Thursday 10 November 2016

oh, inverted world

With everything seeming so unreal and draining—including the stages of disbelief that we or they as the cognizetti had to confront as assumptions collapsed—I was hoping to awake from this bad dream and find ourselves in a place where all the progress towards social justice as imperfect as it is and as far as we have to go was not refudiated and undone by the victory of chauvinism and exceptionalism.
America’s relevance that so many are clutching after is diminished both domestically and abroad, and as tragic as it is to valid the insecurities of groups whose support comes at the disenfran- chisement of others—no protection for the minority, the greater threats come in the form of contagion in this nativism, emboldening tyrants and charismatics globally, and in laxer attitudes—verging towards ignorance—regarding climate change and responsible stewardship for the environment. Not that we’re custodians of the Earth, but rather having the passion and curiosity to make the pursuits of the sciences accountable and transform our world safely. It’s bad enough that those holding power are loath indulge that sometimes uncomfortable and inconvenient self-critique that one’s presumptions may be wrong and sustain the intellectual and emotional wherewithal to wonder why others might see the same things differently, but it’s not just as if we’ve given some mustachioed caricature of a villain enough rope to hang himself but also an arsenal of nuclear weapons and a surveillance system without parallel at his disposal. With such toys, why aspire to anything higher?

Saturday 22 October 2016

bashnet or the hunting of the snark

There’s no evidence that the massive internet outage that did not just affect single platforms but rather significant geographical swathes of access by a coordinated and sophisticated assault on one of the structural switchboards is the work of those that might want to disrupt the US election.

It is, however, certainly a foretaste of how the smartening up of every aspect of our lives might have been not well thought through and how everything from car-pooling, couch-surfing, ordering a la carte, grocery-lists and free-wheeling banking might needn’t have been untethered from one thing to be tied to a conspiracy to make our days seamless and coordinated. If allowed to remain an ad hoc and arguably unnecessary network of interlaced parking meters, baby-monitors, or fast-food tray liners, then we there’s a huge front of least resistance to exploit, and hackers can deploy unlimited foot soldiers in the form of botnets that can’t be easily repelled and countermeasures can be countermanded. If the internet becomes subject to takedown, does the growing reliance on the Internet of Things become a handicap and a liability? What do you think? If this temporary static elicited such a panic, it’s hard to imagine what a true and sustained outage might look like—although, thankfully, we wouldn’t of course be posting live about it.

Friday 21 October 2016

vanity gallery

Recalling once that a professor espoused the opinion that Soviet elements had infiltrated the Peacenik anti-war movements of the Vietnam and this support (both fiduciary and ideologically) was made manifest by the quality and artistry of the protest posters that they carried, I enjoyed this guided tour of the not so secret but still politically covert gallery of the CIA’s art collection. Though the rationale behind the particular patronage of abstract expressionists may be rather tamely selected due to the style of the day of when the headquarters were completed in the late 1950s, we learnt nonetheless that the intelligence agency funded and promoted—unbeknownst to the artists themselves, the likes of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, in additional to the creators of the canvases that adorn the agency corridors.
Who knew? This is leagues better than most patriotic pictures of soaring eagles and flags—with long titles like “Why are there no knock-knock jokes about America? Because Freedom rings, by damnit!” Made available to the viewing public (at last and at least through the power of the internet and thanks to Hyperallergic), there was also an element of propaganda at work, making the statement that America was unbounded by tradition and fostered such licence and even showcased that freedom by loaning artwork out to a sort of travelling exhibition to Iron Curtain countries—despite being inaccessible to the American museum-goers. Be sure to visit this excellent and privileged curation at the link above.

Saturday 15 October 2016

ะพะบั‚ัะฑั€ัŒัะบะธะน ััŽั€ะฟั€ะธะท

Regardless of how all the reporting seems rather dodgily recursive, leaning on sources that that sit as murky at best (if not deliberate disinformation), I cannot see any reason for the US to announce, advertise plans for retaliatory network strikes against Russia, accusing the Kremlin of meddling in American domestic affairs.
If the Russian government did sponsor the hacking of the Democratic National Committee servers and is the source of Clinton campaign internal communiques being slowly leaked (which still seems debatable with the facts as presented), the US received no notice, no advanced warning. Why would it make its offensive manoeuvres public and directly attributable? Moreover why risk escalation in the name of restoring the reputation of Democracy—which domestic politics has slandered quite well enough on its own and without any foreign intervention? It is not as if US intelligence agents state that their assault will coerce Russia into accords on Syria, but rather, they hope it will aid in strengthening Russia’s press ability to research and report on corruption at the top, and embarrass leaders by exposing their economic ties. Well, knock me over with a feather.

Friday 14 October 2016

stรถk plรณma, fljรณtandi รญ ilmvatni, borin fram รญ karimannshatti

In addition to the annual lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower over the last weekend on Viรฐey Island in Reykjavรญk bay on the occasion of John Lennon’s birthday, the beams illuminating the skies (and beaming wishes of goodwill all across the universe) for the next two months—to be extinguished on the anniversary of his assassination—with Iceland being originally chosen as host for its ecological thermal energy and general good governance, Yoko Ono has several other concomitant art projects going on in the country. Ono also solicited tributes from local artists, and humourously Ragnar Kjartansson presented her with an elaborate Simpsons’ meta-reference, to Ms Ono’s delight.

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.

Saturday 1 October 2016


And here we go again, conscientious bureaucrats, with some reflections on the fiscal new year that’s really a frightening collusion of window-dressing scenarios but I think that the American public is as estranged or disengaged as it is divided to have much tolerance for speculation.
Amazingly and for the eighth consecutive year—though it seemed few were watching with baited breath (I believe that the Heisenberg principle applies to the news and governments and the mere act of looking at it changes outcomes)—the US government avoided a shut-down due to a deficiency of funding just thirty-six hours before FY 2017 began. With a day and a half to spare, that’s hardly exciting. And with the elections just a month away, no party wanted to be seen as forcing the other’s hand—despite that this manล“uvre only gains the operations the purchase until Christmas recess and then it’s a lame-duck presidency and congress and whatever the results, half the country will be gravely disappointed and in denial. I am sure that we’ll be dusting off those tried-and-true toolkits that we’ve honed to keep the bureaucracy grinding along.

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