Monday 22 July 2024

tron/troff (11. 710)

Via Slashdot, we are directed towards a reflective essay from Harvard Computer Science professor Harry R Lewis, whom taught both Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, positing the two enduring lessons of technology: be careful what you ask them for and it can be hard to tell what they are doing. Gleaned already back in the mid- to late-1960s when electromechanical computers were far from inscrutable, prior to miniaturisation of circuits, Lewis, through switches and dials, learned how to listen to machines to not only diagnose problems but also, with careful attention (see also), to know if a programme was going to deliver reliable results and goes on to address the doubly blackboxed array of algorithms and lickspittle mimicry of artificial intelligence by never bypassing human judgment from the parameters and recognising that the humanities don’t provide ready answers but rather better informed questions and lines of inquiry.


one year ago: Mary Magdalen (with synchronoptica)

seven years ago: assorted links worth revisiting,  a challenging diplomatic mission plus a history of ink

eleven years ago: a toy drone

fourteen years ago: a storied Berlin discothek plus a Bulli cake

Wednesday 17 July 2024

amusing ourselves to death (11. 699)

Using the 1985 bestseller by educator Neil Postman, which draws on the dichotomy of the dystopian futures envisioned by George Orwell in 1984 and Aldous Huxley in Brave New World with the public stripped of rights by totalitarian governments in the narrative of the former and people voluntarily self-medicating and foregoing their liberties in an induced and voluntary state of blissful ignorance in the

latter, Boing Boing contributor Mark Frauenfelder presents an analysis of this dilution, delusion of news, culture and politics repackaged as commodities in our present forms of media, our soma. Presentation and format—“the medium is the metaphor,” see also—makes everything entertainment and a passive and non-critical one at that, written at a time when another celebrity held the office of US president, impressed on the general psyche not in words but in glancing television images and photo opportunities and carefully staged soundbites. Frauenfelder’s excerpts, like the below citation are addressing the fragmentation-effect of network news but accord perfectly with social media as well, TikTok substituted here:

“Now … this” is commonly used on radio and television newscasts to indicate that what one has just heard or seen has no relevance to what one is about to hear or see, or possibly to anything one is ever likely to hear or see. The phrase is a means of acknowledging the fact that the world as mapped by the speeded-up electronic media has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously. There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly—for that matter, no ball score so tantalising or weather report so threatening—that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, “Now … this.” The newscaster means that you have thought long enough on the previous matter (approximately forty-five seconds), that you must not be morbidly preoccupied with it (let us say, for ninety seconds), and that you must now give your attention to another fragment of news or a commercial.

Much more at the links above.

Sunday 14 July 2024

the great white way (11. 691)

Via the New Shelton wet/dry, we are directed towards an interesting biography of the individual, coining the above nickname for Broadway in 1901 due to its dazzling electric lights, responsible for the spectacle of Times Square, OJ Gude. Taking advantage of the accident of civil planning that had created a bowtie-shape with the intersections of 45th Street and Seventh Avenue that was an ideal amphitheatre for showcasing the energy and dynamism of commerce and advertising, Gude designed many of the flashing, animated billboards that fill the skyline. This theatre-in-the-round upstaging the playhouse-district put the show on the periphery for a captive audience of consumers, who couldn’t ignore the advertisers’ messages, was a bit of promotional genius, the tradition upheld for over a century, with Gude’s salesmanship directly behind many of the iconic and colossal displays. More at the links above.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

dis-disgruntled (11. 623)

Via Slashdot we learn that the investment holding company Softbank, after a three year study into the feasibility of “emotion cancelling” technology, it has introduced a trial of AI-powered voice-conversion routines into its call-centre operations in aims to reduce the psychological stress incurred by those phone-bank employees worn down by hostile clients, transforming angry tones into more pleasant and calming ones. What do you think? This one-sided conversation wouldn’t seem to de-escalate matters—like a troll that didn’t realise they were muted rather than blocked and I have wanted to disengage from plenty of calls and do funny voices in my head sometimes to take the edge off and things rarely get confrontational—but the software supposedly maintains a restrained level of dissatisfaction and urgency to ensure that the operator takes the cues. The system will also terminate calls that go on for too long or become overly abusive.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

hyperpleasures (11. 619)

Via tmn, we are introduced to the rising scaffolding in part underpinning the architecture of choice in off-the-scale experiences by default—and not just the dopamine of accelerated gratification—and how if a nice stroll spoilt by accompanying it with the yammer of a podcast, for example, it is not only the product of immersive and unrelenting technology as a vehicle to deliver constant entertainment and distraction and a means to avoid interaction with one’s immediate environment, but rather a decision informed by our minds and evolved reward-system, absent real dangers or discomforts that turn towards the cheaper easier and higher ranking pleasures. Whereas a quiet walk in nature might rate a reliable 10/10, it cannot hope to compete with a exponentially higher experience of listening to whatever one care to or doomscrolling, and it’s not an unexacting feat to claw oneself away from, coming down from giddy heights and back to the solid but small and ordinary, especially when a genuine social experience demands the responsibility and focus that might be marks against it. Cushioning ourselves from those attendant discomforts, moreover, helps us delude ourselves into thinking that our connected activities are a way of making and maintaining social connections when their real function is quite the opposite, it seems.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus the US supreme court on self-incrimination

two years ago: ET (1982), more on Magnus Hirschfeld plus Nordhein vor dem Rhรถn

three years ago: your daily demon: Botis, more links to enjoy, a Surrealist exhibition plus the Geometry of Circles

four years ago: a papal decree, slow adoption of US constitutional amendments, more links worth the revisit, Nordic flags, Juneteenth, the Los Angeles Free Press plus more Bardcore

five years ago: even more links to enjoy plus beyond the pale

Wednesday 5 June 2024

8x8 (11. 608)

i’m too busy helping plot world domination to bother with such run-of-the-mill liberal brainwashing: a day in the life of Mister Anthony Fauci, according to one Congressional representative  

syllabus: a reading list spanning nine-decades—via Messy Nessy Chic  

psychotronics: the prospect of telepathy is once again tantalisingly close—see previously  

foreign accent: TWA’s 1968 campaign to introduce cosmopolitan flair for US domestic flights  

zoonotic: cross-species viral transmission cases is an ominous warning for the public health community—see previously  

the rot-com bubble: the deterioration of tech began with iterative, virtual fetishes—starting with the gig-economy, moving on to crypto, NFTs, the metaverse and now AI, substitutes and replacements that no one asked for 

anagnosology: the science of reading from Alie Ward

look at me, i’m mtg, lousy with stupidity: one of the latest from Randy Rainbow


one year ago: The Truman Show (1988) plus a follow-up on an Italian archaeological discovery

two years ago: Uncle Albert (1971) plus a selection of British tongue-twisters

three years ago: a preliminary report of the disease that would become known as AIDS (1981), St Boniface, a sophisticated place name generator plus disco lessons

four years ago: generative copy, assorted links to revisit, a zany public service campaign plus a classic from Crash-Test Dummies

five years ago: US national park typography, the palette of dying coral plus clearing up space junk

Wednesday 22 May 2024

permalink (11. 573)

Cory Doctorow presents a winsome and circumspect consideration of the recent survey of the internet’s perishable nature and how a figure approaching forty percent of websites, news articles and government websites have no legacy and succumb to linkrot—with reference sites particularly left untethered from their original source material—not withstanding preservation efforts through his personal and persistent practise of keeping a daily journal—an indexed memory of associated thoughts and connections that harkens back to earliest theories of informatics—and making the process public. One’s own record is of course an aid and antidote to the peekaboo when neglect and decay follow creative collaboration and the context, steps and milieu all slip away and a heuristic to gauge the sad truth that institutions and archives are brittle, gearing more towards discovery and derivation rather than rediscovery and reflection. More from Pluralistic at the link up top.

Monday 20 May 2024

i am disappoint (11. 569)

The always interesting Language Log introduces us to a class of typos with two-subsets that we can find very relatable and gets the onus of the blame when conducting a bit of post-publication proofreading: completion errors, when typing or writing (there is both a motor-mechanical and muscle inertia in effect) starting out with one intention and an intrusive ending inserts itself, and capture errors, an action slip when a reflex behaviour creates an unwanted parallelism. What’s a sticky key you’re vexed by? Surely beyond spoonerisms such slippage happens in speech with frequency and I wonder how too such intrusions are compounded—or not—by auto-complete.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

asemic writing (11. 560)

The above describing wordless or meaningless text intended to invite the reader to divine a message through the symbolisms rather than to convey a message—though these carefully recorded compositions that suggest mathematical and chemical formulae certainly encoded a meaning that was perhaps only known to the artist—and could be certainly applied to the verisimilitude (see also) of the collected works of outsider artist Melvin May, a bassist who returned to New York City to study informatics but his career path was sidelined by a schizophrenia diagnosis and subsequent drug use, landing him in a men’s shelter on Randall’s Island whilst seeking treatment. Way’s discipline was discovered through art workshops sponsored by the shelter, dense and intricate sketches with ballpoint pens committed to found scraps of paper, often carrying around works-in-progress on his person, protected with a layer of scotch tape. More on this retrospective—and sadly posthumous by only months—and Way’s life at Hyperallergic at the link above.

Monday 29 April 2024

kenshล seikatsu (11. 523)

Listening to a re-run of This American Life on human spectacle introduced with widespread delusion of being an unwitting main character in a simulation, articulated by The Truman Show, the first segment “I am the Eggplant,” about an individual conscripted into a very public psychiatric experiment—that because of its vintage, really went from one extreme of the panopticon to the a much darker, tortured place with several addenda. The Nippon Network’s reality game show Susunu! Denpa Shลnen (้€ฒใฌ!้›ปๆณขๅฐ‘ๅนด—Do Not Proceed, Crazy Youth!) that aired from 1998 to 2002 was wildly popular and known for putting participants in rather extreme and absurd situations, and among the best known long-running contests (unbeknownst to the player) was called Prize Life, that recruited, abducted a young, aspiring comic called Tomoaki Hamatsu, nicknamed Nasubi (ใชใ™ใณ, eggplant) owing to his long face, after winning a drawing for a “show business related job” who as his reward was challenged to live in an apartment with no possessions (including clothing, which was censored for the audience with a strategically placed digital ๐Ÿ†, hardly compelled to be modest since he did not know he was being live-streamed the entire time—wondering if that’s the origin of the emoji’s double-meaning) or food and no contact with the outside world (see also) for fifteen and could subsist only from his “winnings” by from mail-in sweepstakes from magazines. These prizes turned out to be rather useless but after fifteen months in isolation (moved from an apartment in Japan to an identical one in Korea by the producers to keep the location hidden from the paparazzi) his winnings finally amounted to enough a million ¥ , to be declared victorious. Reality television has been a mainstay of entertainment for the past twenty years but the disorientation, disappointment and the glib cruelty made me draw comparisons to Squid Game. A feature documentary is about to be released on Nasubi and his ordeal but you should listen to the interview and thematically related acts first.

Sunday 21 April 2024

the waiting room (11. 504)

After learning that director David Lynch (previously) designs furniture as a hobby, Milan Design Week curator Antonio Monda invited him to create an installation for Salone del Mobile—delivering A Thinking Room whose patterned floor evokes the Red Room, an extra-dimensional antechamber accessible through Twin Peaks’ Glastonbury Grove. Whilst meant to be meditative, following Lynch’s practise, the space is also a refuge for relaxation and reflection. Anticipating the demand, two identical rooms were built, according to designer’s specifications, in the historic Piccolo Teatro. The branching metal rods radiating from the oversized wooden are not connected to anything, though perhaps metaphysically, and most of the choices in elements are left unexplained.  Read more from Dezeen at the link above.

10x10 (11. 503)

knock, knock, knock—who’s there: the authorship debate between William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson over the joke format  

charlotte braun: the untimely demise of the Peanuts’ foil to Charlie Brown 

yay, newfriend: more on the ELIZA experiment and AI paramours 

io: Juno space probe reveals a gigantic lava lake on the Jovian satellite’s surface 

he mad: Trump has to sit quietly through court proceedings 

occult chemistry: a 1908 theosophical text by Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater with diagrams by Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa 

captive market: private equity comes after US prison commissaries 

democracy dies in darkness: news media and the paywall dilemma 

the colour of pomegranates: more on Armenian filmmaker Sergei Parajanov 

is this a red flag: the Jane Eyre edition


one year ago: more efforts to offset Labour Day plus a hitch-hiking companion on a Martian rover

two years ago: another classic from Prince (1985), the burial place of the Red Baron plus Disney and the culture wars

three years ago: the Tomorrow Show with special guest, duplexes in the Rรผhrhgebiet plus a mystery photo

four years ago: the Principality of Hutt, the founding of Rome (753 BC), a curatorial showdown, MS DOS coding, oil prices go negative, Texas exploits a crisis plus the Sabre Dance

five years ago: Easter greetings plus a return visit to the Völkerschlachtdenkmal

Wednesday 17 April 2024

metaphysics of quality (11. 495)

Finally published after receiving one hundred twenty-one letters of rejection for the manscript, the fictionalised autobiography of author and philosopher Robert M Pirsig recounts the seventeen day cross-continent odyssey with his his son as a vehicle to reconcile and reconnect with his past self, driven insane by speculation on the nature of the Good and subjected to electro-convulsive therapy which irretrievably changed his personality. Pilgrims who trace his journey from Montana to California can pay homage to the motorcycle subject to repair, newly acquired by and on display at the Smithsonian. Along the way, the unnamed narrator encounters a foil in a friend who chose not to learn how to care for his expensive bike, hoping for the best but relying on professional mechanics when things do go wrong, and in contrast is able to trouble-shoot his ride, a comparative jalopy—framing the trip with many dense and introspective discussions on knowledge, belief and value—and argues persuasively that one can accept, embrace the dichotomy of the rational and romantic (like Nietzche’s Apollonian/Dionysian division) to avoid falling into gumption traps, the motivation that drains enthusiasm, reinforcing reluctance to change and adjudge situations as they come with less pragmatism. The discursive diary of ideas was for a generation a way to bookend the counterculture movement and temper some of the exuberance and idealism, like the schism in the narrator’s own mind, and function and flourish in a world beset with rules, norms and progress. Pirsig offers the disclaimer that, despite the title, his work should “in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practise. It’s not very factual on motorcycles either.”


one year ago: Bavaria wants to bring its nuclear power plants back online

two years ago: more on interstellar interlopers, Dolly Parton wardrobed like Easter eggs plus assorted links worth revisiting

three years ago: more links to enjoy, Zalgo text plus a UFO sighting in Aurora, Texas (1897)

four years ago: more links worth revisiting, an observation confirming the Two Body Problem, some sporting music plus the invention of hiking as a pastime

five years ago: even more links to enjoy plus the World Chess Association logo

Tuesday 16 April 2024

hearts and minds (11. 494)

An 1959 early spring testimony before an American senate subcommittee on the effects of “Red China Communes on the United States” by an Asian correspondent for the Miami News intent on self-promotion and advancing a misinformed pet theory firmly solidified the neologism of brainwashing (with derivative terms) as common political parlance. The deposition by the reporter turned propagandist (alleged a covert CIA agent) against the spread of Communism convinced the public and policy-makers that the Chinese (and others) had devised a scientific method for turning people’s love and allegiances, allegedly uncovering the method of “mind-attack” and their word for, “brain-washing.” The original term xวnวŽo (ๆด—่…ฆ, “wash brain”) was employed to describe the coercive persuasion used by the Maoist to integrate more reactionary members of society and was a popular pun, not an official policy or approach, on the Taoist custom of xวxฤซn (ๆด—ๅฟƒ , “cleaning the heart and mind”) with both understood to be something more akin to enlightenment, disabusing and not the reprogramming or deprogramming that captured the American public, with the help of the journalist’s tract, other reporting and films and television as well as the Zeitgeist of the Red Scare and sinophobia, fears that loyalties were susceptible to nefarious and scientifically compelling influences that caused collaboration and defection. For all the pseudoscience and propagandising, brainwashing did fill a linguist and psychological lacuna, a gap that was packed with the attendant moral panic and supposed countermeasures with psychological warfare and the rise of home-grown, domestic cults that subsumed what they purported to prevent. More from MIT Technology Review at the link up top. Why don’t you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?

passerine dream (11. 493)

Via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links, not only do we learn that our avian friends also dream, singing silently in their sleep, but researchers are able after a fashion, to decipher these nocturnal rehearsals by carefully monitoring unconscious muscle contractions along a bird subject’s vocal tract, akin to eye-movements during REM sleep, amplifying and correlating the series of calls with observed behaviours. These dream sounds, using a Great Kiskadee (pitogue, bichofeo—a member of the tyrant flycatcher family and named onomatopoeically for its exuberant call, bien-te-veo or “I see you well”) from Central and South America for the study, suggest that the specimen was replaying a daytime territorial defence with an encroaching intruder, insightful surely but given the nature of dreaming, perhaps only part of the story. More from New Atlas on the methodology, anatomy of birdsong and a sound-clip at the link above.

mnemonic movements (11. 492)

Via fellow internet peripatetic Messy Nessy Chic, we discover a 1983 self-defence manual authored by Australian Bob Jones—a martial arts instructor who invented (along with fellow consultant, fight choreographer and stunt artist Richard Norton) his own technique called Zen Do Kai a decade earlier and which is still in practice and chief security detail for the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, ABBA, David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac—inspired by protection and training he had provided for Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks during their world tours. Learning of her bodyguard’s side project with this book based on a series of reflexive, subconscious kicks and thrusts perfected as second nature under threat by repetition and recitation, Nicks immediately agreed to contribute and helped demonstrate, appearing in a spread of photographs throughout the volume as well as on the cover. It is unclear whether it was Nicks’ stage-routine that influenced some of these actions or the other way around. More at the links above. FEAR—that is, false estimate of the actual reality.

Sunday 24 March 2024

11x11 (11. 448)

inauspicious beginnings: a rift opens up in a group of official astrologers employed by the Sri Lankan government to pick ideal dates for new years rituals  

disco arabesquo: record label Habibi Funk aims to introduce Middle Eastern vintage music to wider audiences 

typecraft: a transformative font foundry in India 

the allegory of the cave: on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the film’s premiere, we may be still trapped in the Matrix 

banjaxed and bockety: two curious Irish terms 

der buch der hasengeschichten: Tom Seidmann-Freud’s 1924 collection of hare fables 

working for tips: bizarrely robot baristas will accept gratuities, in a service sector landscape already fraught with insecurity and precarity—via tmn  

the juice is on the loose: a sequel thirty-six years in the making, reuniting the original cast—via Miss Cellania  

international system of typographic picture education: an archive of the pictograms of Gerd Arntz—see previously  

pocket full of kryptonite: the preponderance of alternative rock songs about Superman in the 1990s, 2000s 

prosopometamorphopsia: a new study on generalised social anxiety disorder tries to see from the perspective of those with a rare condition that causes faces to appear distorted, demonic—via the New Shelton wet/dry

Saturday 23 March 2024

8x8 (11. 444)

going in style: fantastic custom sarcophagi from Ghanaian coffin-maker Paa Joe  

tiamat: the misremembered series finale of the Dungeons & Dragons Saturday morning cartoon—see previously  

spoofing: FlightRadar maps GPS jamming—see also

cincyflags: neighbourhood banners for all of Cincinnati’s fifty-two communities—via Pasa Bon! 

mergers and acquisitions: Trump expected to see a windfall from the sale of social media network 

coal holes: cast iron plate covers for the chutes of London—see also  

infantile amnesia: early childhood memories may not be lost and yield insights to brain development—via the New Shelton wet/dry 

regeneration: a look at the jurisdiction practising human composting


one year ago: sampler silhouettes, punctuation in headlines plus scrimshaw from oceanic plastic trash

two years ago: assorted links worth revisiting

three years ago: AI-generated pick-up lines, a variation of the Medusa myth, the controlled-deorbit of the Mir (2001), lockdown on year on, vintage GIF buttons, pole tossing plus REM’s Out of Time (1991)

four years ago: dissolution of the African Economic Union (1985)

five years ago: the musical stylings of Carsie Blanton, a town’s strong connection to the number eleven, Nick of Time (1989), the tarot of Pamela Colman Smith, Robert Mueller concludes his investigation plus the UK votes

Friday 22 March 2024

off his meds (11. 443)

Via TYWKIWBI (indeed), we learn that Dr Lecter’s famously creepy quip from Silence of the Lambs, the psychiatrist turned cannibalistic serial killer consulted for insight to help catch another, “A census taker once tried to test me—I ate his liver with some fava beans and nice Chianti” is more than a memorable quote but also a subtle joking admission that he’s not presently adhering to his prescribed pharmacological regimen. The fictional doctor’s most aberrant tendencies could be managed with a class of drugs called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (a rather blunt instrument from the 1950s used to treat a whole range of disorders with various levels of success), which Lecter would of course know as well as the contraindication of this particular repast, all noted for having high levels of tyramine (as well as blue cheese) and could cause dangerous side-effects—the kind of adverse chemical reactions that the poor grapefruit usually gets blame for. In the novel by Thomas Harris that the 1991 film is adapted from, mostly faithfully, the better-paired wine is Amarone is mentioned but was presumably substituted for cadence in delivery by Anthony Hopkins and as something audiences would be more familiar with.

Thursday 14 March 2024

person-alysis (11. 419)

This 1957 board game from Lowell Toy Manufacturers of Long Island (a prolific maker whose catalogue includes mostly versions tied to contemporary popular culture—Bat Masterson and Steve Canyon and Gunsmoke being among their best-selling) is advertised with the tagline “Everyone’s a psychologist! …” and described as the most original adult game on the market, encouraging amateur psychoanalysis with eighty “ink-blot” cards and an explanation of their interpretations, “lending themselves to an exciting, hilarious and thought provoking game! Arrestingly packaged with attractive accessories.” We wonder how many fights (see also) this caused finding the family sociopath and other undiagnosed personality traits. More from Weird Universe at the link above.


one year ago: an Albanian Spring Festival

two years ago: assorted links to revisit, Czech and Slovak history plus goblin mode

three years ago: Andorra, the Mir programme, St Matilda plus Nazis erotic toys

four years ago: origins of the Panama Canal, an urban lagoon plus Disney’s White Wilderness

five years ago: end of the broadcasting day, geopolitical narratives, a coin honouring Stephen Hawking plus cross-border commutes