Friday 24 May 2024

internal audit (11. 580)

Our trusty AI wrangler, Janelle Shane (previously) vents her frustration over a shared lament that many artists, marketers and prompters—to the point where close enough is good enough—are experiencing with generated images. Often times tantalised with results that are preternaturally approaching the desired outcome, asking for an edit with a minor detail results, yields instead a completely different picture, ruining the assignment over a small and clearly articulated revision. I suppose AI doesn’t have object permanence despite the fact it clearly remembers, and this limitation is a strong argument for engaging a human artist who can understand one’s notes. More at the links above.

Tuesday 26 September 2023

dank meme (11. 024)

We’ve already witnessed how accomplished artificial intelligence can potentially be at generating fake news and history with persuasive confidence, and our trusty AI wrangler (see previously) is uncovering another insistent unreality in the form of trolling chatbots and calling on them to delivery a summary or explanation of a cultural happening that didn’t actually happen. This experiment demonstrates the chasm between human requestor and their synthetic correspondent, which is seeking information versus predicting a plausible outcome. These examples are pretty innocent and fun but underlie something a touch sinister when one can be served an account that never occurred. 


one year ago: Knight Rider (1982) plus an asteroid deflection test

two years ago: the Free City of Christiana (1971), Biosphere 2 (1991), more McMansion Hell, an AI names supermarkets plus Germany votes

three years ago: assorted links to revisit plus the photography of Robert Bechtle

four years ago: Trump’s “perfect call,” communal housing in the capital of Greenland plus the science vessel formerly known as Boaty McBoatface

five years ago: World War III narrowly averted (1983), Trump at the UN General Assembly, the Afrofuturist art of Bodys Isek Kingelez, more on the Hyperloop project plus Gilligan’s Island (1964)

Monday 28 August 2023

spotless (10. 969)

Taking advantage of the extremely rare, possibly singular birth of a female reticulated giraffe with a plain brown coat (the usual pattern is not camouflage but a system for heat regulation), our resident AI wrangler (previously) posed to a range of platforms the question of what is unusual about this particular specimen, identified correctly taxonomically in most cases but failing to recognise what was unique about it—illustrating a few caveats: the trope of illusionary giraffes (see previously here and here), the benchmark of bias and the champions of machine learning have a vested interest in promoting their best work.

Tuesday 7 February 2023

giraffe confidence 43% (10. 532)

Without the need for camouflaging ones face so far, an Italian textile firm introduces a line of disruptive knitwear to safeguards ones biometrics, pitting AI against AI with adversarial patterns and patches designed to draw attention away from one’s face and other recognisable features, classifying a human with some other disposessing taxonomy before attracting too much notice.


Saturday 27 June 2020


We’ve seen the built-in bias on display of this neural network application that turned a pixelated image of Barack Obama into an avatar that presents as pretty Caucasian, and Janelle Shane (previously) does a really good job at unpacking what’s going on here with our own tendency for pareidolia codified and amplified.
Not only is the algorithm informed by representation (and under representation) which is highly problematic and is something that the industry desperately needs to redress lest machine learning become the next commercialised embodiment of unreliability, the artificial intelligence delivers what it’s rewarded for delivering, be that a human face or a serviceable suspect that complies well enough with a blurry or grainy image. Thankfully most of the leaders in this sector, faults and all, are taking a pause in sharing their technologies with bad actors, including law enforcement agencies. The application cannot recover details that do not exist—only invent them based on what’s been judged plausible.

Monday 6 April 2020

this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none and that’s it

Via Memo of the Air and Miss Cellania, we tuned to one of the latest, hilarious nature documentaries from Ze Frank (see previously here, here and here) giving us a thoroughgoing education on one of our favourite even-toed ungulates, the giraffe. Check out the source links above for more things both for your distraction and edification.

Thursday 29 September 2016


Via the always entertaining Everlasting Blรถrt comes a gallery of early contenders for the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, a competition celebrating the amazing diversity and overwhelming silliness of the animal kingdom. Begun just last year and hailed with much fanfare, the competition also benefits the Born Free Foundation, which works to keep wildlife in the wilds. The 1 October deadline for entrants is fast approaching for those shutter-bugs out there.

Monday 29 August 2016

a moveable beast

Via the enchanting Messy Nessy Chic, we are treated to the rare sight of antique taxidermy specimens from Bergen’s Natural History Museum (the historic Hanseatic trading houses of the Bryggen port are the second from the bottom), as captured by photographer Helge Skodvin, as they are carefully moved to temporary quarters while the museum undergoes extensive restoration. The whole menagerie is really a delight to peruse and this undertaking reminds me of how the first provisional government of West Germany was convened in the Zoological Museum of Bonn, with a similar assortment of creatures in the gallery, as many were too big or delicate to move.

Saturday 17 October 2015

giraffe, erdmรคnnchen & co.

Parallel to the much celebrated and intensely competitive Wildlife Photograph of the Year run through the auspices of the BBC and the London Natural History museum, nature-photographer Paul Joynson-Hicks had the idea to capture the more candid side of the business with his “Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.” Spiegel features a funny slide-show of some of the best entries, and the contenders are sure to ratchet it up for next year’s competition.

Sunday 27 September 2015

day-trip: bonn

As H was away this weekend for a conference in Berlin, I thought it would be fitting for me to take a trip to the other Federal City (Bundesstadt), Bonn, former capital of West Germany, to scout out the area. Before coming to Bonn, on the Rhine’s southern reaches of megalopolis of the industrialised Ruhrgebiet and surrounded by the Siebengebirge—the seven verdant peaks with picturesque valleys, I stopped in the vineyard village of Kรถnigswinter and climbed the first ascent of the Drachenfels, the dragon cliffs.
There was a funicular train or donkeys for hire for journey but I passed those to try the steep hike myself. It was very beautiful with the Post Tower of Bonn’s skyline already visible and a host of castles and fortifications hewn out of the mountain-face but on this day, I only wanted to make it to the first station and hold off on exploring the whole trail until we could see it to together. Having learned about this strange attraction quite by accident and then having planned this little trip, I could not skip a visit to the bizarre, Art Nouveau temple to composer and myth-maker Richard Wagner, the Nibelungenhalle, dedicated in 1913 by a devoted fan-club on what would have been Wagner’s hundredth birthday. The interior included a lot of documentation apologising for the “Swastika” motif—explaining it was ancient Germanic rune and had a series of murals of the saga of the Ring Cycle.
The woman at the counter turned on the music after I had come in—being the first visitor, I suppose, and there were a lot of random, non-contiguous artefacts present that made me think of the curating work in the museum of the Colossus of Prora which was a lot of fun to try to unravel but I suppose sadly it’s not there any longer since there converting the Nazi resort to luxury apartments. After viewing this altar, one was to walk down through an artificial grotto (which was a little a frightening because it was not illuminated although one could see the way out ahead, one had to trust that the path was manmade and free of obstacles) that led to a small garden and then quite inexplicable to a good old-fashioned roadside reptile farm, with lots of anacondas and pythons curled up and rest and a couple of lively crocodiles.
I walked back down to the Drachenfels base camp and proceeded on to the main attraction, Bonn, only a few kilometres away. Bonn was chosen to be the capital for symbolic reasons, a small city and not the nearby Kรถln or Frankfurt or Hamburg that might have seemed more reasonable, because Berlin, east and west, was enshrined as the true capital and the situation was understood as only temporary.
Had a larger, more prominent city been created as the West German Hauptstadt, then Berlin might have lost its rightful place, though the temporary situation lasted for over four decades. Also the industrial heft of the Ruhr region and its natural resources was a point of contention just after the war. I enjoyed a very nice stroll along the Rhein and up and down the length of Adenauer Allee, the once and present corridor of power and governance, with six federal offices still stationed along this boulevard and venue also to the representative second residence of the Chancellor and cabinet.
The route paralleling the river, begins with the castle since turned into a university and concludes with a United Nations campus housing nineteen institutions. In between were the former residences of the chancellery, which were disappointingly inaccessible it seemed—although I was excepting to be able to traipse through the rumpus-room, I did think I might see the bungalow up close and not through a fence with bales of razor-wire. I also passed the zoological museum that hosted the Bundesrat and Bundestag for the first few years of the provisional government.
A stuffed giraffe and other taxidermical creations were witness to proceedings as they could not be removed from the gallery without being decapitated. Despite not having access to the halls of power, it was nonetheless, an interesting experience to reflect on everything that had transpired on this one street. Aside from the secular, recent history, I was surprised to learn of Bonn’s religious connections and significance as the seat of the archdiocese and did not have the wherewithal to explore the old town too much—there was some festival that rendered the market-square pretty hectic and crowded—but it did of course seem worthy of further investigation, with Beethoven’s home, its Roman origins and fortification and many corporate headquarters as a sign of homesteading in the former capital as prognosis for what’s yet to come.

Sunday 23 August 2015

lunchtime safari oder it takes a village

Just south of the looming skyline of Frankfurt am Main in the foothills of the Taunus lies the Opel Zoo, founded by automotive magnate, benefactor and animal-lover Georg von Opel near the brand’s first factory complex in Rรผsselsheim in the early 1950s as originally a research facility and preserve that grew around Opel’s own country villa. The word village, incidentally, is derivative (and not the other, self-sufficient way around) as the community of logistic-support for whatsoever great house. The inability of the municipality to care adequately for a trio of adopted circus elephants began the whole enterprise, which would evolve to save some species, like the Mesopotamian fallow-deer from extinction—though no longer extant in the wild.
I told H that I was happy to have the chance to see my people again so soon and we trekked through scores of installations, all expertly maintained and strikingly spacious and appropriately interactive, with swarms of hungry, tame goats to navigate through. Mostly we tried to pose with the inmates to our mutual success but the habitats constructed and selection in this Tiergarten was quite impressive, the whole menagerie seemingly at home and adapted to German climate—not because it’s gotten hotter and more sultry here but rather as a model of sustainability and accommodation, which is no small feat, especially for a small, private endowment.
There were parallel ranges for familiar creatures, like foxes, elk and deer with giraffes, camels and bison. Raccoons, mongooses, pythons and company, too. We had a bite to eat that surveyed the whole park below at the end of our little safari. The zoo was certainly worth the visit and I hope there’s more places like this—independent and impassioned because the difference is telling and appreciable, to discover and explore.

Friday 9 August 2013

speakeasy or mayor mac cheese

Via Slate Magazine, we find out that the kids' menu is not merely an extension of the atavism of adult palettes—to the same level of maturity for refinement, or an attempt to inculcate young and impressionable adherents but rather come from a strange mix in America of medicine, morality and marketing.

Prohibition really opened the doors to the younger crowd and created the concept of the family restaurant. Prior to America's ban on alcohol consumption, restaurants not embedded in a hotel generally did not serve children—a phrase from whence similar punchlines stem, because they tended to be in the way and interfered with the imbibing of adult-beverages, still today any restaurant's biggest profit-maker. In order to make up for lost revenues, restauranteurs looked to catering to family-units. Unaccustomed to making dining out an experience for the youngsters too, parents needed to be presented with a certain level of reassurance, a fare for children that seemed safe and balanced, given all sorts of fretful ideas swirling with nutritional and age-appropriate foods. Compared to the gourmet dishes adults were served, kids got basically bland and safe concoctions—nothing to inspire returning when they reached dining majority, the meals were dictated by the prevailing pedagogical thoughts of the times—nothing too challenging or threatening for immature tastes nor anything indulgent. I wonder how the consequent moon-shining affected the public psyche.  The industry trend has shifted these days to a denominator of guilty-pleasures, it seems.

Friday 25 November 2011

neugier or random walk

I tend to think the trending now sections of some web sites are pretty vacuous and off-putting, and whenever I glance a celebrity name, I always wonder who died, and I don't think that embedding a social media ticker, a feed that aggregates all and sundry over buzzwords yields much in the way of insight, an invitation to engage, or a point of departure for learning more. Those, I think, especially gum up the smooth operation of the internet. That being said, I do enjoy peeking at my own daily statistics, which Blogger compiles fairly astutely. Aside from visitors' locations and traffic sources, one also sees (without necessarily triangulating everything, but I suppose that's why there is a word from my sponsors on the side bar) the search terms that brought them there--mostly by accident rather than snare, I'm sure. Strange and funny combinations come up sometimes, and it is interesting to see how the apparent randomness is anything but, so I guess it's a good thing that I wrote about (some of) them and can maybe deliver what they were looking for.

  • donkeys in pajamas
  • heraclitus meme
  • architectural bird house
  • heisenberg vanity license plates
  • mri scan
  • christmas giraffe
  • euro eypo
  • confusing dial
  • cheese venn diagram

Tuesday 22 December 2009

laudable ennumerations

Even before the tree has had a chance to dry out and shed its needles or we have had a chance to plan for New Year's, the agents of recognition are out on the prowl, deciding what are the superlatives of this past year, and ten is the standard unit, even if it takes some reaching and duplication to come up with that many.  Top 10 movies, top 10 economic stories, top 10 memoriable moments, top 10 disasters, top 10 inventions--and the self-referential bunch, top 10 episodes, top 10 doctor's visits, tops, flops, and other sundries.  In some cases, they are even trying for the whole decade, not the roaring Aughts, but the ten-year span between 1999 and 2009.  It's nice to remember cultural currency but not when it's this fresh.  2010 must be an Aught too.