Sunday 7 April 2024

she’s the kind of girl you read about in newsweek magazine (11. 475)

Featuring the tracks “Give It to Me Baby” and Grammy-nominated “Super Freak,” the fifth studio album from punk-funk founder Rick James was released on this day in 1981 by Motown’s Gordy Records. Billboard’s Record of the Year, the album was certified Gold in sales in Canada, the UK and the US, all songs—including a duet with Teena Marie—have enjoyed a legacy of numerous homages and sampling (Pretty Fly for a White Guy, MC Hammer’s Can't Touch This), topping dance charts in all incarnations.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

9x9 (11. 196)

mister jingeling: a dozen, beloved department store Christmas characters—see also—via Miss Cellania

bubblenomics: pondering the consequences of when AI goes the way of crypto and NFTs 

indefinite causal order: quantum batteries are powered by paradox—via Damn Interesting  

a winter’s tale: selected readings of Christmas ghost stories—via Things Magazine  

the waitresses: the cynical anti-holiday hit Christmas Wrapping that became a festive classic 

infinite jukebox: a clever AI application that extends songs forever  

high ground: study of the competition for space dominance between the US and China suggests America occupy Lagrange points to counter malign ambitions  

52 snippets: facts gleaned from economics and finance from the past twelve months 

snoopy come home: Gen Z rediscovers and identifies with the Peanuts’ character

Friday 1 December 2023

6502 (11. 153)

With news that it’s available as an emulator for almost any platform, we are reacquainted with the version of the Beginners’ All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code as the native programming language for the micro personal computer released in 1981 as part of a UK computer literacy initiative (see also) by the national broadcaster in 1981. Chiefly written by Sophie Mary Wilson, a transgender pioneer in design and informatics fields, the optimised dialect ran faster that than Microsoft versions and an inline feature for assembly language. BBC2 series launched the following year, The Computer Programme (see also), was an accompanying primer on its use and capabilities and stirs memories of experimenting with lines of code and tweaking until getting the desired outcome but wonder what the utility is with such a skill nowadays when debugging is automated.


one year ago: a day without art, fifty-two lessons from fifty-two weeks plus TRON reimagined with the help of AI

two years ago: World AIDS Day, office parties plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: Wรถrter des Jahres, Japan’s buzzword of the year plus St Elsewhere

four years ago: a duet from Leon Redbone and Dr John, the Moravian star, Germany’s Word of the Year plus Gorbachev’s Pizza Hut ad spot

Tuesday 11 July 2023

bands won’t play no more (10. 873)

On this day in 1981, the Coventry ska, tone-two group The Specials had their second and final top charting hit with the non-album single “Ghost Town,” addressing urban blight, unemployment and austerity. The song coincided with the England Riots and unrest of that summer over police powers, inner-city deprivation and racial tension and with the band’s own internal strife which saw their split up almost immediately afterwards.

Tuesday 20 June 2023

stars on 45 (10. 821)

On this day in 1981, a medley of Beatles songs reinterpreted as disco topped the US singles charts, launching an onslaught of similar remixes, including for the Beach Boys, The Carpenters, Stevie Wonder, the Andrews Sisters and various punk compilations.

The concept originated when the sessions band cum novelty pop group had visited a record store and heard what was expected to be a cacophonous playlist but realised that the rhythms complemented each other. The long-play album, “Let’s Do It In the 80s Greatest Hits” was regarded as a bootleg release at first since the band had not secured permission from the original artist or recording labels. The US title (the longest at forty-one words to reach number one) was “Intro Venus/Sugar Sugar/No Reply/I’ll Be Back/Drive My Car/Do You Want to Know a Secret/We Can Work It Out/I Should Have Known Better/You’re Going to Lose That Girl/Stars on 45” as the artists insisted that the cover tracks‘ names be included. Stars on 54 produced the soundtrack for the 1988 film about the New York City nightclub, including the dance version of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind.”


one year ago: the second Glastonbury Festival (1972) plus more on the formulaic nature of streaming shows  

two years ago: Germany decides to move the capital to Berlin (1991), wandering like a cloud, the Rosemary Stretch (1972), Nazi rocketry plus some good sportsmanship (1932)

three years ago: North Korean character coding, Cher performs all the parts for West Side Story (1978) plus the premiere of Jaws (1975)

Friday 2 December 2022

jeremy’s hammer? (10. 355)

Britney Spears, the Princess of Pop, is the only perfect anagram of Presbyterians, a mainline American Protestant denomination. Although Ms Spears never to my knowledge took the occasion to employ this anagrammatisation as a pseudonym like Jim Morrison did in the Doors song “LA Woman” as Mr Mojo Risin, born this day—coincidentally—in Mississippi in 1981, she was born into a milieu of socially conservative evangelicalism and quickly retreated from those influences.

Monday 12 September 2022

ccc (10. 126)

Founded on this day in the offices of the West Berlin newspaper Die Tageszeigtung (TAZ) by journalist and information security advocate Wau Holland in 1981, Chaos Computer Club is Europe’s largest association of white-hat hackers was established with the mandate to champion freedom of information worldwide, transparency in government and business practices and universal access to digital information. Through its hacktivism and penetration-testing, it has exposed several weaknesses and structural shortcomings that undermine privacy and user rights and it often deferred to as an expert witness for German and EU legislation and court filings, informing policy and openly criticizing decisions that fail to redress concerns for public-welfare. Their activities rose to prominence first in 1984 when exposing the security flaws of teletext (Bildschirmtext, see also here and here), arranging a large transfer of funds from a bank to the club’s account. More recently, they demonstrated that inherent insecurity of biometrics by obtaining and publishing the fingerprints of the Interior Minister (lifted off of a water glass) in 2008. The group hosts the annual Chaos Communication Congress, originally hosted in Hamburg but since 2017 at the Leipzig Trade Fair Grounds (Leipzigermesse) in addition to retreats, camps and workshops to supplement its media outreach. The pictured flag (Pesthรถrnchen, Datenpirat—a variant on the federal postal service logo, indicting their careless custody of customer data) is from a local chapter.

Monday 5 September 2022

once i ran to you (i ran) (10. 109)

Propelling to the top of the charts in part due to this memorable performance on TOTP (see previously), Soft Cell’s reworking of the Ed Cobb and the Four Preps’ Tainted Love (1964) reached number one on this day in 1981 and was ranked as best-selling single of the year in the UK—until after re-tabulating the numbers in 2021 and the title was awarded to The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?”

Sunday 10 July 2022

in 22 hours, the hartford summit meeting will be over—china and the soviet union will go back home

Premiering in US theatres on this day in 1981 and featuring the acting talents of Kurt Russell, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Ernest Borgnine, Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Barbe au , the John Carpenter film is set in the then near future of 1997 (a quarter of a century ago) wherein Manhattan is converted into America’s singular maximum security prison. When the presidential airplane is highjacked by insurgent elements and crashed-landed in New York City, military veteran and federal inmate Snake Plissken (Russell) is commissioned to rescue president John Harker (Pleasence).

Friday 18 February 2022


pigeon fancy: Emil Schachtzabel illustrates unnatural selection in prize breeds  

act local, think global: a twenty-question quiz about one’s bioregion, immediate surroundings and a challenge for low-scorers 

onomastic terminology: petrichor, overmorrow, interrobangs and other proper orthonyms  

wysiwyg: Jane Austen used straight pins to edit the rough drafts of her manuscripts before word processors and correction-liquid  

device orchestra: various peripherals, gadgets and appliances perform “Seven Nation Army”  

pandemic cartograms: our unvaccinated world  

hodowla goล‚ฤ™bi: profiling Poland’s pigeon keepers, moving up in the pecking-order

Sunday 6 February 2022

dass modell / computerliebe

The first West German act to chart in the UK in the latter half of the twentieth century, the double single (A-side and B-side) from Kraftwerk (see previously here, here, here and here) first rose to number one on this day in 1982 and held its place for twenty-one weeks.  This success led to the group’s first concert tour.  From their eighth, bi-lingual studio album Computerwelt, the thematic tracks dealt with the effects of technology and computers on society, the songs debuted in May of the previous year with the likes of “Pocket Calculator,” “It’s More Fun to Compute” and “Heimcomputer.”

Friday 21 January 2022


With iconic gull-wing doors and a brushed steel exterior, the first DeLorean sports cars—designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro—came off the production line on this day in 1981 in Dunmurry, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Before the enterprise folded in December of 1982 with John DeLorean’s Motor Company filing for bankruptcy, allegedly turning to drug-smuggling to make up for shortfalls in financing, about nine thousand cars were made with around six thousand still roadworthy. Several custom models were produced including a gold-plated one as a promotional deal with a credit card company for its gold members and turbo-charged versions and most notably of course for featuring as the time-machine of the Back to the Future Franchise.

Saturday 8 January 2022

l’affaire de trans-en-provence

Though the scientific riguour of testing and measurements taken was later subject to dispute, the encounter with an unidentified flying object was reputed to have left physical evidence and was heralded by the US periodical Popular Mechanics as “perhaps the most completely and carefully documented UFO sighting of all time took place on this day in 1981 on a farmstead just outside the titular town (previously) in the Var dรฉpartment. The account by witness Renato Nicalaรฏ related that after an eerie whistling a saucer-shaped object landed down field from him at a distance of fifty metres. It took off again almost immediately but left depression and scorch marks on the ground that were examined by the gendarmerie and the GEPAN (Groupe d’ร‰tude des Phรฉnomรจnes Aรฉrospatiaux Non-Indentifiรฉs). The findings were inconclusive.

Monday 13 December 2021

dewey “pigmeat” markham

Passing away this day in 1981 (*1904) and having earned his stage name from a routine in which he declared himself to be “Sweet Papa Pigmeat,” the comedy and singer began his career with travelling musical revues and burlesque shows in the 1920s and 1930s and ultimately began a regular act at the Apollo Theatre.  Among Markham’s repertoire was a courtroom satire, with Marin presiding in a graduation cap and gown to look officious, with his catch-phrase “Here Comes the Judge” set to music and charting in 1968, the song considered to be one of the precursors to the performance style of rapping.  A second turn-of-speech from Markham passed through the then-highly segregated entertainment industry and also onto NBC’s Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (previously, Hee-Haw’s Justus O’Peace was a direct appropriation for that target audience) with the admonition  to “Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls.”

Sunday 12 December 2021

i was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar—that much is true

On this day in 1981, the Human League single “Don’t You Want Me” from their third studio album Dare climbed to the top spot on UK charts and held the place for weeks, becoming the Christmas hit of the year. Hailed as a breakthrough number of the Second British Invasion by critics and widely acclaimed, the song was initially rejected by band member Paul Oakley as overrated and misconstrued as about love rather than a commentary on cynicism and sexual power politics with a catchy pop hook, lyrics taken from a photo-essay in a teen magazine.

Sunday 14 November 2021

meanwhile back at the manse

Via two of our absolutely favourite fellow internet caretakers Nag on the Lake and Things Magazine, we are directed latest to the latest annual from McMansion Hell Yearbook (previously) with this 1981 fever-dream of a property in DuPage County, in the state of Illinois, US of A—aptly introduced as “dentist office meets cult compound meets late-stage Frank Lloyd Wright (Wedding-Cake era).” Much more to explore at the links above.

Sunday 7 November 2021

facce di bronzo

Via the always superb Everlasting Blรถrt, we are not only introduced to the sensational discovery of the so-called Riace bronzes in the early 1970s but how the Italian mayor of the namesake town is planning a museum and further excavations on the fiftieth anniversary of their recovery from the waves off the Calabrian coast to see if there are more Greek warrior statues yet to be uncovered. Made in the fifth century BCE using the lost wax casting technique are among the few surviving examples of Greek artistry, most being melted down, and were found by accident by a snooping chemist called Stefano Mariottini in 1972 and are conjectured to be either anonymous Delphic soldiers as part of an ensemble monument to the Battle of Marathon or possibly as depictions of Erechtheus, foster son of Athena and legendary king of Athens, and Eumolpus, son of Poseidon and inventor of viticulture.

Sunday 31 October 2021

spot me up

Made in collaboration with Boston Dynamics, we learn courtesy of Laughing Squid, 1981 Mick Jagger and the rest of the Rolling Stones perform a Tik-Tok style duet with a trio of robot modules for a performance (previously) of their classic—the video produced as part of the fortieth anniversary celebration of the release of their Tattoo You album. What do you think? It’s fun and the tribute choreography is scarily brilliant but perhaps another example of normalisation and propaganda for the police state.

Monday 18 October 2021

lying awake intent at tuning in on you

Originally recorded by songwriter Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club—featuring Thomas Dolby on keyboard, the follow-on version performed by the synth-pop group the Buggles, released a month prior as the debut single from their first studio album The Age of Plastic, the foundational, nostalgic hit, influenced by the music of Kraftwerk and inspired by memories of covertly listening to Radio Luxembourg late at night, topped the UK charts this week in 1979. The accompanying music video, first aired on Top of the Pops, went on, just after midnight on the first day of August 1981, to mark the beginning of MTV’s broadcasting run.

i stopped an old man along the way

Recorded in studio on this day in 1981 to be released a year later as their eponymous fourth studio album’s third single, the David Paich and Jeff Porcaro collaboration, Africa, was met with immediate critical acclaim, which in its latter day, reprised existence has been certified as platinum six-times. Naive and benighted, with some experimental placeholder lyrics (see also), like the line about the Serengeti, it was nonetheless an earnest attempt to raise attention about the plight and suffering on the continent as told through television documentaries, magazine articles and second-hand missionary accounts. After the session, Toto was split about letting its release compete with that of their own lead single from the album, “Rosanna,” some band members saying it wasn’t in line with their signature sound and considered debuting it as solo work for Porcaro alone.