term for one sort of trickery began referring to entertainment and the ability to “throw one’s voice.” Much more at the links above. S’alright? S’right.

Friday 14 April 2023

aphorism (10. 672)

Via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links, we are informed that enhanced and apparently made-to-order chatbots may be usurping human authorship in one tradition and am admittedly a bit torn on whether this is a good or bad development: fortune cookies. While admitting that I didn’t appreciate how large the collective enterprise was and that there are a recognised cohort of veteran fortune writers for this manufactured custom (Chinese diners are generally served fruits as a degistif), part of me is leaning towards saying that AI is optimised for palaver, wallpaper like this as well as horoscopes and greeting cards but another side wants to rally against it for stripping away the intent and sentiment and even benediction and blessing offered as one’s fortune. What do you think?

Sunday 19 February 2023

the sacred chao (10. 557)

Centred on the worship of Eris, the goddess of strife and founded in 1963 after the publication of its gospel Principia Discordia, Discordianism embraces elements of Taoist philosophy and a healthy dose of skepticism and absurdities and whose main tenet proffers that apparent order and disorder are illusions imposed on the Cosmos by the human mind and that neither is privileged nor objective. With a public papacy and an open process for canonisation, Emperor Norton being one of the better known second-class saints, upheld as an exemplary human for being beloved despite or because of his delusions and disregard for common reality, Discordianism has a caste of overseers called episkopses who speak to the goddess and relay messages and an elaborate mythology from Greek traditions and the “original snub” of her being disinvited from the wedding of Peleus and Thetis and so lobbed into the party the Apple of Discord, a golden prize reserved for the fairest (ฯ„แฟ‡ ฮบฮฑฮปฮปฮฏฯƒฯ„แฟƒ), with the intended recipient a matter of interpretation. Some adherents follow an alternate calendar, aligned with the Gregorian with 2023 CE corresponding with 3189 YOLD (Year of Our Lady of Discord) with today marking holyday Chaoflux (Chaos 50) and in ten days on the 29th of February and usually considered outside of normal time Saint Tib’s Day, with former being (for those who celebrate) observed by being an agent of chaos and persuading friends and loved ones to change plans that they have committed to throughout the day.

Sunday 1 January 2023

9x9 (10. 379)

run with us: Lisa Lougheed vocal talents showcased for the Canadian animated television series The Raccoons—1985 to 1992  

the number 23: Tedium looks forward to the dawning year  

artisanal bitcoin: crypto mined with only slide rules and graph paper  

rip: this more inclusive, Sgt Pepper’s style (previously) obituary of those we lost in 2022—to include the very recently passing of Anita Pointer, Barbara Walters and Pope Benedict 

next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual: a literary guide to New Year’s resolutions and more from Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links 

web 1.0: a clarion call to bring back personal blogging—also the upteenth time this appeal has circulated since 2007—via Kottke’s Quick Links  

penny-farthing: a pocket-sized battery that can enhance a mechanical bicycle  

magic clock: a 1960 Mel-O-Toons classic reminds us it’s late than we think  

fever ray: a selection of new musical artist from Super Punch

Saturday 10 December 2022

7x7 (10. 376)

symphony № 9 boogie: a one hundred and seventy piece orchestra plays Beethoven on the Matryomin—a theremin inside a Russian nesting doll 

psychopomp: Santa Claus has origins as a magic-mushroom dispensing Sami shaman—see previously

 

your yolo years: Pinterest Predicts for 2023 with their not-yet-trending report—via The Curious Brain 

747: after fifty-four years, the final production model of the Boeing aircraft leaves the factory  

cancel couture: at just under a thousand dollars and designed to filter out noise and air pollution, the Dyson Zone is perfect for the misanthrope on your Christmas list 

dumpster fire: marginal Democrat now declared independent as trash receptacles—via The Everlasting Blรถrt 

dearmoon: billionaire selects eight artists for first voyage around Earth’s satellite aboard private orbiter

Tuesday 6 December 2022

vomiting camel (10. 366)

Planet Money’s partner podcast The Indicator introduces us to a practise called stock price charting or technical analysis that economic academics have long debunked as a poor predictor of market trends and no heuristic for basing future trades though pattern recognition yet for some traders and for many media outlets that cover the markets, this study with its language of line graphs classed as candlesticks, heads and shoulders, flags, pennants and cup and handle patterns is proving enduring and a guide of first resort. Skeptics dismiss this method as ineffective at best and verging on an obsession for a few adherents. Sort of like Doge Coin be created as a joke which gained purchase of its own, one detractor began to see the titular pattern in stock performance and offered this pareidolia as a critique of this sort of divination but it too took off as a telling up-and-down spike to be on the lookout for and be primed to buy—or sell—or hold. What do you think about reading the economic tea-leaves? Is it no better than one’s astrological chart or is there something to this superstition for a system buoyed up by common belief?

Monday 29 August 2022

drizzle, drazzle, druzzle drome—time for this one to come home (10. 094)

Alternately titled St George and the Dragon and The Seven Curses of Lodac, the 1962 adventure fantasy by Bert I Gordon (King Dinosaur, The Amazing Colossal Man, Village of the Giants, etc.) loosely based on the legend of St George and his conquests was subjected to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment, airing for the first time on this day in 1992. Our hero in this version, George (Gary Lockwood, later Lieutenant Commander and navigator Gary Mitchell on the Enterprise and astronaut Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey)—of royal parentage but fostered by a sometimes ineffectual sorceress played by veteran actor of stage and screen Estelle Winwood—embarks on a quest to rescue the princess Helene and prevent her from being fed to the dragon of the evil wizard Lodac, played by the equally esteemed Basil Rathbone.

Sunday 3 July 2022

my cup of tea

Having encountered DALL·E Mini (the image generating AI model that responds to natural language prompts now known as Craiyon) return recursive text overlaid with the visual results or that somehow was off in an insightful way in the past, we were intrigued by Janelle Shane’s latest experiment (see previously) that calls on deep divining and reading the tea leaves




The algorithm recognises that flavour of divination, tasseomancy—so far, so good—and how one might represent a message or prophesy obtained wherewith, but I did need to try a few variations, iterations of “a message in the tea leaves at the bottom of a cup”—the first go around underneath the cup and in the saucer, and still wasn’t receiving clear signals that I could feed back to Dall·E and ultimately tried “Magic Eight Ball” and “Fortune Cookie Text” for a mysterious message and for a prompt to feed back but none were forthcoming. 


One should not try to force an oracle or wrestle an angel.  Be sure to check out AI Weirdness for what happens when you get the chance to feed these seemingly random strings of characters back to the machine that generated them.

Saturday 14 August 2021

great birnam wood to high dunsinane hill

Historical basis for the Shakespearian tragedy, Scottish king Duncan I (*1001, Donnchad mac Crinain) is killed in action leading a punitive expedition against an uprising in Moray—in the north near Elgin, domains under the control of his cousin and usurper Macbeth (Mac Bethad mac Findlรกich)—on this day in 1040. The character of the play however is portrayed as an old man and is killed in bed by the protagonist, spurred on by ambitious Lady Macbeth (Gruoch ingen Boite), who get the king’s bodyguards inebriated to the extent that they are implicated in the murder. A principal source for the stage retelling was King James’ 1597 volume on Dรฆmonologie and the royal house’s obsession with witchcraft and prophesy.