Friday 1 March 2024

8x8 (11. 392)

unauthorised avatar: Ukrainian individual discovers her likeness from her self-help videos have been cloned to sell Russian goods, friendship with China  

criterion collection: a curated series of great moments from the film company’s archive of Closet Picks  

il galateo, overo de’ costumi: the age of impoliteness—an influential sixteenth century Venetian treatise of delicacy and manners  

the weeknd stroke psa: a song parody about signs and symptoms of a cerebrovascular incident  

@smalin: graphic artist Stephen Manlinowski creates beautifully animated classical and jazz score—via Web Curios 

the hero’s journey: “the chosen one,” coming of age narratives of Dune, Star Wars, Harry Potter are mostly about adolescent boys coming to grips with their sexuality—via tmn  

dark currents: a 1992 public access occult soap opera from Marrawamkeag, Maine inspired by Dark Shadows, Twin Peaks  

thimblerig: internet retailer’s financial shell game and predatory pricing enabled it to create an untenable monopoly not thought sustainable

Tuesday 27 February 2024

infinite improbability drive (11.386)

Via Kottke, we are directed to an interesting observation, theory by Lisa Riemers (an example of l'esprit de l’escalier—a stair-step realisation, the perfect reply that came too late—shared after a podcast recording) that technology has graduated beyond Star Trek-inspired hardware with tricorders, comms-badges, tablet computers—though we are still lacking the transporters, replicators, warp-travel and post-scarcity society—and is entering the Douglas Adams’ phase, when absurd tech calls for correspondingly absurd inventions. The super computer Deep Thought, in The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, which devised the Ultimate Answer, forty-two, but made no sense as the Ultimate Question was outside the scope of its programming, Electric Monks that did the believing for you to alleviate some of the tedium of it, the exceeding wealthy building custom planets, depressed robots and lab rats (hyper-intelligences in disguise) subjected to experimentation conducting research on the scientists all seem to have their corollaries in chatbot and AI trials, virtual boyfriends, unhinged and hallucinating large language models, rogue driverless cars and luxury doomsday bunkers. Maybe we have attained the Babel Fish / Universal Translator, however, but the verdict is still out. More at the links above.

Saturday 24 February 2024

cognitive offloading (11. 376)

Via Good Internet, whilst there have always been panics over new technological extensions of the human mind leading to decline and atrophy from platonic criticism of the written word to the “boob tube” to the toxicity and tribalism of the web, one researcher with the University of Monterrey fears that the capacity of artificial intelligence for mimicry goes beyond facilitating study and investigation with instant answers and unverifiable connections (possibly beneficial—yet to be seen and the verdict is still out—for navigating a native digital environment for things like programming and debugging and those onerous tasks, and jobs, that only exist because systems don’t talk to one another and integration is difficult) that might make us lazy and less critical but poses a real threat in supplanting our executive functions. Rather than stimulating and enhancing thought and examination, ready answers, verging towards dogmatism when it comes to nuanced and complex ideas, these shortcuts, short-circuits could make judgment and creativity an increasingly rare commodity.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

10x10 (11. 365)

royal mews: King Charles’ one of a kind electric Jaguar up for auction—via Miss Cellania  

ppe: the portable nuclear bomb shield, patented by Harold Tiff  

got clearance clarence: after embarrassing blunder over bad travel advice, Air Canada advocates personhood (and limited liability) for its chatbot customer representative 

1776 days: Julian Assange’s long detention and fight against rendition to the US for Wikileaks

that which you call hardee’s, we call carl’s junior: food deserts, prevalence and distribution of casual dining chains in the US 

tigers blood: new singles from Waxahatchee 

daddy daughter day: breakdancing, bitcoin father revealed as a veteran of member of the Christian Coalition and conservative speech writer 

the second in line: Swedish illustrator Mattias Adolfsson—via Messy Nessy Chic  

body armour: Casimir Zeglen, the priest who invented the bulletproof vest  

motorcade: Joe Biden’s Cadillac sedan for sale—via tmn


one year ago: artist creates a prosthetic extra digit plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: more links to enjoy, the subterrene (1972) plus The Shape of Things to Come (1936)

three years ago: introducing the Jeep (1941), a Nyan Cat NFT plus a suite of Japanese pictograms

four years ago: more mass-transit upholstery, RIP Larry Gordon Tesler who invested copy-and-paste, superannuated map styles, the possible extradition of Julian Assange plus the new US ambassador to Germany

five years ago: all the presidents’ meals, a secret meeting between industrialists and the Nazi government (1933), more links worth the revisit, the US emergency broadcast system (1971), vintages mazes plus the bokeh technique

Friday 16 February 2024

world simulators (11. 353)

Although trialled previously by other platforms to varying success, via Waxy, the new text-to-video generation models from OpenAI’s Sora does seem like prising open another Pandora’s Box. Producing rather crisp and wholly convincing clips up to a minute in length from prompts and instructions, a gallery of samples have been released and for safety and further testing, the vignettes were made by user’s within the company with the participation of a select few artists and cinematographers to assess its strengths and weaknesses. Currently there are no plans to release it to the public and given the pace of change, will probably be impressive for a very short amount of time, though checking out the videos I cannot believe what I’m seeing. Building from adversarial static that transforms over successive steps, the neural network, named after the Japanese word for sky to express its limitless potential, can also extend existing footage forward and backward in time and replace missing frames. The project however has shown difficulty with continuity, the physics of causality and knowing right from left.


one year ago: the tomb of Tutankhamun (1923) plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: BBS (1978), the moon of Uranus, traditional Japanese chess plus The Simpsons Sing the Blues (1991)

three years ago: more links to enjoy, another North Korean holiday plus Ladybug Ladybug (1963)

four years ago: jamming with barcodes

five years ago: imperial America, more links worth the revisit plus night-mode

Wednesday 14 February 2024

9x9 (11. 351)

planisphere: explore the fifteenth century Mappa Mundi—made by a Venetian cartographer and monk map who never left the lagoon  

high rollers: the character and history of burlesque shows  

robots.txt: a tiny text file that has been the underpinnings of the internet is unravelling due to AI 

a load-bearing day: the confluence of several celebrations, including Ash Wednesday (be furiousing rather than fasting), Valentine’s and the Luni-Solar New Year  

my unfortunate incarceration: the abundant prison-tech alliance is a brutal harbinger of what’s to come

bulletisation: the functional literacy crisis in reading comprehension—via the morning news 

service sector: some large companies requiring AI-informed personality tests for vacancy applicants  

disco vicar: some Anglican churches and cathedrals opening for parties  

news deserts: explore local journalism and those newsrooms hanging on—via Maps Mania

Sunday 11 February 2024

sweethearts (11. 344)

Our intrepid AI wrangler, Janelle Shane, repeats a battery of experiments—this time using magnitudes more computational power—by having Chat GPT-3 design those chalky conversation confectionaries with an inscribed message. Far from the quirkiness on order it seems to illustrate the struggle that machine learning has with text, even if more orthographically plausible, and labels but begs the question, even that chatbots are recursive and have probably mined data from Shane’s earlier popular iterations, if it is not drawing from those and influencing the outcome. “Soe Coed,” “I ll Sont, ” “Le Yas,” and “Lov Shov” are pretty good but nothing could ever top Mouthy Hamster.

Tuesday 6 February 2024

8x8 (11. 328)

the scholar & his cat: a resonant ninth century reflection by Pangur Bรกn 

bring your own beach owl: mimicry and semi-automated genre fiction—via Kottke  

riverwalk: a one kilometre-long museum that undulates with the reservoir it crosses in Shandong province

steelmaster: a 1966 office furniture catalogue  

television stone: the unique optical properties of the mineral ulexite 

๐Ÿ›‹️: the Eames Archive open to the public—see previously 

vesuvius challenge: a trio of researchers share the honorarium for deciphering charred scrolls from Herculaneum with the help of AI  

ombre: Alexander Pope’s card game


one year ago: Facebook’s social engineering experiments plus a ska version of the Tetris theme

two years ago: multiple zoom maps, Computerwelt, Sesame Street light jazz plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: quotation marks, Zardoz (1974), more links to enjoy, the founding of Liberia, I Ching in melting snow plus barbarian tongues

four years ago: Deciminisation Days, Trump acquitted, classical architecture plus photographer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore

five years ago: Anguilla independence, the Irish border, dress uniforms plus Orson Welles on creeping intolerance

Monday 5 February 2024

turned off (11. 326)

Via our faithful chronicler, we learn that on this day in 1969, one of the shortest-lived television programmes (see also), cut during its first and only broadcast with the time slot by some network affiliates filled by organ music, an emergency protocol that hadn’t been used in decades, Turn-On was summarily rejected for its language, quick-cuts and general poor taste. Conceived by writer-director Digby Wolfe (Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, That Was the Week That Was) and George Schlatter, the premise for the surreal sketch comedy series was, slotted as the replacement for Peyton Place, was as the first computerised television show with no sets except for a white backdrop and the troupe of actors to stage improv prompts generated by an artificial intelligence. Viewers were especially disturbed by the rapid-fire sensory assault consisting of experimental split-screens, puppets, computer graphics and stop-motion effects on the blank slate, as well as the Moog-synthesised laugh-track (the computer’s laughter) and the random appearance of production credits throughout the half-hour programme—rather than as an intro or outro. Not much different than than Laugh-In except in tone, Turn-On would probably sit well with today’s audiences.

Wednesday 31 January 2024

8x8 (11. 309)

that spells primbci: Neuralink begins trials on human volunteers—see previously  

infinite craft: drag and drop fundamental elements to make new materials, from Neal Agarwal—previously  

gboard caps: search engine Japan team designs a hat (ๅธฝใƒใƒผใ‚ธใƒงใƒณ) that types  

double feature: more command-line movies from ASCII Theatre—see previously  

once you pop, you can’t stop: the weird and secretive world of crisp flavours—via Present/&/Correct  

vier-tage woche: German companies experimenting with a four-day workweek to ameliorate labour shortages  

zetetic astronomy: a mid-nineteenth century experiment that spanned the Flat Earth movement  

beta-testing: a few well-reasoned counterpoints for the mechanical Turk hucksters and AI-evangelists

Tuesday 30 January 2024

that’s eliza with a z (11. 305)

We had seen this demonstration of the nearly six-decade old chatbot, a study of natural language interaction between a computer and humans, researched and published by pioneering informatics scientist Joseph Weizenbaum knocking about for about a week now and were intrigued by the therapeutic suspension of belief that came from these trials—and were appreciative of Messy Nessy Chic’s invitation to indulge it again—that’s how blogging works sometimes. Used as a heuristic tool from the late sixties, revived in the 1980s and recently pitted against large-language models, proving surprisingly robust in keeping up with the cutting-edge competitors, its handlers were just as shocked as they were when originally witnessing test-subjects convinced of empathy in their dialogue partner. Though the counselling approach was always emphasised—people want to impart and attribute feelings particularly if they feel heard, the ELIZA effect for the tendency to project human traits—but the programme and schema of pattern matching and substitution also played a role in the development of gaming interface and text-based commands. Much more at the links above, including video testimonials.

one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus the visual identity of the Duneiverse
two years ago: Bloody Sunday (1972), the first computer virus (1982), Steamed Hams as a text adventure, early airpods, root systems visualised plus Lady Gaga as mushrooms
three years ago: your daily demon: Andras,  another MST3K classic, cheese and magic, a classic from Journey, a Midcentury Modern vacation village plus Pigs is Pigs (1937)

four years ago: the latest batch of emoji, more links to enjoy plus a cryptic monument
five years ago: the Beatles’ rooftop concert (1969), more links worth the revisit, Dia de Saudade plus a composer’s gravestone

Sunday 28 January 2024

zombified by a thousand bots (11. 302)

Via Super Punch, we are referred to the sad insult waylaid on shuttered digital media outlets that are revived—due to a lapsed domain registration—by opportunists (in this case a Slovakian DJ who has bought hundreds of expired websites) seeking to cannibalise the defunct blogs for their reputation, longevity and wealth of backlinks and keeping them in circulation as a wholly AI-generated version of their former selves. Looking forward to their eventual distress and demise, media properties are advised to pay more attention to estate-planning to avoid this cruel fate and face regurgitation by the scavengers. This trend—and we’re sure we’ve not heard the last of it—sounds horrific, like seeing some veteran sites turned in on themselves and mirroring advice forums. More from Wired contributor (also a Condรฉ Nast publication) at the link above.

Thursday 25 January 2024

11x11 (11. 292)

liar’s dividend: digital propaganda and implausible deniability—via the New Shelton wet/dry 

working cows dairy: a collection of superlative cheeses—via Kottke 

the blazing world: a 1666 novel considered the first world of science fiction by a woman author 

everglades jetport: uncovering the ruins of a failed supersonic runway floundering in the in the Florida wetlands—see previously  

the furby panic: US National Security Agency compelled to release a trove of documents outlining their ban of the toy as a potential instrument of espionage—via Waxy  

press-gang: while most news outlets block AI crawlers used to scrape training data, right-wing media welcomes them—see previously 

mac@40: a website showing every model of the Apple computer as it enters its fifth decade  

winter in aizu: a woodblock series from Sosaku Hanga artist Kiyoshi Saito 

you are both so much more than kenough: Hillary Clinton weighs in the Oscar nominations for Barbie—via Super Punch  

time in a bottle: one bar’s water-clock has drained—though we’d not be adverse to a Harvey Wallbanger  

white stork: the Ukraine war-sandbox and the rise of the AI-Military Complex—see previously


one year ago: data-scrapping and copyright

two years ago: MediaWiki Day, more custom cars, Roman milestones plus an inexplicable fast food mascot

three years ago: your daily demon: Valac, assorted links to revisit plus the Torlonia Marbles

four years ago: vintage virtual dressing rooms, happy birthday Volodymyr Zelenskyy, more on the US Space Force plus Mendelssohn’s Wedding March

five year ago:  photojournalist Jessie Tarbox Beals, a Droste homage, more links to enjoy, a Trump associate arrested plus cardinal notions

Sunday 21 January 2024

stochastic parrot (11. 284)

Despite having encountered and cited the extremely apt coinage several times in various contexts beforehand, we realised that we never knew the term’s etymology—the leading part’s anyways—as coming from the Ancient Greek for something determined at random or derived from guesswork (ฯƒฯ„ฯŒฯ‡ฮฟฯ‚—also a pillar to prop up a fishing net to mend it) from the office of the stokhastes attempting to predict an outcome by divination, later coming to mean a probabilistic conjecture or augury by allocation. Though a good word of caution against mimicry and anthropomorphising, it does perhaps underestimate the faculties and experience of our feathered friends. More from Language Log at the link above.

Wednesday 17 January 2024

10x10 (11. 276)

durianrider and banana girl: a personal account of joining a fringe diet community and subsequent de-programming  

curricula: an archive of Japanese school books from 1898 

i’m feeling lucky: a mostly facetious collection of laws about discourse from Osmo Antero Wiio that posits that communication usually fail except by accident 

it’s not your imagination: research shows that Google search, overrun by competition for rankings, has gotten worse—along with other indexing engines  

flickr commons: sixteen stories for the image platform’s sixteenth birthday—via Waxy  

pps: Chuck Wendig warns against using AI to enhance one’s creative outlets

chevron v natural defence council: US Supreme Court posed to overturn a forty-year precedence on regulators and agency enforcement—more here   

rewatch: Netflix is airing a bevy of classic films, celebrating their milestone anniversaries 

reference desk: as part of an “inappropriate content review,” a US school district is banning dictionaries and encyclopaedias 

the ouroboros of the passive-income scam: an escape from a get rich quick cult

Sunday 14 January 2024

stepford authors (11. 265)

We really were in agreement with this comparison of AI plagiarism to the 1975 horror film premising that the human wives of Stepford, Connecticut are having their identities transferred to more able cyborg replicas (to excel at household chores, cooking, sexual acts) without all the shrewish, independent aspects of their personalities that make the slightest bit objectionable to their husbands, having dispatched their biological templates and replacing them. Substituting a human writer with a synthetic one, for the publisher—or any employer for that matter—strikes one as far less bothersome. Meanwhile, the tech giants’ behind large language models arguments for “fair-use,” that machines are digesting and learning from the written word in the same way human readers do and not merely copying them is keeping lawsuits at bay within a legal-framework wholly unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with wholesale violation and lacking attributions—insufficient to even form a rigorous standard to hold the robots to. 


one year ago:  the Human Be-In (1967), Davy Jones changes his professional name (1966), ten years of Question Hound plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: Davie Bowie’s Low (1977), a short by Gรฉrald Frydman plus training an AI on vintage Batman comics

three years ago: a celebration of donkeys, Trump’s second impeachment, Laocoรถn, the US Congress’ electronic voting machines, marijuana and the munchies, premium pluralisation plus more on snail compasses

four years ago: forty-five-plus years of Fresh Air, US-Iranian relations, for America, separation of Church and State is becoming blurred plus Germany’s Un-Word of the Year

five years ago: pop-up poetry, view from a bus plus Cherubrashka

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

Sunday 7 January 2024

ensh*ttification (11. 250)

As shared by Waxy, the venerable American Dialect Society, founded in 1889, selected as its Word of the Year (technically referred to in the broader sense as a “vocabulary item”) the coinage from Cory Doctorow used to describe, and perfectly encapsulate, how digital platforms degrade and become decrepit, following a tragic bait and switch trajectory of first being good and usefully, then abusing users by commoditising them for the sake of advertisers to finally abuse those sponsors and shunt value for themselves as a brand—to die the death. Among other contenders short-listed were ceasefire for those calling to stop the hostilities in Palestine, context for its invocations from university presidents on free-speech, Kenaissance for the depiction of the heroine’s companion in the Barbie movie, “let someone cook” as an urging to allow an individual to do something they are good at without interference and stochastic parrot for the tendency of language models to generate plausible text without any understanding. The jury also announced categories of most useful, mostly likely to succeed, such as a gendered-x, girl math, boy math and era defined as a personal period of defining style or behaviour. Their euphemism of the year nominees included effective altruism as a movement to benefit all of humanity but as an excuse to spend the money of others, and in the politics category, ๐Ÿ‰ (employed for the similar colours to the flag) was picked as a symbol of solidarity with the people of Gaza with hot labour summer in second place. More at the links above.


one year ago: close-up photos of the year, the US House of Congress elects a Speaker, a tiny generative remixer, Emperor Norton I plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: the Slovak gaming community, the Tokyo metro in real-time, Powers of Ten, St Distaff’s Day, more links to enjoy, Web 3.0 plus Macron’s vulgarities

three years ago: words that are their own opposites plus the introduction of DALL·E

four years ago: here come the seventies, an animated medieval songbook, the tattoos of a Danish king, fancy apple varieties plus covering GITMO

five years ago: more Japanese New Year cards plus more on the Year of the Periodic Table

Friday 5 January 2024

9x9 (11. 243)

sine cure: many jobs in the tech sector are busy work and inducements to stymie the competition—via the New Shelton wet/dry  

smooth operator: one-hundred eighty songs and other cultural touchstones turning forty this year 

shake your hips, puppet legs: a David Byrne dance tutorial—via Nag on the Lake  

crackberry: a physical keyboard attachment for one’s smart phone  

the rise and fall of ziggy stardust: the chance encounter with Vince Taylor, the inspiration for the David Bowie persona 

 long live friendship: the Cantonese version of Auld Lang Syne (see previously) performed at the handover ceremony of Hong Kong in 1997  

the (disco) sound of music: a Meco-like dance rendition of the classic tracks (see previously) from Sarah Brightman  

pole position: the Vectrex, the 1982 revolutionary but mostly forgotten video game console, gets a second look 

mobile aloha: an off-the-shelf, DIY robot that can perform complex tasks and chores—via Waxy


one year ago: US mid-term elections

two years ago: two Star Wars adjacent films set in 2022Twelfth Night plus building the Golden Gate Bridge

three years ago: Waiting for Godot, Moonstone plus an unusual patent-filing

four years ago: puffy planets, the asteroid Eris, mobile car-chargers plus Nazi name mandates

five years ago: notes on Dante plus animal sounds in other languages

Saturday 30 December 2023

nyordslistan (11. 225)

In a highly anticipated annual tradition, Sweden’s Institutet fรถr sprรฅk och flokminnen, the language council in collaboration with the magazine Sprรฅktidningen releases its list of neologisms for 2023—running the gamut of news and culture, the new entries range from AI-klonad (cloned) to barbenheimer with some three dozen others. The register features terms on a variety of topics including deinfluencing, cyberresiliens, situationship, longtermism, snikflation and nepo baby which are mutually intelligible as well as more native coinages like vild graviditet (wild birth referring to a trend of unsupervised pregnancies), tantparkour (aunt parkour, lighter physical training and obstacle courses suited for the elderly), bubbelhoppa (bubble jumping, to consciously change one’s environment to gain other perspectives on news events, politics and society), hyschpengar (hush money, prompted by the trials of Donald Trump and witness intimidation), kรคnslighetslรคsare, which looked at first by gaslighting but refers to those employed to proofread texts and highlight gendered or stereotyping language and evighetskemikalie, forever chemicals.