Wednesday 15 May 2024

asemic writing (11. 560)

The above describing wordless or meaningless text intended to invite the reader to divine a message through the symbolisms rather than to convey a message—though these carefully recorded compositions that suggest mathematical and chemical formulae certainly encoded a meaning that was perhaps only known to the artist—and could be certainly applied to the verisimilitude (see also) of the collected works of outsider artist Melvin May, a bassist who returned to New York City to study informatics but his career path was sidelined by a schizophrenia diagnosis and subsequent drug use, landing him in a men’s shelter on Randall’s Island whilst seeking treatment. Way’s discipline was discovered through art workshops sponsored by the shelter, dense and intricate sketches with ballpoint pens committed to found scraps of paper, often carrying around works-in-progress on his person, protected with a layer of scotch tape. More on this retrospective—and sadly posthumous by only months—and Way’s life at Hyperallergic at the link above.

Saturday 11 May 2024

ampas (11. 553)

Founded on this day in 1927 by head of the studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer producer Louis B Mayer in order to create an organisation to mediate labour disputes without the need for outside, independent trade unions and improve the image and reputation of the film industry with input from prolific actor and matinee idol Conrad Nagel (who would six years later go on to establish the Screen Actors’ Guild) and thirty-five other professionals including Mary Pickford and Harold Lloyd, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was to hold an annual banquet but no mention of awards at the time. During the Great Depression, the Academy lost credibility as an arbitrator when it came to labour negotiations and gradually pivoted towards its present role as an honours society, with meritorious awards for “distinctive achievement” in one five branches—acting, directing, writing, technical accomplishment and producing—eventually becoming known as the Oscars. Around the same time, the Academy founded the first film school in collaboration with the University of Southern California, a library charged with collecting all publications about movies and state-of-the-art screening venue for members.

Friday 26 April 2024

villa of the papyri (11. 516)

Using a dual process of optical coherence tomography and infrared hyperspectral imaging to eke out characters from carbonised scrolls housed in Herculaneum and preserved after the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD but inaccessible until recently with the aid of artificial intelligence, researchers have been able to more accurately locate the burial place of Plato, student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle, in the Academy, destroyed by Roman general Sulla in 86 BC, as well as a previously unknown account of the philosopher’s last days that relates how he found the night’s entertainment, a Thracian musician’s performance, rather grating. We wonder what else might be digitally unwrapped from this trove kept in what’s regarded as one, the site originally designated Villa Suburbana either residence of Lucious Calpurnius Piso Caesonius—the father-in-law of Julius Caesar or the purported author himself, Epicurean Philodemus of Gadara, of the most luxurious and with a well-apportioned library in the Roman world.

Friday 19 April 2024

9x9 (11. 499)

pumping iron: Technogym invites forty artists to reinterpret its exercise bench for Milan Design Week  

wikipedia rectangles: a collage of images sourced from the Commons subdivides one’s screen in increasing smaller sections of disparate pictures—via Web Curios  

the microcosm of london: an illustrated three-volume set by Rudolph Ackermann showcasing the public spaces of the capital 

๐Ÿ‰: the massive Quilt for Palestine unveiled at the Met 

rundown royale: a look at the family tree of Charlemagne, the Father of Europe—via Miss Cellania 

ulnar nerve: the etymology of the expression funny bone and variants—including the Swedish terms enkelstรถt/รคnkestรถt  

dua lipa stuns as congressional gerrymander: that and other headlines from Super Punch  

from our correspondents: World Press Photo contest captures destruction and devastation 

the revolution will not be biennalised: the withdrawal of the Israeli pavilion in Venice was performative and opportunistic

Wednesday 17 April 2024

metaphysics of quality (11. 495)

Finally published after receiving one hundred twenty-one letters of rejection for the manscript, the fictionalised autobiography of author and philosopher Robert M Pirsig recounts the seventeen day cross-continent odyssey with his his son as a vehicle to reconcile and reconnect with his past self, driven insane by speculation on the nature of the Good and subjected to electro-convulsive therapy which irretrievably changed his personality. Pilgrims who trace his journey from Montana to California can pay homage to the motorcycle subject to repair, newly acquired by and on display at the Smithsonian. Along the way, the unnamed narrator encounters a foil in a friend who chose not to learn how to care for his expensive bike, hoping for the best but relying on professional mechanics when things do go wrong, and in contrast is able to trouble-shoot his ride, a comparative jalopy—framing the trip with many dense and introspective discussions on knowledge, belief and value—and argues persuasively that one can accept, embrace the dichotomy of the rational and romantic (like Nietzche’s Apollonian/Dionysian division) to avoid falling into gumption traps, the motivation that drains enthusiasm, reinforcing reluctance to change and adjudge situations as they come with less pragmatism. The discursive diary of ideas was for a generation a way to bookend the counterculture movement and temper some of the exuberance and idealism, like the schism in the narrator’s own mind, and function and flourish in a world beset with rules, norms and progress. Pirsig offers the disclaimer that, despite the title, his work should “in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practise. It’s not very factual on motorcycles either.”


one year ago: Bavaria wants to bring its nuclear power plants back online

two years ago: more on interstellar interlopers, Dolly Parton wardrobed like Easter eggs plus assorted links worth revisiting

three years ago: more links to enjoy, Zalgo text plus a UFO sighting in Aurora, Texas (1897)

four years ago: more links worth revisiting, an observation confirming the Two Body Problem, some sporting music plus the invention of hiking as a pastime

five years ago: even more links to enjoy plus the World Chess Association logo

Friday 15 March 2024

6x6 (11. 422)

merica: singular, normalised behaviour of US residents that they’ve become inured to 

sfx: more mind-blowing short videos from OpenAI’s Sora—see previously 

outstanding in the field: highlights from the annual British Wildlife Photo  

negative pressure ventilator: an obituary for author, lawyer and polio survivor who used an iron lung for seven decades  

getty images: foundation and museum has made over eighty thousand artworks and artefacts from its collect available to the public  

free drawing: lessons in illustration from 1925 by Franz ฤŒiลพek and Hermann Kastner bytedance: users react to app’s uncertain future in the US


one year ago: assorted links to revisit

two years ago: another MST3K classic, a Roman holiday plus the Doomsday Clock

three years ago: the Ides of March, the Feast of the Holy Lance, more links to enjoy plus a lost and found project

four years ago: the Osaka World’s Fair Expo (1970), a Roman Star Trek episode, disease vectors, antique bills of sale, some blasphemous graffiti plus Scotland’s new bank notes

five years ago: a non-gendered digital assistant, xenophobic dogma, unblurring photos, college admission and privilege plus more links worth the revisit

Wednesday 13 March 2024

the temple of invention (11. 418)

Via tmn, we discover that from 1790 to 1880, the US Patent Office uniquely required filers to include with each application a model of their inventions, which were later curated and exhibited in the agency’s miniature gallery, established ahead of Washington, DC’s other museums as the top attraction of the capital city. Long ago deaccessioned and largely lost (as a form of crowd control), some artefacts have been collected and put on display, including the exquisitely impractical and unmarketable hull of Abraham Lincoln’s boat design with inflatable and evacuatable ballast to improve navigation (6469, the only patent granted to a US president—though I suspect that Trump has registered an unfashionable number of trademarks administered by the same authority) along with dozens of other ambitious artefacts of ingenuity.


one year ago: the network effect

two years ago: assorted links to revisit plus Saint Ansovinus

three years ago: more links to enjoy, snowdrops plus a classic number from Brewer and Shipley

four years ago: a coup attempt in Germany (1920)

five years ago: the world wide web (1989), noise-cancelling, plant mobility plus more Olympic pictograms

Sunday 18 February 2024

colonel sanders’ tijuana picnic (11. 361)

Via Good Internet, we are treated to a travelling exhibition of the worst album covers on display presently at the Alnwick Bailiffgate Gallery in Northumberland, featuring some four hundred aesthetically challenging vinyl sleeves from the collection of Steve Goldman, amassed over the years from bin sales and charity shops with the purchasing, inclusion criteria of it being laughably bad—nothing mean spirited but rather when choices went awry, irrespective of music quality—see also judging a book by its cover, via Web Curios. Select tracks from the collection will also be playing, with visitors invited to dance a bit and vote for their favourites, ranging from education, promotional, devotional, obscure artists and more well-known musicians. The pictured cover for the 1979 album from Peter Rabbit was what inspired Goldman’s hobby and share his obsession.

Saturday 17 February 2024

ลผuraw (11. 355)

Via Strange Company, not only do we learn that a medieval token of affection, a tin badge in the shape of a turtledove with the inscription “Amor vincit omnia” was found by the port crane of Gdรกnsk, we also find out that its discovery is owing to an extensive renovation project to preserve the thirteenth century technological and architectural marvel on the Motล‚awa. The crane, human-powered by crew running hamster wheel fashion on treadmills was capable of hoisting cargo and shipbuilding materials weighing several tonnes, has been closed to the public since 2020 but will soon reopen with new exhibits on the city’s mercantile history with holographic docents and period characters to act as guides. More from t he History Blog at the link above.


one year ago: conspiracy theories about walkable cities plus sending a terminator back in time to save the human internet

two years ago: Saint Mesrop Mashtots plus Chess ‘72

three years ago: first and final frames, ten rules of good design plus more bardcore

four years ago: custom facial coverings

five years ago: AI-generated faces plus new names for very large and very small numbers

Friday 9 February 2024

national jukebox (11. 336)

Via Web Curious (a lot more to explore there), we enjoyed poking around the playlists of this project from the US Library of Congress that streams over ten thousand historic recordings and growing produced by the Victor Talking Machine Company (the ascribing labels, OKeh Records, Columbia, RCA, now subsidiaries of Sony Music Entertainment—but the clearinghouse granted a free license to the library to make them publicly available…) from 1901 to 1925. We especially liked the recommendation algorithm and a feature that’s grouped what was recorded on a particular day of the year. Look around and see what old-timely tunes you can discover.

Tuesday 6 February 2024

8x8 (11. 328)

the scholar & his cat: a resonant ninth century reflection by Pangur Bรกn 

bring your own beach owl: mimicry and semi-automated genre fiction—via Kottke  

riverwalk: a one kilometre-long museum that undulates with the reservoir it crosses in Shandong province

steelmaster: a 1966 office furniture catalogue  

television stone: the unique optical properties of the mineral ulexite 

๐Ÿ›‹️: the Eames Archive open to the public—see previously 

vesuvius challenge: a trio of researchers share the honorarium for deciphering charred scrolls from Herculaneum with the help of AI  

ombre: Alexander Pope’s card game


one year ago: Facebook’s social engineering experiments plus a ska version of the Tetris theme

two years ago: multiple zoom maps, Computerwelt, Sesame Street light jazz plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: quotation marks, Zardoz (1974), more links to enjoy, the founding of Liberia, I Ching in melting snow plus barbarian tongues

four years ago: Deciminisation Days, Trump acquitted, classical architecture plus photographer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore

five years ago: Anguilla independence, the Irish border, dress uniforms plus Orson Welles on creeping intolerance

Sunday 4 February 2024

haarat al-daraj (11. 323)

Coupled with the unconscionable civilian death toll and the destruction and demolition of half the buildings and essentially all vital infrastructure in the strip, NPR takes us on a circumspect tour of the landmarks destroyed in the war that Israel declared against Hamas. What precious few historic and cultural focal points were left to the Palestinian people have been wiped away, including this thirteenth century palace and fortification built for a Mamluk sultan where Napoleon once stayed, seat of power during the Ottoman period, law enforcement headquarters during the British Mandate and most recently girls’ school under the auspices of the UN, as well as  museums and an antiquities shop, an ancient mosque and bathhouse, storied restaurants and other gathering places.

Saturday 3 February 2024

transcendental aesthetic (11. 318)

A direct ancestor of the Laserium light show (collaborating with Henry Jacobs for his display at the Morrison Planetarium), we quite enjoyed this short 1961 abstract, experimental animation on 16mm film from Jordan Belson, a prolific artist, often with a nonobjective (his career was kicked off by a sustaining grant from the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which later became known as the Guggenheim) but spiritual bent, who created an extensive portfolio of works over the course of six decades. Evoking a mediative, introspective experience like many of his works, in 2011, the US Library of Congress inscribed “Allures” in the National Film Registry.

Saturday 27 January 2024

piggy bank (11. 296)

As part of an inventory from the British Museum that concludes—along with the need for better definitions and legal protections to ensure that important antiquities are not sold on the open market—recent years have yielded the highest number of treasures found since records have been kept, we are introduced to non-singular practise of Iron Age Britons of storing their coins in naturally occurring hollow flint nodules found in the chalk and limestone strata of the region. The contents of the ball date from the last decades BC and were minted in the East Wiltshire area and are classed as “Savernake Wreath” staters, after the Ancient Greek standard, ฯƒฯ„ฮฑฯ„ฮฎฯ (weight), circulating first as ingots then as coins, brought by the Celts to Western and Central Europe. Learn more at the History Blog at the link above.


one year ago: the Paris Peace Accords (1973), corecore, Ballroom Blitz plus Cistercian cyphers

two years ago: RIP Peter Robbins, the voice actor for the character Charlie Brown, more on esoteric programming languages plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: The Singing, Ringing Tree, inspired watch-faces, computing in Poland plus an alternate spelling alphabet

four years ago: policy via magical thinking plus emoji on license plates

five years ago: more on generative adversarial networks

Wednesday 24 January 2024

refractive index (11. 291)

Opening on this day in 1955 in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, sparking many revivals and alternative exhibitions, the curation of some five hundred images from all over the world was the culmination of the the career of Edward Steichen, director of the MoMA’s department of photography—having earlier played a significant role in legitimising the medium as a recognised art form—drawing record-setting number of visitors. The ambitious project’s title was taken from the stanza of the Carl Sandburg poem, written as a prologue for the show: 

There is only one man in the world and his name is All Men.
There is only one woman in the world and her name is All Women.
There is only one child in the world and the child's name is All Children.

People! flung wide and far, born into toil, struggle, blood and dreams, among lovers, eaters, drinkers, workers, loafers, fighters, players, gamblers. Here are ironworkers, bridge men, musicians, sandhogs, miners, builders of huts and skyscrapers, jungle hunters, landlords, and the landless, the loved and the unloved, the lonely and abandoned, the brutal and the compassionate—one big family hugging close to the ball of Earth for its life and being. Everywhere is love and love-making, weddings and babies from generation to generation keeping the Family of Man alive and continuing.  

If the human face is “the masterpiece of God” it is here then in a thousand fateful registrations. Often the faces speak that words can never say. Some tell of eternity and others only the latest tattings.  Child faces of blossom smiles or mouths of hunger are followed by homely faces of majesty carved and worn by love, prayer and hope, along with others light and carefree as thistledown in a late summer wing.  Faces have land and sea on them, faces honest as the morning sun flooding a clean kitchen with light, faces crooked and lost and wondering where to go this afternoon or tomorrow morning. Faces in crowds, laughing and windblown leaf faces, profiles in an instant of agony, mouths in a dumbshow mockery lacking speech, faces of music in gay song or a twist of pain, a hate ready to kill, or calm and ready-for-death faces. Some of them are worth a long look now and deep contemplation later.

Embarking later on a global, goodwill tour partly under the auspices of the United States Information Agency (see also), a manifesto of peace during times of turmoil and division, the images were selected to communicate a story and the gallery of faces engendered mutual recognition and seemed to look back at the audience, inspiring tributes, sequels and re-examinations, beginning with West Germany’s 1965 Weltausstellung der Fotografie and some critical revisions, re-appraisals to shift perspective and build inclusivity and exposure on the intent. Ultimately inscribed to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, the physical catalogue of prints is displayed (according to the original set-up) and archived at Clervaux Castle of curator Steichen’s native Luxembourg.


one year ago: drawing lessons from an ukiyo-e master, the US army leaves the Rheinland (1923) plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: more on Saturn’s moons, a WWII holdout (1972) plus the Young Poland art movement

three years ago: geneticist Beatrice Mintz

four years ago: negative harmonies, City Roads, more synthetic humans, a belle รฉpoque residence plus French territories in Jerusalem

five years ago: the micronation of Sealand, a 1960 documentary on the Cosmos plus an impressive cultural centre in Tฤซanjฤซn

Tuesday 16 January 2024

latrinalia (11. 272)

Via the peripatetic online explorations of Messy Nessy Chic, we are referred to the doodle books, Klotterbรถckers—a five volume collection, of Stockholmer Bengt Claudelin, professionally an assistant to a wealthy art-collecting countess (whom eventually bequeathed her collection along with Claudelin’s research to the state though first censored then forgotten in the archives), of the graffiti in public conveniences, documented in his free time. There’s the usual toilet humour and bragging (see also for another ethnographic study) but an overwhelming preponderance of propositioning and profusion of male prostitution. Although the entries (often illustrated which Claudelin faithfully copied) are anonymous—one group in particular stood out: soldiers, for whom it was not uncommon almost a century earlier to offer sexual favours for sale, particularly given the low wages and dearth of obligations during the duty week, to have some extra spending money for the weekend and a proper date. Claudelin’s patron, Wilhelmina Hallwyl, donated her home and collection on the condition that it would remain unchanged and always kept together in 1922, offering like her secretary’s hobby, a unique insight into the lifestyle of the Swedish nobility of the era.

artist sjรถรถ (11. 270)

Courtesy of a retrospective exhibition at Oxford entitled the Great Cosmic Mother, we were pleased to be acquainted with the paintings of radical anarcho-, eco-feminist and founding proponent of the Goddess Movement whose work coincided with the woman’s liberation push of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Monica Sjรถรถ was born in the Vรคsternorrland region on New Year’s Eve 1938 and left home aged sixteen to travel Europe working as an agricultural labourer and find work in modelling, eventually taking up residence in Bristol, where she remained for the rest of her life—very well known beyond all borders, she taught and corresponded with several influential authors, neopagans and artists, including Judy Chicago, Alice Walker, Starhawk and Shekhinah Mountainwater. The show’s name comes from a pamphlet later expanded into a book co-authored with Barbara Mor covering ancient history and the origin of religion and spirituality, positing that women were the first practitioners—a text still part of the syllabus for many courses on women’s studies, mythology and theology. Much more from Hyperallergic at the link up top.


one year ago: another MST3K classic,  AI designs novelty socks, an Ayn Rand play plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: more links to enjoy, professional salutations plus haunted postcards

three years ago: your daily demon: Vapula, an anatomy lesson, contemporary irregular verb forms, special stamps for the Lunar New Year plus large Cyrillic numbers

four years ago: birb-watching, the League of Nations, the Wollemi pines plus the US congress transmits articles of impeachment for Trump

five years ago: the first orbital docking, a gilded picket fence for Mar-a-Lago, more on Prohibition in the US plus the White House serves fast-food

Tuesday 19 December 2023

in the stacks (11. 195)

Whilst the institution remains open to the public and its collection of manuscripts and rare books remain securely archived and conserved, the total collapse of the British Library’s digital infrastructure that made its entire catalogue freely accessible to all worldwide following a malicious cyberattack on Halloween is almost as grave as loosing the originals. A ransomware gang, auctioning off personal data of patrons and staff alike, has rendered its services largely unavailable even for those readers and scholars geographically close enough to visit in person and makes potential and present patrons reflect on nature of this sort of institution and how theft of connection is as bad as theft or destruction of knowledge itself. 


one year ago: A Christmas Carol plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: celebrating two decades of The Lord of the Rings, a literary clock plus more links to enjoy

three years ago: Dalรญ holiday cards, more links worth revisiting plus an angel on Mars

four years ago: Trump impeached, Clinton impeached (1998) plus map haikus

five years ago: even more links, French carols, sonic shades plus Trump withdraws from Syria

Tuesday 28 November 2023

the battle of versailles (11. 145)

Similar to the surprise coup of this other culture rafinรฉe, high stakes challenge from earlier in the same year, the historic fashion show held on this day in 1973 at the famous venue in order to raise funds for its restoration. Organised by the museum and government forum’s curator, the event pitted French designers, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Carin, Marc Bolen and others against Americans Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston and Oscar de la Renta before an invited audience that consisted of artists and celebrities like Andy Warhol, Princess Grace, Marie-Hรฉlรจne de Rothschild, Jane Birkin, Liza Minnelli and Josรฉphine Baker (the last two performing for their respective sides). The show was legendary (more here) and the mostly French spectators were stunned with the American designs and models, a new benchmark set for representation with eleven Black women on the catwalk and shifting the industry in a way that brought respect and legitimacy for the US contribution and the palace which had seen better days was rebuilt.


one year ago: Christopher Isherwood’s I am a Camera plus Word of the Year: Gaslight

two years ago: the duet from Dirty DancingAdvent season plus some COVID comic-relief

three years ago: your daily demon: Furcas, Trump at the kiddie-table, assorted links to revisit plus the Great Bed of Ware

four years ago: a visit to a local museum plus a Thanksgiving pageant

five years ago: barely maps plus a proposed change to the UN Security Council

Thursday 2 November 2023

tintype (11. 090)

Via Waxy, we are directed to a trove of some four thousand glass plate negatives salvaged from the trash back in 2019 and developed by documentary photographer and preservationist Terri Cappucci based in western Massachusetts. The collection, destined to be thrown away, captures local history and provides a snap-shot of New England spanning from the 1860s to the 1930s. A lot of the portraiture includes exquisite and sharp details on styles and fashions from over the decades and illustrate changes in living and the land. The state university in Amherst has acquired the archive and is in the process of curation. 


one year ago: the Morris Worm (1988), Simpsons Albums plus in praise of phrase books

two years ago: a treasury of neologisms,  US president Warren G Harding plus an art storage facility opens its doors to the public

three years ago: your daily demon: Vine, a board game about the US electoral college, the first BBC high-definition television broadcast (1936) plus Hartfield’s Landing revisited

four years ago: Party Like It’s 1999, a historic bar in Singapore plus more shadow puppets

five years ago: artist Piet Mondrian, assorted links to revisit plus more on the first residents of the International Space Station