Tuesday 14 November 2023

9x9 (11. 120)

temporal excursions: advice for the modern time-travellers thinking about visiting medieval Europe  

once and future: ex-PM David Cameron returns as Sunak’s foreign minister after a cabinet shake-up following the Home Secretary’s incendiary remarks  

ototw: there are over six-thousand ‘on top of the world’ mountains—a peak so high no others in the range can be seen from its summit—we’ve only been to Brocken, I think out of them all  

an aaron spelling production: an appreciation of Arthur Hailey’s Hotel (1983 - 1988) and its parade of guest stars  

the house of tomorrow: Tex Avery’s vision of the smart home seems more user-friendly  

return-to-office: automatic responses from those on a hybrid work-schedule  

carbon-casting: a LEGO-like approach to CO₂ offset and removal at target costs  

brideshead revisited: a new film on the eccentricities of the landed gentry—via Messy Nessy Chic

florantine codex: a sixteenth century ethnography on Mesoamerica and the Aztec culture has been digitalised and made accessible to the public


one year ago: The New Musical Express (1952), more Scopitone fun, more on English adjectival order plus assorted links to enjoy

two years ago: the Oort cloud, the Landshut Wedding (1475), more McMansion Hell plus a tale of guided chess

three years ago: the centenary of the BBC, the 2008 G20, paleomixology plus another MST3K classic

four years ago: assorted links to revisit

five years ago: Yale admits women (1968), Nellie Bly’s trip around the world, more on land-use plus social media platforms reimagined on outdated technology

Monday 13 November 2023

folly cove collective (11. 119)

Under the tutelage of Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios, the all-women’s group in a Massachusetts community from the 1940s to the late 1960s cultivated the art of block-printed fabric patterns informed by their personal experiences and narratives (see also—too bad there was nothing truly subversive like a housewife’s vengeance represented but maybe there were subtle acts of rebellion in themselves), from home economics, local, vernacular architecture and family outings. Click through the link above for more on this community of printmakers.

luminous flux (11. 118)

Though doing nothing to help those looking up at with the naked eye restore some of the wonder of the unadulterated night sky, a group of astronomers in Russia have taken advantage of a clever hack in the proliferation of LED lighting to diminish the glow of street lamps. Reversing technological advances in observatory by washing out the field of vision—to the point where stars are vanishing at a rate of ten percent per year, scientists are combatting light pollution by making the diodes flicker at a rate imperceptible to humans synchronised with shutters on the telescope’s aperture to capture images of stellar objects only during those milliseconds that the lights are out. Practical trials seem promising in yielding clearer, more detailed exposures. Getting a whole municipality to coordinate their blinking lights seems like a logistical challenge but maybe a worthwhile one.

predatoroonops (11. 117)

Via Kottke, we learn that a genus of goblin spiders native to the forests of Brazil and described in 2012 has the above taxonomical designation in honour of the 1987 movie Predator, owing to their facial resemblance to the unmasked extraterrestrial hunting party, with individual species like Predatoroonops schwarzeneggeri named for the creatures, quarry and guerilla fighters.

monad-gpt (11. 116)

Via Clive Thompson’s latest Linkfest, we are directed towards a narrowly trained language model from Hugging Face contributor Pierre-Carl Langlais versed in texts from the Early to Late Medieval Period, which is essentially akin to having a scholarly monk as one’s interlocutor, delightfully limited to the corpora of scientific, historical and cultural of the tenth through seventeenth centuries. Not to contribute to the misconception that the Dark Ages were backwards and lacking in introspection, the conversations elicited (see also) seem pretty fun and harmless vis-ร -vis the rather worrisome tendency of of generalised chatbots to confidently lead one astray and is suitable for staying in character at the Renaissance Fair and for continuing to tease out facts from a specific manuscript. Questions and answers can also be generated in French and Latin.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit,  remembering the 13. November Terrorist Attacks in France plus more bad paperback covers

two years ago: more links to enjoy plus Hollywood Horror House (1970)

three years ago: your daily demon: Vual, venues entrusted with medical information, animal magnetism, composer Johann Zach plus the vice-president elect

four years ago: the Feast of St Brice, a customisable racing bar chart plus conditioning feline instincts

five years ago: linear settlements, customisable emoji plus AI’s tendency to cheat and cut-corners

Sunday 12 November 2023

the war to end all wars

Reflecting on the holiness of Armistice Day when God spoke clearly to mankind, perhaps for the last time, during the silence observed in the name of peace, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr reflected on its becoming a modern American holiday how the latter is sacred but “Veterans’ Day is not… I don’t want to throw away any sacred things. What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance—and all music is,” we too take umbrage with how a commemoration of loss and laying down arms became to some a celebration of the warrior and his errant adventures. We appreciated this touching memorial on Remembrance Sunday of those fallen in the East London district of Spitalfields. It’s a moving tribute with short biographies, a map of where they lived and images of the doorways and thresholds that they passed under. More at Spitalfields Life from the Gentle Author.

connections (11. 114)

With an interdisciplinary and humorous approach to the history of science and innovation, the educational television series that first aired on BBC with presenter and writer James Burke in 1978 and distributed in the US by PBS (see also) the following year, will be rebooted as a streaming documentary series after several years of syndication and tribute episodes with the same host exploring, as the original show’s subtitle suggests, an “Alternate View of Change,” tracing the interconnectedness of inventions and events that inform modernity and the course of seemingly unrelated accidents are revealed as the drivers of history. In addition to possible corollaries to his chain-of-events, the series also poses the question of when literacy falters in the face of techno-shock and when the accelerated rate of change becomes overwhelming. While waiting for the next instalment, one can explore the original ten episodes below.


one year ago: the famous photograph of the Loch Ness monster (1934), the Gemini XII mission (1966), the birth of hypertext and the web browser (1989) plus the premier of Absolutely Fabulous (1992)

two years ago: a pioneering trapeze artist, Monsters, Inc, substitute mall Santas, harnessing the powers of silk plus a foggy walk in the woods

three years ago: a concert for a reunited Berlin (1989) plus imagining the Trump Presidential Library

four years ago: an ideal time to go to Mars, Possibly in Michigan (1983), casting to Hell plus a psychedelic ad for movie refreshments

five years ago: a 1929 Ralph Steiner short on water, women’s suffrage in Austria (1918) plus RIP Douglas Rain


Saturday 11 November 2023

constructive ambiguity (11. 113)

Credited as the prime negotiation tactic of US diplomat Henry Kissinger, employed both as a way to mask an irreconcilable impasse when sides remain far apart on an issue and as a means for both parties to save face and claim concessions from the other. Postponing true resolution is in retrospect disparaged as papering over systemic and deeper conflicts for its tendency for subsequent eruption for a temporary stay. Examples include the Shanghai Communiquรฉ, considered America’s first expression of the one-China policy during Nixon’s visit and the so called “Six-Point Agreement”—both brokered by Kissinger—and the latter signed on this day in 1973 at the Kilometre 101 of the Cairo-Suez highway. At inroads after the first phase of peace talks to end the Yom Kippur War achieved little progress in de-escalation with the encirclement of the Egyptian army by the Israeli Defence Forces and neither side willing to withdraw. Provision B of the settlement was ambiguously worded so as to incentivise further negotiations to go back to status quo, which both sides choose to interpret as favourable to their cause: Egypt as clear mandate that Israel would surrender its claim on their territory and for Israel a disentanglement of belligerents without the obligation for capitulation.