Monday 3 October 2016

motor voter

Safely shielded from the majority of US campaign mobilisation initiatives, polling and cold-calls, I was a bit surprised to learn that Rock the Vote is still making appeals to engage the plebiscite. During the last mid-term elections in 2014, there was a considerable push to get a certain demographic to register and participate, though the whole exercise was criticised as a stunt by conservatives for baiting the invitation with liberal issues—like legalising drugs or free access to educational opportunities—prompted by personalities that didn’t count themselves amongst the voting-class.
It was a bit off-cycle for the first time I was eligible to participate in a national election but I do remember feeling inspired and even actively campaigning for Ross Perot, which I am ashamed to admit but at least that helped unseat George I. What is perhaps most daunting is that there is wide-spread apathy and a marked disconnect and a feeling that few—especially among the younger demographic, are stakeholders in this process. I am not surprised that people feel jaded and disenfranchised and maybe don’t have much of a choice ultimately, but I don’t think there’s really an authoritative, impartial voice there admonishing them either to invite them, just in their lifetimes of majority how different each outcome might have been. Visitors from the parallel universe of Field Marshal LaRouche and Grand Vizer Lamar are not really pleased with their present prospects with far stranger timelines on offer.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

freedom of disinformation act

The inquiring and persistent Matt Novak, writing for Gizmodo’s Paleofuture, brings us the Cold War curiosity called the United States Information Agency, superseded by the State Department’s Broadcasting Board of Governors, whose media and divisions were charged with the mission advocating US policies and values abroad—in other words, propaganda or counter-propaganda.
Perhaps the most memorable public-relations campaigns that the organisation ran is the still extant Voice of America radio service (although a 1976 act mandated that the content be fair and balanced and news-casters had to get a little more creative with their message amid human-interest allegories) and a series of spaghetti-Westerns produced covertly and at astronomical expense called Project Pedro meant to make the neutral, rather laissez-faire government of Mexico to take a stance against Communist ideologies infiltrating Latin America, but by way of introductions for the doctrinaire and indoctrinating USIA, there was also a fictitious by-line (nom de plume, nom de guerre), a prolific polyglot economist Guy Sims Fitch, that was a catchment for pro-American monetary policy and distributed to news outlets all over the globe, usually as cheerful op-ed pieces in praise of the wages of capitalism (maybe such shill articles today might be in praise of TTIP and the like)—except in domestic papers, that is. Novak’s FOIA filing to retrieve some information on those writers and editors that wrote under this pseudonym was foiled owing to a technicality that the successor intelligence agencies cite for secret identities, since there’s no way for government to confirm or deny the consent of anonymous, unidentified authors to having their private writing given public attribution.

Saturday 10 September 2016

kitsch and clowder

Thanks to Poseidon’s Underworld, a blog dedicated to unearthing forgotten cinematic kitsch, we learn about an obscure but star-studded production of a movie called “The Phynx” by Warner Brothers and the Seven Arts, released to only a few venues in 1970.
It sounds wonderfully dreadful and has an equally byzantine storyline (that’s sort of derivative, hoping to maybe capture some the success that operatic productions like the Beatles’ “Help” found with audiences a few years earlier) that seems to be a light-hearted indictment against Communist Albania, who seems to be systematically kidnapping America’s national treasures in order to lower morale in the West and claim them as part of their own culture. Colonel Sanders is abducted and forced to cook for the Albanian First Lady—Marla Gibbs, Butterfly McQueen and countless other personalities are being disappeared as well and pressed into service as celebrities behind the Iron Curtain.
America’s intelligence agencies meet but are unable to agree jurisdictionally how to proceed, previous efforts to infiltrate the country having failed, and so turn to a “super-computer” called MOTHA (Mechanical Oracle That Helps Americans) for advice. MOTHA suggests quite sensibly that they form a boy-band—the eponymous Phynx—whose members are also trained in the arts of espionage, to take Albania and the whole of the Communist Bloc by storm and liberate their captured compatriots. This looks wacky and deranged but I think just for the sheer number of cameo appearances (the actors and/or their roles of the Lone Ranger, Tarzan, singer James Brown, Charo!, choreographer Busby Berkley and Charlie McCarthy—not the leader of the Communist witch-hunt but rather the ventriloquist dummy), the animated interstitials and musical interludes, it might be worthwhile viewing.

Wednesday 7 September 2016


The Houses of Parliament in London are in dire need of refurbishment—removing asbestos and updating wiring, the brilliant and sly Tom Shakespeare reports, not just bringing condemnation to these corridors of power but by way of an alternative a modest proposal that might improve the public image of the ruling-class among those whom they represent and provide important insights into their short-comings.
The two contingencies presented either allow for a three decades’ piecemeal restoration in situ or the displacement of lords and commoners for a period of six years whilst refurbishments go on whilst the representatives have been removed to other chambers. While recognising the importance of metonymy and the ability of an address to be the focus or praise or ire, Shakespeare rather proposes that the Houses of Parliament take to the road, harking back to the procession of kingly courts on the move of five centuries prior. Can you see it Gwen? A round table!  What do you think? Despite the venom directed at the establishment and the unsavouriness of hosting other big events recently, surely constituencies would walk over the necks of competition to host a moveable parliament. There’s certainly a modern counterpart in the mobile three-ring circus (through not without its detractors) that decamps Brussels for Strasbourg regularly. Perhaps that arrangement should be expanded and jar the privilege of Washington or Berlin. Just as England had its roving trappings, residences were built for the Holy Roman Emperor all over his domain and the rotation was a welcome event, despite the logistical hassles. Maybe bringing the processes of representative democracy to the people might make those elected officials more conscientious and accountable—and perhaps win back some measure of esteem from their constituents.

Monday 5 September 2016

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The poor Chancellor is seeing her party thoroughly routed, coming in third place behind the right-wing populist movement Alternative fรผr Deutschland in state elections in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern—at least if exit-polling is to be believed—and I wonder if this might be indicative of wider-sentiment that’s presently being dismissed as ‘bitter.’
The Chancellor assumed her signature stance (it must be awfully hard to find something to do with idle hands when there’s so much attention on them) during encounters with the press immediately afterward—and there’s even a name for that pose, the Merkel-Raute (Merkel’s Rhombus), which her political party endorsed the emoji version of above. Seeing her standing with poise reminded me of a rather astute observation about other politicians mirroring that gesture (people unconsciously adopt mannerisms like these, usually out of deference) I saw a few weeks ago, like it was some gang-sign for those in the know. I’m convinced that Frau Merkel is the leader of some Illuminati (the hands framing the All Seeing Eye) coven that includes Theresa May, David Icke, Gordon Brown, Jean-Claude Juncker, C. Montgomery Burns and Dora the Explorer. What do you think? I worry that we might now know too much for our own good.

Friday 2 September 2016

icebreaker and impasse

The somewhat ironically named Crystal Serenity is the first leviathan of a cruise-liner to haul holiday-makers through the once fabled Northwest Passage (only navigable year around since 2009 due to the arctic pack ice) and recently completed its maiden voyage, as Jalopnik reports.
Not only were guests a bit disappointed to not see majestic icebergs parting before them or penguins and polar bears accompanying them, it seems they also failed to appreciate the infamy of being the first “explorers” here. Aside from stark environmental concerns, as the sea-lanes widen and traffic inevitably increases, it also poses a vexing problem for Canada since the waters are part of the country’s internal territory but the rest of the maritime world has already decided (without conferring first with Canada) that there should be free and unhindered transit for all. Depending on how negotiations go forward, Canada might maintain its fishing and environmental regulations but not the power to bar any vessel entry—saddled with the responsibility for combatting piracy, smuggling and clean-up operations when a spill or a wreck does occur.

Tuesday 30 August 2016


regolith explorer: NASA to launch a probe to mine an asteroid and return samples to Earth

pole of inaccessibility: a visit to the most isolated settlement on Earth, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas on Tristan da Cunha

greywater: researchers will grow a forest in the Egyptian desert

karadashev type i civilisation: a strong radio signal originating in the direction of a distant star is intriguing alien-hunters

alice springs: still no resolution for the mysterious dismissal of Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam

ta-ta for now: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership was apparently dealt its coup grรขce—at least until the next election cycle

gregor samsa: a giant, inflatable cock roach pool float

Monday 29 August 2016

juxtaposed controls ou liaison fixe transmanche

As the refugee encampment in Calais known as the Jungle is projected to pass ten-thousand “inmates” soon, the Local’s French edition gives us a primer in the Touquet Treaty, negotiated back in 2003 by then Foreign Minister, Nicolas Sarkosy (once and future presidential contender), who believes it needs to now be reformed or scrapped in the midst of the migrant crisis and the in the aftermath of Brexit.
Broadly, juxtaposed controls (bureaux ร  contrรดles nationaux juxtaposรฉs) are arrangements between France, Belgium and the UK that allow border checks on cross Channel (la Manche, ร„rmelkanal) routes before embarkation, rather than at the border or destination and were formalised in the early 1990s when the Chunnel made rail transport possible and ferry-crossings increased in-kind.  Ironically, though the frontier between the UK and the Schengen Area has been pulled forward, immigrants massing at Calais and other port cities can only apply for asylum in the country they are physically located in, despite the entrepรดt status of where they are biding their time and border authorities are obliged to stop them.  When Banksy’s dystopian theme park was dismantled and removed from Weston-super-Mare last year, the construction materials were donated to the Jungle.  What do you think?  Remote registration centres for asylum-seekers have been established in other locations in Greece and Italy, so called hot-spots, but Calais is not presently host to the crush of hundreds of thousands of refugees and making and designating the port as such could attract more hopefuls already enduring dangerous and deplorable conditions.

Sunday 28 August 2016


Although it was known for years that agents and informants were keeping their country’s diaspora under surveillance to uncover any expatriates who might be harbouring critical views of the ruling regime, it seems no one really appreciated the scope and the reach of this network in Germany (which rivalled the Stasi of East Germany) and other European countries with significant Turkish populations until the failed coup.  In fact Ankara’s MฤฐT (Millรฎ ฤฐstihbarat TeลŸkilatฤฑ) had formerly worked closely with counterpart intelligence services in host nations to thwart potential terrorism and smuggling operations (of all sorts), but in the aftermath of the failed coup, spies have been drawn closer to the regime and deployed to menace and intimidate (reminding the exiled that they still have family in the homeland can force anyone to be silent or even rally in the regime’s support) those that probably left the country in the first place over political reasons.
Now, instead of having faith in the intelligence of their partners, the BND and others fear that any information they act on might have been presented to them in order to incriminate individuals (sort of the reserve false testimony of the informant known as Curveball, a dissident who feed the war hawks the salacious details it wanted to hear) who don’t share the Turkish government’s vision of how national and religious identities are to be portrayed and exercised.

Saturday 27 August 2016

you’ve been rick-rolled or carry on, constable

Despite increased scrutiny over the rhetoric of fear and derision and waning confidence in expert predictions and said experts presuming to dictate to the stakeholders how to vote, there was still a weight of shock and disappointment that many—at least vocal ones—were begrudging when those forecasts most dire, nor those pledges for prosperity everlasting for Brexit did not quite materialise. As if failing to recognise campaign promises for what they are or to remember what it is that politicians do, no one seemed quite sure what to make of a Ship of State that managed to navigate around both Scylla and Charybdis pretty much unscathed, at least in the immediate aftermath.
I cannot judge whether it was the correct decision or what the narrow margins mean, but insofar that Britain is not instantly free of the yoke of the EU nor neither financially imperilled over this choice, I do think the lack of confirmation of either the worst- or best-case scenarios and the failure (or vulnerability) of public sentiment to be turned by feckless forecasting—no side could truly know what the consequences would—is justification to call for a second referendum on the same subject. I feel it is the same arrogant presumptions that garners distrust in the words of experts that would ask people to second-guess themselves (invalidating or reaffirming their motivations), possibly fuelled by the same outrage and exaggeration of sore-losers, and ask them if they were sure that they wanted to vote that way. What do you think? Alea iacta est. Besides, the UK—in whole or in part, is not seeking a divorce from Europe, it’s rather separating itself from the policies and rules of the European Union, a big distinction. The EU is not Europe, but rather an economic and political experiment—with a raft of rules and regulations that have little to do with identity or partnership, and is not exactly treating the UK like a customer that is trying to switch service-providers. I think we will be exploring more of these models of undo and redo as the national election season creeps closer.

Friday 26 August 2016


purdah: in defiance of statute and accepted cultural norms, an online campaign invites Iranian women to share images of themselves with their heads exposed, and in solidarity, men appear in hijabs

final frontier: the monumental park outside of Moscow honouring the pioneers of space exploration

red dwarf: the hinted at existence of exoplanet Proxima Centauri ฮฒ is confirmed

goodwill ambassadors: Messy Nessy Chic digs up some vintage pocket guides issued to American service-members fighting overseas

at the third stroke: British Telecom is seeking out the speaking clock’s new voice, via the Presurfer

beyond antares: ladies and gentlemen, presenting the musical stylings of Miss Nichelle Nichols

Monday 22 August 2016


While it is always sound advice to “prepare appropriately for a development that could threaten our existence and cannot be categorically ruled out in the future” it does smack as pretty frightening and foreboding (especially in German), and the directive to citizens to stockpile food as an element of a broader civil defense plan does raise one’s spider-senses.
The timing of the announcement, which was last issued during the Cold War, does not, I think, indicate some imminent attack but rather a general precaution—especially as it is customary to make a trip to the neighbourhood market an almost daily occurrence and not buying in bulk—nor cue people to change their lifestyles. What do think? While not down Tornado Alley exactly or contending with tremours, German does have its share of natural catastrophes as well, without leaning on the threat of war or terrorism. Surely this plan was months in development and includes increasing the budget for emergency services and increasing hospital capacity, and there was no intent to cause panic or stoke conspiracies or the admission that multiculturism and inclusion is something to cower before.

Saturday 20 August 2016


Although the team comprised of refugees and asylum-seekers competing for the first time on the world stage in the Olympics marched under the banner of the Olympic flag, accompanied by the anthem of the Games, a group called Refugee Nation founded under the auspices of Amnesty International has commissioned a flag for these forcibly displaced peoples in orange and black, recalling the life-vests that saved many on their dangerous and desperate crossing and the many lives lost on the journey. The organization hopes that this will be a symbol of solidarity and good will after the event ends and the immigration crisis continues.

Friday 12 August 2016


many bothans died to bring us this preview: watch the trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

horn-section: a look at the acoustic locators of wartime Japan, outmoded by the advent of radar, via Everlasting Blรถrt

cristo redentor: an in depth look at the iconic statue that is Rio de Janeiro’s chief landmark, via Dave Log v3

kaninchenfelder fรผr immer: a look at the neglected tribute to the rabbits who had the run of the no man’s land that separated East and West Berlin, via the brilliant Nag on the Lake

impressment: the Guess Who’s “American Woman” was improvised when the Canadian band, playing a gig in Texas, were nearly drafted and sent to Vietnam

Thursday 11 August 2016


Add this being an election year to the series of crises that have fraught and jeopardised Europe’s attempts to shelter the displaced and the threatened (not to mention the spectre and reality of rising nationalism, preachers of hate and preachers of appeasement), it is little surprise that some German politicians are drafting a raft of proposals that would markedly change the country’s policy on immigration.
Though attested as measures to promote integration and public-safety, the reforms include, most provocatively, the banning of burqas and hijabs in public, following France’s rules. While other elements might be less sensational, the former seems the least worrisome considering that there is talk of relaxing doctor-patient confidentiality by introducing a duty to report even when the threat is not imminent, the expulsion of notorious characters for their potential to incite violence, or even removing refugees to massive encampments outside of European Union borders to wait it out until their respective conflicts at home end. What do you think? Whosoever champions one side or another seem unable in any venue to start a conversation that can be heard above the din of the repelling of opposites and the compacting of reasoned arguments down to their dread conclusions. One has to wonder if those policymakers are above that miasma of the democracy of the moment, in the thick of it, or are foolish enough to try to wield it.

Friday 5 August 2016

and i endorse this message

Sometimes simplicity can speak volumes, and from an economy of design perspective, there is quite some immediacy to it that is almost stronger for the juxtaposition. Found here.

Thursday 4 August 2016

free-return trajectory

An internet giant and associates intend to land an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon before the end of 2017, we learn via Kottke, after overcoming the administrative embargos established under the terms governing the parties of the Outer Space Treaty, which provides that no government can claim ownership of any celestial body, nor can weaponise space and is responsible for commercial spacecraft launched under their jurisdiction—no matter how close or loose that association is, what with multinational entities beholden to no state.  The treaty was installed shortly after the US government seeded the upper atmosphere with tens of thousands of microscopic needles at the height of the Cold War as a contingency for maintaining global communications in case the Soviets cut the undersea cables spanning the Atlantic.
Incidentally, the first private, commercial mission to the Moon was a fly-by and fourteen day Earth orbit executed by a German รฆrospace company in October of 2014 (EN/DE), memorialising its founder who had recently departed, but entailed no actual touch-down or permanent presence and this upcoming enterprise will be a first. In addition to being liable for the craft that take-off under their auspices, space-faring nations also retain ownership of the artifacts that they leave behind, space-junk, equipment, rovers and flags but can stake no claim—despite America’s push to have Tranquility Base protected as a national historic monument. I wonder how the Outer Space Treaty applies to wholly private activities—like asteroid mining, whose mere spectre should have already stopped the gold speculators, or space tourism. While we have to have confidence that governments with the urge to explore and not exploit, will only vet businesses of a like character, on the other hand, one has to wonder about burdening entrepreneurs with an insufficient regulatory framework and disincentives when private innovations may be a far greater boon to all of humanity than anything government can produce. What do you think? Not only do I not want to see tatty resorts crowding up the lunar surface, who’s to say that one could brand hollowed-out planetoids (or at least overlay them with advertising in a virtual augmented reality) or net a comet and remove it from the skies forever?  I think the potential amazing advances will carry the day and prevail, however, in the end.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

couplet and quatrain

Appreciating, like the troubadours of yore, that news and current events are especially good subjects for verse and there a quite a few social mediators out there doing just that. These are not ballads, quite (I tried that once during a long car trip in Ireland, “Heiko in his Aygo, he was a sheep-dodger!” and was asked to please stop) but rather poems adapted for genre and format of immediacy of meaning that can be teased out in a few choice words.
There is one superb individual, writing under the pseudonym Brian Bilston, whose been accorded the title of poet laureate for his moving and pithy works. I only found out about Mr. Bilston having heard tell that he’s been recruited by the traveling circus of the rich and powerful that will be descending on der Zauberberg later this year for the World Economic Forum as sort of a court-minstrel, but unbound by any patronage. His most famous poem that earned him the laurels, entitled “Refugees,” tweeted in March of this year, appears below. Please do heed the author’s request (and I promise, the effect is arresting) after reading it from top to bottom, re-read it from bottom to top:


They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or I
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

(Now please re-read from bottom to top)

Tuesday 26 July 2016

cozy bear, fancy bear

US intelligence agencies are lending credence, BoingBoing informs, to the suggestion that the Russian government contracted hackers to leak Democratic National Committee internal emails that would besmirch Clinton’s candidacy and throw the presidential election in Trump’s favour.
Given the mogul’s disdain for institutions like NATO and attested admiration for the Russian leader (not to mention business connections), the conspiracy seems more and more plausible. Yet this development might be a double-bluff to bury an even more diabolical plot. Asked what the bureau’s next move might be in the investigation, experts owed that their scope could be quite restricted and outside of their jurisdiction, as while bypassing computer security is a crime (even white hat hacking) trying to influence the outcome of a vote is not, and, unlike the unabashed media, the government would not want to risk fowling the waters—poisoning their own wells. What do you think? Being frank and forthright is a rare commodity in politics.

Sunday 24 July 2016

mo(u)rning in america

Via Marginal Revolution’s curated links, we are invited to check our punditry-meter when considering—or privileging—the current political landscape in America and abroad. Rhetoric is certainly spun-up to a fevered-pitch but the other thing about persuasive or sophistical speech is that is also serviceably modular and forgettable. While there is certainly cause for alarm and precedence for danger and intrigue and an awful redux of some things we’d thought we had dispatched, maybe there’s little novel in the present situation to bemoan.
Looking at these melodramatic instances from recent campaigns and critiques, I am reminded of far older politicking that conceived the polarising two-party system of the US: like the Tea-Partiers of the last election cycle, there was in the mid-1850s a movement called the Know Nothings—being a quasi-secret society whose membership and activities they’d never divulge to outsiders, owning up to no knowledge of whatever accusations. Even more anachronistically, they called their political caucus the Native American Party in order to balance out the political vacuum with the collapse of the of the Whig constituency and existed exclusively to warn-off the decent suffragans of the country about the dangers of immigration—especially of the Catholic persuasion with marching orders from the Pope to subvert the country. Unsuccessfully, they campaigned to reinstate former president Millard Fillmore and in the wake of the US Civil War, sublimated themselves into the grandees of the GOP. Fillmore had the first bathtub put in the White House, among other things. Even compared to contemporary events, the politics of America seem almost abruptly passรฉ, given that BREXIT has effectively already built that border-wall, Theresa May has been installed as an unelected Prime Minister (though a Bremain-supporter, is quite a boon to an Anglo-Saxon named Status Quo) and dotty former London mayor Boris Johnson has been elevated in the caretaker cabinet to the office of Foreign Minister. America, for once, might have an uphill battle for lunacy.