Tuesday 24 October 2023

gym and tonic (11. 072)

Originally a co-production from Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and Bob Sinclar (officially unreleased as Jane Fonda objected to being sampled), the Spacedust cover—with re-recording by a session vocalist—reached the top of the UK singles chart on this day in 1998. The accompanying music video, intentionally made to look cheap in homage to the aesthetic of 1980s work out videos, was frequently voted among the worst of all time. Both versions became extremely popular in clubs throughout Europe. And bounce!

one year ago: a visit to Knossos 

two years ago: the hymn of the United Nations plus Trog (1970)

three years ago: When the Wind Blows (1986), assorted links to revisit plus the Centre for American Politics and Design

four years ago: chaos erupts as Trump impeachment hearing as supporters disrupt testimony 

five years ago: an audio grimoire read by Vincent Price, the 2008 Recession, more inventions from Simone Giertz, more links to enjoy plus an interesting case of tort law

Monday 5 June 2023

on the air—unaware (10. 788)

An modern retelling of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, a clinical delusion, and perhaps contributing to audience acceptance of the pivot towards reality television that came about due to the last Hollywood Writers’ strike, as our faithful chronicler informs, the collaboration between Peter Weir and Andrew Niccol, The Truman Show, went into general release on this day in 1998. Starring Jim Carrey as a man who leads a seemingly normal life, Truman Burbank is unaware that his whole life has been the subject of a long-running tv programme with a cast of supporting actors, who further the plot and product-placement. Once the protagonist’s love interest run counter to the arc-of-narrative, a “Free Truman” campaign is started by activists in the real world and in parallel Truman begins to suspect the nature of this simulation and panopticon. The film’s community of Seahaven was shot in the planned-community of Seaside, Florida with the family residence depicted in the movie the home of state senator Don Gaetz, congressional representative Matt Gaetz, and his step-brother, Palmer Freeman Luckey, entrepreneur and inventor of the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset offered at a price-point for everyone.

Saturday 6 May 2023

home box office (10. 723)

Via Kottke, we are directed to a collegial tradition that began in 1977 when Star Wars overtook Jaws and Steven Spielberg penned an illustrated congratulatory letter to George Lucas when the former director’s blockbuster overtook the latter’s and published it in the trade paper Variety. The exchange—some gaps—to this day when records are broken for best opening weekend, overall ticket sales and rentals, like this 1998 homage to James Cameron’s Titanic surpassing the franchise. Much more epistolary discoveries above from Letters of Note.

Wednesday 27 April 2022

where have all the merrymakers gone?

In wide release on this day in 1998 after being first previewed to Seattle radio stations and quickly picked up and circulated as an international and enduring hit, Harvey Danger’s Flagpole Sitta (from the Marx Brothers’ Animal Crackers which features a dialogue about the 1920s fad after the stylites of old and the eye-dialectical for other contemporary compositions like Fame Throwa or Straight Outta Compton) is a literate critique of the self-same music scene and the ramifications it had for popular culture as a post-grunge anthem. I’m not sick but I’m not well.

Sunday 17 January 2021

it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is

Breaking a story that Newsweek had delayed publishing on the liaison, Matt Drudge first brought to the public news of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal (previously here and here) on this day in 1998. The on-line aggregator not acknowledged by the established press until four days later when the Washington Post following up on the scoop that investigative reporter Michael Isikoff’s editors had sat on and then killed.

Thursday 11 July 2019


At around four-thirty in the afternoon universal coordinated time (plus eight hours local time) on this day in 1979, debris from NASA’s abandoned but not unsuccessful space station project Skylab that was not incinerated upon its uncontrolled re-entry landed in the Shire of Esperance on the coast of Western Australia.
Fortunately the space junk caused no injury or damage and there was a media frenzy of speculation of where and when the craft might crash-land with contests and wagers made. A few days afterwards local farmers recovered a huge oxygen tank and it was decided by show masters-of-ceremonies to display it as a prop on the stage of the Miss Universe pageant that had been scheduled for later in the month in nearby Perth—hosted by The Price is Right’s Bob Barker—whose weight combined with seventy-five contestants assembled to sing a rousting rendition of Waltzing Matilda made the dais a little structurally unstable. Fortunately no beauty contestants were harmed in this mission either. Having garnered valuable lessons from the first attempt, the US planned next for Space Station Freedom whose programme would eventual merge with the International Space Station, commissioned in 1998.

Tuesday 4 September 2018

i’m feeling lucky

Originally developed as a search algorithm provisionally called “BackRub” that ranked websites by the number of other pages backlinking to them in 1996 as a graduate studies project, Sergey Brin and Larry Page filed the paperwork for incorporation on this day in 1998 for their search engine and web crawler, Google. The name was selected as a misspelling of googol, shorthand for imparting the concept of ten duotrigintillon or a one followed by one hundred zeroes, as an illustration of the vast amounts of data circulating on the internet.
Liberal estimates of the mass of the Universe fall short of that by fully ten powers of ten—or in other words just one ten-billionth of a googol of kilogrammes. Google assigns the number in scientific notation “1e100.net” to its array of servers to identify them across the internet. The corporate headquarters “Googleplex” is a much later backronym, homage referencing the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy super-computer Googleplex Starthinking (same spelling) that can calculate the trajectory of each mote of dust in a blizzard and contemplates the very vectors of atoms since the Big Bang—which is again a bit of over-engineering seeing that the value, a googolplex being ten to the googol power, something physical impossible to express outside of our imagination, and far outstrips the total number of subatomic particles in the Cosmos, reckoned at 10⁸⁰ or thereabouts.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

independent counsel

Twenty years ago on this day, the internet news and gossip aggregator Drudge Report beat Newsweek and the mainstream press to the punch by breaking reports of the scandalous affair between President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Clinton’s initial denial, clamouring for answers whilst the administration was mired in a few other personal affairs (Whitewater, Travelgate) eventually led to Clinton’s impeachment by Congress in December of the same year. Acquitted of the impeachable offenses of perjury and obstruction of justice, Clinton was allowed to remain in office or the remainder of his second term. We cannot know of course the collateral scandals that were either obscured through fatigue or propelled to the fore of public consciousness because of the manner in which this played out nor image how on-line media and personas might have been otherwise informed if their moment had not been limned by the salacious and the scornful. What do you think? We can’t condemn the follies of two decades hence on balance of where that’s landed us but times seem strikingly inverted and while welcome progress is evident in many areas in terms of what we as a culture will tolerate, the forces of regression have taken hold elsewhere.

Thursday 28 November 2013

cinematic titanic or play MSTIE for me

The name PfRC is a nod to the series Mystery Science Theater 3000—the 1998 episode lampooning the 1958 Jack Arnold feature, The Space Children. Just ahead of the abduction—encounter, the children gleefully announce the discovery of an ominous cave—to which one of the Bots quip, “It will be perfect for our delicious Roquefort cheese.” MST3K premiered 25 years ago on Thanksgiving Day on a UHF broadcast station in the Minneapolis area. Mental Floss has more on the show's history, legacy and some trivia. The Mads are calling.