Thursday 16 May 2024

10x10 (11. 562)

crimes of atrocity: a long, dense episode of -ologies with Alie Ward on the hugely fraught and difficult subject of genocide with a powerful and circumspect post-script 

airoboros: artificial intelligence trained on AI made content is becoming highly problematic and only compounded—see previously  

the city on the edge of forever: public portal linking Dublin and New York City suspended after inappropriate behaviour  

palmerston’s follies: two maritime forts off Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight that have been converted into boutique accommodations go up for auction  

the deuce: the Greek grandmother who built an adult entertainment empire in Times Square before its Disneyfication 

foot on the gas: the inevitability of the climate collapse and humanity’s capacity for adjustment  

⌘ |: the lost history of pre-internet emoji and rendering software—via Waxysee previously 

flashing headlights: the giant Dana squid’s photophores in attack-mode  

eternal return: cosmic cycles and time’s resurgence  

first-day agenda: how Trump is framing his vision for a second-term


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus a visit to Arnstadt

two years ago: St Brendan, more links to enjoy plus the Electrotechnical Exhibition of 1891

three years ago: a classic from Kim Carnes, a language quiz, more links worth the revisit plus an ancient action figure

four years ago: more Trump’s Space Force, birdhouses, the stress of social media moderation, a medieval manuscript game plus a musical typing tutor

five years ago: GenX, consular services at McDonalds, soliciting grievances, Japanese mascots plus office equipment

Sunday 23 July 2023

twilight zone (10. 900)

Via Boing Boing, after going up on his space elevator, Neal Agarwal invites us to scroll down from the ocean’s surface through the pelagic zone through the midnight zone to the dismal seabed and explore with the denizens of the deep, like the cosmopolitan sixgill shark that spend their days at depths of seventeen hundred meters and their nights in swallower waters and the so called headless chicken fish that’s a sea cucumber with wing-like fins that propel them through the dark at nearly three thousand meters below or plunge to the ultra-abyssal hadal zone (the adjectival form of Hades), inaccessible places in the deepest trenches that have had fewer visitors than have been on the Moon.

Friday 3 March 2023

8x8 (10. 585)

subway tycoon: design one’s own fantasy mass-transit system  

the myth of sisyphus: how the curse really plays out—via Super Punch  

time slider: a stupendous digital clock

antechamber: authorities announce the discovery of a hidden passage in the Pyramid of Cheops found with muon tomography 

facetune: a 1976 patent-application for a dressing mirror with dials to adjust one’s figure 

llm: prior to the emergence of ChatGPT and its kind, researchers developed the Octopus Test as a heuristic to explore the limitations of AI communication  

handmade holograms: DIY 3D etchings labyrinth: introducing the fifteen-hour city—see also

Thursday 16 February 2023

8x8 (10. 551)

§230: US Supreme Court reconsidering foundational regulations and their application to algorithmic recommendations  

pole position: researchers propose adding a fourth white light to traffic signals for self-driving vehicles—via Kottke  

the master of the countess of warwick:unveiling the artist responsible for this Tudor-era aesthetic 

ฦ›cdm: massive blackholes might be the source of the mysterious dark energy that causes the Cosmos to expand 

side hustle: professional comedians are increasingly turning to babysitting to supplement incomes, find source material—via TYWKIWDBI  

leviathan: in search of the giants of the deep 

future tense: the wow list of architectural wonders—including the City—for 2023, via digg 

samuel alito’s mom’s satanic abortion clinic: facility, named in honour of the woman who birthed the justice whose opinion overturned Roe v Wade, is the first based on religious principles

Sunday 4 December 2022

mary celeste (10. 360)

The American-registered brigatine, sailing from New York to Genoa was found (see also) by fellow Nova Scotian vessel Dei Gratia on this day in 1872 in the waters of the Azores, mysterious abandoned and remaining an enduring conundrum. One lifeboat missing but still well-provisioned and sea-worthy—with her cargo of rum untouched—the salvage proceedings held in Gibraltar following recovery entertained a range of possible explanations from mutiny, piracy to giant squid attacks and paranormal interventions but no theory was ever confirmed nor were the missing nine crew members ever found. Following the hearings and under new ownership, the ship was wrecked deliberately in Haiti in an attempt to collect on insurance fraud. Legendary fodder for myths, her fate was sealed with a treatment by Arthur Conan Doyle with a fictitious accounting from reportedly the ship’s surgeon—one statement by J Habakuk Jephson—among many other alleged survivors of this ghost ship.

Saturday 26 March 2022


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

Saturday 12 June 2021

so many women. he invents so many disguises to seduce them. sometimes a swan or a bull, sometimes a shower of gold. why, he once tried to ravish me as a cuttlefish.

In general release in US theatres (2 July for the UK) on this day in 1981, Desmond Davis’ Clash of the Titans is loosely based on the myth of Perseus (see previously) and features creature effects from Ray Harryhausen with an all-star ensemble cast including Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Siรขn Phillips, Neil McCarthy and Pat Roach. To punish the Argon king after banishing Danaรซ and her infant son (see above), Zeus orders Poseidon to release the last of the Titans, the Kraken, to destroy Argos. On a quest to rescue Princess Andromeda, betrothed to the monstrous Calibos, Perseus is given a series of divine-crafted gifts to gain standing as a legitimate suitor to break the bond. 

Unable to exact revenge directly on Perseus as a demigod and favourite of Zeus, the maritime contingent of the Olympians plan to send the Kraken after Andromeda’s land, Joppa—to which the princess offers herself as sacrifice to save the city. Perseus embarks on a journey to save his fiancรฉe, aided by more gifts from the gods including the mechanical owl Bubo that Athena commissioned from Hephaestus rather than give up her own favoured owl (which some considered a knock-off of R2D2 though the creators insist that the concept predated Star Wars), by deducing how to defeat the sea monster with the severed head of the gorgon Medusa.

Tuesday 23 March 2021

release the kraken

Though popular culture dictates that the head of Medusa was retrieved for one specific purpose, another variant myth has Perseus going through the ordeal as a sort of fool’s errand, with King Polydectes of the island of Seriphos wanting to rid himself of an over-protective son after he became enamoured with Danaรซ after she and Perseus were salvaged by the king’s brother the fisherman Dictys (this aprotonym means Mister Net), the king of Argos Acrisius having cast his daughter and the infant Perseus to sea in a wooden chest to avoid the prophesy that he would be killed by his grandson. Polydectes announced his betrothal to a certain Hippodamia and ordered everyone in his kingdom to supply him with suitable wedding gifts, mostly on the registry were horses but Perseus came late and was assigned by his presumptive step-dad the head of the gorgon after bragging he was fit for a task so demanding. Perseus departed on his quest and Polydectes proceded to woo Danaรซ who tried her best to reject his advances. Using his shield as a mirror to avoid the gorgon’s gaze, Perseus slew Medusa and returned to Seriphos. Disbelieving that Perseus accomplished this trial, Polydectes demanded to be shown the head, which Perseus produced at court, turning the king and his nobles into stone and rescuing his mother. As for Acrisius who banished mother and son and exiling them to the elements, the old king did eventually die at Perseus hand albeit an accident when he was hit in the head by a stray discus that Perseus threw during a tournament.

Friday 21 September 2018

no hypnosis like a mass hypnosis because a mass hypnosis isn’t happening

Part of their growing Dial-a-Song repertoire, “Lake Monsters” by They Might be Giants is set to a cute music video crafted by artist Hinรฉ Mizushima with stop-motion needlepoint and embroidery. The song reminded me of MST3K’s Kaiju Rap. Learn more about the band’s projects and the artist at Laughing Squid and at the links above

Monday 8 May 2017

release the kraken

Revisiting the topic of persuasive maps, Hyperallergic has scoured the huge online archive of the PJ Mode Collection of Cornell University for examples of cartographic cephalopoid and explores the motif of the land octopus as a common trope of creeping geopolitical menace. Beginning with caricaturist Fred W Rose’s 1877 depiction of an expansionist Russia as a global threat, the tentacles, most maps reflect the fears of competing Great Gamers, but some also address social matters, like this 1909 map of London that extols how high property prices creates unemployment.

Sunday 25 September 2016

mare incognitum

Beforehand I had heard of how map-makers have historically staved-off others appropriating and copying their survey work by inserting made-up avenues (trap-streets) or frivolous features, knowing that if these decoys were present, their competitors were simply stealing from them.
I never knew that this geographic bait was sometimes preserved with intention and out of a sense of tribute and tradition, as was the case with Hy-Bra∫il (named after the home of the ancestors of one of Ireland’s legendary clans), a phantom island that drifted on charts between Ireland and North America over the course of nearly five centuries. Other spurious islands usually only survived one or two iterations of mapping, the false information quickly dispelled, but Hy-Bra∫il remained from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century in some form or another.  With Atlantis lost, perhaps in this Age of Exploration, navigators needed some immaterial goal to sustain them on their journeys—something elusive, which supposedly only emerged from the mists once every seven years and even when visible for that one fateful day, was forever just beyond the horizon. Maybe the Bermuda Triangle is heir to that tradition.

Friday 11 April 2014

pelagic or teuthology

During the golden age of exploration—which continued charting well into the early twentieth century—most notable were expeditions to the ends of the earth, planting flags at the poles, however one adventurous researcher cast his ambitions towards an unknown middle-distance, under the waves.  Restricted to plumbing the depths from the surface, Carl Friedrich Chun launched an excursion on the steamship Valdivia from the port of Hamburg to explore the deep seas.  The zoologist and resident expert in marine biology (a teutholog is one who studies cephalopods, octipuses, cuttlefish, nautilus and squids) at the University of Leipzig contrived new ways to fish for specimens and bring his haul to the surface.
True to the mission and cutting the figue of a Jules Verne character, the voyage rounded the southern cape of Africa and made calls in the South Seas before heading into the subantarctic (below/above) region.  Collection efforts were difficult, as many of the strange and never before seen monstrosities harvested disintegrated due to having adapted to the great pressures of the deep, and most samples, like the anglerfish, with its lantern and gaping maw, defied study and classification for years, unobserved in their native environment.  Chun, however, does have several new creatures credited to his name, including the vampire squid (from Hell), so called for its black cloak that draped its tentacles, arrayed with spines—and outfitted with night-lights.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

kraken or there be dragons here

The Big Think, a surpassingly excellent curator for unusual examples of cartography, has a thoughtful piece on political satire, not such subtle ones, and portrayal of maps with anthropomorphism and zoomorphism. Going by national symbols alone, one would have a whole motley herd of eagles, lions, bears, dragons and griffons, but we also have these geo-political works of art that betray sentiment and fears. One of the more utilitarian propaganda monsters has been the land octopus, the kraken, an unappeasable force of nature that is a bigger threat than caricatures of kaisers and ministers. A lot of different countries, not just Russia and its successors, have assumed these writhing tentacles and it is interesting to reflect on these allegorical portrayals and meaning behind them--like in this map from the collections of Bibliodyssey. United, more or less under shifting regencies, Europe was often depicted as the Queen of the World, Europa Regina. I am sure that along with all available map-making precision at the time, a lot of thought, slights and glories, went into every feature. I cannot fathom the symbolism and deferring nature of this language but I hope we retain the ability to interpret the subtle and the dense and multi-layered.

Karte oft ungewรถhn-licher Kartographen und Satirikern finden in The Big Think blog, und in der jungsten Ausgabe befinden sich ein nach-denklich Artikel รผber vermenschlichter und zoomorphischen Figuren der Karten. Anstatt nur nationalen Symbolen--die Lรถwen, Adler, Bรคren, Drachen, Griffins--gibt auch die festlandlich Krake, auf Gefรผhl und Angst hindeuten. Die pur Naturgewalt--der Kraken--ist Propagandamittel und mehr bedrohlicher als politischen Karikaturen. Nicht nur Russland sondern auch vielen anderen Lรคndern dargestellt mit Auslรคufern war. In der Vergangenheit gezeigt Europa so wie eine Kรถnigin. Das ist sehr komplex und vielschichtig. Hoffentlich kรถnnen wir weiter solche Sinnbilder und Symbolismus schรคtzen und verstehen.