Tuesday 25 July 2023

7x7 (10. 905)

home taping is killing record industry profits: the 1981 moral panic over mixtapes  

lisa lionheart: labour force participation through the many careers of Barbie  

swipe left: patrons of 1920s Berlin nightclubs could flirt via pneumatic tubes—via Messy Nessy Chic  

the rivers and harbours act: Texas Department of Justice sues governor for refusing to remove a stretch of buoys that violates federal and international law—see previously  

sickbay: the Pirate Surgeon’s Journals—via Strange Company  

comeuppance: it’s time for the annual census on the River Thames—see previously 

a lot of skill, hand-eye coordination—it’s cheap and legal: video arcade addiction was seen as a threat to prevailing social values in 1982


one year ago: Ullapool and environs plus Wester Ross

two years ago: a colour advertisement on black-and-white TV (1967), Einstein on the Beach (1976), Thomas ร  Kempis plus a mosaic along the Thames

three years ago: Trump’s mental fitness, proto-Wikipedia (2000), more on the US Space Force, St Cucuphas, Nixon in China vis-ร -vis today’s relations plus more on stock characters and archetypes

four years ago: RIP Rutger Hauer plus a doctored presidential seal

five years ago: a neo-classic Delphic festival (1927), a student project that may have unwittingly identified targets of value in the Gulf War, anti-social media, Mid-Century Modern minimalism plus the hunt for subsurface water on Mars

Saturday 16 October 2021

st. gall

Traditionally counted among the twelve companions of Saint Columbanus on his mission from Ireland to win converts in the lands of the Franks—having been ejected from Gaul where they first landed by local chieftains who wanted nothing to do with Christianity—Gallus (*550 - †646) is venerated on this day. Patron of geese, poultry and birds in general (for no particular reason) and St. Gallen, the saint’s rather complicated iconography relates the legendary encounter he had with a fierce bear, who was said to be terrorising the local settlement as well, in the woods. The holy man rebuked the bear for its behaviour and compelled it thereafter to gather firewood and became Gall’s trusted sidekick.

Wednesday 1 September 2021

vacancy announcement

Via Curious Brain, set for a fresh challenge with an exciting new career opportunity? Check out Cygnus Jobs 4 U today and see if you’re ready to join our team.

Thursday 8 July 2021

your daily demon: ipos

This twenty-second spirit governing from today through 12 July presents in the form of a chimera described as having the body of a lion with the head and talons of a vulture, the feet of a goose and the tail of a hare, a fearsome earl commanding thirty-six legion. Giving good counsel on things to come, he imbues wit and charisma, Ipos is sometimes conflated with the ancient Egyptian jackal-headed Anubis (originally Inpu), god of the dead, protector of tombs and ferryman conveying souls to the Underworld, and is countered by the guardian angel Yeyayel.

Thursday 27 May 2021


Spotted on Super Punch, a wildlife rescue sanctuary in Somerset in southwest England is using IKEA shopping bags to gently restrain swans for transportation and to keep staff safe, prompting a range of new names for the FRAKTA sacks such as the above, BYRDKONTAIN, ODETTEHOLDUR, SVANESร…NG, Pร…SFร…GEL—the penultimate suggestion being actual Swedish for Swan Song and “Bag Bird” a near homonym for pรฅfรฅgel, peafowl—and others.

Monday 5 April 2021


snuggling cygnets: avian photography of the year, also known as b-poty for short—via Colossal  

untitled pizza movie: documenting change in New York City slice-by-slice  

aqen the ferryman: Cairo hosts a parade for a score of royal mummies moving to a new museum—via Super Punch  

salvator metaversi: art historian turns supposed last Leonardo into an NFT to help out the family who sold it to unscrupulous art dealers 

theatre of machines: intricate gear illustrations from Agostino Ramelli (see also here and here)  

scenes from a mall: footage from the Southdale Centre’s grand opening in 1956  

knock knock: a swan terrorising a neighbourhood in Northampton—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links

Sunday 10 January 2021

captain l'audace

Featured as the cover link of Nag on the Lake’s Sunday round-up (much more to explore there) we appreciated being acquainted with master of the disaster sketch Walter Molino (*1915 – †1997) whom excelled at illustrating dramatic near-death experiences and whose commission for a 1962 edition of an Italian weekly—the same publication that engaged Molino regularly, illustrating future visions which from our present (May 2020) looked quite prophetic, though this premonition made no reference to social distancing and pandemics.

Also contributing to comic books, his flair for the dramatic, style which references celebrities that the readership would recognise and subject matter recall a couple other pulp artists (here and here) we’d had the pleasure of learning more about recently. Much more snakes on trains, violence, wild beasts, natural disasters, omens, crashes (a fighter jet into said locomotive), armed pets and daring rescues at the links above.   

Tuesday 17 November 2020

hugh of lincoln

Venerated by the Catholics on 16 November and the Anglican church on this day, and arguably the most popular English saint after Thomas ร  Becket, the bishop and Avalon native established the first Carthusian charterhouse off the mainland in 1179—financed as part of the penance of Henry II for the murder of Becket in lieu of going on crusade, and is considered the patron of the sick, shoemakers and swans—the iconography and associated legends stemming from his lasting friendship with a swan from the village of Stow, who was very protective of Hugh (see also) and would attack any strangers that approached him and guarded Hugh when he slept.  

Thursday 8 October 2020

ducks unlimited

Via Super Punch, we learn that in order to meet a federal mandate issued by the Trump administration in May that the US Fish and Wildlife Service make permanent the theme of “celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage” and thus require the inclusion of hunting paraphernalia in the art works submitted for its popular annual “duck stamp” contest.

Purchased primarily by bird-watchers and conservationist, the yearly licensing image has generated revenues in excess of a billion dollars since the 1930s to purchase and protect habitat for wildlife by the service and many are afraid that the politicising, shift will alienate contributors. Submitting artists have found subtly cartoonish ways to insert spent gun shell casings, discarded duck-calls, etc. in their work.

Friday 18 September 2020


From the editors of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there is a new podcast series entitled Words Matter that features some serious logophile conversation about linguistics, usage, semantics and etymology that’s rather brilliant. 

A recent episode presents us with a discussion, a treasury of “aggressive useless” obscure words—like the above, which means “producing geese” dating back to the strange idea that water fowl were generated out of barnacles—and in a more generous, wider sense suggestive of, as is the case with peristeronic. Do look up the episode and subscribe and foster some of these superannuated words. We also enjoyed the separate discussion of another word, jentacular, and a derived term, antejentacular—pertaining to breakfast generally, particularly one taken just upon getting up. The latter refers to something prior to said repast, as in “Would you care to have an antejentacular coffee with me?”

Sunday 6 September 2020

frรคnkische schweiz

Located in the uppermost pocket of the Franconian Jura and originally bearing the name the Muggendorfer Hills, we had the privilege of touring the region previously “rediscovered” and romantically marketed at the end of the eighteenth century by a couple of law students from the University of Erlangen who wrote about enthusiastically, followed by a 1820 volume by a local historian who coined the new endonym die kleine Schweiz and now had the chance to see it again for a few fresh impressions over the weekend.
First we entered in County Kulmbach the market town of Wonsees with its medieval Felsenburg (rock castle) Fortress Zwernitz, hewn into the dolomite stone, originally the family seat of elevated peasants called the Walpoten—a so-called ministerialis line, that is serfs raised up as servitors and agents into positions of responsibility within the class system of the Middle Ages.
While not technically free and independent, these families held social power and could cultivate their estates and pass along their wealth to the next generation, with equal status accorded to men and women.
Beneath the tower and keep is a seventeenth century cliff garden called Sanspareil landscaped around some strange rock formations and with oriental follies—reminding H and I of the gardens at Veitshรถchsheim or Schwetzingen.

Next, following the Burgen- und the Frรคnkischen BierstraรŸe (the region having the one of the highest concentrations of traditional breweries in Europe) we came to a village called AufseรŸ, named for the stream that flows through it, dominated by a castle and chapel with a clutch of some pretty fancy chickens in the property opposite the courtyard who were eager to have their pictures taken by us paparazzi.

With a few detours through Plankenfels and Waischenfeld, we stopped at Burg Rabenstein—a well-preserved Spornburg, a spur castle which is constructed where natural topography aides in its defences that also featured a quite good restaurant, a dripstone cavern and a bird-of-prey demonstration. The intact castle is one of the best conserved—most are ruins but romantic ones—along the route and was originally also in the capable hands of the Rabenstein ministerialis family, who were eventually able to buy the property and ennoble themselves. The castle appears as the main stage for the 1995 wildly popular PC game Gabriel Ritter sequel “The Beast Within”—I was not familiar but I think it was like the equivalent of the King’s Quest saga.
After securing a campsite (we had miscalculated a little and instead of the season’s end like we thought it was busier than expected) in the Veldensteiner Forest outside of Pottenstein, we returned to GรถรŸweinstein with its Burg and basilica minor designed by Balthasar Neumann as a pilgrimage destination.
Our last stop on the way back to the campsite, we drove back through Pottenstein and visited the town, crisscrossed by canals, more fowl not shy of the camera and a row of sleeping ducks (I did not know they did this) and dominated by towering karst towers.
The town is absolutely awash with roses of all sorts; learn more of the story behind that and Saint Elizabeth of Thรผringen at the link up top.
We looked at the rock formations from another perspective in the Tรผchersfeld neighbourhood of Pottenstein on the way out of Little Switzerland and on our way home.
While not on the itinerary, our last impression for this visit was of the ruin of Burg Neideck, towering above the Wiesen river valley and considered the icon of the region, just outside of the town of Muggendorf

Tuesday 1 September 2020

divinisation or pompatus of love

We enjoyed reading this short, collective hagiography that profiles several saints named Hyacinth, including one from Fara: “A martyr about whom nothing is known,” but we were more intrigued by the footnote for namesake flower (Giancinto, Jacinto, Hyakithos) and its mythological origins in a handsome Spartan prince and his fatal love-triangle.
Hyacinth was the lover of Apollo, but he had the attention and advances of a host of other suitors including the famous Thracian singer Thamyris, Zephyrus and Boreas—respectively the West and North Winds. Hyacinth preferred the company of Apollo and together in a chariot drawn by swans, they had adventures. While playing a round of frisbee (discus), Hyacinth was struck in the head and perished, the eponymous blossom rising up where his blood was spilled—a trope appropriated by Christianity as a symbol of renewal. Devastated Apollo blamed himself but there is strong suspicion that the winds conspired to punish the prince out of jealousy, and the god wanted himself to become mortal to join him after his healing powers failed him. The Spartan month that coincided with early summer when the flowers bloom was named in his honour and included three days of festivities. Hyacinth was eventually resurrected and joined the pantheon of the gods. This attainment of godhood is apotheosis and usually in Antiquity heroes were accorded local status alone, whereas in Imperial Rome, a deceased ruler was generally recognised by his success, decree of the senate and popular consent—though some ridiculed this practise as it also included the corrupt and inept—satirised by referring to the tradition with another Greek borrowing apocolocyntosis—that is, pumpkinification with accompanying lampoon that features Claudius and Caligula in the underworld.

Sunday 19 July 2020


Via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump, we learn that for only the second time in living memory (there was a partial cancellation in 2012 due to extreme flooding), the census—called the Upping of the Swans taking place along the River Thames during the third week of July, an ideal time before the cygnets mature and the cobs (see previously) are themselves moulting and flightless—has been called off entirely due to social distancing measures. Dating back to time when swan husbandry and ownership counted and the birds were roasted for special occasions, the landed gentry employed wranglers to mark the beaks of their birds with a special, distinctive pattern (nowadays they are ringed for study and entry into an ornithological database, much more humane than the earlier filigree)—as all unclaimed mute swans were property of the Crown, see also. Learn more about this event at Spitalfield’s Life at the link above.

Wednesday 15 July 2020

tempio dei dioscuri

On this day—the ides of July, fulling a tribute pledged for a decisive military victory for the young Republic in rebuffing the forces of the exiled king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, and his allied forces in the native Latin tribes during the Battle of Lake Regillius made by then dictator Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis (his surname a consequence of the conquest), one of the consul’s sons was appointed magistrate (duumvirs) to dedicate the temple to Castor and Pollux, the twin half-brothers—Castor’s dad the mortal, Tyndareus, king of Sparta but Pollux was the son of Zeus who had seduced their mother Leda in the form of a swan (some accounts have him or both born from an egg and is a classic example of what’s called heteropaternal superfecundation, albeit in divine form like the Capitoline Wolf that reared Romulus and Remus) in central Rome in 484 BC.
Reportedly the brothers appeared on horseback in the midst of battle and fought ably for the Republic. They reappeared after the fighting was over to herald victory, watering their horses at a fountain in the forum called the Spring of Juturna (Lacus Juturnรฆ)—well before the news could be borne by mortal feet, and the temple was built on that spot. Only the distinctive three columns remain though the cult was spread through the empire and other sites are extant. The Dioscuri were transformed into the constellation Gemini so the twins would not be separated in death and were the siblings of twin sisters, Helen of Troy (possibly also ab ovo since the paternity of Helen was also the mighty Zeus) and Clytemnestra.

Friday 10 July 2020

unter dem burgen

The site of our last night of camping along the Moselle, guarded by a host of more manky swans, was in a village called Burgen beneath its namesake ensemble of a chapel and eleventh century fortification, Bischofstein, on the west bank of the river perched on a steep mountainside—though folk hagiographies place the castle back to a legendary time some six hundred years prior as the palace of Bishop Nicetius of Trier in the times of the Merovingian court (as opposed to the stronghold of the archbishops of Treves as it is believed historically to be) as a bulwark to protect trade and traffic in the region.
It was destroyed and rebuilt at least twice and exchanged hands many, many times—most recently to a business magnate from Darmstadt as a summer home and was purchased in 1930 (granted protection status as an example of interior design of that decade rather than as an eight-hundred year old castle) with refurbishment beginning then but was never occupied, the castle seeing incarnations as a sanatorium for returning soldiers and then as a safehouse for refugees. In the mid-1950s, it was purchased by the alumni association of a prestigious gymnasium in Krefeld, near Dรผsseldorf, as a retreat for students and a place to hold their class reunions and host other events. The tower’s white ring are the remnants of a plaster coating all but washed away by centuries of weathering, but local lore has all sorts of explanations, including that it indicates the high water mark for a particularly catastrophic flood.

Monday 6 July 2020

entlang die mosel

Underway for a local excursion for a few days, we headed to our first overnight destination, secure but still cautious that the camping set and those who run campgrounds are among the most conscientious about hygiene, shared spaces and consideration for one’s neighbour—and indeed everyone was adhering to the rules set forth and all activity was chiefly in wide open spaces with ample distance apart, other than this manky swan that was keen on showing off his ballet moves, and managers, as ever, were studious about taking the information of the guests in case of the need to do contact tracing.
En route, we stopped at Burg Thurant overlooking the village of Alken on what’s referred to as the Terrassenmosel (the terraced Moselle).
The double castle of slate and stone dates from the thirteenth century and was a condominium with lands claimed by the archbishoprics of both Trier and Kรถln—with a line running through the structure to designate each side, and to this day is still a private joint residence of two families.
After getting encamped on an island in the river outside of the town of Hatzenport, which looked at first to be more crowded than it turned out to be with the outward facing shore lined with trailers and awnings set up for longer term occupants but were still vacant—these Potemkin villages were common at all the sites who were seeing as expected a lot less business—we visited the ancient town of Mรผnstermaifeld, dominated by a massive minster (from the corresponding Latin for monastery), the Franks having arrived in the area centuries after the Romans vacated and built the church around the ruin of a Roman fort.
Our last site for the day was a hike to see Burg Eltz (previously) from a distance and marvel at the well conserved castle, one of the few on the left bank of the parallel Rhein river and still owned and lived in by members of the same family—the thirty-third generation since its construction in the 1100s, with some of the wings (there are several branches that own the castle jointly, an arrangement called a Ganerbenburg where no single line is responsible for the upkeep alone, and also a tactic by an overlord to prevent vassals from becoming too powerful ) open to the public with treasure and art on display.

Sunday 7 June 2020


From a concerned citizen, we learn a new bit of slang with the intensifier derived ultimately from the Latin mancus, which also lends us maimed, mutilated and mangled that signals something unpleasant, dirty or disgusting.
The bigger story of course behind this errant graffiti tag in a park in Edinburgh besides the etymology is that the swan is somehow taking it as a personal affront and wants to shield his cygnets (the article goes on to identify the father, a cob—the name of an adult male from the Middle English word cobbe for group leader, whereas an adult female is called a pen, as their plumage made the best quills and hence the writing implement) from such language. Across the Atlantic, the similar-sounding janky refers to poor quality or unreliable objects and has an unknown origin—perhaps from junky.

Sunday 30 August 2015

dodona and di-oscuri

In one of its latest acquisition released for all, the Public Domain Review presents the 1898 illustrated ethnographical exposition on bird-watching in the Bird Gods by Charles de Kay with decorations by George Wharton Edwards.  The book opens with a strong injunction against those who’d seek to preen their own image with furs, skins, plumage and big-game trophies, written at a time just after the herds of buffalo were wiped out in North America and about a decade before the passenger pigeon went extinct and goes on to address the cultural and religious connotations attributed to auguries in action and in their natural habitat.

Pigeon-fanciers might already be in the know when it comes to the extensive catalogue of metaphorical associations (a truce) connected with this breed of bird, but the notion that dovecotes are allegorically thought to represent the treasury of souls in-waiting (a containment unit) was new to me, as well as the personified traits given to all the fowls of field and forest—like woodpeckers as locksmiths and by extension, SWAT teams, crows as tailors, the cuckoos as manifestations of foundlings (Young Arthur being nicknamed Egg), or that placing an oath upon a swan (compare the old-timey expression I swanny or the German saying, “es schwanet mir”—it makes me shudder, like saying someone’s walking on my grave carries an obligation to be true to one’s word, since the graceful birds are known for being discrete and mute, except for the occasional hiss and honk, they’ll confess all during their swan song, its final dirge. Be sure to check out the Public Domain Review’s extensive archives and well-curated collections for more forgotten treasures.