Monday, 20 September 2021

30 rock

Captured on this day in 1932 by the appointed Photographic Director for the documentation of the Rockefeller Center’s construction, Charles Clyde Ebbets (*1905 - †1978) framed Lunch atop a Skyscraper (who took this picture?), depicting eleven workers taking their break on a girder, feet dangling high above New York City streets, from the perspective of the sixty-ninth storey of the neighbouring RCA Building—itself still under construction. The following year Ebbets returned to his native Florida and worked with the Seminole tribe to champion the conservation of the Everglades and promote responsible tourism.

Friday, 10 September 2021


central solenoid: installation of a powerful giant magnet brings experimental fusion project a step closer to completion 

clรฉo from 5 to 7: discovering an Agnes Varda classic 

la sociรฉtรฉ du spectacle: an update of the 1974 Situationist Guy Debord’s critique of mass marketing and estrangements of modern society  

raise high the roof beam: experience a house inside a barn 

wtc: a profile of architect Minoru Yamasaki, best known for designing New York’s World Trade Center  

ccs: Iceland’s carbon capture and sequestration plant (previously) goes on-line

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

kermit the forg

Thankfully spared this conspiracy theory when it first gained currency and spread memetically, the implication that Kermit the Frog was somehow responsible for the 9/11 Terror Attacks though crass and callous through its ridiculousness (and possibly one of the more pallatable suggestions regarding second-guessing investigative commissions and expert testimony), excelling beyond others in terms of unreality and detachment, does yield some insights into how these ideas form and take hold. The idea stems from a continuity error spotted in a made-for-television retelling of It’s A Wonderful Life aired in 2002. Having wished he were never born after failing to save their theatre, Kermit finds himself in an alternate reality and encountering familiar friends who have taken decidedly different career-paths absent Kermit’s influence. Visiting a decidedly spinsterish Miss Piggy, the Twin Towers are clearly visible from her apartment window for a brief moment, leading some to conclude that in a parallel timeline where there is no Kermit or Muppet Show, there would be no terror attack, assigning blame in this counter-factual situation to a puppet. It’s cringeworthy of course but I wonder how some of our contemporary explanations invoking sinister forces will age. More at MEL Magazine at the link up top.

Monday, 16 August 2021

mind the gap

Featured on Open Culture, we quite enjoyed this audio-sampler of departure and arrivals announcements and assorted warnings, jingles beeps and chimes of mass-transit systems from around the world. While I am grateful for the luxury of choice, I am not quite yet comfortable to go back to taking public transportation regularly but am looking forward riding the bus again and leaving the driving in more capable, punctual hands. Passing by the Bahnhof pretty regularly, I’m often within earshot of the familiar, reassuring bing-boom (I am looking for a single ideophone that embraces all of these automated audio signals) of the train doors closing. Much more at the link up top.  What is your local onomatopoeia?

Friday, 6 August 2021

the nomi song

Born Klaus Sperber in Swรคbish Immenstadt in 1944, aspiring counter tenor who adopted the stage persona Klaus Nomi, worked as an usher in the opera houses of West Berlin, entertaining the crew during set breakdowns with arias and studied music yet was unable to secure a steady position and so switched to the confectionary business which later became somewhat of a trademark. Moving to New York City in 1973, Nomi received more professional training and took various gigs performing and developing his presence. His breakthrough moment came in 1979 when David Bowie engaged Nomi as a background singer during performances on Saturday Night Live as musical guest. Being discovered afforded more venues for his unique shows whose robotic demeanour and elaborate costuming both anticipating and reflected the stage presence of acts like Bowie’s and Peter Gabriel and reinterpreted songs like Marlene Dietrich’s “Falling in Love Again” and Chubby Checker’s “Twist” as well as classical, operatic numbers in an abstract, highly synthesised fashion. The black and white palette complemented by cubist clothes and hair-styles that referenced both the Bauhaus theatre movement, kabuki and the retro-future vision of the 1920s—particularly the film Metropolis. A decade after coming to New York, Nomi was diagnosed with AIDS and though growing sick and weak already embarked on a European tour and the talk show circuit, anticipating it would be his last, Nomi dying of complications of the disease on this day in 1983. One of the first figures from the arts community to publically die from the relatively then unknown illness, Nomi became posthumously the subject of many tributes and homages, acknowledging his stylistic influence.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

looks like a jungle sometimes, makes me wonder how i keep from going under

Released as a single on this day in 1982, we learn from our faithful chronicler, and later featuring on the group’s first namesake studio album in October, The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was among the first hip hop composition to deliver a message of social commentary and the stress of urban blight and poverty. Duke Bootee and Melle Mel were inspired to pen the song two years before during the New York City mass-transit strike.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

deep throat

Written and directed by Gerard Damiano and starring Linda Lovelace—though later reframed by the actress as coercion and sexual assault, considered one of the first pornographic films to include a plot and character development and heralded, along with Behind the Green Door, as “porno chic,” seen as a normalising, legitimising force for the subject matter for conservative US audiences, with many prominent celebrities, public figures and journalists admitting to having watched it, including Truman Capote, Spiro Agnew, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson and Barbara Walters, the title piece premiered on this day in New York City’s New World Adult Theatre, the use of the film as a culture reference and touchstone was cemented almost immediately when the managing-editor of the Washington Post chose “Deep Throat” as the code name for the secret Watergate insider (see also) who informed on Nixon—revealed thirty years later as assistant FBI director W. Mark Felt (*1913 - †2008).

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

american venus

Here pictured in 1915 with Buzzer the Cat, born this day in 1891 (†1996, aged 104), Audrey Marie Munson was considered to be the USA’s first super model, inspiring sculptural works and engravings across the country whose likeness graces many public institutions and endowments.
Discovered whilst window shopping on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan by hobby photographer Felix Benedict Herzog who invited Munson to his studio and introduced her to artist friends, she was immortalised in statuary in courthouse, museums and libraries in New York and was even the model for a commission of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands for an armed Venus de Milo.  Modelling led to four starring roles in silent movies, one appearance was fully nude. 
Lecherously, the landlord of the boarding house where Munson lived with her mother was madly in love with her and murdered his wife so they could be together. Requited or otherwise, this episode compelled Munson to quit her career in 1922 and having attempted suicide herself (the landlord hanged himself in prison awaiting his execution), Munson’s mother had her committed to an insane asylum in upstate New York where she remained for the next six and a half decades, forgotten and with no visitors until a distant relative found her in 1984.

Thursday, 3 June 2021


such good: a dating app based on shared meme-affinity  

boulevard du crime: a lost Parisien theatre district that specialised in putting on felonious melodramas 

lion city rising: photographer Keith Loutit captures eight years of change in Sinagpore  

lunachicks: a flamboyant punk rock group who are a product of unvarnished New York  

broodclipjes: more fun with twist-ties and related species (see previously)—from Pasa Bon!  

horological constraints: the typography of watches—see also  

 profiles in pride: World of Wonder showcases some of the gay rights movement’s pioneers (see also), starting with Frank Kamey of the DC Mattachine Society  

masterpieces of streaming: a collection of the subtle genius of dumb viral videos—via Waxy

Friday, 28 May 2021


pier 54: Thomas Heatherwick’s Little Island on the Hudson off NYC’s Meatpacking District opens to the public 

al fresco: limited edition Rolls-Royce Boat Tail to take picnicking 

cosmism: the cosmic religion of Nikolai Fyodorov that inspired and informed Soviet space-faring aspirations  

astronomicum cรฆsareum: a beautifully illustrated scientific text from 1540  

circle of friends: a visualisation of the intimates that one can socially maintain—see previously  

rollercoaster tycoon: an engineer explains the different types of amusement park rides  

pole of inaccessibility: plotting when the ISS crew are one’s closest neighbours when one lives near Point Nemo  

project plywood: non-profit Worthless Studios transforms discarded materials used to board up storefronts from inclement weather and civil unrest into art

Sunday, 9 May 2021


We quite enjoyed this historical survey of the ever-upwardly mobile skyscrapers of New York City commencing with the Latting Observatory, a wooden tower erected the 1853 World’s Fair and decreased in stature afterwards in deference to the steeple of Trinity Church, which held the title of tallest building in the United States until 1869. The pictured 15 Park Row (Wolkenkratzer) was completed 1908 and was a pioneering edifice for its use of structural steel and was accorded protected status as a historic monument in 1999. More to explore from design boom at the link up top.

Saturday, 1 May 2021


Whilst in the age of digital media, a geographical, orientating relic of print newspapers may not be an important marker for a readership increasing removed from the news page and pagination, it was nonetheless more than a little jarring to read that the New York Times is retiring its Op-Ed section, five decades on it originally referred to the page opposite the editorials, in favour editorial pieces supplemented with guest essays. Learn more about this decision and indulge in some truly outstanding vintage, newsprint layouts at the links above.

Sunday, 25 April 2021

guerrilla greening

Via Colossal, a Honolulu-based design consortium imagines the transformation of some of the iconic urban corridors of world cities transformed through an aggressive and transfixing shift away from the concrete jungle to something living and sympathetically breathing with us. Learn more about their work and the study that’s gone into these visualisations at the link above.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

port authority trans-hudson

Though entertained throughout the 1940s and 1950s as a vehicle for urban renewal and to stimulate development, New York governor Nelson Rockefeller felt he had not gathered the sufficient and sustaining political and public will to sign the bill directing the construction of a World Trade Centre for Manhattan until this day in 1961 and fraught with zoning and controversy, not completed until twelve years later—almost to the day. The project, intended to rehabilitate the Port Authority where ridership was declining, displaced New York City’s Radio Row, a warehouse district that had existed since the 1920s which hosted many electronics goods stores and was a driver of innovation by proximity and saturation as well as affecting many tenants and small businesses in the dense waterfront neighbourhood. Many of the affected protested that the city should have gotten involved in a prestige project masquerading as social stimulus.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

married to the sea

Via Strange Company, we were introduced to the missionary felines of the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and the cats were delights in themselves of course, brave Bosun, Seaweed and her family and other seafaring companions, but the history of this organisation with its fleet of floating churches would be engrossing enough in itself.
Established in 1834 by the American Episcopal Church and still in operation, it is the biggest advocate for sailors, longshoremen and merchant mariners providing educational, legal, union representation, hospitality and pastoral services for the ports of New York and New Jersey, sending chaplains and sponsoring events such as Christmas at Sea (more recently shopping and arranging supplies through gangway exchanges for those stranded by COVID-19) and training and safety programmes and supporting studies on more effective ways to approach piracy, stowaways, refugees and shore leave. More at the links above.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

start spreading the news

Approved last month by the country’s parliamentary committee on the Organisation of State Power, Local Self-Government, Regional Development and Urban Planning approved the motion to restore the name of the settlement in the far eastern Donetsk Oblast back to ะัŒัŽ-ะ™ะพั€ะบ (New York, officially romanised as Niu-York), which it was called until 1951 and the heating up of the Cold War prompted the change to the more sedate Novhorodske—New Town. Though unclear what the origins of the name were with competing theories ranging from German Mennonites invited to develop the area in the nineteenth century and calling it after their hometown Jork by Hamburg to a practical joke, residents are hopeful that the change will have a revitalising effect. More from the Calvert Journal at the link above.

Friday, 12 February 2021

an experiment in modern music

On this day in 1924 at New York City’s Aeolian Hall, bandleader Paul Whiteman’s jazz orchestral jazz ensemble accompanied composer George Gershwin (*1898 – †1937) for his premiere performance of Rhapsody in Blue (see previously). Considered by some to be the inaugural concert of the Jazz Age—though that’s subject to debate and conjecture—the overarching tune of this free-form piece, recognisable still regardless of variation, abridging or extension, is considered one of the most readily identifiable works to the public, on par with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Reportedly afterwards there was only a smattering or applause and a mostly stunned, silent audience, prompting Gershwin to turn to them, saying, “Well, your kids will love it!”

Saturday, 19 December 2020


mercury rising: surveying the lasting damage that the hottest year on record has brought  

guardians of the galaxy: Space Force (previously) service members receive a new title  

deluxe apartment in the sky: artist granted viewing of exclusive properties on Billionaires’ Row in Manhattan 

lp: a playlist of James Baldwin’s record collection  

๐ŸŒŠ: the Great Wave off Kanagawa in Lego form 

 lassen sie mich also sagen, dass dies ernst ist—bitte nehmen sie das auch ernst: Angela Merkel’s March address and appeal on coronavirus lauded as Speech of the Year 

 heat gap: climatic gentrification across city districts leads to worse outcomes for the poorest residents

Friday, 4 December 2020

fraunces tavern

As our faithful chronicler reminds, on this day in 1783, a week after his triumphant re-entry into New York City, General George Washington disbanded and dismissed the officers of the Continental Army during a formal fรชte held at the storied public house (see also) at the corner of Pearl and Broad. Yet still a dining establishment and museum with artefacts and exhibits relating to the American Revolution, the mansion converted to tavern originally named the Queen’s Head was witness to several preceding and pivotal events. Meeting place of the local chapter of the secret society of the Sons of Liberty members organised protests against the 1773 Tea Act and subsequent import tax with a parallel Tea Party, tossing the cargo into the harbour disguised as Native Americans—as was done in Boston and as the war of secession approached its end, a sort of truce was negotiated to placate American leadership that none of their property—meaning formerly enslaved individuals who were emancipated by the British after impressment or other service to the Crown—be allowed to depart with the British, though the representatives of latter were relatively successful in ensuring that their freedom was their own and could be evacuated. Later during January 1785, under the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union (the purpose of the Continental Army was only to oust the British and then each would go its own separate way) the federal offices of Foreign Affairs, War and Finance were held there with the city as the first capital until 1790 when relocated to Philadelphia whilst Washington, District of Columbia was constructed over the next decade.

Friday, 11 September 2020

deceptive cadence

Back during the early 1980s composer William Basinski heard a snatch of music on the airwaves and quickly recorded the melody that it inspired and filed it away for use in a later project. Sitting forgotten until the summer of 2001, Basinski rediscovers the recording and plays it back.
The tape, however, was old and brittle and playing it back, it began to disintegrate both visually and audibly—Basinski, fascinated, captured its vanishing. Nearly finished remixing his Disintegration Loops at his New York studio on 11 September, his epic became an elegy. Fast-forward to the summer of 2019, Robin Sloan just acquainted with the moving orchestral piece—we discover courtesy of Things Magazine—had a neural network interpret the work with some surprising results and invites others to listen and contribute to his Integration Loop project.