Sunday, 25 September 2022

sip (10. 167)

Via tmn, our attention is again directed towards bespoke, luxury fallout shelters, bunkers, panic rooms flogged (also a punishment for criminal offences for the not so well-appointed) to the rich and powerful—only this time, the glamorous, underground residences, replete with fake skies over courtyards with swimming pools, private theatres, wine cellars, conference centres and showcase galleries and garages, or anything else the client can imagine, are being pushed on the influx of multi-millionaires resettling in the United Arab Emirates. What do you thinK? The firm offering such fantastical and secure retreats is a Swiss company called Oppidum—the Latin term for a fortified city. I thought only pharaoh in his pyramid could only be so entombed.

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

down in the underground (10. 155)

Via Boing Boing, we are referred to a curator of one of our own, older obsessions—manhole covers in this site that has meticulous catalogued, though far from complete, these manifestations of the extensive infrastructure of suburbia, numbering over eight thousand examples from over five hundred cities all across the globe.

Sunday, 22 May 2022

oom papa

The always exquisite Fancy Notions directs our attention to a delightful classic cartoon from UPI and storyboard artist and writer T. Hee about generational clashes and the fear of being made obsolete with Pops Tuba discouraging son from experimentation and stern warnings against falling in with the wrong crowd. “And Orville and his friends thought they had the hippest sound—until Steel Johnny Six-String and his pals Fuzzpdal and Fenderstack came to town.”

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

a smattering of spots

Our thanks to Fancy Notions for referring us to this reel of cartoon commercials from the animators at Storyboard, Incorporated, the studio of John Hubley (*1914 - †1977, creator of Mister Magoo and under the employ of Disney painted backgrounds for Snow White, Fantasia and Bambi as well as director for the animated adaptation of Watership Down) with a cavalcade of 1950s advertising—no product endorsement intended or implied.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

t. hee

With a bit of a nod to acquired nominative determinism (previously) we learn the identity of the writer and animator with a rather distinctive style through his 1953 Christopher Crumpet cartoon, courtesy of Fancy Notions, Thornton Hee (*1911 - †1988)—always credited as T. Hee. Starting his career with the studios of Leon Schlesinger Productions in the mid-1930s as a character designer, Hee came up with many celebrity caricatures for Merrie Melodies. Following a brief stint with Disney, notably directing the Dance of the Hours interlude of Fantasia, Hee resumed work back in a more comic vein (Gerald McBoing Boing being a stand-out work) and was also a titlist and made opening animated segments for sitcoms.

Sunday, 9 May 2021

television and the public interest

The titular speech given on this day in 1961 by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Newton N. Minow (previously) to a convention of the trade and lobby group the National Association of Broadcasters, compared to the Golden Age of TV in the 1950s, contemporary programming of violence, cartoons, Westerns, commercials and game shows was assuredly a “vast wasteland.” Acknowledging that when television is good, nothing—not theatre nor any other forms of media—is can surpass it in terms of quality and potential to engage, Minow went on to advise his audience that “television and all who participate in it are jointly accountable to the American public for respect for the special needs of children, for community responsibility, for the advancement of education and culture, for the acceptability of the programme materials chosen, for decency and decorum in production—and for propriety in advertising. This responsibility cannot be discharged by any given group of programmes, but rather only through the highest standards of respect for the American home and applied to every moment of every programme presented. Programme materials should enlarge the horizons of the viewer, provide him with wholesome entertainment, afford helpful stimulation and remind him of the responsibilities which the citizen has towards his society.” Reforms brought about in reaction to the address led to the creation of US Public Television and National Public Radio.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

pigs is pigs

The Friz Freleng short first released on this day in 1937 relays the seemingly insatiable gluttony of one Piggy Hamhock (Porky’s brother, though last seen in this cartoon) and the hardship it has caused the family.

Falling into a food coma after receiving chiding and warnings from his mother that he needs to reform his eating habits, Piggy has a fugue-like dream that he is lured into the laboratory of a mad scientist, who subjects Piggy to a force-feeding by a tireless machine. Piggy waddles away but on the way out the door, takes a drumstick, which proves too much. Awakened from the dream, Piggy is relieved that he is back home and unharmed but devours breakfast without restraint—apparently none the wiser for his experience. Though Freleng’s cartoon shares the same name it does not tell the same story about a rapidly reproducing pair of guinea pigs whose numbers soon grow out of control from a 1905 Ellis Parker Butler work—which went on to inspire a Disney animation in 1954 and the 1967 “The Trouble with Tribbles.”

Thursday, 7 January 2021


Via Waxy, we make the acquaintance of a namesake (a portmanteau of the Pixar character and Salvador Dalรญ) neural network that generates, using Open AI, images from captions. It’s still too brittle, its minders say, for free-text (see also) but one can play Mad-Libs with a certain string of prompts to get an idea of its virtuosity and capabilities. 

This first array of images is in response to the cutline a triangular, yellow manhole cover. The second, poetically, is a fox—made of voxels—sitting in a field. The network even demonstrates learning in geographical facts, fashion and dating styles and technology, though some seem better informed than others. 



Tuesday, 10 November 2020

adventures in music

The award-winning sequel to Walt Disney’s first three-dimensional animated Technicolor romp in rhythm and melody (receiving the Oscar for Best Short Subject)—initially intended to span an entire series but ended here, Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom premiered on this day in 1953. The characters reprised as part of a compromise with RKO Radio Pictures—Disney’s distributor—in response to their desire to enter into the nature documentary business that the studio strongly opposed wanting Disney to focus on cartoons, Professor Owl returns to his schoolhouse full of bird pupils to present a lesson on the different sections of the orchestra and how respectively the brass, woodwind, strings and percussion work together.

Saturday, 18 April 2020


paracosm: Things Magazine digs through its rough drafts to bring together a montage of private homes that represent the complete, the self-contained

your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should: researchers isolate a sample of possibly viable dinosaur DNA, via Slashdot

ursine alignment chart: lockdown coping levels gauged by cartoon bears

ะฒะตั‡ะตั€ะธะฝะบะฐ ะฝะฐ ะฑะฐะปะบะพะฝะต: solo techno raves are the latest challenge in Russia under social distancing rules

covid corridor: absent leadership on a national level, new names proposed for regional alliances forming in the disunited states

domus: Sony World Photography Awards winners and runners-up announced in the category of architecture—via Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals

Monday, 23 September 2019


Via her excellency Nag on the Lake, we discover that the infamous fatberg of Whitechapel (previously) has been memorialised with a special manhole cover.
The one hundred-thirty tonne blockage discovered beneath the east London district was comprised of an unsavoury amalgamation of wet-wipes, cooking oil and other items that are not meant for the sewer system—sort of like the problem of aspirational recycling whose good intentions can spoil the whole batch which can prove overtaxing for even the best engineered though ageing infrastructure.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019


misirlou: celebrating the life and genre-forming stylings of Dick Dale (RIP *1938 – †2019) and the Del Tones

the people have spoken: voters of a Massachusetts town remove and re-elect their mayor on the same ballot

scarlet letter: Monica Lewinsky on public shaming and cyber-bullying

caturday: a 1986 feline calendar on the Internet Archive—previously

the professor and the madman: preview for a cinematic adaption of the story of one of the Oxford English Dictionary’s foundational contributors

ใƒžใƒณใƒ›ใƒผใƒซใฎ่“‹: a photographic safari for the most colourful manhole covers (previously) in Japan  

Sunday, 2 December 2018

merrie melodies

As a coda to this day’s events, our faithful chronicler, Doctor Caligari, directs our attention to the story behind the animation studio United Productions of America (UPA), which originated over striking animators under contract with Walt Disney (who infamously denied the guild the right to organise) and a sense that animated works weren’t meant as a medium for anthropomorphising nor a reflection of the constraints—however well executed—of real models and ought to forward and promote an air of abstraction and cartoon physics. Outside of the studio system, UPA could undercut the competition and garnered contracts to relay the education and training syllabi (within budget) and established itself as a foil to the cinematic realism and didacticism of Disney fairy-tales.

Monday, 26 November 2018


black mirror: a local Chinese business woman is publicly pilloried when an AI misinterprets an ad on the side of a bus as the jaywalking CEO—via Slashdot

cover art: vintage, non-fiction paperback jackets animated by Henning M Lederer

drainspotting: a memory-match game played with decorative Japanese manhole covers (previously here and here)

wallflower: Cecilia Paredes camouflages her subjects against bold floral patterns

l’anis del mono: artist Omar Aqil models Pablo Picasso’s abstract paintings in three dimensions with everyday objects

christmas evil: White House continues the decorating tradition of transforming the residence into a nightmarish hellscape

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

i am elmer j. fudd, millionaire, i own a mansion and a yacht

During what could be characterised as the height of the Red Scare in post-war America, fearful over the brittle state of the capitalist model—executives with General Motors commissioned a trio of propaganda cartoons from the creative cast behind Looney Tunes, which marked quite a departure from the usual antics and took a decidedly classroom tone to inculcate impressionable minds.
It’s hard to say how seriously they took their assignment and perhaps only did so as to not draw undue attention to their studios. “By Word of Mouse” (1954) told the tale of a German country mouse, Hans, visiting an American city mouse cousin who lived in a fashionable department store called “Stacy’s” and mostly features Hans being dazzled by the abundance and selection of inventory available to the common worker, with a professor mouse explaining that free market competition of “Rival Department Store” drives prices down to the benefit of both producers and consumers. “Heir Conditioning” (1955) features Elmer Fudd acting as a financial advisor to Sylvester the Cat after inheriting a large sum of money, encouraging him to invest it rather than sharing it with his fellow alley cats. Learn more and watch all the cartoons on Dangerous Minds at the link above.

Thursday, 30 August 2018


secret garden: Google Earth leads a team of researchers to an untouched mountaintop rainforest in Mozambique

ultima thule: on its encore mission, Pluto probe beams back its first image of its next target

comnenian period: an exploration of Byzantine architecture from draughtsman Antoine Helbert, via Kottke

amos rex: a subterranean museum opens in Helsinki  

seven points of articulation: a visual history of the past four decades of LEGO Minifigs (previously)

drainspotting: a tour of the manhole covers (elsewhere) of Massachusetts  

hyperpolyglot: what the people who’ve mastered dozens of languages can teach us, via Digg

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


Unlike in most other places where the รฆsthetic of manhole covers tends towards purely utility and economy, in Japan it’s a matter of community engagement with some nineteen thousand designs reflective of local industry, culture and history. Visit the link up top for a tour of the Nagashima Imono casting factory where many of the manhole covers for Japanese municipalities are made.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

latch and locker

Hyperallergic features a nice appreciation of the overlooked Pop Art artist Dorothy Grebenak, active from 1950 to 1970.
Though she never quite owed up to being attached to that particular genre, Grebenak’s creations were as iconic as those of Roy Lichtenstein or Andy Warhol. Possibly relegated to a secondary status due to her medium of choice—almost exclusively working in hooked rugs meant to be displayed on the wall like a tapestry—Grebenak’s work made it into some prestigious museums but got no further than the gift shops, until being championed by one collector and gallery owner. Find out more about this forgotten artist at the link up top.

Friday, 17 March 2017


i’ve been asked to say a couple words about my husband, fang: the Smithsonian is appealing to the public to transcribe the tens of thousands of jokes and one liners in Phyllis Diller’s card catalogue 

robothespian: a stage play in London pairs human actress with a cyborg protagonist, via Marginal Revolution 

the horsey-set: luxurious, marbled-floored equestrian club outside of Shanghai

nixie tubes: understand how a microprocessor works through this oversized model

moonwalking with einstein: tried and true memorisation technique may cause enduring changes to the one’s neural architecture 

Friday, 6 January 2017


what sorcery is this: seemingly magical, Mรถbius-burrito method of putting the cover on a duvet (Plumeau, Bettdecke)

journeyman: large format, industrial three-dimensional printer installed in its own shipping container for ease of transportation

ั€ะตั‚ั€ะพั„ัƒั‚ัƒั€ะธะทะผ: 1960 Soviet vision of the year 2017

gluggaveรฐur: a winter’s trek to Iceland’s Arctic Henge

furkids: funny and effective animal shelter promotional presentation produced on a shoe-string budget

f-bomb: despite older brother’s protests baby prodigy gets rather sweary

vinification statt gentrification: tiny urban vineyard in Berlin that was also home to the first programmable computer from the laboratory of Konrad Zuse