Monday 8 April 2024

the first tuesday after the first monday in november (11. 478)

Co-sponsored as a bipartisan measure by Republican Barry Goldwater and Hubert H Humphrey, both loosing in recent years their respective bids to become US president, the Senate voted to make Election Day (in even numbered years) a biannual, paid federal holiday on this day in 1974. Despite passage in the upper chamber of Congress, the amendment never came to the floor in the House of Representatives. Though not quite a perennial push, the proposal has seen multiple attempts to revitalise the legislation and ensure less conflict between work schedules and civic duties, most recently during last year’s session and before that in 2019. Voting in Europe is held on Sundays.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

9x9 (11. 453)

 you are old, father william, the young man said: Better Living Through Beowulf has been applying Lewis Carroll characters to the trials and tribulations of Biden and Trump  

gรผneลŸ enerjili santrali: power plant in Turkeyi’s Konya region is straight out of science fiction  

rotoscopio: artist Antoni Sendra celebrates his daring daughter’s favourite things with more than two thousand hand painted frames of animation ahead of her sixth birthday 

toto, i don’t think we’re in kansas anymore: the Ruby Slippers theft saga continues 

read/write drive: Infinite Macs and making computing history accessible, including an emulation of the original World Wide Web browser—via Waxy  

licensed broker: the rise and fall of the professional appellation electragist  

fleischer studios: the history and evolution of animation from the phenakistiscope to Pixar  

low-vacuum pipeline magnetic levitation technology: a hyperloop test track in the Netherlands 

come to jesus moment: Trump attempts to capitalise on Biden’s split with Israeli leadership

Friday 23 February 2024

london breed (11. 372)

With a population exceeding twenty precent of residents of Chinese descent, San Franciscan politicians have a long-standing practise of adopting a Sino-English campaign (whatever their heritage) including Chinese name, with what some critics characterise as at worst cultural appropriation and at least aggrandisement that has little to do with their actual names. The former policy of allowing, for instance a local magistrate running for re-election with a rather pedestrian name with the characters ็ฑณ้ซ˜็พฉ connoting “high” and “justice,” has been displaced by a cadre of translators commissioned by the city to come up with more phonetic translations, though not universally embraced as an improvement as some figures are closely associated with flowery and bombastic nicknames, hoping to preserve the label to avoid confusion, and the transliteration can be awkward and still convey unintentional entendre. More from Language Log at the link above, including in the abundant commentary how the US Food and Drug Administration (and most other competent authorities) prohibit trade names suggestive of efficacy, hence Pfizer’s vehement denial of any derivation for Viagra® and the Sanskrit เคต्เคฏाเค˜्เคฐः (vyฤghraแธฅ), tiger.

Monday 19 February 2024

8x8 (11. 364)

moses j robinette: for US Presidents’ Day, researchers find that Lincoln pardoned Biden’s great-great grandfather  

we are a nation in decline, a failing nation: with an incredible lack of empathy or courage, Trump compares the murder of Alexei Navalny to his own legal and political woes—see more  

you never forget your first: the evolution of the holiday that started as a celebration of the birthday of George Washington—see up top

first wives’ club: searching for the likeness of Martha Washington and AI creative chaos

ask not what the drama can do for you, but what you can do for the drama: Real Housewives catchphrases for the American presidents 

stats: scholars access American administrations—Lincoln still number one, with FDR displacing Washington—and Biden ranked in the top fifteen, via Miss Cellania 

non-interventionism: America’s isolationist’s policy on the up-wing—see previviously 

i cannot tell a lie: George Washington’s parents are rather upset he chopped down that cherry tree

Wednesday 14 February 2024

news cycle (11. 350)

The US presidential campaign season has been underway for a long, long time already and with ten months to go, we are already feeling the fatigue and feeling a bit overwhelmed keeping up with it all, and it’s remarkable to notice how much is already packed into the events of one day. Whilst arguably from the present perspective of just a few days hence it does not quite rise to the constellation of reporting on the seventh of October 2016 that saw the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape, Obama announcing Russian election meddling, a possible case of Kompromat for Trump and the leak of Clinton’s campaign manager’s emails, incredibly the backhanded and cruel exoneration of Joe Biden for retaining classified materials over his perceived failing memory and mental acuity, was overshadowed by Donald Trump, speaking at a campaign rally, nearly simultaneously, dragging out a tied and false accusation of the NATO alliance being full of freeloaders dependent on the US and taking advantage of its largess, not only said that he would not defend a fellow member under attack by Russia, he would moreover encourage the invasion. While some media outlets are refusing to turn their attention from Biden’s gaffes and lapses—pulled selectively and from testimony given during interviews conducted (also on 7 October) just as Hamas began incursions into Israel, and some still take a dismissive tone on Trump’s words, the rest of the world is understandably grim and anxious at the thought of another term.

Thursday 11 January 2024

11x11 (11. 259)

cheesemongering: a specialist seller experiments with fifty-six varieties to find the perfect grilled sandwich 

vector portraits: photographs of drivers at speed traveling in Los Angeles  

decision 2024: this is the biggest year yet—and possibly democracy’s biggest test with over half the world’s population voting within the next twelve months  

run, rabbit, run: an AI-powered gadget designed to use one’s apps for one sells out 

electronics gives us a way of classifying things: Microsoft (now the most valued company in the world thanks to its part in AI, a font of misinformation) once explained to author Terry Pratchett how technology referees would make propaganda a thing of the past  

squaring the circle: Substackers against Nazis—reloaded—and a reminder that one can’t be just a little bit facist  

re-migration: a coalition of the far-right met outside of Berlin in November to discuss mass deportations  

blanket immunity: Trump’s legal team presents arguments for a president above the law—setting up the US Supreme Court to either rule on his exoneration or eligibility  

proxima swarm: US space agency supports bold proposal to reach the next nearest star system with a wall of tiny craft propelled by photons—see previously 

flower taxi: a mobile florist from 1960s London  

marie harel: producers of Camembert in Normandy fear EU recycling regulation could mean the end for their traditional wooden box packaging

Monday 25 December 2023

reductio ab hitlerum (11. 213)

DC attorney and author Mike Godwin who made the eponymous observation in 1990—an inevitable hyperbole that the originator never expected to have so much currency—that the longer an online political discussion grows, invocations of Nazis approaches one hundred percent as commentary of rhetorical excesses. After years of cross-breeding in the wilds of the internet, the maxim framed slightly differently by philosopher Leo Strauss earlier as a fallacy that we would now recognise as whataboutism (playing the Nazi card), Godwin, in deference to Strauss’ construction and in light of recent the recent, revitalised vitriol of Trump rallies—calling his political enemies vermin and poisoning the blood of the nation, detention camps and promises to only be dictator for a day, encourages interlocutors to play the trump card not as a discussion stopper but rather as an alarm and conversation starter.

synchronoptica

one year ago: the first Nativity Scene

two years ago: a white Christmas, the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, Gorbachev resigns (1991) plus deciphering the shorthand of Charles Dickens

three years ago: Seasons Greetings plus Voyage, Voyage

four years ago: Celestial Greetings, Unwords of the Year plus AI Christmas carols 

five years ago: Martian rovers

Wednesday 20 December 2023

write-in campaign (11. 198)

In a narrow, historic ruling by the state Supreme Court, justices in Colorado concluded that Donald Trump is barred from the primary ballot, citing the 1868 fourteenth constitutional amendment’s Civil War-era Disqualification Clause (see previously), for engaging in insurrection in encouraging the January Sixth attack on the US Capitol and threatening to overturn the electoral process. The campaign to re-election Trump immediately filed an appeal with the US Supreme Court to overturn the state’s decision. The decision includes a stay through the fifth of January, the deadline for inclusion in the state’s March Super Tuesday initial round of voting, to give Trump the chance to fight the ruling and if challenged by the high court, Trump’s name will be included on the ballot for the Republican primary. Should other states issue similar bans, it could make it difficult to impossible for Trump to secure the GOP nomination, though other Republican candidates are threatening to boycott Colorado altogether. President Biden is not included on the Democratic ballot for New Hampshire’s upcoming primary over a long-simmering dispute within the party about what states and regions should get the first say in determining how nominees will fare in the broader field and proposing to move the prime spot from New England to a more diverse location.

Wednesday 15 November 2023

that ain’t nothing—just make me your leading man (11. 121)

Our gratitude to Pasa Bon! for the introduction to the musical stylings of King Solomon through the timely and resonant number Political Rag from his 1978 album Energy Crisis (see also). On the touring circuit as an opening act with the likes of B B King, Etta James and Sammy Davis Junior, originally the artist was not much known outside of local venues in Los Angeles and Las Vegas but later gained recognition for his solo career in funk and experimental music. 

 synchronoptica

one year ago:  assorted links worth revisiting  

two years ago: the Free City of Gdaล„sk

three years ago: more links to enjoy, the Cluttlers Murder (1959) plus Doc “Joe” Baker

four years ago: animated book covers,  more faรงadism plus the ethnography of dialing-codes

five years ago: Little Orphan Annie (1885) plus the musical stylings of Fugiya and Miyagi


Friday 10 November 2023

the one with all the war mongering (11. 108)

In the latest in her ongoing series of US presidential debate recaps, McSweeney’s contributor Maura Quint presents the third Republican session from Wednesday, again absent the forerunner in this race for sloppy seconds, moderator reminding the audience “that this is all a farce performed by unloved toddlers and that Donald Trump will undoubtedly be the nominee.” After placing blame on the corrupt media and Democratic leadership for America’s wayward trajectory, brinksmanship built over how to deal with China, Russia and the active conflicts in Ukraine and the war in Palestine between Israel and Hamas—satire that corresponded with the actual exchanges on the dais, the debate concluded with the closing remarks of hopeful Chris Christie: “It’s a gift to be an American. Maybe it’s not what you wanted but your parents gave it to you and they expect you to be grateful for it anyway. So show some respect, you ingrates.”

Wednesday 18 October 2023

a conference divided (11. 065)

Entering its third week without a leader, the US House of Representatives’ Republican forerunner for the gavel and Speaker of the House, a hard right conservative, Trump apologists and noted obstructionist, having blocked far more legislation than sponsored, failed to secure the required majority with some rather brave GOP hold-outs refusing to allow Congress to fall further into the control of a radical minority element of the party. Despite not having secured the commitment of other fellow Republicans for support, the vote was brought to the floor, hoping that a public forum would draw the ire of their constituents in a rather unprecedented campaign for a congressional leadership role. Under pressure to fill the vacant role of House Speaker, Congress is unable to introduce new bills and severely handicaps its ability to address immediate concerns of funding the government with a looming deadline in mid-November, approving the appointment of ambassadors and military commanders or for extending aid and armaments to allies of two wars.

 synchronoptica

one year ago: the BBC at 100, rallying against the totalitarian regime in Iran plus a gallery of nightmare art

two years ago: an obtunded opportunity, your daily demon: Velar, Toto’s Africa plus Video Killed the Radio Star

three years ago: International Necktie Day, more musical mashups, more mushrooming, drills for the zombie apocalypse plus put our service to the test

four years ago: the Peaceful Revolution of East Germany,  a font inspired by Greta Thunberg, more US gun violence plus prayer goes digital

five years ago: International Credit Union Day, Big Bird retires plus the Postal Illuminati

Monday 18 September 2023

faithless electors (11. 008)

Limning an outcome quite possibly even more fraught than the mandate of a decisive Trump victory in 2024 in terms of undermining the credulity in American democracy, we learn about the mechanism called a contingent election activated—and already clearly in the ballot calculus unpalatable to a broad majority of the public—when no candidate can claim the threshold (two hundred-seventy out of five hundred thirty-eight) of Electoral College appointees—either through numerical losses or contested results. Congress, with each state delegation voting together—one could only imagine how a consensus is reached, votes for the president with senators individually casting their ballots for vice-president, reflecting a convention when there was not always a party ticket and those officers were often antagonistic rather than aligned. Historically these special elections have been invoked three times in the early nineteenth century—once for a tie, once for a ballot split between four candidates and once—for the office of vice president where electors refused to endorse the nominee against the popular and electoral results and force the House to decide. Though a century after the fact in the case of the last such special election, inauguration and congressional term dates were shifted in 1933 to avoid giving outgoing members this franchise and rather leaving in to the incoming legislative.

synchronoptica

one year ago: a photo from Voyager I that puts everything in perspective, St Joseph of Cupertino, photographer Harold Feinstein plus triangulating Instagram

two years ago: your daily demon: Stolasanthrax in the mail, arcade animations, more on Wikipedia edit-wars plus post-Brexit UK planning to return to Imperial Measurements

three years ago: vaporware and its antecedents, “producing geese,” “without worries,” the Interkosmos Group plus AI tries to create a universal and enduring warning for the ages

four years ago: US congress debates abolishing the Electoral College, taboos surrounding talking about death, Germany Calling! plus flight-shaming and train-bragging

five years ago: keep-sakes,  assorted links to revisit plus a hydrogen powered locomotive

Thursday 24 August 2023

7x7 (10. 962)

miracle house: a singular property that survived the devastating wildfires opened up to the community as a beacon of hope for a destroyed Lahaina neighbourhood 

service manual showcase: a growing curated archive of quirky and niche instruction guides—via Waxy  

book ‘em danno: Trump arrested and released on bail in Fulton County in the US state of Georgia—with a historic mug-shot 

take the d-train: artist Stipan Tadiฤ‡ documented a year long route from the Bronx to Brooklyn and back—via Nag on the Lake 

spaghetti mayhem: Jan Hakon Erichsen has fun with uncooked pasta 

word of the day: Susie Dent’s logophilia  

ฯ…ฮณฯฯŒ ฯ€ฯฯ: emergency responders struggle to contain fires ravishing Greece—the largest in the EU

elephant in the room (10. 961)

Beginning with counter-programming parallel to the actual televised Republican primary debate in the form of an interview with fired Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson and staging an encore the next day with his arrest and release on bail in Georgia that will surely negate the spectacle and grandstanding, Trump was conspicuously absent from this quorum of contenders, carefully vying for cabinet positions yet haunted the pundits and hopefuls who could focus their attacks on a surrogate, political outsider and Trump apologist in the form of businessman Vivek Ramaswamy—described by Fox hosts as a “skinny guy with a funny last name,” exactly the same words used for Barack Obama. While not a forgone conclusion, Trump calculated sitting out this debate would be to his advantage, leading the polls for the GOP nominee by a compelling majority, with his major rival, Florida governor and cultural-crusader DeSantis seeming much diminished in this forum. And while the split-screen seemed not garner the attention wanted or expected, all but one of the candidates pledged (albeit meekly) to support Trump for re-election should he be convicted on one or all of his four indictments and ninety-one criminal charges and no one on stage really addressed policy but rather personality and credentials.

 synchronoptica

one year ago:  assorted links to revisit plus the party’s response to the 1991 attempted coup in the Soviet Union

two years ago: more links to enjoy, ant architecture plus Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)

three years ago: cocktails for on-line courses, the International Garden PoTY plus vintage Soviet pop

four years ago: a sorceress’ trove found in Pompeii 

five years ago: Kalashnikov makes an electric vehicle,  a White House press briefing, drought in Europe reveals ominous Hunger Stones plus one community’s fight to keep a fast food giant at bay

Tuesday 15 August 2023

rico (10. 944)

Ex-president Trump and a cadre of his closest confidantes were indicted by the state of Georgia on forty-one counts of racketeering and conspiracy charges to subvert his loss during the 2020 campaign, the eighteen other defendants including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, justice department official Jeffrey Clark, election lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro as well as a slate of rogue “fake electors” that certified Trump as the winning candidate. The charges stem from a solicitation to break an oath of by Trump’s infamous directive to the Georgia Secretary of State to “find” him the needed votes, pressuring other election officials and breaching electronic ballot machines to undermine confidence in the democratic process. This represents Trump’s fourth indictment and because it was initiated on the state and not the federal level and potential re-appointment to high office and the opportunity for self-pardon would not make these charges go away.

Friday 4 August 2023

10x10 (10. 924)

manufactured crises: distractions and moral panics fabricated by the US GOP and associates  

sachal jazz: Pakistani musicians perform a rendition of David Brubeck’s “Take Five” on tabla and sitar with orchestral accompaniment 

illuminated text: an unfinished medieval manuscript reveals a step-by-step manual for its making  

finishing the hat: Stephen Sondheim’s (previously) Turtle Bay townhouse is on the market 

smiley head: custom screws requiring a special driver—via Pasa Bon!  

f-91w: fully-function ring watches from Casio  

blogoversary: JWZ turns twenty-five 

the partridge family 2200 a.d.: a round up of animated spin-offs  

super fun pak: the novelty cards of Pee-wee’s Playhouse  

now you’re cooking with gas: the culture wars come to the stove 

synchronoptica

one year ago: the invention of champagne (1693), the Zone of Galactic Obscuration plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: an infamous bugging device discovered (1945), the Lady of Elx, pipe architecture, working against one’s own self-interest plus assorted links worth revisiting

three years ago: more miniatures from Tatsuya Tanaka, St Sithney, the patron saint of dogs plus the birthday of Helen Thomas, Barack Obama

four years ago: sounds lost to lossy compression plus bouba or kiki

five years ago: interviews with author Philip K Dick

Tuesday 1 August 2023

outcome-determinative fraud (10. 920)

Characterised by the campaign to re-elect Trump and ostensibly much of the cult-like Republican party as election interference and may well boost his chances, the former president has been indicted—his third and second on the federal level, for his role in attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election on four counts of criminal behaviour that came to a violent denouement with the January Sixth storming of the Capitol. Enumerated as defrauding the government, conspiring to obstruct official proceeding, the case of the prosecution alleges Trump spread false rumours about voter fraud, called false slates of electors and encouraged the attempt to halt the certification of the ballot through encouraging above insurrection, determined to remain in power, knowing that his narrative and claims were baseless—eroding confidence in election officials and a rather sacrosanct process that equates to disenfranchisement against counsel who tried to disabuse him of this narrative tactic. Six accomplices were cited anonymously and not yet charged, suggesting that they could be induced to cooperate with the investigation that could mean a jail sentence long enough to keep Trump behind bars for the rest of his life—though he can still run for president despite conviction, like his antithesis Eugene V Debs of the Socialist party, and should he be re-elected, appoint a new attorney general and justice department to overturn the charges.

Tuesday 18 July 2023

which almost always means an arrest and indictment (10. 892)

Donald Trump announced in a post (and fund-raising appeal) on his platform Truth Social that special counsel Jack Smith informed him that he was the subject of the investigation, uncorroborated, though if true according to the former US president’s characterisation it would represent the third charge rising to the threshold of criminal offences and perhaps the most consequential after falsifying business records to cover up hush money and mishandling classified documents with the suggestion he is the ‘target’ of the January 6th grand jury investigation. Though not confirmed by the prosecution—having repeatedly cited Trump for public comment regarding ongoing matters, a range of recommended filings emerged this past December including conspiracy in support of false statements, aiding and abetting an insurrection, obstruction of official business and attempts to defraud United States—the latter two specifically in attempts to overturn election results with frivolous, costly and disproven demands for recounts which have exhausted party coffers in several polities.

synchronoptica 

two years ago: your daily demon: Naberus, Castle Lรคckรถ plus a gallery of pets through the looking-glass

three years ago: Trump and paramilitary organisations, “Obloquy to most men is more painful than death,” plus more on corporate sing-a-longs

four years ago: les Horrible Cernettes, the first image on the world-wide-web, West Germany’s film rating scale (1949) plus the unrelenting assaults on rights and decency from Trump

five years ago: “they are an aggressive people” plus the sophisti-pop genre

Wednesday 12 July 2023

7x7 (10. 877)

stand and deliver: the internecine factions of the US Democratic Party and the legacy of political triangulation  

divide-and-conquer: Hollywood studios plan to drag out the Writers’ Strike until they’re destitute ground into submission—via Kottke 

rho ophiuchi: for its first year of observations, the JWST team releases an incredible image of the nearest stellar nursery—check out the comments section for an explanation about the telescope’s signature diffraction spikes  

ma’am, this is a wendy’s: chatbots—rather than outsourcing to call-centres—being trialled in fast food drive-thrus and are skilled in the upsell  

xai: Elon Musk launches artificial intelligence platform with aims to understand the true nature of the Universe 

pay-for-play: Albrecht Dรผrer inserted himself at the centre of a commissioned altarpiece in a dispute over his fee—via Damn Interesting  

by the dawn’s early light: plans to build a billion dollar, half-a-kilometre high flagpole in Western Maine—where the Sun’s first light hits the country—has its detractors

Saturday 8 July 2023

content moderation (10. 868)

With the recent onslaught of US supreme course cases leaving us a little overwhelmed, it was difficult to unpack this coda in the form of an injunction imposed by a district judge in Louisiana (another Trump appointee) against federal agencies from communicating with social media. Under appeal, the temporary ruling bars the government from working with Facebook and others to redress posts hosted that propagate false claims that could undermine public confidence in matters of health and election integrity and could seriously curtail the ability to fact-check and steer the narrative away from conspiracy theories and unfounded claims in the upcoming presidential election. Pitting fighting disinformation for public safety against “free speech” and the grievance of some conservative elements have for social media’s bias against them, the suit claims that the government overstepped its bounds by rallying to deplatform posts that questioned the risk or origin of COVID (emboldened by the concession it might have come from a Chinese laboratory), the efficacy of protective measures or whether the Biden administration is legitimate, competent departments including the press secretary, Justice, the FBI and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention are barred from reaching out directly to platforms or engaging with third-parties who research the effects of media on public perception. Though unclear how accustomed government agencies were with accessing social media in the past (and the ruling does at least promise to reveal the scope and regularity of contact), it does seem clear that a blanket restriction will limit the government’s ability to shape the narrative and combat disinformation and will bear heavily on the 2024 presidential race.