Wednesday 20 March 2024

toddy and crank (11. 437)

Via Nag on the Lake and Weird Universe, we are referred to a delightful reprint (circa 1941) of an advertisement for a Colonial Williamsburg public house called Chowning’s Tavern whose verso gives a scale of the temperance or intemperance of various potables from the drinks menu from 1789. “A moral and physical thermometer small beer, grouped with water and milk, disposes one to “Health, Wealth, Serenity of mind, Reputation, long Life and Happineลฟs.” Whereas Gin, Anniแบ›eed and Rum has the attendant vices of Swindling, Perjury and Burglary leading to the Diseases Dropลฟy, Madneลฟ and Melancholy and the Punishments of the Poor-houลฟe, Jail and Whipping. We are all on the spectrum and can have maladies without picking one’s poison—see if you can tag yourself.


one year ago: middling large numbers

two years ago: World Storytelling Day plus Easter origins

three years ago: Leipzig’s boy choir,  the science of pasta, Roman Emperor Thrax, reflections of dadaism plus St John of Neopmuk

four years ago: the Spring Equinox, assorted links to revisit, pandemic payments plus cats and dominos

five years ago: Bed-In for Peace (1969),  Apollo press kits, exercises in root system domestication, EU copyright reform, calls to expel the US ambassador to Germany, myth retold through physics plus creating landscapes with AI

Sunday 3 March 2024

hair of the dog (11. 397)

With aides believing he had been intoxicated for at least the week prior, drinking heavily throughout and downing at least three glasses of whisky or brandy the morning of the ceremony, vice president Andrew Johnson delivered his drunk inauguration speech on this day in 1865, witnesses describing it variously as rambling, repetitive and self-aggrandising. Kissing the Bible presented to him for the oath of office, Johnson was too incapacitated by the time in came to swear in the incoming class of senators. Upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln forty-two days later during his second term, Johnson ascended to the presidency, his challenges foreshadowed by this incident. Picking the populist Johnson as his running-mate was a concession to secessionists—the choice turned out to be a rather grave political miscalculation, especially for the post-civil war period of reconciliation and Reconstruction with Lincoln’s own request that the ceremony be delayed until state governments of the readmitted polities were fully operational. Officially trying to cover up his sprees by confining Johnson to his quarters and issuing statements regarding an unspecified illness but the truth soon outed itself. Escorted to the Capitol to be sworn in by the outgoing vice president Hannibal Hamil, Johnson implored the officiator for a stimulant, begging off that he was unwell. Hamil offered that he had prohibited the serving of whisky in the senate cantina but offered to procure him a bottle from an establishment across the street, downing tumblerfuls until time for the event. Though there is no surviving, verbatim transcript of the speech, those present were incredulous at the spectacle as Johnson berated them with an incoherent lecture on the executive branch’s power and called out several present with insults. Hamil finally was successful in getting Johnson to stop when it was past due for the swearing in of Lincoln.

Saturday 15 April 2023

8x8 (10. 676)

footprint: a sobering visual essay showing the deleterious impacts of cruises from Puget Sound to Alaska—via Things Magazine 

kitakyushu kaku-chi: a look into Japan hidden liquor shop drinking culture 

the wonderful world of tupperware: a vintage celebration of the storage solution’s storage solution as the company goes insolvent 

bea wolf: a re-telling of the epic poem for both kids and grow-ups  

influential flop: deconstructing the Apple Lisa—Locally Integrated Software Architecture 

great firewall: the US state of Montana moves to implement a ban on TikTok 

subcal: an exploration of the best of Tokyo’s fandom nightlife  

greenhouse effect: acknowledging the contributions of the mostly forgotten Eunice Foote, pioneer of climate science

Friday 16 December 2022

6x6 (10. 389)

third estate: Twitter begins suspending the accounts of many high profile journalists  

that went places: this wordless Scotch advertisement is really moving 

i love paris when it’s deco: revisiting the landmark Exposition Internationale des Arts Dรฉcoratifs et Industriels Modernes held along the Seine in 1925 

united states of pop: DJ Earworm (previously) remixes the year in music  

this christmas ad broke me: a somewhat cynical though more accurate seasonal supermarket commercial 

i expect these will sell out soon: Trump launches a collection of NFT trading cards



Friday 4 November 2022

8x8 (10. 271)

make it another, double, old-fashioned please: a definitive, festive guide to whisky cocktails 

born in arizona, moved to babylonia: a new book on the King Tut’s parents, Akhenaten and Nefertiti  

elf-on-the-shelf: the shrine to departed Dobby in a nature reserve can remain but visitors asked to refrain from leaving mementos  

planchette: the intersection between profit and superstition revisited with a look at the story of the Ouija borad—see previously  

toynbee tiles: an enduring urban myth—see previously  

they’ve got it all on uhf: Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliff appearing in musical biopic parody of Weird Al Yankovic (previously)  

palimpsest: peeling back the layers to rediscover ancient manuscripts recycled as early modern incunabula

limoncello: a doubly lemon aperitif in the ‘Amalfi Dream’

Friday 7 October 2022

la fin de la fรฉe verte (10. 201)

The production or sale prohibited until the first of March of 2005, as a result of a referendum that took place in 1908, absinthe containing thujone, wormwood was banned in Switzerland on this day in 1910, prompted by a rather sensational murder that made headlines all over Europe and informed and heightened a moral panic associated with the drink. A heavy alcoholic named Jean Lanfray, a labourer who worked at a vineyard in the canton of Vaud, murdered his family in a drunken rage. Though Lanfray drank up to five litres of wine daily and as a lunch time refreshment on the day of the violent killings partook of seven glasses of wine, six cognacs, a brandy coffee, two crรจme de menthes, then two shots of absinthe as a digestif after a sandwich, vintners were hoping to shift the blame squarely on the latter.

Tuesday 14 June 2022


exascale: the world’s super computer might be surpassing benchmarks in secret  

hub and spoke: a suite of interactive maps that lets one scour the globe with creeping data spiders  

viral nightmares: more trials of an AI text to image generator  

witkar: a ride-sharing demonstration projection that ran from 1974 to 1986 in Amsterdam  

the firth of forth: some of the world’s best bridges for driving  

whiskey war: the fifty yearlong territorial dispute between Canada and Denmark over Hans Island has been settled  

zeroth law: an AI ethicist believes Google’s LaMDA has attained sentience

Wednesday 1 June 2022

aqua vitรฆ

The first known documented mention of a batch of Scotch Whisky occurred on this day in 1495 as a Latin ledger entry in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland (Rotuli scaccarii regum scotorum, a collection of records from the twelfth to the eighteenth century of accounts, receipts and vouchers of the office of the comptroller) with Brother John Cor, a friar of the Court of James IV and likely apothecary, directed to make the libation from eight bolls of malt—about five hundred kilograms and enough to distill some four hundred bottles, a multitude of drams. The Latin for ‘water of life’ translates as uisage beatha in Scots Gaelic and over the centuries became the word whisky.

Friday 31 December 2021

old year day

With origins of the celebration unclear and etymology uncertain, Hogmanay (HOG-mษ™-NAY) rhyming with the last line of the post), now understood as the Scots word for the last day of the old year, is kept in a variety of ways with various local and family

traditions but most include the custom of gift-exchanges (usually symbolic ones like salt, coal, a type of fruit-cake called a black bun, a coin and uisge/whisky for security and prosperity) and visiting neighbours with special honours reserved for the first-foot (ciad-chairt or Manx qualtagh) the first guest to cross the threshold into a home on the cusp of New Years’s Day as presaging good fortune for the coming year. Traditional Hogmanay carols include Auld Lang Syne and “Haste ye Back”:

Haste ye back, we loue you dearly,
Call again you’re welcome here
May your days be free from sorrow,
And your friends be ever near.

Though not uncontested and to a degree fanciful, some linguists believe Hogmanay comes from the Norman aguillanneuf, dialectically hoguinanรฉ, which is itself a rebracketing of the Old French phrase “[A rendezvous] under the New Year’s Mistletoe”—another traditional present—Au gui l’an neuf! Haste ye back on friendship’s way.

Tuesday 17 August 2021


lowering the bar: a trial lawyer’s endorsement in a whiskey ad illustrates by-gone regulatory period in the US 

blotter art: an LSD museum in San Francisco 

spraycation: Banksy works appear at UK seaside towns Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft  

middle-age spread: comprehensive study finds metabolism stable throughout life and crashes after sixty—via the New Shelton Wet / Dry  

bureau of land management: a celebration of the striking landscape photography of Bob Wick  

o’zbekiston line: a tour of Tashkent’s underground galleries—see also 

 kriegswaffenkontrollgesetz: gentleman outside of Kiel fined for unregistered Panzer

Monday 26 July 2021

pluralia tantum

Existing only in the plural form, the term bibliobibuli was coined in 1957 by H. L. Mencken from the Latinate roots biblio and bibulous to call the set that read too much: “I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through this most diverting and simulation of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.” This harsh indictment applies it seems to those who with a slate of podcast subscriptions requiring listening to and catching up on. Now I feel personnally attacked.

Tuesday 6 April 2021

the antoinette perry award for excellence in broadway theatre

Founded by theatrical producer Brock Pemberton and namesake of the above director, actor and guild administrator who had recently died, the first Tony Awards ceremony occurred on this day in 1947 and are the fourth achievement of a EGOT—someone who has won all four industry honours, with the Emmy for a television role, the Grammy for musical accomplishment and the Academy Award (Oscar) for film.

They are the national equivalent of the UK’s Laurence Olivier awards (originally the Society of the West End) or France’s Nuit des Moliรจres. Held in the Waldorf Astoria, the prizes included a scroll of achievement, a cigarette lighter and an article of jewellery, with the Tony medallions not introduced until two years later. This first class of winners included Ingrid Bergman, Patricia Neal, Elia Kazan, Kurt Weill and the proprietor of Sardi’s restaurant for decades of unstinting hospitality for theatre people.

Tuesday 9 March 2021

show me the way to the next whiskey bar

Premiering on this day in 1930 at the Neues Theatre in Leipzig, the sartorial opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht (previously) Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, set in the fictive city in America and recounting its rise and fall, it is seen as a critique of the Weimar Republic through the allegorical lampooning of the US mediated through the German perspective. The complex orchestral scoring references jazz, ragtime and a repertoire of counterpoint, particularly in “The Alabama Song,” covered decades later by the Doors and David Bowie. Though the two-and-one-half hour long show in three acts did go on, the performance was disrupted by Nazi party members in the auditorium and was banned outright from 1933 onward with no performances restaged until the 1960s.

Wednesday 9 September 2020

hans รธ

Namesake of Hans Hendrik, Arctic explorer and Kalaallit interpreter, whom in Greenlandic was called Suersaq, the small island (Tartupaluk, รŽle Hans, แ‘•แ•แ‘แธแ“—แ’ƒ) in the Nares Strait with no permanent human presence is disputed territory, claimed by both Greenland (and Denmark which represents the autonomous realm in foreign affairs) and Canada.
While the legal status of Hans Island does carry consequences for the range of both countries territorial waters in terms of drilling and fishing rights and negotiations continue, practically it is administered as a condominium—with the imaginary border bisecting the island and delegations from Canada and Denmark periodically visiting, upsetting the opposing flag and depositing a bottle of signature libations for the trouble, waging a “whiskey war.” More to explore at Messy Nessy Chic at the link up top.

Sunday 14 April 2019

barbed whiskey good and whiskey straight

Via our fabulously peripatetic friends Nag on the Lake and Miss Cellania, we are regaled with one of Botnik Studios (previously) latest endeavour—though perhaps not of the same calibre of the algorithm that’s recently been awarded with a record deal, at least not yet—a collaboration between human singers and a robot songwriter, trained on all the popular tropes of Country and Western music, has resulted in a catchy but non sequitir number called “You Can’t Take My Door.”

Monday 14 May 2018

saor รณ dhleacht

Having passed through the gates of Shannon Airport ourselves a few times, we found it quite fascinating to learn that the terminal in western Ireland on the river’s estuary was home to the world’s first duty free shop and will be sure to make special notice of it next time around.  Planet Money fills us in on the life and times of consummate hospitality professional and marketing expert Brendan O’Regan (1917* - 2008 †) whose talents intersected with the limitations of early trans-Atlantic air travel and recognised a business opportunity.
After realising the popularity of Irish Coffee (his first contribution to the world), O’Regan catered to regular arrivals of weary, battered travellers whom had just made the rather arduous hop from North America to Europe and had to land at the first opportunity or were outbound for the same daunting journey, since early planes lacked modern amenities and range and had to make landfall at the first and last opportunity for re-fuelling—which Ireland geographically availed herself of—and saw that his rather captive consumers, elite jet-setters to a person, whose money was burning holes in their pockets, and O’Regan wanted to alleviate their boredom on this layover leg of their trip. Referencing an ancient custom still codified in the law books of allowing sailors to purchase booze without taxes if it was for export and personal consumption, O’Regan successfully pled his case to the Irish government in 1947 to allow him to experiment with an exercise that undercut the government itself by not collecting taxes and losing out on revenue with the promise that by showcasing local items, keepsakes and souvenirs including speciality Irish whiskeys—and manufacturing provenance after a fashion—at a discount, the scheme would encourage local tourism and more than make up for lost revenue on the trinkets.

The model was an instant success and proliferated quickly to airports worldwide—then cruise ships, border-crossings, etc. with some products, like Toblerone (previously) owing its cosmopolitan success to careful product-placement in duty-free stores. O’Regan’s third act was as peace ambassador, helping to end the strife in Northern Ireland and promoting cooperation between Ireland and the UK.

Tuesday 1 November 2016


Vice Magazine interviews neuropharmacologist and addiction expert David Nutt who has spent the past two years developing a “chaperone” drug to introduce to the public that will replace alcohol, by imparting the good effects of drinking without the most delirious ones.
Dr Nutt had been pondering the idea for some time previously but did not have the medicinal tools at his disposal until a recreational chemist accidentally created what’s being called alcosynth and subsequently donated the formula to science. Dr Nutt predicts the demise of traditional booze within decades and will have his first field trials in Germany soon—due to the UK’s drug protection laws stymie research and distort social harms.  What do you think?  Will this catch on or become the disdain of purists?

Thursday 10 September 2015


you know that’s Cyndi Lauper singing: a look into the making of the opening of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse

of all things the measure is man: an open letter to the Internet of Things

your hit parade: Kottke looks at the reemergence of the cover song and the throwback economy of imitation

bus stop sally: wonderfully bizarre public transport shelters of the USSR

tipple: specially designed snifter for enjoying a fine beverage in a micro-gravity environment