Saturday, 24 September 2022

8x8 (10. 162)

herbst: vintage Eastern Bloc matchboxes welcoming Fall  

ฮฑฯฮฝฮฌฮบฮน: comedian Shari Lewis delivers One Minute Mythologies—via r/Obscure Media  

wie ist dein name, mann: adapting Hamilton in German for the Hamburg stage—possibly a bit rough for those who committed the original lyrics to heart but Lin-Manuel Miranda is deeply involved 

tl;dr: an AI powered tool that provides a summary of long videos—via Web Curios  

wolf hall: RIP historical fiction author Hilary Mantel  

not in my backyard: good luck getting anything built in Sim Nimby (see also)—again from Web Curios

voting integrity: Russian soldiers in occupied regions of Ukraine undertake door-to-door balloting in the referenda to ensure citizens choose wisely  

kirie: celebrating the onset of autumn with more of the Japanese art of leave carving

Thursday, 22 September 2022

partial-mobilisation (10. 158)

In a wide-ranging first address to the public since the announcement of the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, a desperate and defeated Vladimir Putin declared his intention on Wednesday night to initiate a limited conscription of three-hundred thousand males with military experience (all males from seventeen to twenty-three have a term of compulsory service) to bolster a costly war whose impact on the broader public the Kremlin strove to minimize. Militants in the People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk will be considered as official soldiers of the Russian Federation. Putin additionally repeated his threats to use Russia’s nuclear armaments arsenal against the West—emphasising that it was no bluff. In response to this significant escalation and potential imposition, hundreds of protest rallies broke out in cities across the country, with more than twelve hundred detained. All flights out Russia—to the limited places that have not restricted air-traffic—have been sold out, with the last planes to Istanbul priced at eleven-thousand dollars per seat. Further Putin elaborated on the scheduled referenda for the regions under tenuous Russian-control, the two listed above plus Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to take place this weekend. As happened with Crimea back in 2014, there is expected to be a sham vote in favour of annexation, thus carving out more Ukrainian territory that Russia will try to claim its right to defend as its own. In parallel, a prisoner-exchange was brokered by Tayyip ErdoฤŸan, which saw the release of some two hundred fighters defending the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol on the condition that they remain in Turkey until the conclusion of the war, with other foreign mercenaries aiding Ukraine set free as well.

Monday, 5 September 2022

7x7 (10. 110)

ch-ch-ch-chia: University of Virginia research team 3D prints living walls and roofs  

the road to rhรปn: more interactive LOTR maps to explore—see previously  

defenestration: accident-prone energy executives  

doctor doolittle: translating non-human animal vocalisations into language with artificial intelligence 

the hunt for the golden walnut brain of ronald reagan: an adventure from John Hoare (previously)—via Things Magazine  

lady woman: a sample track from Boris Midney’s reimagining of 1979 “Evita” as a disco opera 

reefer madness: researchers make an advance in the race to save Caribbean coral, whose health also affects hurricane intensity

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

gorbymania (10. 101)

We’ve been familiar with Mikhail Gorbachev’s extended second career after the imminent statesman withdrew from political life—at least in an official capacity—and recall the Pizza Hut advertisement from years ago. This selection of international cameos, however, included one role—that of brand ambassador for a luxury goods maker, expertly photographed by Anne Leibovitz. Gorbachev is seated in the rear of a sedan, driving parallel to the remnants of the Berlin Wall that he helped to dismantle (the campaign reflective of one of his more quotable sayings) and pictured with the classic brown bag—which we weren’t familiar with. Though beautifully framed, the 2007 ad seems rather innocuous until upon close inspection, on top of the bag is a magazine with the headline: Litvineko’s Murder—They Wanted to Surrender Suspect for $7000. Alexander Litvineko was the former KGB spy and defector who was poisoned by polonium and died the year before, publicly accusing Vladimir Putin as the responsible party. Now with Gorbachev’s passing, questions linger whether or not he himself was privy to this subversive subtext.

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

xxii olympiad (10. 003)

Beginning on this day and running through 1980 Summer Games hosted by the Soviet capital was the first such event held in a communist country until 2008 Beijing Games, with quite low participation—the US leading a boycott by sixty-six countries over the Russo-Afghan War. A few countries took part but competed under the Olympic banner rather than as a national team, and Philadelphia hosted an alternate Liberty Bell Classic for those not participating in the other venue. The Soviet and Eastern Bloc athletes reciprocated by staying out of the 1984 games hosted in Los Angeles with the closing ceremony absent conspicuous elements of the handover.

Saturday, 16 July 2022

sinimustvalge

Officially adopted as the national flag on this day in 1922 after the country declared its independence in 1918 in the short interlude between the retreat of the Bolsheviks and German occupation just before the end of World War I, the tricolour of Estonia was banned in August of 1940 with its annexation by the Soviet Union, though used continuously by the government-in-exile based in Stockholm and Estonian diaspora groups continuously from 1940 to 1991. The three equal bands of blue black and white (as referenced in the title) represent the landscape of the Baltic nation and was readopted in August of 1990 with the restoration of the republic.

Monday, 11 July 2022

match of the century

The opening game occurring on this day in 1972, the World Chess Championship pitted US challenger Bobby Fischer against defending champion Boris Spassky of the USSR (see previously), the former after twenty-one matches played over the course of five weeks ending a twenty-four year Soviet monopoly on the title. The tournament was hosted in Reykjavรญk, and Fischer didn’t score a win until round three, most ending in a draw (the scoring convention was a bit skewed and encouraged whomever was in the lead to play for ties rather than an outright conquest)—though at 12½ to 8½, Fischer could be proclaimed as the undisputed overall victor under those rules.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

snake island

Though unclear if the Russian withdrawal was in goodwill as a part of an international effort to open up a corridor to transport grain and advert a famine or were surrendering from a Ukrainian advance to recapture the strategically important Black Sea islet near the port of Odesa, relieving this blockade and restoring control over the waterways to the country—both previously under siege and mined by Ukraine itself in order to prevent a full-om assault unabated by the aggressor, regaining control of Zmiinyi Island (ะพัั‚ั€ั–ะฒ ะ—ะผั–ั—́ะฝะธะน, previously here and here) could mean the resumption of staple exports and blunt the likelihood of a land attack in the future on this stretch of coast. This victory comes on the heels of Turkey’s assent for Sweden and Finland’s bid to join the NATO alliance during its summit in Madrid and are expected to sign accession protocols soon for ratification by the thirty current member states.

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

dear mister andropov

For what would have been her fiftieth birthday had not her life been tragically cut short by a plane crash at the age of thirteen, Deutsche Welle has a retrospective appreciation on the ten-year old Cold War peace ambassador and avid letter-writer Samantha Reed Smith of Holton, Maine who at a very tense point in Soviet-US relations—the nuclear superpowers having abandoned their recent policy of dรฉtente, a race on to militarise space, widespread peace protests, the Afghan conflict and The Day After all had people whipped into a frenzy—reached out to the new Russian leader late in 1982, the successor to the post of Leonid Brezhnev characterised in the press as the architect of the suppression of the Prague Spring and for suppression of dissidents, congratulating him and expressing her fears about nuclear escalation and asked him to write in return. Failing to get a timely reply (despite its publication in Pravda), Smith also reached out to the embassy in Washington, DC before in April of 1983 the General Secretary responded himself, with a personal invitation to visit the Soviet Union. More on Smith’s tour and brief but impactful legacy at the link up top.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

5x5

amelia bedelia: reading suggestions for adults informed by one’s favourite children’s literature  

the suwaล‚ki gap: Lithuania blocks some supply trains that transit its territory to the Russian exclave Kaliningrad  

mall rats: a huge collection of 1990s consumer aesthetics 

fluxburgh: a selection of offerings gamifying architecture  

children’s television workshop: a lost, pulled episode of Sesame Street with the neighbourhood terrorised by Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West—via Super Punch

Friday, 10 June 2022

ั‚ะพั‚ ัะฐะผั‹ะน

After suspending operations due to the invasion of Ukraine and announcing its withdrawal after thirty-two years, the Russian fast food chain that now controls those franchises formerly operated as McDonald’s will reopen some restaurants over the weekend with this logo, which represents two fries and a hamburger bun—or the Bangladeshi flag and still suspiciously like the Golden Arches—on a green field to symbolise “the quality of products and service” guests are accustomed to. The new identity of the chain has not yet been revealed but there are eight contenders, including the above, which translates to “the same one.” The grand opening coincides with Russian Day, commemorating the 1990 adoption of the declaration of state sovereignty of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic with the intention to establish a democratic state within a liberalised USSR.

Friday, 27 May 2022

memorandum of understanding

Signed in Paris on this day in 1997, the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation was a declaration that included confidence-building measures and a framework for cooperation and disarmament that attempted to strike a balance between security and policy interests of both sides. Agreed upon principles included the renunciation of threat or use of force against any other state, respect of territorial integrity and political independence as well as inviolability of borders, the right self-determination and the right to choose the best means of ensuring their own security to be overseen by a joint council. Russia violated the agreement in 2008 with its war in Georgia, in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and with the current war in Ukraine. In response to aforementioned incursions, NATO for its part has violated its pledge not to permanently station troops in new member states.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

pronkssรตdur

After talks of relocation triggered controversy and violent rioting referred to as Bronze Night (Pronksiรถรถ), municipal authorities in Tallinn dismantled and moved a Soviet-era war memorial called the Bronze Soldier built at the site of war graves on this day in 2007. Originally dedicated to the “Liberators of Estonia” it was renamed as the “Monument to the Fallen,” and while seen as a symbol of Soviet occupation and suppression after World War II by many, Russian populations, intensely protesting the decision and crippling the country with cyber-attacks, viewed the statue, prominently in the city centre, as not only representative of victory over the Nazis in the Great Patriotic War but also legimitising their claim to Estonia—set to re-establish their independence after Germany’s retreat. The statue and remains of the dead were placed, re-interred in the national military cemetery outside of Tallinn. One direct outcome of the riots and targeting of Estonian essential infrastructure was the creation of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, located in the capital.

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

arch-fiends

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko announced that the Soviet-era monument, a large titanium arch in the city centre over an ensemble of statues including two bronze workers erected in 1982 on the sixtieth anniversary of the USSR and fifteen-hundredth anniversary of the founding of Kiev representing the Order of Friendship of Peoples will undergo alterations.  Known locally as ะฏั€ะผะพ́, the comrades holding aloft a medal symbolising this accord that saw the reunification of Ukraine with Russia have been dismantled (see also), and whilst the arch—which since the 2014 annexation of Crimea has born a crack painted by activists to indicate the strained relationship—will remain but be highlighted in the colours of the Ukrainian flag.  Reportedly, the figure representing Russia was accidentally decapitated during removal, and further streets (see previously) named for Russian personages will be renamed—emphasising of course that Russian culture is not under attack but rather the ideology of monument and memorial is liable to be bankrupt given current affairs.

Friday, 8 April 2022

imperial ambitions

On this day in 1783, Czarina Catherine the Great announced the annexation, following a favourable outcome in the Russo-Turkic Wars against the Ottoman Empire, of Crimea, the right-bank of the Kuban region and the Taman peninsula that separates the Azov from the Black Sea. Other territorial expansion during long reign included parts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Novorossiya (roughly corresponding to the Bessarabia region of Moldova and coastal areas of Ukraine) as well as Russian America. Also on this day in 1812, Czar Alexander I (grandson of the former) issued a decree to make Helsinki the capital of the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland—having seceded from Sweden and part of the Russian Empire from 1809 until 1917

Thursday, 7 April 2022

putinversteher

In circulation since the 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea (even nominated as Unwort of the year then but losing out to the below)  and now rising again to common-parlance and international recognition, the German term for a sympathiser or apologist of the president of the Russian Federation with the noun that generally means “understander” joins a cadre of words that have entered English in recent years (see previously), drawing sometimes apt but imperfect parallels to the US invasions of Iraq, Grenada, or Vietnam—careful not to condone or endorse violence but at the same time invoking deflection and whataboutism (a tu quoque fallacy). The article from Deutsche Welle goes on to report that the use of the letter ‘Z’ to signal support of the Russian aggression has been outlawed in this country, the letter with no unambiguous interpretation and a Cyrillic corresponding letter which seems strange considering the country’s nationalism. Theories on the distinguishing markers on otherwise identical tactical vehicles range from ะทะฐะฟะฐะด (Romanised as zapad—or a war against the West), ะทะฐ ะฟะพะฑะตะดัƒ (for victory) or grimly and commiserate with the atrocities seen ะทะฐั‡ะธัั‚ะบะฐ, an unofficial military term for a cleansing operation, room-to-room searches

Saturday, 2 April 2022

unalaska

Discounting the fact that the territory was home to untold thousands of aboriginal peoples long before the imperial aspirations of either faded superpower or exhausted petrostate, we missed the apparent threats made by Russia that it would reclaim in recompense for illegal sanctions not only its former holdings just across the Bering Straits (only a day—due to the International Date Line—and three and a half kilometers apart) but also the whole of Antartica plus small outposts in Hawaiสปi and California (again, already people living there) including Fort Ross (ะšั€ัฃะฟะพัั‚ัŒ ะ ะพัััŠ) in present-day Sonoma County which was sold to John Sutter, renaming the settlement Sutter’s Mill and going on to start the Gold Rush in short order. As for the latter, the parliamentarian and Putin-loyalist claimed the sale was invalid and that Sutter never paid but as with the former case and present casus belli it’s all specious ackamarackus.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

catchascatchkhan

The unrecognised, break-away region of South Ossetia, in northern Georgia on the border with Russia willhold a referendum shortly for the fifty thousand residents of the militarily occupied territory to decide whether or not to begin the accession process to and be absorbed by its neighbour. The other break-away region, Abkhazia, maintains it has no such plans at the present. Declaring independence in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russian forces have held de facto control since the 2008 Georgian-Russo conflict. The last time the Russia Federation annexed the land of another sovereign country was when it took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, incorporating the independent Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol after a much shorter period of transition lasting only weeks.

Monday, 28 March 2022

for my military knowledge, though i’m plucky and adventury has only been brought down to the beginning of the century

Caveats against drawing parallels respected, we quite enjoyed this lyrical military assessment of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a month on, which not only highlights how the aggressor is doing a reverse of what they did to Napoleon—as expounded by history and Tolstoy, but as one commentator finds, the rank inexperience and hubris of the Gilbert and Sullivan character (see previously). Here’s a couple of stanzas for an excerpt:

I am the very model of a Russian Major General

My standing in the battlefield is growing quite untenable

My forces, though equipped and given orders unequivocal

Did not expect the fight to be remotely this reciprocal

I used to have a tank brigade but now I have lost several

My fresh assaults are faltering with battle plans extemporal

I can’t recover vehicles but farmers in a tractor can

It’s all becoming rather reminiscent of Afghanistan

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

8x8

many years later, as he faced the firing squad, colonel aureliano buendia was to remember that weird folgers commercial where it implied the brother and sister were hooking up: first drafts of the greatest first lines in literature 

stories and studies of strange things: the life and legacy of Lafcadio Hearn (ฮ ฮฑฯ„ฯฮฏฮบฮนฮฟฯ‚ ฮ›ฮตฯ…ฮบฮฌฮดฮนฮฟฯ‚ ฮงฮตฯฮฝ / ๅฐๆณ‰ ๅ…ซ้›ฒ) itinerant author and journalist who introduced the Western world to Japan 

censored: people in Russia are frantically downloading Wikipedia in the wake of the threat of Roskomnadzor to ban it 

haunted art: an exhibition of the lingering possession in US museum collections 

the rites of spring: an arboreal celebration  

frozen chosen: unusual Antarctic ergot 

uncanny valley: AI rendered stories read by humans  

no set back: great authors on rejection