Tuesday 18 June 2024

webcollage (11. 638)

Launched on this day in 1999 by Jamie Zawinski (previously), one of the founders of Netscape and Mozilla and advocate for open-source software, the application inserts random noise into image search engines to create a pastiche of pictures—somehow with similar energy—and has been running with surprisingly minimal maintenance (given how much the web has grown since) for a quarter of century, scraping, drawing from various incarnations of internet retrieval tools. It automatically refreshes elements of the composition every minute and is also available as a screen-saver.

Thursday 6 June 2024

advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young (11. 611)

Via our faithful chronicler, we are reminded of the spoken-word composition by Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Strictly Ballroom, The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge!), which topped the UK singles’ charts on this day in 1999. The essay is in the tone of a hypothetical commencement speech and was written two years prior by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich—though often misattributed due to a viral email circulated around graduation time to Kurt Vonnegut and address given at MIT (here’s the one they’re probably thinking of), and hits, mellows as pretty poignant, particularly as it’s the year I got my college diploma. Trust me on the sunscreen.

Friday 3 May 2024

anemoia (11. 535)

Derived from an Ancient Greek portmanteau of wind and mind in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, the titular coinage refers to the wistful nostalgia for a time and place one has never known, and via ibฤซdem we are directed towards a reflection that we’ve often pondered perfunctorily with the gratitude that we didn’t grow up in the lens of social media where every embarrassing moment could be captured and preserved for posterity and really captures a generational disjunction, perhaps unique, and being expressed through infatuation with the vintage, the retro and sometimes regressive as those experiences liminal and just out of reach can be romanticised and recalled or imagined better and more interconnected than they really were, just like other appeals to a Golden Age. The crux of the thesis hinges on one particular high school graduation home video from 1999 and the reactions it has drawn from an anxious and aching audience of Gen Z’ers (and others truly nostalgic and older cohorts dismissive of the novelty of coming of age) for a time when one was present and not curating, documenting or checking their status for a sinewy broader group of acquaintances, and commodified by constant connectivity. Isolation transfixed as escapism is a trade-off, however unwilling, for convenience and instant gratification. More on the appeal for sentiment and sympathy from Freya India at the link above.

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

Monday 1 January 2024

spoiler alert (11. 235)

Turning our attention to past movies set in the then future of our present (hopefully not prophetic), the first round goes to the 1975 darkly, problematically comedic post-apocalyptic adaptation of the Harlan Ellison novella of the same name. A teenager portrayed by Don Johnson (Miami Vice) scavenges through the wastelands of the US southwest following a nuclear war accompanied by his telepathic dog (voiced by Tim McIntire). Orphaned at an early age with no formal education or socialisation, the adolescent is focused on survival, interested solely in food and sex—conquests secured with the aid of his canine companion in exchange for meals as the genetic modifications that bestowed super-intelligence leaves him incapable of tasks like hunting. After numerous run-ins with bandits, mutants and rogue androids, the teenager is eventually recruited by an aristocratic scout of a subterranean colony as a stud to help with low viable breeding population. A preview and links to the whole movie available at Weird Universe above.  Most other selections seemed to be based in 2024 for purely arbitrary reasons and only two to three years behind when they were produced—with the exception of the 1999 Josef Rusnak and Roland Emmerich vehicle that was overshadowed by the similarly themed Matrix and was a victim to the strange echo-phenomena of “twin films”that sometimes happens in Hollywood (due to screenplay shopping and submission to multiple studios, industrial secrecy and espionage), like the asteroid flicks Armageddon and Deep Impact, Dante’s Peak and Volcano, 1981’s The Howling, Wolfen and An American Werewolf in London, Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down, or on stage Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. A multibillion dollar computer company in then present-day Los Angeles is experimenting with a virtual reality simulation of the city in 1937 populated by individuals unaware that they are part of a program. Entering the simulation in order to solve the mysterious death of the company CEO, the protagonist and heir to the enterprise (and a prime suspect) finds clues that lead to the revelation that thousands of parallel virtual worlds exist but there is only one reality whose inhabitants have developed a virtual world of their own, but having a pocket metaverse within another does not necessarily result in privilege or insight. The protagonist disconnects and emerges into reality advanced a quarter of a century.

Friday 19 May 2023

oh my, my—this here anakin guy, maybe vader some day later but now he’s just a small fry (10. 751)

For this anniversary of the general release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace on this day in the United States in 1999, we feature this synopsis of events regarding the beginning of the saga as performed by Weird Al Yankovic to the underlying tune and structure of “The Day the Music Died.”

And the Jedi I admire most
Met up with Darth Maul and now he’s toast
Well, I’m still here—and he’s a ghost
I guess I’ll train this boy.

Thursday 22 September 2022

potus (10. 157)

Premiering on this day in 1999 on NBC and running for seven seasons with two specials, the serial political drama created by Aaron Sorkin with ensemble cast including Stockard Channing, Allison Janney, Rob Lowe, Moira Kelly, Martin Sheen, Dulรฉ Hill, Bradley Whitford and Janel Moloney The West Wing covered the fictitious administration of US President Josiah Bartlet. Showered with accolades including two Peabodys, three Golden Globes and twenty-six Emmys, the series ranks among the best television shows ever produced. The short segment from the pilot episode shows the first occurrence of Sorkin’s signature ”walk and talk” expository technique.

Wednesday 6 July 2022

cosmic call

The latter of two sets of interstellar radio missives were beamed out to the Cosmos on this day in 2003 from the RT-70 (Radio Telescope with an aerial antenna with a seventy metre diameter and former Soviet Centre for Deep Space Communications) located in Yevpatoria, Crimea. This iteration and the first message sent in 1999 follow the same bitmap structure and include the Dutil-Dumas primer about mathematics, universal constants, chemical elements and physics plus the Arecibo Messages, the Braastad Message (to illustrate concepts of family and procreation, similar to the plaque on Pioneer) and contributions from the staff and public. Transmitted at four hundred bits per second, the message was beamed out over the span of eleven hours and targeted five diverse stars with known exoplanets, with the first arrival date of April 2036 at Gliese 49 ฮฒ, a superearth orbiting a red dwarf star.

Friday 1 July 2022

riaghaltas na h-alba

Coming into effect on this day in 1999 following a 1997 referendum, devolution meant that legislative powers for the constituent nation within the United Kingdom were transferred from the old Scottish Office in London (where the Lord Advocate had been responsible for many of the executive decisions of Scotland) officially to St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh where a cabinet of ministers accountable to the Scottish Parliament (previously here, here, here and here) are responsible for domestic policy and administration. While legislatively foreign and economic policy, consumer rights, pensions and trade are reserved matters for the UK parliament, major aspects regarding healthcare, education, justice, environment, policing and housing are devolved. That inaugural session of Parliament opened by Queen Elizabeth II also falls on the anniversary of the 1543 that united the kingdoms—though not before the terms were ultimately rejected by Scotland, leading to eight years of conflict known as the Rough Wooing.

Monday 2 May 2022

fan mail from a flounder?

Given the MST3K treatment for the first time on this day in 1999 in their tenth season, the surpassing bad 1971 sci-fi horror film also released under the titles ZaAt (the name of the chemical compound), Hydra and Attack of the Swamp Creatures relates the plot of a mad scientist first to transform himself into a catfish-like monster (sort of like the hybrid God-Emperor primate-sandworm) then drug an entire town’s water supply with the same serum to create a community of merpeople. The mad scientist then turns his focus to revenge on his fellow researchers who ridiculed his work.

Thursday 25 November 2021

now i work at the pizza pizza

A brief discussion of the tabletop shuffleboard-like, disk-flicking game that the interlocutors mostly knew from the lyric from the song “King of Spain,” “playing crokinole with the Princess of Monaco” transported me back aeons ago when I was volunteer “security detail” (i.e., checking wrist-bands and stamps of people coming and going between different venues) at a music festival in Vermont with headliner Ani DiFranco and also featuring acts like Moxy Frรผvous (1989 - 2001) with their ballad retelling the Prince and Pauper story. Now I eat humble pie.

Wednesday 8 September 2021

why is there even a blue pill?

Via Super Punch, we are treated to this sincerely, unintentionally unfortunate juxtaposition with this teaser landing spot for the upcoming Matrix sequel, in which actors from the original reprise their roles. You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Saturday 4 September 2021

space: 1999

Though only running for two seasons, the titular BBC programme (renewed the second year by ITC Entertainment) that premiered on this day in 1975 was quite ahead of its time and established among many other tropes the “cold open” scene that preceded the credit sequence, itself boldly a spin-off of a narrative in the Supermarionation production Thunderbirds by the same creative duo Sylvia and Gerry Anderson in non-puppet form. A radioactive waste dump on the far side of the Moon, detected by the research staff at Lunar Base Alpha, experiences a magnetic anomaly, which causes the material to reach critical mass and triggers a thermonuclear explosion 13 September 1999 and propels the Earth’s satellite into deep space. This spaceship Moon wanders into a black hole and several “space warps” to continue its exploration of the Cosmos.

Sunday 8 August 2021

mst3k s10e13

Airing first on this day in 1999, lampooning the 1968 cinematic adaptation of the long-running Italian comic Diabolik, this episode marked the series finale marked the end of a decade-long experiment subjecting the crew of the Satellite of Love to bad movies. The super villain of the film wreaks havoc along with his girlfriend Eva and sidekick Ginko across Europe for his own amusement and financial gain but also fights wrong-doing with wrong-doing, sadistically punishing criminal activity not aligned with his own. Generally panned outside of Italy as the creators assume familiarity with the characters, the direction of Mario Bava with score by Ennio Morricone later was recognised for its cinematography and became regarded as a cult classic, re-evaluated after the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment, a year prior scenes featuring in the Beastie Boys music video for Body Movin’.
Over the course of the episode, the satellite is inadvertently deorbited and returned to Earth with the mad scientist and her henchmen in the lair Castle Forrester liquidating assets and lining up new employment.  There is a touching final farewell.  The show was happily rebooted in 2017 though never fully out of production in the interim.

Wednesday 31 March 2021

listen to me coppertop—we don’t have time for twenty questions

Going into general release in US theatres on this day in 1999, though the tropes and themes have been to an extent ironically co-opted by more right leaning and extremist elements, The Matrix (previously) written and directed by the siblings Wachowski, whom years after their movie debuted came out as transgender women, acknowledged some subtle allegory in the plot and dialogue:“an error in the Matrix,” that sense that something is fundamental wrong—“like a splinter in your mind” suggests body dysphoria and the red pill that for some in the above-mentioned circles has become representative for throwing down the gauntlet for seeking truth inside conspiracy did for others draw comparisons to red oestrogen pills that transitioning individuals might take. In the original script, the character of Switch (quoted above) was to be portrayed as male in the real world and as female in the Matrix but that idea was dropped during filming.

Sunday 8 November 2020

web of deception

On this day in 1999, Bruce Miller was found murdered in his scrapyard in Flint, Michigan, victim of a conspiracy between his wife Sharee Paulette Kitley Miller (*1971) and her online liaison Jerry Cassaday—who was convinced to carry out the shooting by Sharee for Miller’s money, arguing a divorce could not generate enough alimony since the couple had only been married for a few months. Mortified by his actions, Cassaday, a former police officer who knew forensics and thus how to commit a perfect crime, took his own life afterwards and Sharee was apprehended the following February after finding their chat logs, printed out and left in a briefcase along with Cassaday’s suicide note.

Individuals should know that their actions (even in that then new media) have consequences and have been sentenced accordingly but I wonder in what ways does hindsight temper judgment. What do you think? Sometimes time vilifies and exculpates but never universally and one has to wonder about our own naivety. With headlines like “Murder by Instant Message,” the investigation and trial were recorded as the first internet based homicide.

Thursday 9 July 2020

in der rรถmerischer weinstraรŸe

Our penultimate overnight stop brought us to the Central Moselle (Mittelmosel) community of Trittenheim—this like most other steep vineyards advertising their local vintners and varietals in big white letters like the Hollywood sign, championed by a village Wine Queen (Weinkรถnigin) selected by a jury of past title holders and restauranteurs.
In 1999, however no suitable candidate could be found and the judges instead elected the first (and quite possibly sole exception but we’d like to think that such pageants are a bit more enlightened—a few years ago the Moselle named their first royal industry representative who was a Syrian refugee) Wine King in master mechanic, philanthropist, entertainer and developmental chieftain (Ngoryifia) Cรฉphas Kosi Bansah of the Ewe people of the Hohoe region of Ghana.
Having come to Germany as part of a student exchange programme, Bansah stayed on and was invested with this honourific political office, realising that he was able to govern remotely and could achieve more education and outreach for his people in Germany, improving infrastructure and schools dramatically through his celebrityand his talent for networking. 

Sunday 28 June 2020

nakhlite type

The classification of Martian meteorite (see also) that was the first of its kind to suggest the presence of water and then for a tantalisingly brief time nearly a century later as technology and analysis methods improved microbial life, named for the Egyptian village of El Nakhla El Bahariya were it fell, broken up by the heat of entry into about forty samples raining down, on this day in 1911.
They are ejecta of volcanic rock from the plains Elysium Mons that was able to escape the planet’s gravity through a violent asteroid impact, wandering through space for ten million years before being captured by Earth, occasionally impacting over the past ten thousand years.  Though likely apocryphal since there were no remains recovered and no other corroborating witnesses, astronomers still repeat the legend and it’s become a mascot in the field of meteor studies, a local farmer recounts how a fragment landed directly on his canine helper, vaporising the animal without a trace, the so-called Nakhla dog.  In 1999, a sample previously unexposed to earthly elements was cleaved off and studied using a powerful scanning electron microscope revealing a matrix of pores very similar—though not conclusively so—to the traces that bacteria would leave in rocky substrate on Earth, leading many researchers to conclude that the Red Planet at least at one point harboured the niche environment that could support life.

Sunday 19 April 2020

mambo № 5

Though propelled back into renewed popularity with Munich artist Lou Bega’s sampling and remixed version released on this day in 1999 in German markets on his debut album A Little Bit of Mambo, the history of the jazzy dance number goes back half a century before (see also) that with the composition and recording of Mambo King Cuban musician Dรกmaso Pรฉrez Prado. Here are both songs for your listening pleasure.
Bega’s reintroduction of the tune (there is a lot of original material and is by no means just a remake and only takes inspiration from a few albeit central riffs) was incredible popular and quickly garnered accolades. It was a candidate campaign song for the Democratic Party’s 2000 election push though sponsors had second thoughts over the line “A little bit of Monica in my life…” and a BBC children’s television programme, still basking in the success from its first recording venture Can We Fix It? Yes We Can!, in 2001 released a cover-version featuring the construction engineer’s voice actor singing, replacing the litany of girlfriends with construction materials and tasks: “There’s a house with a roof that leaks / It’s an urgent job and could take us weeks… A little bit of tiling on the roof / A little bit of making waterproof / A little bit of concrete mixed with sand / A little bit of Bob, the Builder Man.”

Sunday 29 March 2020

djia = ฯƒp/d

Having muddled through the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 and the collapse of the Russian rouble the following year, the US stock market index the Dow Jones Industrial Average, that gauges the performance of a select thirty large, publicly listed companies, on this day in 1999 a celebration was held on the trading floor when for the first time the Dow closed above ten thousand points.
Bolstered by faith in a strong dollar—the world’s reserve currency—and mergers in the petroleum industry and what was decried presciently by some as an “irrational exuberance” in the seemingly unbridled technology sector, investors at the time would scarcely realise that they were partying at the apex (or nadir, depending on one’s point of view) of the Dot Com Bubble. The speculation fuelled growth peaked in March 2000, once borrowing became more expensive and credit tighter when national banks changed their lending practises once the industry had weathered y2k without significant disruption, before surrendering a gain of nearly four hundred percent by October 2002.