Sunday, 31 January 2021

winter soldier investigations

Beginning on this day in 1971, the three-day Detroit media event hosted by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) was a multidisciplinary workshop aiming to bring to the public attention the atrocities committed by the United States military in South East Asia and demonstrate that the recently exposed massacre at My Lai and spillage into Laos and Cambodia (see previously) were widespread and not the rare and isolated occurrences that they were portrayed as. The event’s name was proposed by organiser Mark Lane in contrast to what English Enlightenment philosopher Thomas Paine described in his 1776 pamphlet on the war for independence and The First American Crisis, opening: “These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the Sunshine Patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Veteran member and future lieutenant-governor, senator, presidential candidate, secretary of state and now special envoy for climate John Kerry echoed those same words speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April of that year. Testimony presented was a harsh indictment against US foreign policy and a painful reflection of American brutality and racism. There were similar panels held in later years for US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thursday, 28 January 2021

the wise wife of keith

Garrotted and burned at the stake for witchcraft on this day in 1591 on the order of James VI and said to haunt the halls of Holyrood as a naked ghost, Agnes Sampson was a healer and midwife and one of the more notable defendants of the well documented North Berwick witch trails.

The Scottish king inspired by his experience in the court of Denmark-Norway, visiting his in-laws on the occasion of marrying Anne of Denmark, and accounts of witch-hunting and practicing the dark arts—convinced during a fraught return voyage that a curse was responsible for the stormy passage. Subsequent arrests and interrogations conducted by the king himself in a specially convened tribunal was covered by a contemporary pamphleteer in the Newes from Scotland, which contained proceedings and quoted Sampson’s litany of confessions, implicating others and admitting with a seemingly taunting air that she had tried to drown the newly-weds and another had fashioned a charm out of a toad to make the king impotent. Reportedly James had been willing to declare Sampson innocent until her final confession which detailed the nuptial night of the James and Anne in Oslo with accuracy only one in communion with the devil could know. The writer with the by-line, James Carmichael, of the reportage later advised James on his other famous book (besides his patronage for the Bible), Dรฆmonologie.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is

Breaking a story that Newsweek had delayed publishing on the liaison, Matt Drudge first brought to the public news of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal (previously here and here) on this day in 1998. The on-line aggregator not acknowledged by the established press until four days later when the Washington Post following up on the scoop that investigative reporter Michael Isikoff’s editors had sat on and then killed.

strange bedfellows

One could be excused for thinking that we were nearly done with Trump after his corporate donors had distanced themselves from that dumpster fire, but one rentier entrepreneur whose business acumen and ambition seems somehow complimentary—if not pandering—who we also thought it safe to assume would not be making an encore appearance, the MyPillow guy (see previously) has remained loyal and showed up at the White House on Friday to share some thoughts about declaring martial law, excerpted from his MyPillow Plan™ playbook thanks to a telephoto lens.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

high crimes and misdemeanours

Yesterday, the House of Repre-sentatives, Democrat members joined by ten Republicans, voted to impeach Donald Trump for an unprecedented second time as a “constitutional remedy to ensure that the republic will be safe from this man, who is so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold dear and that hold us together” by his demonstrably dangerous and treasonous behaviour in encouraging a violent insurrection against Congress. The House undertook this course of action when the vice president and the cabinet refused to entertain invoking Amendment XXV to remove the Trump from office.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

captain l'audace

Featured as the cover link of Nag on the Lake’s Sunday round-up (much more to explore there) we appreciated being acquainted with master of the disaster sketch Walter Molino (*1915 – †1997) whom excelled at illustrating dramatic near-death experiences and whose commission for a 1962 edition of an Italian weekly—the same publication that engaged Molino regularly, illustrating future visions which from our present (May 2020) looked quite prophetic, though this premonition made no reference to social distancing and pandemics.

Also contributing to comic books, his flair for the dramatic, style which references celebrities that the readership would recognise and subject matter recall a couple other pulp artists (here and here) we’d had the pleasure of learning more about recently. Much more snakes on trains, violence, wild beasts, natural disasters, omens, crashes (a fighter jet into said locomotive), armed pets and daring rescues at the links above.   

Saturday, 9 January 2021


zip-tie guy: as bad as this act of terrorism was, the Ku Klux Coup (see previously) could have turned out much worse  

election, objection, ambition, sedition: another pitch-perfect Randy Rainbow political parody 

regrets only: Trump’s final missive confirming he would not be attending Joe Biden’s inauguration—cornerstone to a peaceful transition of power—is interpreted as another way of casting aspersions on a legitimate election and gets his account suspended from Twitter—permanently  

privilege check: race and the cos-play veneer of the invasion combined with remorse over more heavy-handed tactics over the summer allowed them to organise and launch their raid unchecked—see previously  

us capitol police: encomnia for officer killed protecting senators and congress members from the Blue Lives Matter crowd  

jericho march: more Cos-Play with Evangelical Christians (previously) rallying in D.C. blowing shofars

no pension, no secret security detail, no travel allowance, no chance to hold high office again: a second impeachment has consequences even a few days out and Congress is moving swiftly to make it happen, nearly as fast as Mr Rainbow above or Lego

Monday, 4 January 2021

in the public interest

Untethered to a particular year (otherwise we’d be reluctant to dip our toes in the recent past), we enjoyed this piece from the New York Times Insider section—via Digg—as a final year-end list for 2020 of seventy-four favourite facts gleaned and cited in the articles that they came from—see also. It’s a fun read-through and we liked re-encountering the concept of “pants drunk” and Bayesian logic, and especially enjoyed learning the delightful fact that unique among their kind when “ants of the species Myrmecina graminicola encounter danger while on a slope, they tuck into a ball and roll away” and that the form of protest in Latin America that involves pot-banging (see also) is called cacerolazo—the Spanish word for casserole. Let us know your favourite new fact.

i just want to find eleven-thousand seven hundred and eighty votes

In an extraordinary hour-long phone call over the weekend reminiscent of Trump’s earlier attempt to persuade the Ukrainian government to smear his political opponent with defamatory material discovered or manufactured regarding his son, Trump pressured the Georgian secretary of state to apply a new calculus to their method for tabulating the vote and overturn the narrow but solid and multiple times reconfirmed win for Joe Biden whose ticket carried the state. This behaviour, inappropriate and contemptible, is a low point in American democracy and warrants a second impeachment before Trump sets a new nadir.

Sunday, 3 January 2021


On this day in 1941 in a directive circulated by head of the party chancellery and private secretary to Adolf Hitler, Martin Bormann settled the long-standing Fraktur-Antiqua Dispute (see previously) by declaring the former “undesirable” and the latter Latin script influenced by printing and automation to be in align with the ideals of Nazism. Although a typographical debate in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the blackletter and calligraphic typefaces coexisted. Originally seen as un-German when the Antiqua font came in after the 1806 dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and scholastically used for parsing Germanic tradition and terminology from foreign influences, supporters and proponents on both sides extolled the virtues of their preferred over the alternative, citing one was better for compact printing, higher legibility—did not contribute to myopia and blindness, more universal, less ornamental, and so on. Eventually these arguments began to carry ideological and political weight, with the Fรผhrer denouncing its continued use in 1934 in a speech before the Reichtag: “Your alleged Gothic internalisation does not find a place in this age of iron and steel, glass and concrete—of womanly beauty and manly strength—of headraised high with defiance…” The probable motivation for this edict was for ease in distributing propaganda material to countries being occupied and attacked in a typeface that the besieged were familiar with.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020


As a long-standing tradition here at PfRC, here is our annual recap of this most extraordinairy year. We‘ve come all this way together and here‘s to us ploughing on. Thanks for visiting and be good to yourselves and one another.

january: Bushfires rage across Australia, taking the lives of an estimated billion animals.  We had to bid farewell to historian and Monty Python member Terry Jones and veteran reporter and newscaster Jim Lehrer.  Tragically basketball star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna with seven others died during a helicopter accident.  Trump signs a trade deal with Canada and Mรฉxico to replace NAFTA.  The United Kingdom and Gibraltar formally announce their intention to leave the European Union, initiating an eleven-month transition period.

february: Veteran actor Kirk Douglas passed away, aged one hundred and three as well as fellow actors Orson Bean and Robert Conrad.  A detailed study of the most distant planetary body explored by a space probe, now called Arrokoth, is released.  World stock markets respond early to unease surrounding the spread of the novel SARS virus.  Luxembourg makes all public transportation free to the public. 

march: Actor and singer-song writer Kenny Rogers passed away and we said farewell to Max von Sydow. Playwright Terrence McNally (*1938), actor Mark Blum (*1950), architect Michael Sorkin (*1948), influential Indian chef Floyd Cardoz (*1960), Romanian dissident author Paul Goma (*1935) and saxophonist Manu Dibango (*1933) passed away due to complications of COVID-19.  Composer Krzysztof Penderecki (*1933) whose music scored The Exorcist and The Shining also succumbed after a long bout of illness as did musician Bill Withers (*1938, Lean on Me, .Lovely Day, Just the Two of Us) from heart complications. Breonna Taylor (*1993) was murdered in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky by police conducting a groundless, no-knock search of the premises. 

april: We had to say goodbye to award-winning musician Adam Schlesinger (*1967) of Fountains of Wayne fame, Alexander George Thynn, Marquess of Bath (*1932), veteran rhythm guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli (*1926), jazz pianist and educator Ellis Louis Marsalis, Jr (*1934), folk musician and storyteller John Prine (*1946) and polymath John Horton Conway (*1937), inventor of among other things of The Game of Life, and comedian Tim Brooke-Taylor (*1940) succumbing to COVID-19.  We say farewell to veteran actress Honor Blackman (*1925), known for her roles in The Avengers and in Goldfinger as Bond Girl Pussy Galore.  We also say farewell to teacher Harriet Mae Glickman (*1925), whom persuaded Charles M. Schultz to include a black character in his comic strip Peanuts, cartoonist and long-time contributor to Mad magazine Mort Drucker (*1929), veteran actor Brian Dennehy and lesbian and civil rights advocate Phyllis Lyon (*1924).

may: founding member of Kraftwerk and electronic music pioneer Florian Schneider (*1947) passed away after a prolonged struggle with cancer.  Entertainer and illusionist Roy Horn (Uwe Ludwig, *1944) of Siegfried & Roy, and Ken Nightingall (*1928), audio engineer and famously known as the Pink Shorts Boom Operator from Star Wars passed away after succumbing to complications of COVID-19.  Pioneering singer and performer Little Richard (*1932) died after a long struggle with cancer as did techno DJ and producer Pascal FEOS (*1968) and rhythm and blues singer Betty Wright (*1953), known for her ability to sing in the whistle register, above falsetto. Veteran actor and comedian Jerry Stiller (*1927) passed away, aged 92.  Monumental artist Christo (*1935 on the same day as his partner in life and professionally Jeanne-Claude, †2009, previously here and here) passed away of natural causes.  Costa Rica legalises gay marriage, the first Latin American country to do so.

june: Rallies and marches rage across the US in response to the brutal murder of Floyd George while being detained by police. Actor Ian Holm (*1931), known for his roles as Napoleon in Time Bandits, Ash in Alien and Bilbo Baggins in the Tolkien adaptations, died from complications of Parkinson’s disease.  Influential graphic designer Milton Glaser (*1929, previously) passed away on his ninety-first birthday.  Iconic comedian and fixture of Japanese television for decades, Ken Shimura (*1950) died of COVID-19.

july: Veteran civil rights activist and politician John Lewis (*1940) passed away after an extended bout with  cancer.  Founder of Fleetwood Mac Peter Green (*1946) has died. Actress Olivia de Haviland (*1916) died of natural causes in her home in Paris, aged 104. The US gross domestic product plummets by a third, prompting Trump to suggest that the November elections be delayed until such time as people can vote safely in person.  Long time Trump and Tea Party supporter and once-time presidential candidate Herman Cain (*1945) died of complications of COVID-19 after contracting the virus during Trump’s rally in Tulsa.

august:  Veteran actor and musician Wilford Brimley (*1934) passed away, dying in hospital suffering from multiple health issues.  John Hume (*1937),  architect of the peace accords in Northern Ireland and instrumental in passing the Good Friday Agreement, has departed.  A giantic explosion occurred in the port of Beirut when chemicals stored in a warehouse there detonated.  Actor and singer behind such standards as “If I Had a Hammer” and “Lemon Tree” Trinidad “Trini” Lรณpez (*1937) died due to complications from COVID-19.  Media mogul Sumner Redstone who created the production company Viacom, recognising that content was king, passed away, aged 97.  Linguist and long-time contributor to Public Radio Geoffrey Nunberg (*1945) died after coping with a long illness.  The Joe Biden campaign selects Kamala Harris as its running-mate, and both parties hold their conventions virtually.  Kremlin-critic and chief opposition candidate to Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny, is presumably poisoned on a flight back to Siberia and is subsequently medically evacuated to Germany.  Black Panther actor and humanitarian Chadwick Boseman (*1976) dies after a four-year battle with colon cancer. Long-time Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe announces his retirement from elected office over health reasons.

september: Economist and anarchist David Graeber (*1961) passed away at a hospital in Venice, dying from undisclosed causes.  After a short struggle with cancer and last months spent with family and contented reflection, accomplished actor Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg (*1938) has died.   Interviewed for a new expose by Bob Woodward, Trump admitted on tape months ago that he downplayed the danger of COVID-19, though this revelation seemed to barely rise above the general din of the news cycle and receded quickly in voters’ conscience.  The Polish-government allows twelve municipalities to declare themselves LGBT-ideology free-zones.  Protests continue in Belarus over the disputed reelection of long-serving, Russian-aligned leader Alexander Lukashenko.  Jurist and US Supreme Court associate justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (*1933) died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, leaving a court vacancy just before the presidential election.  A grand jury in Kentucky declined to file homicide charges against the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor.  Australian singer and actor Helen Reddy (*1941) passed away after succumbing to complications from dementia.  During the first US presidential debate, devolving into a messy, nasty political food-fight, Trump refused to denounce white supremacist groups. 

october: After White House aid Hick Hopes tested positive for coronavirus, Donald and Melania Trump were also screened and found to both be carriers.   The nomination ceremony for the US Supreme Court justice to replace the vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the White House rose garden turned into a superspreader event.  Iconic fashion designer Kenzล Takada (้ซ˜็”ฐ ่ณขไธ‰, *1939) died from complications of COVID-19.  Singer Eddie Van Halen (*1955) passed away after a long battle with cancer.  The FBI in conjunction with other domestic law enforcement authorities foil a plot by a white supremacists to kidnap the governor of Michigan.  Jacinda Arden remains Prime Minister of New Zealand after her party wins the election in a land-slide victory.  Space probe OSIRIS-REx (previously) arrives at asteroid Bennu and collects mineral samples to bring back to Earth.  Magician and scientific sceptic James Randi (*1928) passes away, aged 92. Despite the US presidential election only being a little more than a week away, the Republican-controlled Senate rush through the confirmation of a young, conservative justice with questionable qualification and adjourn until after the ballots close, leaving those negatively impacted by the continuing pandemic no fiscal relief package.  Actor Sean Connery passed away, aged ninety.  

november: Terror incidents occur in Paris and Vienna.  With most of Europe entering a second quarantine as a firebreak to slow the spread of COVID-19, Germany goes into lockdown-light for the month.  Election Day comes for the United States with nearly one hundred million voters casting their ballots early.  The election is called in favour of Biden and Harris.  Team Trump refuses to concede.  Long time television game show host Alex Trebek (*1940) dies after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer.  Veteran Middle East negotiator Saeb Erekat dies, aged sixty-five, from complications of COVID-19.  The purge of the Trump administration continues with the dismissal of the Defence Secretary for not authorising the mobilisation of the army against protesters and the chief of cyber-security for countering Trump’s false narrative and rightly proclaiming the election the best safeguarded vote in modern US history, and halving troop levels in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan by executive decree.  A historic Hurricane Iota ravages Central America, having barely recovered from the last, Hurricane Epsilon.  Not conceding defeat Trump allows the Biden transition team to begin its work.  Argentine footballer, one of the greatest of all time Diego Maradona (*1960) dies of a heart attack.  

december: Courts, including the US Supreme Court, rebuff Trump’s efforts to overturn election results in a nacent coup attempt.  Massive protests in reaction to legislation that liberalises farming practises leave India paralysed.  The first vaccinations against the SARS-CoV-2 virus are administered.  With last-ditch Brexit negotiations poised for failure and the UK to crash out of the EU with no deal, Britain moves to deploy naval warships to protect fishing stocks in its national waters.  Pioneering Country and Western singer Charlie Pride (*1934) passes away due to complications from COVID-19.  Intelligence officer and master of the spy novel, John le Carrรฉ (*1931) has died.  French president Emmanuel Macron contracts COVID-19 and goes into quarantine.  The archbishop of Canterbury tells parishioners, especially the vulnerable, that it is not necessary to attend church services on Christmas day, echoed by the Pope and other religious leaders.  Compounding Brexit uncertainty, the final week of the year sees the UK cut off from much of the rest of the world over concerns about a new coronavirus strain that is significantly more transmissable.  A final deal was arranged for the UK leaving the EU at the last minute which spares Britain the worse fate of crashing-out with no deal but is significantly not as good of a trade pact had the UK remained in.  A powerful earthquake shakes Croatia.  French fashion designer Pierre Cardin passes away, aged ninety-eight.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

syntactic ambiguity

Popularly known as crash blossoms (though named after an incongruously tragic air disaster from an equally amphibolic test headline), such constructions in a telegraphic economy of copy that often omits copulas (to be, feels, gets, seems and words that serve similar functions in languages that are less reliant on agglutination) can result in (usually) unintended vagaries that can lead to humorous or dark interpretations. Some classic—albeit possibly apocryphal or used as homage—examples include “Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge” or “Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim” with plenty of more examples at the link above. The paraprosdokian, anticlimactic comedy of Groucho Marx also elicits a similar response. “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

Monday, 21 December 2020


Inspired by a game that his grandfather taught him they called magic squares, contributing correspondent to the New York World Arthur Wynne (Liverpudlian by birth, *1871 – †1945) published his first “word-cross” puzzle in the special Christmas Sunday supplemental of the paper on this day in 1913. With the letters F-U-N (the name of the jokes and tricks section of the paper) prefilled, the puzzle was a symmetrically arranged diamond and due to a subsequent typesetting switch a few weeks later, Wynne’s creation became known as the crossword ever since.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

honourable mentions

Via friend of the blog Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (lots more to see there as well), we are reminded of some of the other outstanding events that transpired in this most superlative year that we have quite summarily forgotten about if we even had the bandwidth remaining to register them in the first place that are well worth reviewing. We had certainly written-off the phoenix-like reincarnation of Mister Peanut and couldn’t mince technicalities with the Pentagon over Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon versus UFOs. What others are news bulletins for you? We were personally surprised to see that black-light platypodes and the genetic experiments on monkey brains straight out of Planet of the Apes failed to make the cut but there’s still a few days left in 2020.

Thursday, 10 December 2020


Via Duck Soup, we are directed to another year-in-review told through the editorial board and camera pool of The New York Times, month-by-month of 2020, which serves as an incredible reminder to headline the lack of correspondence between the world depicted in the first quarter with what was just over the horizon. All captioned and curated, one can explore these pivot-points, especially those that receed apace from the present, in this interactive retrospective. As indelible as 2020 seems, it’s surprising what iconic images seem to belong to another time and place.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

kiddie table

Without explanation or preparation, Trump hosted a press conference seated in the Oval Office at a tiny assistant desk (usually brought out for signing ceremonies when the crowd crushes in to capture the moment but now it just looks like the awful man-child doesn’t get to sit at the adult table) on Thanksgiving, berating reporters with his patently false narrative that the election was stolen from him, prompting several to comment that this was the “Four Seasons Total Landscaping” version of the Resolute Desk and how spot-on the scene juxtaposed with a 2017 throwback of a Saturday Night Live sketch with Trump portrayed throwing a similar tantrum. His vacuous message was lost among the strange optics, prompting follow-on ire against Twitter for amplifying what the wannabe dictator characterised as sedition.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020


Hosted by celebrated presenter David Frost, the news satire programme was first aired on the BBC on this day in 1962, “That Was The Week That Was” was ground-breaking television for its lampooning of political figures and attacking the monarchy, class and the Empire, and significantly signalling the willingness on the part of the corporation to not consider itself bound by rules of impartiality in addressing apartheid in South Africa and the American south. Only broadcast on Saturday evenings through December of the following year, the show has an outsized legacy, directly informing a Dutch version and a US version hosted by Gene Hackman, This Hour Has Seven Days and This Hour Has Twenty-Two Minutes in Canada, and A Week Of It in New Zealand

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

i am not a crook

On this day in 1973 during a press conference delivered at the Contemporary Resort Hotel at Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida Richard Nixon made the declaration addressing his declining job approval ratings with the pall of the Watergate scandal eroding public trust and confidence (see also) to an Associated Press annual convention being held there. The rather impromptu one-hour live broadcast was wide-ranging and was specifically prompted in response to a question raised by one of the wire service’s reporters regarding Nixon’s taxes and self-dealing, launching into the line of questioning, “I have earned every cent—and in all my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice… People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”

Saturday, 14 November 2020

this is 2 emma toc

The call sign enunciated as above in the spelling alphabet of the day followed by “Writtle testing, Writtle testing,” was announced regularly starting on 14 February in 1922 by presenter and station manager Captain P. P. Eckerseley from a transmission tower near the Marconi laboratory outside of Chelmsford in Essex, marking the launch of the first British radio broadcaster, the first commercial station with entertainment programming. Its immediate popularity led to the establishment of its sister station—repairing from the exurbs into central London (Marconi House) as 2LO—which on 14 November 1922 became the BBC with Arthur Burrows (Uncle Arthur on the wireless) presenting news bulletins (see also). The original 2MT did not join (though its legacy lives on) the network and folding in January of 1923.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020


First appearing in the February 1932 issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal, The Queer Story of Brownlow’s Newspaper is a piece of short, speculative fiction from H. G. Wells in which the titular protagonist is delivered an edition dated 10 November 1971, a date four decades in the future. The narrative is chiefly a description of the articles contained in the pages and Wells’ predictions for what’s in store with mixed accuracy including simplified spelling for English, a thirteen month reformed calendar, geothermal energy and increased scientific literacy. The title refers to a phone call from the future—see also here and here.