Saturday, 18 September 2021

avoirdupois

Via Slashdot, as the Independent reports because of Brexit—as if EU standards were the sole compelling reason that the UK was harmonised with the standard that (nearly) the rest of the world uses—that should legislation pass, markets and shops will be able to opt out of metric units and regress to customary measures. Albeit as valuable as the colour of one’s passport, in reality the matter is more complicated and bound in other treaties including with the International Organisation of Legal Metrology, agreeing that only one official system of measurement be used.

amerithrax

Beginning a week after the 9/11 attacks and continuing over the next month, a bioterrorist—likely a scientist at the US government’s biodefense and research labs in Fort Detrick, Maryland—posted letters laced with anthrax spores to several media outlets and the offices of two US senators, killing five individuals, mostly mailroom staff and infecting a further dozen with the bacteria. Compared to the hunt for the Unabomber for its range and time to identify a culprit and motive, the FBI operation named with the above portmanteau pursued a number of false leads, the attacks spawning, several copycat hoaxes. The notes in the envelops which purported to come from a non-existent grade school contained variations on the message:

09-11-01
YOU CANNOT STOP US.
WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX.
YOU DIE NOW.
ARE YOU AFRAID?
DEATH TO AMERICA.
&c.

Al Qaeda and Iraq initially blamed, focus not turning to the possibility that it was a domestic actor within the government until 2006, forensic geneotyping just reaching the sophistication needed to trace the particular bacterial strain back to its source, though the ordered destruction of all anthrax stockpiles limited the chance for future research into the crime. The US mail service is still hyper-vigilant over suspicious packages and prone to false-alarms.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

weeklypedia

Whilst admittedly many newsletters become something to ignored, deleted or at best skimmed over, greymail that one forgot one subscribed to, we were intrigued by this tip to receive a weekly run-down of the most edited articles and pages on the platform. From the same team at Hat Note that brought us the innovative experience Listening to Wikipedia, this is an effective way of wrapping up and reviewing the past seven days in news and culture.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

the dead internet theory

On this anniversary which has propounded two Forever Wars (one of which capitalised on the 9/11 terror attacks to as a pretext to invade Iraq with the media mostly obliging, a misdirection that prised open for some a credibility chasm), the panopticon of the surveillance state, xenophobia, sectarianism, intolerance, violence, bloodshed all at a very dear price with the most treacherous legacy perhaps being the exportable cult of conspiracy theorists that first emerged as Truthers, then morphed into Birthers, Pizzagate, QAnon and whatever atrocity is next in the line of succession, we are presented a new one positing that the world wide web, acknowledging that the majority of traffic is bot driven, did die the death approximately five years ago and what remains is not all an elaborate hoax but rather a platform almost entirely dominated by artificial intelligence. Weighted interaction, with human engagement or robotic attention-seeking seems to matter little ultimately in a world of detached rankings and recursive references, but what if since 2016, the web and its various walled-gardens was depopulated and replaced with neural network propagandists, influencers and marketers? It’s patently ridiculous and like most “independent research” lurches to the territory of unhinged and offensive but the veiled unreality of it all makes it intriguing and a challenge to disprove, and with no prevailing mainstream narrative to counter the arc of conservation, evidence, it is garnering traction. There’s more than a kernel of truth to the manipulative, unrestrained and inhumanly automated nature of social media and shadow profiles created to supplement the personalities of those who don’t participate sufficiently. Not that the metaverse was ever particularly welcoming, it certainly seems uninviting if made by and for people-pleasing machines.

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

spoiler candidate

Via Super Punch, we are directed to reporting from the Guardian on opposition candidate standing for the Duma from St. Petersburg, Boris Vishnevsky, is facing two other contenders running with not only nearly identical names (they’ve preserved their patronymics), his challengers having changed their names for the ballot, but who have altered their appearance physically and digitally to look like the candidate. It is hoped that these political doppelgรคngers (the real Boris bothered to wear a necktie) will split the vote and allow the incumbent to retain his seat. It’s the next level of misnegation, obfuscation to “Vote No on Yes to the Proposition Rescinding the Ban on Anti-Mask Mandates” and would hate to give America’s GOP this tactic for their arsenal.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

รพorskastrรญรฐin

With precedent disputes just after WWII and reignited after a fashion with Brexit fishing negotiations, the Cod Wars began in earnest on this day in 1958 when Iceland expanded its territorial waters to the edge of maritime claims by the UK and West Germany, with all sides sustaining losses over the next two decades as this protracted conflict continued with boats ramming into one other and the fishing nets of trawlers cut. Although in the aftermath of each skirmish, the International Court of Justice sided with Iceland’s claim, no resolution was reached until 1976 when Iceland threatened to withdraw from NATO if the matter wasn’t settled once and for all, an action that would denied the alliance’s submarines access to a strategic part of the North Sea (see also) at the height of the Cold War, brokering an agreement amenable to all parties. Following on from the truce, the United Nations codified the Law of the Sea and standardised exclusive nautical economic zones.

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

6x6

slough off old skins: the rise and demise of an Internet Onion—via Kicks Condor  

posture pals: a gallery of awkward, outstanding stances  

gravy boat: kitschy vintage table settings  

a little pick-me-up: the lovely Flowers for Sick People project by Tucker Nichols—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links  

news at eleven: screen grabs of 1990s reporting captions  

more like a simile: an experiment searching the web with AI contextualised natural language—via Web Curios

Monday, 30 August 2021

live at five

This 1979 industrial (as in in the trade) theme music anthology really revs one up for the network news, coming in strong with the familiar-sounding opening track by Craig Palmer Energy, a masterpiece of the genre. There are multiple volumes of Palmer’s works, both for syndication and for one-off events, though we were unable to find out more about this rather prolific and pervasive composer unfortunately—though not everyone wants a biopic and we can appreciate letting one’s works speak for themselves—that formed the soundscape of televised reporting and sports coverage (see also) in the 1980s. More bracing openings and interstitials coming up in the panel below.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

7x7

wait for the beep: a growing collection of found-sounds in the form of answering machine narratives—via Memo of the Air  

potatopoty: superlative tubers  

yaxety sax: string ensemble performs the 1968 instrumental from Spider Rich and Boots Randolph 

the metz address: Philip K. Dick (previously) speaks to an audience in 1977 at a sci-fi convention in France 

say taliban, move your minivans: November 2001 Saturday Night Live sketch “Kandahar Dance Party” recirculating to mixed responses 

dateline: Merv Griffin’s short-lived 1985 game show Headline Chasers  

dear friends of mine, please write a line in this little wash tubbs book of mine—help me keep you in my mind: a comic scrapbook chronicling the Great Depression, via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (lots more to see there)

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

8x8

united states of wildfire: as the climate emergency escalates, more North American residents are moving into the path of destruction unwittingly 

fitting in: Ze Frank (previously) reveals that even the coolest, calmest and most collected of us are all trying, coping  

d’oyly carte: an islet in the Thames with a derelict mansion built for an opera impresario will be restored to its former glory—via Things Magazine 

caped crusaders: Batman’s sidekick Robin finally comes out 

constrained systems: a tool-kit of alternative image editing effects—via Waxy  

matchi bล:a mesmerising stop-motion study of a magic match stick from Tomohiro Okazaki—via ibฤซdem

 bubblegum pop: the Osmonds 1968 song “Groove with what You Got”  

ฮฑฯ€ฮฟฮบฮฌฮปฯ…ฯˆฮท: Greek capital, archipelago beset by flames

Saturday, 7 August 2021

astrophilately

From the start of the Space Age and ensuing Space Race, adjacent stamp collecting became a serious pursuit with commemorative cover depicting every mission and milestone (see previously) with the bubble inflated to bursting with the scandal surrounding Apollo 15, returned to Earth on this day in 1971 with a payload of four hundred postage stamps sent to the Moon and back.

The astronauts had been compensated, bribed for sneaking the unauthorised souvenirs on board by West Germany dealer Hermann Sieger. The story broke the following year and though the money was returned and most of the remaining covers (the postal term for decorated, signed pre-stamped and cancelled envelops) were retained by the agency, museums or given as gifts, the astronauts were reprimanded for ethics violations and never flew on a mission again, reassigned to other departments within NASA. Such mementos were considered contraband for future missions.

Friday, 6 August 2021

adoxography

Brilliantly the titular term is derived from the New Latin for paradoxical, in turn from the Ancient Greek obscure (แผ€ + ฮดฯŒฮพฮฑ = against expectations), and in rhetoric refers to refined writing on minor, trivial or base subjects or praise of things of dubious value or the exercise thereof beginning with the revival of the art of loquacious, persuasive speech with the pivotal publication of Erasmus’ In Praise of Folly (Moriรฆ Encomium). Surveying the field in classical and contemporary education, a non-exhaustive list unworthy subjects of erudition included ageing, infirmities, promiscuity and pests.

Saturday, 31 July 2021

hendiatris

Discouraged from being shown openly and in general taboo in Japanese societies, stigmatised for their associations with organised crime (see also), tattoos—of the commemorative variety especially, were widely on display during the Olympics, the athletes’ bubble meant no mingling with the public. See a whole gallery from the Associated Press’ photo pool, via ibฤซdem. The motto of the Games, Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger) is a famous example of the above Greek figure of speech แผ“ฮฝ ฮดฮนแฝฐ ฯ„ฯฮตแฟ–ฯ‚, “one through three,” a phrase where three words express one idea. This year the committee added a fourth term, “Communiter,” Latin for Together.

home on the range

Via Web Curios, we are directed to the rather outstanding and one-of-a-kind insight of the twentieth century American western frontier through the lens of Lora Webb Nichols (*1883 - †1962), postal worker, cook and journalist running her own local newspaper, The Echo, who took over twenty-four thousand photographs over the course of six decades, most
of the environs of a copper mining town in the state of Wyoming called Encampment. Nichols early in her career established a photo studio with a dark room to develop and finish film and would loan out equipment for other aspiring picture-takers. Her images, articles and diaries are curated by the state university library system for one to peruse.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

8x8

yรคchtley crรซw: a cover band’s homage to the genre (previously

sky mall: the inevitable fate of all platforms, selling botware to other bots in glossy format—via Things Magazine plus an update on the Metabolist capsule hotel of Kisho Kurokawa 

๐’€ญ๐’„‘๐’‰‹๐’‚ต๐’ˆจ๐’Œ‹๐’Œ‹๐’Œ‹: assaying the Epic of Gilgamesh—previously here and here  

this beach does not exist: using generative adversarial networks (previous snowclones) to create fantasy shorelines—via the New Shelton wet/dry  

hearse: a concept Airstream funeral coach, circa 1981, which never caught on—also h/t to Things  

not affiliated with project shield, loki or the world security council: an exclusive exposรฉ on cyber surveillance abuse on a global scale 

 transatlanticism: US withdraws objections to completion of Nord Stream 2—previously, now ninety-eight percent done—after negotiations with Germany 

 murphy’s law: an abcedarium of the maxims of management—see also

Friday, 23 July 2021

1962-alpha epsilon 1

Launched into orbit just under a fortnight prior, the Telstar 1 communication satellite relayed the first live transatlantic television broadcast (see also here, here and here) on this day in 1962. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was supposed to give the inaugural address but the engineers acquired the signal before the US president was ready and to avoid dead-air filled the first few minutes with a televised baseball game from the Wrigley Field in Chicago before rotating through studios and field stations in Washington, DC, Quebec City, Cape Canaveral and the Seattle World’s Fair. Kennedy’s speech consisted of direct appeals to Europe that America wouldn’t devalue its currency and further frustrate plans for post-war recovery (see also) before giving the stage to news anchors Walter Cronkite (CBS, previously) and Chet Huntley (NBC) in New York and the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby in Brussels for a panel discussion of this marvel of technical achievement that they were part of. Later that evening, the first satellite telephone call was carried out between parties US vice president Lyndon Johnson and the head of AT&T (the company whose Bell Laboratories were primarily responsible for it) and in the following months, synchronised time between the continents and facilitating the first computer-to-computer data. By November, a casualty of the geopolitics that pushed such advancements as showcase and civilian applications, due to ongoing high-altitude nuclear testing that irradiated surround space, Telstar’s transistors were overwhelmed and eventually failed and could not relay signals. Though no longer transmitting, Telstar I and II (launched the following summer) are still orbiting Earth and will continue to do so for millions of years barring interference by another body.

Monday, 28 June 2021

heavy-line geometric abugida

Taught in secretarial schools in the UK widely through the 1970s as a practical stenography tool (see also), the system of note-taking developed by language teacher and vice-president of the Vegetarian Society Sir Isaac Pitman (knighted by Queen Victoria for the former contribution) and the basis for written syllabaries for some Native American and First Nations peoples, we really enjoyed the introduction to namesake shorthand through this narrative from Lit Hub correspondent Richard Sanger to which his father’s long and distinguished in journalism was committed. Finding a home for his archives and notebooks was an undertaking full of surprises and ultimately brought together a cohort of expert translators and transcribers to unabbreviate the field notes and interviews to work together on a massive project, talents renewed—see also—during a winter of lock-down.

spokes model

A source for pageantry of the bizarre variety, we were loving how Weird Universe is following up on these niche industrial and sometimes agricultural beauty contests (see also here and here) and limning the winners as more than a promising pretty face with as full of a biography as possible. The champion for the state of Illinois, Miss Trudy Germi only managed to come in third overall in the national competition for Miss Continuous Towel held in Atlantic City in 1949—however she did realise her aspirations for musical comedy in a production of South Pacific. These rolling washroom installations—for hygienic reasons—are not very popular these days but can still be occasionally found. Germi went on to marry a naval captain who was given the task of retrieving the crew of Apollo 11 after splash-down and was present aboard the rescue vessel to greet the astronauts. Much more to explore with Weird Universe at the link up top.

icty

Established by the United Nations Security Council in 1993 with special jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity incurred in the territories of the former Yugoslav Republic since its dissolution in 1991, on this day in 2001, Serbian president Slobodan Miloลกeviฤ‡ was extradited to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague to stand trial for genocide. The date coincides with Miloลกeviฤ‡’s 1989 presiding over the sixth-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, commemorating the rather pyric victory of the Serbian army against Ottoman invaders and enflaming an already tense situation between different ethnic groups that shared the constituent republics. The date also coincides with assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a conspiracy of the Black Hand secret society, the Bosniak and Serb group hoping to foment unrest and outrage and secede from the Austro-Hungarian empire with the provinces reconstituted as an independent Yugoslavia.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

villa la grange