Wednesday, 24 November 2021

ampelkoalition

After over two months of negotiations, the dominant political parties of Germany faring best in the last general election, the so-called Traffic Light Coalition by the colours of their respective factions, have agreed to form a new government with centre-left Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats (SPD, Red) appointed as chancellor. Under this power-sharing agreement, the once deputy to Merkel will allot cabinet seats to other affiliates with Greens candidate Annalena Baerbock expected to become foreign minister and the fiscally conservative, neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP, Yellow) under the leadership Christian Lindner positioned to take control of the finance ministery.

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

america’s present need is not heroics but healing—not nostrums but normalcy

Born this day in 1865 US president Warren G. Harding (†1923, elected on his birthday in 1920), who fairly popular whilst in office—largely due to his long suffering wife Florence who worked overtime to keep his scandals out of the public eye that emerged after his sudden death, did not have a pedestrian middle name in Gamaliel—not George as one might expect, though not wholly unique for mid-nineteenth century America. Nicknamed Winnie as a child, the Greek form of the Hebrew name means “God is my recompense,” indicating rather tragically that this son had an earlier sibling that was lost as an infant and was the given name of several rabbinical authorities. Problematic libertarian journalist and cultural critic H. L. Mencken (previously) mocked Warren’s oration and delivery as Gamalielese, described as meandering, irritating, “it is balder and dash”—though more charitably, others characterised its indeterminacy as the rhetoric to allow listeners to limn it with their own aspirations.

Saturday, 2 October 2021

stunaep

Reprising an Austin Kleon post from last year for this anniversary of the first time Charles Schultz’ Charlie Brown and friends first appeared in print in 1950 (see previously), we have these cut-ups of Peanuts strips re-mixed to consider and mediate on—which I think only enhances the characters’ philosophic outlook in the same daily dose. Much more at the link up top including multiple anthologies of zines composed of the same material.

Friday, 3 September 2021

it’s the plumber—we’ve come to fix the sink

Under the direction of US presidential advisor John Ehrlichman coordinated a team of burglars who would go on to attempt the Watergate break in (previously) to infiltrate the offices of Washington, DC psychiatrist Lewis Fielding also on this day in 1971. Dr. Fielding was treating former US Department of Defence contractor with the RAND corporation Daniel Ellsberg, whom had leaked the “Pentagon Papers” the prior year to the press. Although they found Ellsberg’s file, the operation yielded no useful information.

Monday, 30 August 2021

what women will do next to distinguish themselves, we wonder!

Via the always diverting Messy Messy Chic’s internet meanderings, we are directed to an 1871 American newspaper article about a certain “female in Quebec, the other day, perpetrated a ghastly joke, mocking death in His own domain by lying down in a hearse and smoking a pipe” having engaged a driver and funeral carriage to parade her through the city and enjoy the view. Though hoping that the reporting was accurate and this unnamed individual continued to make a spectacle of herself, the story goes on to editorialise that had this exhibition been made in the United States “our neighbours to the north would have made it the subject of very strong animadversions.” This lovely word—which first leads to the eponymous antiprelatical tract from John Milton upon the “Remonstrants Defence Against Smectymnuus” (none of these words register)—comes from the Latin phrase animum advertere meaning to turn the mind towards but has come to mean the opposite in aversion, critical and censorious. Smectymnuus was the nom de plume of Puritan clergy—an initialism properly conjugated—for whom Milton wrote as an apologist and hoped to redeem in the eyes of detractors.

Monday, 16 August 2021

spin boldak

Although prior commitments and pledges had already set withdrawal from Afghanistan in motion and the US is made to face the parallels and comparisons to the fall of Saigon that it tried to dismiss or downplay, it was a grave failure of the imagination to be shocked at the thinnest veneer of stability and superficial democratic values that the West brought—standards imposed—and expect it to be robust or enduring and not swept away in the power vacuum filled by the resurgent Taliban government. Like regime change in American itself that vacillates between extremes that does not bode reliability or ongoing responsibility, the abrupt abandonment set off a military offensive in May that saw one regional capital after another be subsumed by Taliban forces. As belligerents approached the capital city of Kabul, president Ashraf Ghani relinquished control and fled to Tajikistan, disestablishing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, replaced with the re-established Emirate, and the movement’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (released from a Pakistani jail in 2018 at the request of the US) assumed control, announcing from the busy airport where thousands are seeking to evacuate, that the “War is over!”

Monday, 3 May 2021

this is npr

With this day marking the first on-air original programming from Nation Public Radio a half-century ago after the previous year’s passage of the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act, NPR and its member stations reflect on and renew their unique mandate to serve and amplify a listening audience that mirrors the fullness and diversity of the United States. The network’s original mission statement charged and championed its affiliates as being the source for “information of consequence” that helps the celebrants of human experience be “enlightened participants” in society. All Things Considered was the first segment broadcasted.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

rosebud

Spurred on by the success and controversy of the “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast from two years prior, Mercury studios and RKO Radio Pictures granted screen-writer—collaborating with Herman J. Mankiewic, producer, director—an unusual degree of autonomy and creative-control for his first feature, with Orson Welles’ (see previously here, here and here) influential and critically acclaimed drama Citizen Kane premiered on this day in 1941 at the Palace Theatre on Broadway. Cinematography, light and flashback heavily informed the genre Film Noir, as well as the biographical structure and pace of the film appearing again and again as storytelling and filmmaking models with echoes of the meta-medium of the press as a Faustian character, an untameable and compelling force of nature established going forward.

Monday, 26 April 2021

there’s just a big cock on the cover

Though reportedly not due to a printing error but rather a noble gesture not to obscure a photographic talent nor besmirch the dignity of the subject—we learn from our faithful chronicler, the only issue of LIFE magazine without the signature corner red-and-white logo (as with sister publication TIME) was on newsstands on this day in 1937. To do so, editors reasoned, would have spoiled the framing and composition of Torkel Kรถrling’s (*1903 – †1998, a prolific industrial and nature photographer who also invented the collapsing, portable tripod and the forerunner of the single-lens reflex camera) cover portrait of a splendid white leghorn rooster with a finely detailed cockscomb—the periodical being young still and not beyond the reproach of breeching a tradition.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

not of this world

Reportedly, on this day in 1897—with parallels to the more famous incidents at Roswell, New Mexico a half a century later—a UFO grazed a windmill on a farmstead outside of the small town of Aurora, Texas and crashed. The extra-terrestrial pilot, some witnesses calling the being a Martian, died in the process and was buried—accorded Christian rites—in a grave in the town cemetery. The wreckage was sealed by a concrete slab in a spent well and the authorities have refused requests for mass exhumation of the cemetery (the stone marking the plot having since disappeared, taken as a souvenir), and most participants, the journalist of The Dallas Morning News whom originally wrote the story included, have recanted their accounts as a hoax to bring tourists to the small town—though one wonders what was in the Zeitgeist to prompt the fabrication of such a legend so early.

Monday, 12 April 2021

questions time

Potentially traumatising for very young audience members and no doubt a bit of disappointment for others who were excited to see Westminster transformed into a colossal marauding alligator (actually based on a particular crocodilian gargoyle on the House of Commons) attacking the UK—like those older sitcoms that began with an animated sequence that got me excited to watch a cartoon and always feeling a bit left down when it was just The Many Loves of Dobie GillisOn the Record was a British political programme that aired on BBC One from 1988 through 2002. As news music (see also) and mascots go, it’s a pretty good one. Hosed Jonathan Dibleby, John Humphrys and Sheena McDonald, the show was culled during a review of the BBC’s political output and perceived bias.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

no news day

According to our elvish friends over at Quite Interesting, a meta-analysis of facts and figures reveal that that this day (also a Sunday) in 1954 was the most boring single one of the past century, even withstanding that another day in April a couple decades earlier earned the unique distinction from BBC news anchors that there was in fact no news to report. One would think a dearth of information or memory would be duller than a surfeit of events, which include a general election in Belgium that makes Achille Van Acker—credited with creating the country’s social safety net Prime Minister and reforming public spending, pensions, housing, education and employment—the cycling classic Paris-Roubaix was won by another Belgian called Raymond Impanis and it was the opening day of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling (iomรกint) Championship, by this pronouncement by programmer and computer science professor William Tustall-Pedoe, backed up by computer data, cannot be contradicted. That’s OK as we can handle dull and no excitement very well from time to time.  Such quests and inquires, though now may be less of an ordeal thanks to an internet connection, recalls this, fictive I suspect but don’t know for sure, Institute for the Study of 15:32, 10 April, 1954 that we encountered just ahead of April Fools and dismissed as a hoax but addresses the fullness of the day before—or another errand short story I read once years ago in a science fiction anthology about an individual obsessed with chronicling every event globally that took place on a single day and was still sending off requests to newspaper archives called “The Man Who Collected the First of September 1973” by Tor ร…ge Bringsvรฆrd.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

the statute of anne

Whereas prior to the enactment of the title law in 1710, re-printing and distribution was regulated by an earlier act to provide for the licensing of the press and enforced by the Stationers’ Company, the parliamentary legislation made the matter of copyright protection and enforcement the responsibility of the government and the courts rather than the domain of private publishers and guilds to settle. The preamble of the statue for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned begins: 

Whereas Printers, Booksellers, and other Persons, have of late frequently taken the Liberty of Printing, Reprinting, and Publishing, or causing to be Printed, Reprinted, and Published Books, and other Writings, without the Consent of the Authors or Proprietors of such Books and Writings, to their very great Detriment, and too often to the Ruin of them and their Families: For Preventing therefore such Practices for the future, and for the Encouragement of Learned Men to Compose and Write useful Books; May it please Your Majesty, that it may be Enacted ... 

From the beginning booksellers, publishers and authors battled to extend their exclusive rights to titles—broadening first with what was interpreted as judicial over-reach by granting universities patent over their associates’ works in perpetuity before being eventually repealed, reworked and adopted in some form in jurisdictions throughout the world.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

an elaborate hoax

The fictive archipelago shaped like a semi-colon and full of puns related to printing and fonts, the Guardian featured a seven-page supplement (see also) celebrating a decade of independence for the nation of San Serriffe, discussing the island’s history, economy and tourism with in-depth articles. Originally it was to be positioned in the Atlantic neighbouring Tenerife but a tragic airline disaster a few days prior prompted the newspaper’s editorial board to move it to the Indian Ocean, near the Seychelles. In an era before desktop publishing and the wide adoption of home computers, the terminology of typefaces was specialists’ jargon and most readers would have missed the jokes.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

fractured fairy-tales

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency contributor Tom Smyth excerpts segments from Oprah Winfrey’s other tell-all interviews with princesses. Below is a passage from her dialogue with a certain maiden in the tower. 

แดแด˜ส€แด€สœ: I think a lot people have this false perception of royalty. Can’t a process do whatever a princess wants to do? 

ส€แด€แด˜แดœษดแดขแด‡สŸ: You have to understand, I couldn’t just get up and go. They took my passport and driver’s license, and when I would ask to do something like get lunch with my friends, Mother Gothel would say that it wasn’t a good idea, that I was too oversaturated in the press. And I would say, how could I be oversaturated? I haven’t left this tower in 18 years. 

More at the link up top.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

report from vietnam

On this day in 1968, CBS affiliates broadcasted respected television news anchor Walter Cronkite’s scathing assessment of US prospects, having been dispatched to cover the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, privately urging commanding generals to find a dignified way to extricate themselves from this quagmire. Editorialising the closing statement, Cronkite said: 

We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. They may be right, that Hanoi’s winter-spring offensive has been forced by the Communist realization that they could not win the longer war of attrition, and that the Communists hope that any success in the offensive will improve their position for eventual negotiations. It would improve their position, and it would also require our realization, that we should have had all along, that any negotiations must be that—negotiations, not the dictation of peace terms. For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. This summer is almost certain standoff will either end in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation—and for every means we have to escalate, the enemy can match us, and that applies to invasion of the North, the use of nuclear weapons, or the mere commitment of one hundred, or two hundred, or three hundred thousand more American troops to the battle. And with each escalation, the world comes closer to the brink of cosmic disaster. To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honourable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could. 

Following this addendum, debriefed President Lyndon Baines Johnson announced that, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America,” ultimately contributing to LBJ’s decision not to seek another term in office, announcing his plans at the end of the following month.

the question project

Editor in chief John Dunton of The Athenian Mercury, the periodical written and published by The Athenian Society of London between 1690 and 1697 not only included a regular advice column, the first of its kind, soliciting and attempting to answer anonymous questions from the broad readership—most with a distinctly philosophical bent, though love, marriage and sex were discussed as well. Early on during the project, the board received a letter from a “gentle-woman” asking whether ladies could also submit inquiries—to which Dunton replied with the assurance that not only were women encouraged to submit questions but that they would be treated with the same level of seriousness as those from men and published both q and a. This however gave Dunton the idea for a spin-off, printing the first edition of The Ladies Mercury on this day in 1693, the first magazine specifically for women. This was soon followed by The Female Tattler and The Female Spectator.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

¼ tonne, 4x4

Covering a publicity stunt on this day in 1941 with the general purpose vehicle descending the steps of the US Capitol, the Washington Daily News called the Willys Overland Army Truck as a “Jeep” for the first time in print. Whether the name came from Popeye’s “jungle pet” Eugene the Jeep, the initialism GP from general purpose above or from some other etymology, the name stuck and the automobile manufacturer used it in promotional material and popularised it in the public imagination.

Friday, 19 February 2021

si un jour

On this day back in 1942, Winnipeg and the surrounding area staged a simulated attack and occupation by Nazi Germany in order to spur the public into purchasing more war bonds and change the attitude of citizens not directly impacted by the fighting efforts overseas called If Day—or in French, “If one day…”
The large scale exercise that involved some thirty five hundred Canadian troops acting both as defenders and invaders and the municipal government was fully committed to the project, the mayor and lieutenant-governor of the province arrested and replaced by a Gauleiter and civilians were harassed and subject to curfew and severe restrictions on civil liberties. With the help of volunteers, the entire operation only cost Winnipeg around three thousand dollars and netted nationwide over two billion dollars in victory bonds—the fundraising effort not only contributing to the push in Europe but also raising the profile of the urgency of the matter for all of North America, whose press outlets also covered the event. Learn more from Futility Closet and listen to a whole podcast on the subject at the link up top.

Monday, 8 February 2021

who cares!

Apparently using White House letterhead deprived his preferred mode of communication (see previously here and here), Citizen Trump to no effect and with zero geopolitical consequence has written to the Screen Actors’ Guild, the US labour union for film, television and radio performers as well as journalists, to pre-emptively resign once word circulated that the Guild would eject him for notorious behaviour, ill-betting a member of the organisation. In his signature immodest way—also used with a host of UN agencies and NATO partners—he rubbishes the union as doing very little for him whereas Trump has greatly helped “the cable news television business (said to be a dying platform with no much time left until I got involved in politics), and created thousands of jobs at networks such as MSDNC and Fake News CNN, among many others.” Despite parallel efforts to digitally remove his cameo appearances, Trump goes on to cite his roles in Zoolander, Home Alone 2, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps as well as reality television.