Thursday 6 February 2020


Spoon & Tamago refers to a retrospective of the pioneering photojournalist Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore (*1856 - †1928), avid traveler and first female board member of the National Geographic Society. Not only did she bring her readership reports and images of the Far East—both the exotic and the everyday from a century ago, the conservationist and author also brought cherry trees (see also here and here) from Japan to Washington, DC. Much more to explore at the link up top.

Tuesday 23 July 2019

bird’s eye view

Via the always engaging Kottke, we are introduced to the aerial repertoire of the Andrews Brothers who’ve set up a print shop to sell some of their showcase, abstract drone photography. Among their latest compositions is this rather jarring and disorienting work called “Skyline” of shipping containers stacked high on a barge with the forecastle bridge towering above the other silhouettes whose shadows pass over the water. More to discover at the links above.

Monday 22 July 2019


bird of prey: Airbus reveals concept hybrid-powered aircraft design that relies on biomimicry to boost efficiency

malpratise: Johnson’s and Trump’s assault on the NHS through relaxing UK price-controls on medication

we liked the sequel, also sprach zarathustra: re-mapping syllabi from institutions of higher learning

southern exposure: the rotating solaria of Doctor Jean Saidman

groundcrew: support staff of Japan’s Air Self-Defence Force (est’d 1954) celebrated its sixtieth anniversary with precision scooter manoeuvres

dysfluency: virtual assistants have an array of human touches to build trust and rapport

re-freezer: ingenious plan to combat rising oceans by replenishing the ice-sheet artificially

engage: the trailer for Star Trek: Picard (previously)

Tuesday 28 May 2019

burg stolpen or under the rainbow

H and I decided we would let our vacation be at the mercy of the weather and it started raining without pause from midnight Monday onward, so after decamping, soggy, we started on our way back, making a detour to see Burg Stolpen, the town and a thirteenth century castle at the foot of a mountain of the same name and hewn out of basalt columns.
The mineral was first classified and described at this particularly rich quarry by local natural philosopher Georgius Agricola in a 1556 treatise.
The pictures are of the residence and prison of lady-in-waiting and mistress of Augustus II the Strong (der Starke) Anna Constantian von Brockdorff—eventually styled Countess of Cosel (Reichsgräfin von Cosel, *1680 - †1765)—who eventually earned the displeasure of her lover, imperial elector and king of Poland by her advocacy for the rights of Polish subjects.
Anna was banished from court and placed under house arrest in the tower for just under fifty years.
Adaptations of her biography in the 1980s rehabilitated her image and revived interest in the life and times of this defiant and inconvenient woman.
We couldn’t find any historic marker in the town but Stolpen was also the birthplace, we learned, of an arguably more famous—at least in contemporary terms in the West—quartet of siblings: the Doll family.
Born with the surname Schneider at the turn of the century up to the outbreak of World War I and first adopting and performing under the name Earle—after their manager and agent that brought them to America, Gracie, Harry, Daisy and Tiny were a formidable force as a sideshow and then as a screen act—always working together and insisting that they all have roles.
Terrors of Tiny Town and Tod Browning’s Freaks, all four were also Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz, with Harry (*1902 – †1985) performing as a representative of the Lollipop Guild.
Commercial fortunate allowed them to retire comfortably and purchase an estate in Sarasota, Florida—including a compound called the Doll House were all lived together, complete with custom furniture build to their scale.  Something strikes me in common about their stories—one a very vocal inmate of the town and others sent away without regard because of their difference.  What do you think?

Monday 27 May 2019


Among our favourite things to discover on holiday are examples of vernacular, sometimes super-antiquated public transportation and in the Sächsische Schweiz, H and I got to sample plenty on our way to Bad Schandau through the Kirnitzsch (Kล™inice, a tributary of the Elbe) Valley.
A train, a ferry and steamboat were ultimately involved to bring us to an electric street car established in 1898 to transport guests of the sanitaria. The terminal ended with a guesthouse under the รฆgis of an artificial waterfall but there was the chance to hike up to the summit.
The peak with its natural sandstone archway and system of caves and hollows to explore became known as the Kuhstall, as this had to reach shelter became a favourite spot for residents to hide their livestock for safekeeping during the Thirty Years’ War and hidden from Swedish interlopers. The funicular is no longer the only option for traversing these nine kilometres but certainly the recommended mode of travel.

Sunday 26 May 2019

of bastions and batteries

Constituted in part from some of the last remains of a medieval fortification (a bastion, the defensive ring around Felsenburg Neurahen) but mostly a series of naturally occurring but artfully linked observation platforms, the bridge located high in the sandstone mountains (die Elbsandsteingeberger) of Saxony represents one of the first purpose-built tourist attractions, having existed in this form for some two hundred years.
H and I recently had the chance to hike around and explore some of the trails in this area, known as the Saxon Switzerland, der Sächsische Schweiz, and take advantage of the accommodations that developed over the decades and informed what we have come to expect—for better or worse, from a destination, its renown presaged by romanticised depictions in travel guides and paintings—though nature conservancy also went hand in hand with promoting tourism and now is the centrepiece of an expansive national park and preserve.  Click on the images to enlarge.

Also not failing to deliver, next we toured the Fortress Kรถnigstein, located on the towering promontory that dominated our campsite, as we’d appreciate later. A centuries’ old enclosed ensemble asserts its control over the Elbe, forming the one of the largest fort in Europe, located on a tabletop hill (Tafelberg).

Casements and batteries aside, the Königstein owes its long existence and many iterations to a reliable water supply won through an incredibly deep well (one hundred and fifty two metres, excavated by hand with two horse power and the second deepest in Europe) that allowed the occupants of the fortress to survive and outlast what would otherwise be a crippling siege and a matter of waiting the defenders out.

Friday 24 May 2019


location scout: travel destinations that embrace the Wes Anderson (previously) aesthetic

digit-1: Ford prototypes a foldable robot that might be delivering your packages soon

homer’s phobia: a look back at the 1997 John Waters’ cameo on the Simpsons that helped shift attitudes

enhanced pat-down: the US Transportation Security Administration keeps the loose change it collects and is factored into its operating budget

wheel estate: already priced out of the housing market, Silicon Valley communities are moving to ban people living out of their cars who work supporting the industry

bodennutzung: a trove of historic photographs from WWII bombing runs over Switzerland show how the landscape has changed over the decades 

Thursday 23 May 2019


bit part: a preview of a biopic about Claude Shannon (previously)—the unsung Father of Information Theory

the revolution will not be biennialised: Banksy (previously) makes an appearance at a Venice expo, selling paintings of giant cruise ships moored in the canals

en pointe: the Hong Kong Ballet celebrates its fortieth birthday

๐Ÿ˜พ ๐Ÿ˜พ ๐Ÿ˜พ: Thangrycat is exploiting vulnerabilities in the underpinning architecture of the internet

urban spelunking: when the Jehovah’s Witnesses relocated from Brooklyn Heights to upstate, their vacated properties included a series of underground passageways, via Super Punch

conducive to learning: a collection of striking maps and charts that inspired pupils in the late nineteenth century

walking trot: phones can now determine who is carrying them by knowing their users’ gait and other kinematic factors, via Slashdot

Wednesday 22 May 2019

heritage tourism

In what smacks very much as an unholy alliance that turns over a rock to reveal that there’s already a booming genealogical travel industry, one problematic force of the gig-economy that’s turned gentrification into overdrive and percolated a housing crisis in the popular destination of the moment that’s proving very hard to recover from and another DNA analysis service that’s demonstrated some serious problems with confirmation bias and sampling-size form a partnership to make holiday-suggestions based on one’s ancestry—for those wanting to rediscover their roots.
Family histories can of course be fascinating, enlightening and humbling—to help us all realise that each of us has been uprooted and transplanted in one way or another, but this method and the package it promises does not strike me as the advisable way to dig around in the past. It’s a huge dissonance that we’ve cushioned ourselves to such a great extent to maintain our distance from others and avoid interaction or betraying intent, and yet we will invite strangers into our homes and automobiles and hope they’ll judge us well. What do you think? The two companies pledge that data about one’s DNA and travelogue won’t cross but I can’t see how that can be prevented. We’d all like to be able to extemporaneously share our narratives and autobiographies (especially when they reaffirm our uniqueness) and perhaps have a dramatic reunion with long-lost cousins, but I don’t think that journey is one that ought to be short-circuited though marketing gimmicks and cynical ploys for horizontal monopolies on one’s aspirations.

Sunday 19 May 2019

bolstering bridges

The twenty-six hundred residents of Giethoorn are seeing their relationship with the tens of thousands of tourists descending on the “Dutch Venice” (previously) every year growing a bit strained—appreciating the revenue the visitors bring but not necessarily the added traffic to this car-free town that is only navigable by foot and boat. Minor though frequent collisions with the residents’ private bridges that span the canals and connect the islands are sustaining enough damage that passage along these waterways criss-crossed by some forty-five of the traditional bridges is needing to be restricted so repairs can proceed and make conditions safer for villagers and punters alike.

Friday 3 May 2019


shuudan koudou: the Japanese art of synchronised, precision walking

how happy we could be if we’d only listen to our kitschy teacups: cheerfulness is not a virtue and rather an equal opportunity vice

shortlisted: a curated selection of submissions to National Geographic’s travel photography competition

the wookie roars: RIP Peter Mayhew (*1944 – †2019)

tiger on tour: during the height of the Space Race, Esso gave away maps of the Moon

deplatformed: garbage social media ejected a bunch of garbage provocateurs, though the stunt is more publicity for the banned

klimaanlage: researchers in Karlsruhe study enlisting air conditioning units to pull carbon dioxide out of the air

yijin jing: watching Shaolin Kung Fu training from above (previously)

Saturday 23 March 2019

elf uhr

Via Strange Company, we find ourselves transported to the cantonal capital of Solothurn at the foot of the Jura Mountains to explore its long held affinity with the number eleven (รถufi in the local Swiss-German dialect)—though no one quite has the definitive answer for the association that can be found everywhere—the 11th canton to join the confederation, home to 11 guilds, plus 11 churches and chapels, 11 towers of the former town wall, and a cathedral with 11 altars, bells and steps. According to one source it was adopted in deference to a team of work coach elves (Elf in German is both an Elf and the number) who came down from the Weissenstein, the promontory that dominates the city, and helped make the long-toiling inhabitants more prosperous.

Monday 11 March 2019


pizzo: the Trump Crime Syndicate is expecting host nation partners to pay a big premium for US troops stationed there—via Miss Cellania’s Links

big and heavy: industrial pamphlets, 1932-1941

reef of silence: an underwater necropolis is proposed as a funerary venue that will rehabilitate coral habitats

chichรฉn itzรก: researchers uncover a trove of ancient Mayan artefacts in the Cave of the Jaguar God

shลซnyatฤ: a few moments of guided meditation from Alan Watts

do you know the way to san jose: Silicon Valley plans a monument to Silicon Valley—via Digg

tit-for-tat: though short of needing special entry- and tourist-visas US travellers to Europe will need to pre-register, like with the American ESTA programme 

Tuesday 5 March 2019


In a delightful piece for Lapham’s Quarterly—which comes to us via Coudal Partners’ Fresh LinksElizabeth Della Zazzera ponders that: “The Odyssey, if you strip away enough allegory and myth, might serve as a travel guide for the ร†gean Sea: which islands to avoid if you hate escape rooms, which cruise to skip of you always forget to pack earplugs, where to get that beef that angers the gods. But how does Odysseus’ trek across the wine-dark sea map onto an actual map of the Mediterranean?”
As much as scholars might debate the merits of trying to map a myth, the places mentioned along our hero’s circuitous route for all their fantastic inhabitants and the weight of allegory and iconography are real and readily identifiable. Though an abundance of wholly serious academics have undertaken the task of creating gazetteers (long before Troy was rediscovered as a real place and not some Homeric conceit) and more recently cruises commissioned only semi-cynically for the literary criticism crowd that trace Odysseus’ odyssey and journey home exist to attest to the allure of charting a narrative, one has to wonder what one misses with interpretations and readings that adhere too closely to the text and correspondence to places one can visit.

Sunday 13 January 2019


mixed media: Basa Funahara’s brilliant masking tape paintings

travelling matte: beautiful vintage postcards displayed on antique luggage

brightest london is best reached by underground: a look at some of the women artists who designed vintage Tube advertisements

a wave of whales: a campaign to inundate Japanese embassies worldwide with art and essays in opposition to their resumption of whaling

the rotten eggs: punk nursey rhymes that are your usual children’s musical fare

chime-in any time: Canadian radio observatory detects more mysterious repeating bursts 

Tuesday 1 January 2019

was this trip really necessary?

While piloting a programme for commercial flights without single-use plastics on board might seem gimmicky and greenwashing, it is nonetheless a step in the right direction and unless we want to face the ethical problems that travel and tourism present without some ammunition in our moral quiver—begging questions like the one above—we’ve got to demand better more sustainable options when it comes to holiday-making, otherwise decisions will be made for us. Every locale with a tour operations running, boating excursions, snorkelling, photographic safaris, etc. or even restaurants and hoteliers that cater to outside visitors, ought to be mandated to use the most energy-efficient, zero-polluting means of transportation and logistics available with help from local governments.
What do you think? Would you pay a bit extra to site-see knowing that your presence didn’t deprive another of the same quality experience later on? After all, every little bit helps and we got here due to laziness and cutting corners multiplied billions of times. While progress towards cleaner and more efficient modes of transportation and daily living should not fall further behind in the private sector, governments should first place a premium on tourists to subsidise adopting new technologies and cycling out old, dirty motors for less intrusive electric ones.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

phileas fogg

Though a far more serious investigative journalist earning her credentials for her undercover exposรฉs on working conditions in factories and mental institutions, reporter and foreign correspondent Nellie Bly (the nom de plume of Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman) was dispatched on this day in 1889 on a round-the-world voyage—with only two-days’ notice, to match or best the record established by the Jules Verne novel.
Editors at Bly’s newspaper had been contemplating this sort of publicity race (at Bly’s suggestion) for some time and the last-minute dash materialised once a competing New York publication announced that they’d be sending out their writer Elizabeth Bisland also on a quest to circumnavigate the globe—but in the opposite direction, westward-bound and then steaming across the Pacific.
A missed connection in England ultimately cost Bisland the contest, with Bly returning triumphant (only informed of her competitor by the time she arrived in Hong Kong) in New York after seventy-two days. Bly’s sponsorship by a daily newspaper rather than a monthly magazine as Bisland with constant coverage and a prize on offer for the reader who could guess the date and time of her return was also a motivating factor for the intrepid traveller.  Bisland finished four-and-a-half days later, both adventurers beating the benchmark set by Verne.

Tuesday 6 November 2018

all roads lead to rome

Covering a familiar subject, the Map Room directs our attention to an interactive and animated study of a thirteenth century reproduction of a Roman illustrated itinerarium—that is, a road map that shows the network of the cursus publicus (previously) of the Empire around the time of the reign of Augustus, called the Tabula Peutingeriana after the sixteenth century Augsburger antiquarians, Konrad Peutinger and his wife Margaretha Welser, who conserved this artefact.  The seven metre long scroll is made a bit more wieldly and accessible by depicting it as a side-scrolling animation with additional features that, for instance, allow one to toggle between the ancient and modern toponyms for places along the routes. Inscribed into the UNESCO registry in 2007, learn more about the unique strip map and the ongoing scholarship surrounding it at the pair of links up top.

Monday 15 October 2018


mystery machine: a 1999 Scooby-Doo parody of “The Blair Witch Project” from Cartoon Network

the history league: jerseys for fantasy sports teams centred on momentous events, via Shadow Manor’s Art of Darkness

popular science: though presently mostly relegated to children’s literature, pop-up books were once the stuff of serious textbooks

feng shui: the opening of Kyoto’s first dispersed hotel promises visitors an authentic, immersive experience in the old capital

public service announcement: contemporary artists offers updates on the iconic vintage series from the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal organisation

siren song: the micronation of Uลพpis, an enclave in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius

Friday 5 October 2018

great railway journeys

Via Dark Roasted Blend’s weekly Link Latte, we find ourselves directed to the beautifully curated collection of vintage and antique European rail travel posters from Armand Massonet. Categorised and with a bit of provenance that allows one to date the ephemera and learn more, there’s a wealth of resources to discover. We especially liked the section dedicated to overnight expresses and sleeper cars (a less common luxury nowadays)—including automobile hauling service. The pictorial train map section, like this Bildkarte of Austria, is also definitely worth browsing through.