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: billion selects eight artists for first voyage around Earth’s satellite aboard prrivate 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.

Monday, 10 May 2021

your daily demon: gusion

The eleventh spirit on the Demonological Calendar ruling from today through 14 May presents as either a baboon or as having the chimerical condition defined as xeno- or theriocephaly (from the Greek for beast-headed). Controlling forty-five legions of devils and giving the powers of prophesy and reconciliation of friendships, Gusion is countered by the Shem HaMepohrash angel Lauviah and can be summoned with aloe vera.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

release the kraken

Though popular culture dictates that the head of Medusa was retrieved for one specific purpose, another variant myth has Perseus going through the ordeal as a sort of fool’s errand, with King Polydectes of the island of Seriphos wanting to rid himself of an over-protective son after he became enamoured with Danaรซ after she and Perseus were salvaged by the king’s brother the fisherman Dictys (this aprotonym means Mister Net), the king of Argos Acrisius having cast his daughter and the infant Perseus to sea in a wooden chest to avoid the prophesy that he would be killed by his grandson. Polydectes announced his betrothal to a certain Hippodamia and ordered everyone in his kingdom to supply him with suitable wedding gifts, mostly on the registry were horses but Perseus came late and was assigned by his presumptive step-dad the head of the gorgon after bragging he was fit for a task so demanding. Perseus departed on his quest and Polydectes proceded to woo Danaรซ who tried her best to reject his advances. Using his shield as a mirror to avoid the gorgon’s gaze, Perseus slew Medusa and returned to Seriphos. Disbelieving that Perseus accomplished this trial, Polydectes demanded to be shown the head, which Perseus produced at court, turning the king and his nobles into stone and rescuing his mother. As for Acrisius who banished mother and son and exiling them to the elements, the old king did eventually die at Perseus hand albeit an accident when he was hit in the head by a stray discus that Perseus threw during a tournament.

Saturday, 30 January 2021


Though dismissed as among the most unreliable means of divination and fortune-telling, the association between cheese and magic, cheese-making and cosmology recognised by such luminaries as Artemidorus Daldianus, a second century medium that wrote the authoritative volume on dream interpretation, the Oneirokrtikon, and Hildegard von Bingen struck us as quite intriguing—via Strange Company—and tempting further investigation. There’s a litany of curses and benedictions to be found at the link to the source above, most of which are fantastically straightforward and to the point, like the featured and instigating incantation “you may fascinate a woman by giving her a piece of cheese,” since the charms of cheese require little in the way of explanation.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

greeks bearing gifts or self-consistency principle

Cassandra, daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, was awarded the gift of prophesy by Apollo but when she ultimately rebuffed his advances, the god cursed her so that no one would believe her portents of doom.
Poor thing even had a twin brother called Helenus that she managed to teach the art of seeing into the future, and like his sister was burdened to always be right—except that people believed Helenus. We can all relate to being the wet blanket sometimes.  We thought we knew the story and understood the frustration until listening to this conversation and series of interviews on Hidden Brain that look a close look at Cassandra’s arch dialogue, spoken in metaphor and abstractions like any good prophet, and come to understand that there was no curse and that people ignored her dire warnings because of the way they were presented. It was not a credibility issue but Cassandra’s omen could not draw the people she warned outside of the frame of reference that they were comfortable and familiar with, and the episode uses Cassandra’s curse as a heuristic tool to explore why we sometimes fail to heed good counsel.

Friday, 13 April 2018

tuesday’s child

From a co-worker I learned that some people from Ghana, Togo and the Ivory Coast name their children after the day of the week on which they were born. The Akan, Ndyuka and Fanti peoples of the Guinea Coast of West Africa and diaspora believe these “day names” confer further meaning on the character of the person—comparable to the fortune-telling rhymes of English folk songs but imbued with far richer heritage.
The circumstances of one’s birth—such as precedence, order and special deliveries—can be further narrated through middle names. In the Twi dialect spoken in central Ghana, Monday is ฦdwรณada and is associated with peace and depth and gives us the male name Kwadwรณ and the female name Adwoa. The Latin epsilon sounds like the e in bed. Tuesday is ฦbรฉnada and is associated with the ocean and gives us the male name Kwabenรก and the female name Abenaa. Wukรบada, Wednesday, is associated with the spider (the embodiment of ancestral knowledge and tales) and gives us the male name Kwakรบ. Thursday is Yรกwรณada is has its root in the word for Earth and gives us Yaw and Yaa. Friday is Efรญada after fertility and gives us Kofรญ and Afua. Saturday, Mรฉmรฉneda, gives us Kwรกmรจ and Ama and is associated with the divine and Sunday, Kwasรญada, gives us Kwasรญ and the female form Akosu and is associated with the Cosmos. Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Atta Annan was born on a Friday and his middle name indicates that he was a twin.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

girl interruptus or from here to paternity

The introduction to a particularly brilliant crossover episode that profiled the intersection of the history of Ancient Greece with that of witchcraft was a nice reminder of the bizarre and complicated origin story behind the liminal figure of Tiresias of Thebes, the blind seer who tried to keep Oedipus from investigating too far into the murder of the former king and posthumously advised Odysseus how to return home and avoid the traps in store for him and his crew. For disturbing a pair of copulating snakes whilst hiking up Mount Kyllini, he garnered the displeasure of Hera who punished him (I guess) for his transgression by transforming him into a woman.
Seeing this baffled individual, Apollo came and offered a measure of explanation, saying that Tiresias would be made his former gender should he encounter mating serpents a second time. Legends vary but some accounts hold that female Tiresias was a prostitute of great fame, and giving birth to and rising a daughter, sired by none other than Hercules (though some dispute paternity), called Manto, who was also gifted with the curse of prophesy and was the namesake of the city of Mantua (Mantova). Seven years later, Tiresias came across another pair of snakes entwined in the act and either did or didn’t interrupt their activity (accounts vary) and his manhood was restored. At some point afterwards, Zeus and Hera were having a heated debate as to which gender derived more pleasure from sexual congress (though they didn’t specify what sort of intercourse) and at an impasse decided to bring in Tiresias who had experienced it from both sides as arbiter. When Tiresias sided against Hera once again by saying that ninety percent of the pleasure was the woman’s share, the goddess was so enraged that she gouged out Tiresias’ eyes. Out of pity and unable to countermand the punishment of his sister-wife, Zeus tried to compensate by granting Tiresias the ability to see into the future and a number of other superhuman talents plus a life extension that crossed seven generations and he became a prophet of Apollo.

Monday, 26 June 2017


t-kimono: classic garment re-tailored in partnership with a Norwegian studio

born on the fourth of july: many argue that independence is contingent on international recognition, via TYWKIWDBI

snarknado: flooding in the US carries buoys of fire-ants, via Super Punch

the mother of invention: expectant father Philippe Kahn came up with the idea of the camera phone to share his daughter’s birth in real-time, via Dave Log v 3

crystal ball: to the uninitiated, these fortune-telling booths of Hong Kong could be offering any number of professional services, via the Everlasting Blรถrt

ostinato: a custom-build instrument designed to produce that tension-building music for scary movies 

Sunday, 23 October 2016


brettspiel: a look into the biggest international board game convention, held in Essen

big, no—huge: Brooklynites create a Zoltar-like fortune-telling machine (from the Tom Hanks’ movie) in the form of a vitriolic presidential candidate

it means heir to the kingdom: faced with slumping bookings one hotel and resort chain is rebranding itself as “Scion”

my name’s not baby—it’s Janet, Ms Jackson because you’re nasty: Weird Al Yankovic moderates a bizarro, musical version of the final presidential debate

mercator reflection: a tour of the stained-glass Mapparium of Boston that gives visitors perhaps a new global perspective

wind in your sails: sometimes swans will just coast along

enunciation: interesting and rather baffling test for prospective radio-announcers, with what was considered the standard and accepted pronunciation and stress at the time 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

arcana and hour-glass

The esoteric roots of the Third Reich—which misappropriated and ruined a lot of heretofore widespread symbolism—was based in a selective but seemingly innocent cultural revival and revanche of Germanic interest after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire that began with the folk- and linguistic studies of the Brothers Grimm. Once a lexical tradition—though borrowed and forced to fit a unified agenda, a practise perpetuated to awful extremes in just a short amount of time, other aspiring mystics found niches that could be capitalised upon in similar ways.
As nationalist sentiments simmered, parlour-games like astrology and divination seemed to be too entrenched with foreign influence and a domestic, German versions of the signs of the zodiac and tarot-readings (and the I-Ching) was readily adopted. The individual responsible for this new set of symbols was an Austrian occultist named Guido von List, who became obsessed with the cult of Odin. Stricken with cataracts, von List identified himself more and more with the Norse god, who had traded one eye for wisdom and insight, when a surgery left him temporarily blind for a period of almost year. During this time, von List found the meaning of the runic alphabet revealed to him and subsequently published his pamphlet on the Armanen Runen, which while based on the established signs, widely distorted their accepted meanings. Most familiar and infamous, the swastika was an international symbol, maybe one of the Indo-European people’s most ancient and enduring symbols, that meant “gift” or good-luck, almost universally. The English term for Hakenkreuz (the hooked cross or the cross with serifs) retains the original Sanskrit meaning of good fortune, which almost makes it seem as if the symbol were defamed twice over.
The dual lightening-bolts that came to represent the Schutzstaffel (the SS) singularly represented the sun and not victory (Sieg), as von List attributed being unable to foresee the consequences. The interpretation gets even more far-fetched with the Hagal rune—แšผ being the sign for hail or a snowflake enlisted, strangely, as a mark of solidarity and faith. The rune for a yew-tree which originally connoted a measure of protection was somewhat sequitur associated with the pharmaceutical arts (as was displayed on the apothecary shingle for many years) but then แ›‰ (Algiz) was expanded as the Lebensrune to indicate life and parturition and its inverted form แ›ฆ was forwarded to mean death. The sign was the badge of those charged with administering the Lebensborn programme and became a common way on headstones to indicate date of birth and date of death, instead of the traditional * and ✝. The above snowflake rune, Hagal, was accorded with the high-status of signifying fidelity because it contained both life and death. Despite the dubious and engineered heritage, masses of people took this home-spun fortune-telling and the trappings of new iconography very seriously and as a source of national identity, and once a new regime adopted these badges of power, they already had an air of legitimacy.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

ulysses or hocus-porcus

By its nature, mythology does not admit to definitive versions, although the fables and folklore of the Greeks, once committed to paper by Homer and Hesiod and countless others took on an air authority that was not a uniting theme in the tradition of story-telling. Although different accounts circulated long afterwards and inheritor traditions continue to build on that unstaid corpus still, lore, variation and invention is sourced to the Heroic Age—those who fought in the Trojan War, and abruptly ended with that diasporic, lost generation afterwards.
Maybe it was because those stories were written down and the winningest narratives became the prevailing ones—competition continued among poets, championing their own character-analyses, morals and retribution and it’s now hard to imagine as the readership that there were opposing legends presented to audiences, amok-time scenarios where Electra and ล’dipus had normal families and lost their place in the popular imagination to the racier, received versions. One of the very last myths constructed, a lost epic that seems groundless morose but somewhat reconstituted, by the Greeks is called the Telegony and dealt again with re-deploying veterans and the homecoming of Odysseus, but told from the perspective of the seductress and enchantress Circe. During Odysseus’ captivity on the exile-island of Aeaea—Loลกinj, Croatia—(Circe was banished to this remote location to keep her out of trouble), Circe became pregnant and bore Odysseus a son after his departure, the eponymous Telegonus, whose name meant born far away due to his father’s distant home. Athena urges Circe to reveal to her young adult son—juxtaposed with the massacre and funeral service for opportunist suitors of his wife, Penelope, whose advances she solemnly rebuffed for the two decades’ absence of her husband that open the story—who his father is. Telegonus resolves journey to Ithaca to find Odyssey.
Why Athena, as Odysseus’ constant champion and protector, encouraged this reunion seems impenetrable and without the entire story—that’s just been teased out of a few lines and other myths referencing the Telegony—the goddess’ motivation will remain a mystery, I suppose. Before going on this long and dangerous voyage, Circe asks the blacksmith of the gods to craft her son a supernatural spear with the poison tip of a string-ray to defend himself. Just as Telegonus arrives in the Ionian Sea, he is visited by a terrible storm and disoriented, does not realise that he has already arrived at his destination. Though the trope seems rather predictable to us thanks to the tragedies of Sophocles, Telegonus poached one of his father’s cows and was ambushed by Odysseus and his men. As he deftly defends himself, Telegonus strikes down Odysseus, fulfilling a prophesy that the wily hero who satisfied his charge with burying an oar in a land where they never had heard of the ocean that stated he would meet his demise from the sea, and recognizes, too late, that he is his father. Beside himself with remorse, Telegonus takes Odysseus’ body, widow and half-brother, Telemachus (meaning “far from the battle-field” also unborn when Odysseus went off to war) back to Aeaea in the Adriatic. Circe’s magic was unable to restore Odysseus to life but is able to make the landing party immortal. Telegonus marries his step-mother, Penelope, and Circe, Odysseus’ lover, marries Telemachus. I wish we had the whole story in order to make this outcome seem plausible—the classic myths were hinged together in such a way where one could always suspend ones disbelief and accept that a character was fated to be transformed into a tree or flower or would be forced to experiment with the lesser-evils and impossible choices. I wonder if this outline could be expanded.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

e at delphi or the power is yours

According to legend, the location of panhellenic oracle at Delphi—sacred specifically Apollo but also the whole panoply of the gods—was fixed when Zeus dispatched two eagles in opposite directions to find the geographic centre of the Earth (the navel, ฮฟฮผฯ†ฮฟฯ‚ of Gaia, Mother Earth—the name Delphi too is a near homonym for the Greek word for womb). Having circumnavigated the globe, the eagles collided above the slopes of Mount Parnassus and so by this unfortunate augury it was decided. The midair crash makes me think about the silly exchange between the uncatchable Teumessian Fox and the magical hound Laelaps who was destined to capture anything it chased—paradoxical nonsense that Zeus put to a stop by turning both beasts into stone, and setting them among the stars—Canรฆ Major and Minor. The sanctuary played host to sibilant soothsayers for centuries and attracted the patronage of the rich and powerful, whom for a donation, could entreat the Pythia for a suggested donation amount—all tributes and treasure artefacts of the wealthy trying to outdo one another.
Such gifts were left in hopes of currying favour with the gods and to gain some purchase on their prophesy—one which promised to be duplicitous and if the question was not framed careful, they risked an ironic demise. Not every donation was precious in the traditional or artistic sense, however, and probably the most enigmatic token was a simple letter E carved into a wall of a temple. No one really knows its meaning but Plutarch—a contemporary and friend of the high priestess, a retainer of the oracle—speculates in a rather in depth dialogue about what it could signify. Called E at Delphi (which always made me think of some diner, Eat at Delphi’s), Plutarch’s work underscores the singular nature of this inscription, which appears alongside two other famous dictums—Know Thy Self and Everything in Moderation. The intent already unknown and a bit of a mystery for visitors to guess about, Plutarch’s characters debate suggestions that the E could be the Greek numeral five—maybe a station of the tour and ritual, the verb form Thou Art, declined as an exclamation, or a hale and hearty greeting (pronounced like “aye”) from the god himself.
Despite the elite nature of the site—certainly not open to all seekers and the opening hours were rather restrictive, requiring a Delphic sponsor, a citizen of the settlement that grew up around the oracle, and sessions were only held on the seventh day of the month, Apollo’s day, and during long Greek summer—the nine months out of the year when snowbird Apollo dwelt in Greece before retiring to live among the Hyperborei (maybe the Britons) and Dionysus wintered in Greece—the panhellenic nature of the spot that opposed local patriotism and cults that was otherwise politically pervasive for the Greek people was really novel and Delphi and its traditions functioned in a sense like a central bank, a repository of wealth that was universally recognised. Those walls no longer stand, but other relics from that treasury have survived, scattered, like the bronze serpent column now in the hippodrome of Istanbul, brought from Delphi (in probably a bad choice of war trophies, in a karmic sense) to commemorate an ancient victory of the Greeks over the Persians. Perhaps, though, the E is enduring as well, abiding in a mystery that is as cryptic as the advice of the Sibyl.