Saturday, 11 June 2022

e.t. phone home

Premiering in US theatres on this day in 1982—following its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May—the Steven Spielberg and Melissa Mathison collaboration featuring the acting talents of Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote, Dee Wallace and Drew Barrymore is a retelling of Peter Pan framed by the director and producer’s own suburban childhood and experiences of his parents’ divorce. An extra terrestrial botanist accidentally left behind on Earth befriends a human boy and his siblings and tries to find a way to reconnect with his scouting mission whilst thwarting attempts of government scientists trying to capture and study him. The iconic, arresting scene of E.T. and Elliot’s flight to the forest is an homage to the magical realism of the 1951 Miacolo a Milano by Vittorio De Sica of a poverty-stricken community in post-war Milan who are cheated out of a potential windfall, reprimanded by angels for harnessing supernatural powers but nonetheless are free and eventually escape on broomsticks.

Monday, 16 May 2022

6x6

dandelion wine: slow drinks made with our favourite noxious weed—see also  

give that wolf a banana and before that wolf eats my grandma: Norway’s Eurovision entry—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links  

stablecoin: the collapse of NFT and crypto markets 

 for every bear that ever there was: 1984 reportage of Keanu Reeves covering a teddy bear convention for the CBC—via Everlasting Blรถrt  

homeostatic awakening: new developments in the Fermi paradox—see previously here and here  

quattro bianchi: Italy’s answer to the Long Island Iced Tea packs a wallop

Friday, 6 May 2022

7x7

⚠️: a pictogramatical survey of caution wet floor signs—via Pasa Bon!  

load-bearing bifurcation: engineers incorporate sturdy, often-discarded tree forks in construction  

thameside tv: clips from London’s first pirate station—see also  

no tofu: the Noto typeface (previously) a suite of emoji  

unit patch: the more inscrutable badges of the US Space Force—see previously  

pocket mac: the process of designing a fake vintage product 

: Unicode Consortium’s growing list of astronomical glyphs, magical charms

Friday, 1 April 2022

cosmic call

First spotted by Damn Interesting’s Curated Links, Scientific American reports that as the fiftieth anniversary of the Arecibo Message approaches researchers at the FAST radio telescope and affiliates at SETI and METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence because no one wants to answer their phone apparently) have devised a new bit-mapped series of missives to put out to the Cosmos. The sample image illustrates prime numbers and binary and decimal notation and is one of several (whilst debate continues if it is wise to advertise our presence and level of technologic competence) to be bundled along with the components of DNA, particle physics and human physiology, like this iconic message in a bottle.

Saturday, 26 March 2022

7x7

the hay-bailer, that chain-maker: an assortment of highly satisfying precision industrial machines at work

mars & beyond: a 1957 Disney film narrated by Paul Frees about extraterrestrial life

pelagic zone: the highly specialised eyes of the strawberry squid (see previously)  

nymphรฉas: often dismissed as victim of his own popularity and over-exposure, Claude Monet’s Water Lilies series was far from a tame variation on a theme but rather a memorial to lives lost in the Great War  

aerial photo explorer: historic birds-eye-view images of England—see previously—via Things Magazine  

tired vs wired: a Twitter bot that generates aphoristic comparisons between Web 2.0 and the Web 3.0 to come, via Web Curios  

vertical parking: towering garages to remedy congestion

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

earthship ark

Our gratitude to the aptly recursive and veteran podcast Stop Podcasting Yourself (previously) for the viewing recommendation in the ambitious and acclaimed Canadian sci-fi series from author Harlan Ellison (as Cordwainer Bird) and featuring the adaptions of stories of Ursula K Le Guin, Arthur Heinemann and others which despite the trappings of low production-value is genuinely intriguing and compels one to watch more. Starring Keir Dullea from 2001: A Space Odyssey and only lasting for a single season in 1973, the sixteen episode arc of The Starlost is set in a multigenerational colonial ship of dozens of connected biospheres in the late twenty-fourth century of Earthling refugees seeking a new home after the destruction of their own.

Friday, 11 February 2022

cosmic comics

Via Waxy, we are treated to a spread of sci-fi comic panels of as reimagined by a generative adversarial network (see previously) trained by Frank Force. These brilliant runs of landscapes and backgrounds are fully customisable with switches and sliders to adjust for colour, shadow, star-type and more.

Friday, 21 January 2022

project lyra

Shortly after the passage of the interstellar interloper called ‘Oumuamua (previously) in the fall of 2017, the scientific consortium known as the Institute for Interstellar Studies began a drawing up plans to develop a probe to rendezvous with the mysterious object. Researchers demonstrated that by means of advanced propulsion technology and a complex, theoretical gravitational assist, a slingshot or powered flyby called a Jupiter Oberth manoeuvre, the craft, if launched by 2028, could eventually catch up with and better study ‘Oumuamua. In parallel, the institute is also working on Breakthrough Starshot, to propel a solar sail to the next nearest star system with an ETA of under two decades. More from Universe Today at the link up top.

Saturday, 8 January 2022

l’affaire de trans-en-provence

Though the scientific riguour of testing and measurements taken was later subject to dispute, the encounter with an unidentified flying object was reputed to have left physical evidence and was heralded by the US periodical Popular Mechanics as “perhaps the most completely and carefully documented UFO sighting of all time took place on this day in 1981 on a farmstead just outside the titular town (previously) in the Var dรฉpartment. The account by witness Renato Nicalaรฏ related that after an eerie whistling a saucer-shaped object landed down field from him at a distance of fifty metres. It took off again almost immediately but left depression and scorch marks on the ground that were examined by the gendarmerie and the GEPAN (Groupe d’ร‰tude des Phรฉnomรจnes Aรฉrospatiaux Non-Indentifiรฉs). The findings were inconclusive.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

space music

Begun a decade earlier as a three-hour-long radio programme featuring contemplative, ambient music with a selection of classical, Celtic, electronic and experimental genres airing late nights in the Berkley-area hosted by “Timotheo” (Stephen Hill) and “Annamystic” (Anna Turner), Hearts of Space entered syndication of National Public Radio on this day in 1983 and is still going strong, with over thirteen hundred transmissions (episodes) in their archives. The longest-running show of its type, each instalment signs-off with “Safe journeys, space fans—wherever you are.”

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

mmxxi

As this calendar draws to a close and we look forward to 2022, we again take time to reflect on a selection of some of the things and events that took place in 2021. Thanks as always for visiting. We’ve made it through another wild year together and we’ll see this next one through together as well.

 january: In the US state of Georgia’s run-off election, Democrat candidates prevail and thus switch the Senate’s controlling majority. The joint session of Congress to certify the votes of the Electoral College in favour of the Biden-Harris ticket is interrupted by a violent insurrection on the Capitol incited by Donald

Trump, yet the proceedings are resumed undeterred. For his gross incompetence and treasonous actions, the US House of Representatives impeaches Trump for a second time. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated president and vice-president of the United States of America in a socially-distanced ceremony held on the same portico where the violent coup attempt occured two weeks prior. Across Russia, thousands protest the arrest and detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.  English filmmaker Michael Apted (*1941), entertainer Siegfried Fischbacher (*1939, see also last May) and baseball players Tommy Lasorda (*1927) and Hank Aaron (*1941), actress Cloris Leachman (*1926) as well as accomplished star of stage and screen Cicely Tyson (*1924) pass away.  

february: A military uprising in Myanmar wrests power from the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.  Actor Hal Holbrook (*1925) and veteran become fund-raiser who raised millions for the National Health

Service Sir Captain Thomas Moore (*1920) himself succumbed to COVID-19.   French screen-writer and director Jean-Claude Carriรจre (*1931) passed away, and so veteran actor Christopher Plummer (*1929). The US Senate again convenes as jury to vote on whether to acquit or prosecute Donald Trump’s impeachment.  Larry Flynt (*1942), publisher, pornographer and self-styled anti-censorship champion, passed away, as did jazz virtuoso and twenty-three-time Grammy Award winner Chick Corea (*1941).  The US Senate votes not to acquit Donald Trump a second time after his second impeachment.  A polar vortex brings severe winter storms to Texas and Mexico, leaving millions without heat and electricity has the power grid is overwhelmed.  Talk radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh (*1951)  dies after a year-long struggle with lung cancer.  Poet and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti passes away, aged 101. Martian probe Perseverance touched down on the Red Planet to begin a search for signs of past life. The US rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement.  

march: Oprah Winfrey interviews the estranged, self-exiled Sussexes about Meghan Markle’s treatment

by the Royal Family, causing consternation and many to question the institution of the monarchyPhantom Tollbooth author Norton Juster (*1929) passed away aged ninety-one.  A container ship gets lodged in the Suez Canal, hindering global trade and could potentially be stuck for weeks.  Legislators in the American state of Georgia pass selectively restrictive laws to disenfranchise Black voters.   Children’s book author Beverly Cleary (*1916) writer of the Ramona Quimby series passed away, aged 104.  The usurping military forces in Myanmar gun down dozens of pro-democracy protesters.  Islamic rebels besiege the city of Palma in Mozambique.  Undercover operative whose missteps brought the Watergate scandal to the press and public, G. Gordon Liddy (*1930) died, aged 90, as did author Larry McMurtry (*1936) who penned Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment.

april: Prince Phillip passes away, aged 99.  As tensions escalate between Russia and NATO with a troop

build-up along the border with Ukraine, US President Joe Biden proposes to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to normalise relations and restore diplomatic ties.  The police officer who murdered George Floyd is found guilty on all charges.  Walter Mondale (*1928), former vice president under Jimmy Carter, and presidential candidate with running-mate Geraldine Ferraro passed away, aged ninety-three.  Astronaut Michael Collins (*1930) who orbited the Moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin explored the lunar surface passed away, aged ninety.

may: Accomplished actor Olympia Dukakis (*1931) passed away, aged eighty-nine.  Architect Helmut Jahn (*1940) behind the Messeturm in Frankfurt and the Post tower in Bonn died in a bicycle accident.  Dozens of rebel priests across German defy the Catholic church and offer benedictions to same-sex couple.  Israel airstrikes in Gaza escalate.  Actor, author, televangelist and TV’s Captain Merrill Stubing Gavin MacLeod (*1931) after suffering a long bout of ill-health.  

june: G7 leaders meet in Cornwall, in person.  A coalition government in Israel unseats Netanyahu after a

dozen years as prime minister.  The US government establishes Juneteenth as a new federal holiday though new laws to disenfranchise Black voters continues apace in many Republican controlled polities.  The space station Tiangong receives its first crew.  Software and computer security pioneer John McAfee (*1945) found dead in a Spanish jail cell awaiting extradition to the US over charges of tax evasion.  Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, was disbarred for peddling the lie that that the election was stolen from his former client.  The US government issues a declassified report to congress regarding unidentified aerial phenomenon.  A twelve storey condominium complex near Miami, Florida collapses with dozens injured and unaccounted for.  

july: Outrage as more mass-graves of indigenous pupils found at historic Canadian residential schools.  Hundreds perish from record heatwaves and wildfires along the Pacific coast of North America.  Angela Merkel makes her last official visit to the United Kingdom, addressing the Houses of Parliament, the last

foreign leader to do so since Bill Clinton in 1997.   Richard Donner (*1930), film director behind The Goonies, Superman and the Lethal Weapon franchise passed away.  England plans to fully reopen with no COVID-19 restrictions late in the month despite a resurgence in cases and the rapidly spreading Delta variant.  Jovenel Moรฏse, the Haitian president, was assassinated.  Continual and torrential rains exacerbated by the climate emergency caused severe flooding in western Germany and the Henan region in China.  The Special Committee on the January 6th Capitol Insurrection heard opening testimony from law enforcement on the scene of the terror attack.  Inventor and infomercial pitchman Ron Popeil (*1935) passed away.

august: The UN Panel on Climate Change issues a stark, bleak forecast for the planet’s future as a suitable place for life as we know it.  Wildfires rage throughout the Mediterranean, Siberia and the North American west coast.  As coalition forces depart, the resurgent Taliban takes several regional capitals in weeks with Kabul poised to soon collapse as authorities flee and embassies are evacuated.  A massive earthquake strikes Haiti.  Tragically, most Afghani government officials flee the country and the capital falls as the Taliban retakes power and restores the emirate after nearly two decades of warfare.  US army installations in Germany assist with Operation Allied Refuge (OAR) as thousands of Afghans are airlifted from the country.  Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (*1941) passes away. 
Just days ahead of the deadline imposed to complete evacuation missions out of the Hamid Karzai international airport, an Islamic State affiliate and sworn enemy of the Taliban for being too Westernised, lax, undisciplined detonated twin suicide bombs outside the gates, killing dozens.  Veteran actor and advocate Ed Asner (*1929) passed away as did Jamaican musical giant Lee “Scratch” Perry (*1936).  On the sixteenth anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina, a destructive storm called Ida makes landfall.  The Taliban celebrates with fireworks and firing rifles in the air the departure of the last US flight from the Kabul airport, declaring victory.

september: The legislature of the state of Texas passes a tranche of new laws curtailing voting access, restricting teaching of America’s racist past and present, mandating the national anthem at sporting events, permitting universal carry laws for firearms and doing away with licensure or training requirements and

essentially banning abortion by placing a bounty on abettors and deputising neighbours to litigate the ban against neighbours.  New Wave actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (*1933), whose roles defined the genre and called the French counterpart of Marlon Brando, James Dean and Humphrey Bogart, passed away.  El Salvador becomes first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender.  “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” singer Marรญa Mendiola (*1952) of Baccara passed away in Madrid.  An effort to recall and replace Democrat governor of California fails and Gavin Newsome retains his place, though the balloting and counter-campaigns cost taxpayers of the state in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars.  The first commercial, all-amateur space tourism mission safely splashes down after three days in orbit.  Entrepreneur, inventor and computing pioneer behind the ZX Spectrum, Clive Sinclair passed away, aged 81 (*1940).  Justin Trudeau’s party retains power following national elections.  After three years under house arrest in Canada and fighting extradition to America on charges of espionage and circumventing sanctions against Iran, business executive Meng Wangzhou, daughter of the head of Chinese communications giant Huawei, is released. 

october:  US president Biden’s agenda is derailed, diminished by moderate voices in his party.  A vaccine for malaria is trialled in Africa.  Amid a growing corruption scandal, Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz

tenders his resignation, though choosing to remain leader of his political party and will retain his seat in parliament.  William Shatner, aged ninety, as a space tourist becomes the oldest human to enter the Earth’s orbit.  Attending an open-advice surgery for his constituents from Leigh-on-Sea, long-time MP David Amess was murdered by an attacker with a knife.  Former US Joint-Chief-of-Staff and Secretary of State, Colin Powell (*1937) dies from complications arising from COVID-19.  President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, under pressure from elements of his own party, is rather austerely pared back, dropping proposed benefits like universal college tuition and paid family-leave.  Garbage social media network rebrands its parent company as Meta as it prepares to build and embrace its concept of the metaverse.  A military coup in Somali plunges the country into chaos with no signs of peaceful resolution.

november: A powerful storm-flood in western Canada cuts off Vancouver from the rest of British Columbia.  Weaponised refugees massed at the EU frontier by a provoking Belarus at enormous personal

cost are slowly being repatriated to the lands they fled.  After exonerated in a gross miscarriage of justice, Republicans acclaim a teenage, white supremacist murderer as their new hero.  Award winning Broadway songwriter Stephen Sondheim passes away, aged ninety-one in the same week as Schoolhouse Rock! lyricist Dave Frishberg (*1933).  The COVID-19 Omicron-variant, first detected in South Africa, is causing major concerns as convention cases rage resurgent in Europe, poised to be more widespread and deadly than the same time a year ago.  Inflation and supply-chain issues threaten global economic recovery.  On the anniversary of its independence from the UK in 1966, Barbados becomes the world's newest republic, with Sandra Mason as the island’s president. 

december: Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows releases Power Point slide-deck that outlined options for Trump to hold on to the presidency in the chaos of the 6. January insurrection to the commission investigating the attempted coup.  Monkees singer Mike Nesmith (*1942) passes away.  An unseasonal tornado rips through western Kentucky, leaving over a hundred dead.   Gothic novelist Anne Rice (*1941 as Howard Allen Francis O’Brien) passed away.  Tensions continue to mount at the Russo-Ukraine border with Russia putting forward a litany of demands for NATO to avoid invasion.   Journalist and author Joan Didion (*1934) passed away due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.   Borders close and travel-restrictions re-imposed over truly exponential spread of the the Omicron variant; preliminary findings suggest although less lethal, hospitals and other essential services could be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and vulnerable populations still need protection.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu (*1931), anti-apartheid hero and moral-centre, passes away aged ninety.  Sadly veteran blogger Jonco, behind Bits & Pieces, passed away quite suddenly, leaving the blogosverse a dimmer place.  On the last day of the year and just weeks short of planned celebrations for her one-hundredth birthday, beloved talent and treasure with a career spanning over eight decades, Betty White (*1922) passed away.

 



Sunday, 5 December 2021

hawkmen diiive!

With a spectacular soundtrack by Queen and with a cast that includes Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin, a Robin Hood like character who rules the woodland region called Arboria and subjects our titular hero to the “wood beast” ritual that’s a lot like the pain box in Dune, Brian Blessed as the above Prince Vultan of Sky City, Topol as Dr. Hans Zarkov, Mariangela Melato as General Kala, Max von Sydow as (problematically) the ruler of planet Mongo, Ming the Mercliless, the cinematic adaptation of the King Features Syndicate comic-strip, Flash Gordon (previously), premiered on this day in 1980 in US markets (a week later in the UK). The Earth beset with natural disasters, Gordon—a star quarterback for the football team the New York Jets is sidelined during a short airplane journey where he and travel agent Dale Arden encounter a scientist (Zarkov) who believes that the climatic catastrophes are being caused by a malevolent and extraterrestrial source and lures Arden and Gordon to help him on a mission to determine the source, ultimately confirming Emperor Ming’s involvement. The trio are soon captured and Ming orders Arden prepared for his harem, Zarkov’s useful knowledge extracted and reprogrammed and Gordon executed.

Friday, 3 December 2021

r*

In the moments before beginning his informal gathering of searchers for extraterrestrial intelligence in late November 1961, host astronomer Frank Drake, who had convened the conference to promote his programme Project Ozma that monitored a pair of nearby, sun-like stars for radio signals, dashed off his probabilistic conjecture, the eponymous equation proposed to estimate the number of communicative civilisations in the galaxy.  While subject to criticism for the speculative and unknowable nature of many of the factors, it is nonetheless a useful heuristic from the individual whom would go on to champion the conversion of the Arecibo site to a radio telescope and entrench SETI in the popular imagination: Whereas N is the number of alien civilisations within our current light cone derived from the rate of stellar formation multipled by the fraction hosting exoplanets, by the average in the Goldie Locks Zone, times the fraction that develop and sustain life long enough to develop a technology detectable by other distant civilisations and finally the length of time such civilisations stick around.  Through research and observation, the incidence of some factors can be arrived at, but other parameters are very much androcentric and do not account for colonization and the rise and fall of successive dominant life forms

Saturday, 13 November 2021

8x8

uap: an interview with former US DoD head of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Programme says that “Tic-Tac” craft have been observed by the navy for decades  

dutch angle: dramatic tilt in cinematography  

comrade kiev: an exquisitely curated collection of posters from Soviet times  

p68/dulcimer: a prototype of the iPod—which celebrated its twentieth birthday last month—via Twisted Sifter  

subjective distance: more on the ordering of adjectives and the unwritten rules of language—see previously 

quesos y besos: a soft goat cheese from Spain beat out many contenders to be awarded the top prize for the annual World Cheese Awards  

shoulder-surfing: a patent to discourage lookie-loos with a screen blur for those without the proper headgear and glasses—via Slashdot 

discopter: Alexander Weygers patented the design for the first UFO flying vehicle decades before the craze in sightings and visitations

Thursday, 11 November 2021

9x9

silent haitch: the voicing of this letter is “still a significant shibboleth”—a look at h based on modern usage and notes on wh by Alfred Leach  

kinship and pedigree: genealogical mapping shows historic spread and retreat of surnames for British Isles and much of Europe 

rural free delivery: a superb, thematic collection of vintage picture postcards—via Things Magazine  

zeta reticulans: a tarot deck from Miguel Romero features the history of UFOlogy  

ั‚ะต ัะฐะผั‹ะต ะบะฐั€ั‚ะธะฝะบะธ: collection of avant-garde children’s book illustrations from the USSR 

retromod: Hyundai brings back its 1986 luxury Grandeur with a fully electric powertrain 

trebuchet: another start-up envisions flinging satellites into space via spinning centrifuge—see previously  

get lost losers: a rock band flotilla entertaining the cargo crews stuck in the seemingly insurmountable backlog waiting to unload containers at the ports of Los Angeles

agent of chaos: agnotology, the study of deliberate spreading of confusion

Sunday, 10 October 2021

7x7

pov: more superlative drone photography 

true facts: Ze Frank (previously) assays the mosquito 

awesome mix, vol 1 & 2: the video game adaption of Guardians of the Galaxy has a stellar soundtrack  

baby, you are so money and you don’t even known it: a quarter of a century on, in defence of Swingers, the Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau vehicle that has more heart than one might have remembered  

social justice kittens: a 2022 calendar from Liartown, USA (previously)—via Web Curios  

the montauk project: spelunking in the mothballed secretive military base, Camp Hero, that inspired Stranger Things 

hop on, hop off: in honour of the Year of the European Rail, photographer Albert Dros documents his ten-day train journey across the continent

Thursday, 9 September 2021

7x7

terrorstorm: the garbage documentaries that fulled the cult of conspiracy theorist, fragility and New Age Paranoia  

chestbursters and facehuggers:an official Alien xenomorph cookbook to liven up the dinner table  

en hobbits รคventyr: Moomins’ creator Tove Jansson illustrates Tolkien’s work 

skeuomorphs: vestigial, hidden parts of consumer electronics  

docudrama: a guide to making a Netflix style serial on the topic of one’s choosing  

next sunday a.d.: a neglected remix, compilation of the MST3K Satellite of Love theme  

white rabbit: redpilling (previously) and the regime

Monday, 6 September 2021

6x6

circumhorizon arc: a rare Fire Rainbow photographed—via TYWKIWDBI 

mars & beyond: Walt Disney’s robot pal Garco takes us on a speculative journey in search of extraterrestrial life 

rip: legendary NBC weather man Willard Scott has passed away, aged eighty-seven  

escape artist: immersive exhibits speak to our communal sensory experience  

valley of the dolls: Peerless Playthings pretend pills  

cloudspotting: the World Meteorological Organisation added aspertias as a supplementary feature in 2017 Cloud Atlassee also

Sunday, 22 August 2021

easy-bake coven

Via the Awesomer, we learn that the gag children’s book cover parody has been expanded into a whole series of retro-inspired educational texts for precocious young witches and warlocks and other delinquents—see also. Be sure to Steven Rhodes’ complete Sinister Seventies line and My Little Occult Book Club collection at the links above.

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

little twelvetoes

Having considered myself pretty familiar with the entire Schoolhouse Rock! catalogue (see previously here and here) and enjoying them as a kid, I was taken aback to be introduced to this segment that not only teaches one the twelves multiplication table but also about the duodecimal system and other bases—plus acceptance of actual polydactyly. Including My Hero, Zero and Three is a Magic Number, Bob Dorough performed and produced a dozen (the number one not given an episode) maths shorts during the course of 1973.