Quote: “The Chinese philosopher Zhang Hêng invented the earliest known seismoscope in 132 A.D. The instrument was said to resemble a wine jar of diameter six feet. On the outside of the vessel there were eight dragon-heads, facing the eight principal directions of the compass. Below each of the dragon-heads was a toad, with its mouth opened toward the dragon. The mouth of each dragon held a ball. At the occurrence of an earthquake, one of the eight dragon-mouths would release a ball into the open mouth of the toad situated below. The direction of the shaking determined which of the dragons released its ball. The instrument is reported to have detected a four-hundred-mile distant earthquake which was not felt at the location of the seismoscope.” Neat.

11.30. filed under: history. people. science.

If you are anything like me good reader (and since you are here at all I must assume that, in some small way at least, you are) you look at the image above, and you read the caption, and you wonder, “what does that mean?” It seems simple enough. A quirky drawing; a short caption. You can’t help but run through possibilities– A comic strip? A children’s book? An illustration from an exposé on the secrets of magic? A rejected New Yorker Cartoon? And yet… it remains opaque somehow doesn’t it?. I mean “M. Ivorde’s little man?” That seems odd. And what’s with the space helmet? And what’s that he’s holding? A metal detector? A street sweeper’s dust-pan? Just what exactly is happening here?

I came across this image accidentally, much as you have, and if you’re anything like me you’re a curious sort and would like nothing better than to just click a link real quick, satisfy that curiosity, and move on. Well, having been down that road I have to ask you, in all seriousness, is that really what you want? I mean, couldn’t you just let it go?

11.28. filed under: ideas. misc. play. wtf. 11

Don’t know if you caught the little back and forth between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama earlier in the week on the topic of foreign policy experience. It was actually fairly interesting in a “no we will not, not ever, actually talk about anything of substance, but will quibble over ridiculous shit, like we’re slapping a colorful shuttlecock over an invisible net made of human suffering” kind of way. Hillary took Obama to task for intimating that his years spent in Indonesia as a child somehow correlated to “knowing the world.” It’s a valid point I suppose, though I wouldn’t say Obama was really trying to ride it. When asked about her own foreign experience Hillary characterized it as “Unique” and went on…

11.27. filed under: design. op-ed. politics. 1

The humble Crotoniidae mite, cousin of the spider, opened its own private little Pandora’s box. Quote: “In a first in the annals of animal evolution, these mites have rediscovered the joy of sex, regaining the ability to mate after descending from ancestors that had lost the capacity for it.” Ah yes. And along with the joys of sex (of which there are unarguably many) the Crotoniidae mite can now also rediscover a world of hurt– feelings of inadequacy and regret, dysfunction, confusion, guilt, self-loathing, unquenched desire, disgust, and all manner of deep dark shadow-casting neurosis! Whoopee! In 20 years their progeny will be cursing that first horny mite couple who slapped the gift horse of evolution in the mouth and cast their whole family, yet again, out of the garden of serene Eden. If you’ve got some cash to burn in the stock market now would be the time to invest it in mite-sized sports cars.

11.26. filed under: science. 2

Oom the Omnipotent

Wily con man, athlete, bank president, magician, automobile collector, investor in sport franchises, faker of his own death, builder of airports, proponent of sex magic, self described religious scholar / doctor / first american primate / yogi, and in 1905 founder of the first Tantrik Order in America. This is Pierre Arnold Bernard, better known in the press, by the authorities, and by his followers as Oom the Omnipotent. Interesting character. More here, here, here, here, and here.

11.25. filed under: history. people.

Semantics and the Eye of the Beholder

Centuries hence, in the light of the hot world, when the Chinese-ruled ports tax starships with diamond cores and the concerns of men have melded into a single muffled sadness; when the alien cuneiforms discovered on dry sea beds have embedded themselves in human consciousness, and the letter forms of all the world’s cultures have been melded into a single system to describe a single angularly chaotic language; when seemingly infinite forms of dead media (created and mass produced and rendered obsolete within the span of a week) are our greatest natural resource and are smelted to power the chugging and clanging engines of despair…perhaps then the document pictured here will flutter against someone’s pant leg on an irradiated street, and she will pick it up gingerly in her hazmat gloves, and begin to read. Perhaps she’ll be stunned to find something in the High Unified Language written on the oldest and deadest media of all– paper. Perhaps she’ll smuggle it into her home-cubicle and pore over the words, finding them rich with subtext and subtle humor and painfully germane warnings for a populace with cheap rubber hearts and a deadness about the eyes. Perhaps she’ll be inspired and a spark of resistance will light a fire of revolution. Perhaps she’ll think it a miracle ever after.

And in the forgotten grave of a forgotten man, topped with a worn and unreadable stone, the bones of the hand which held a brush to that document will be just slightly closer than they were the day before to becoming dust.

11.24. filed under: ideas. misc. 7

Psychopathia Sexualis, by Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing M.D. is a fascinating historical document. First published in Germany in 1886 the book attempts to catalogue and illuminate every manner of “sexual perversion” bubbling just under the surface of the 19th century. On the one hand reading through its pages is a melancholy sort of affair. This was a time when masturbation was a dirt path straight to the lake of fire, a time when if your own tastes stretched beyond monogamous “missionary work” you would likely be viewed as a tainted psycopath begotten by maniacs; if you also happen to be a woman… well, head directly to the assylum, do not pass go, do not even think about sexual fullfilment. On the other hand because of this rather narrow view of human sexuality much of what is characterized as sexual deviancy in the book seems downright cuddly and sweet in our filthy 21st century world, where a shampoo commercial might present more outwardly explicit sexuality than a 19th century woman’s entire adult existence.

Below the fold you will find 8 case studies which I’ve culled from the hundreds, presented for your education, possible discomfiting recognition, and, of course, your smug amusement (yeah, like you don’t have some, uh, “problematic” shit going on in the sex centers of your noggin.) Enjoy.

11.24. filed under: books. history. humanity. life. 5

Seed text: The first 6 lines of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem I Am Waiting (a critique of the American status quo, touching on false religiosity, crass consumerism, and the general absurdity of it all c.1958) which are as follows–

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail.

Filtering mechanism employed: Google Maps.

Result: Voxx, 8230 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA.

Quote: “Voxx is the world’s most pre-eminent scholar regarding Demonology and Witchcraft. Voxx is featured in the book, “The Top 100 Psychics in America.” She is an initiate of several magickal orders, and is the High Priestess of the Circle of Aradia. Among her abilities are the casting of Astrodice, Bibliomancy, Channeling, Pyromancy, Scrying, and Spirit Evocation. She is one of a handful of individuals who can fluently speak the the Magickal Enochian language. Voxx has appeared on many national television and radio shows, as well as in several films. Voxx is a published poet. Voxx is also a Screenwriter, Filmmaker, Photographer, Painter, talented electronica musician, and Multi-Media Artist. Voxx’s clients (who include the members of Motley Crue, Tara Reid, and Howard Stern) have been regularly astounded by her ability to successfully and accurately predict the names, dates and details regarding their future Soul Mates, as well as the subsequent birth of their children.” 

This result was the first returned because Voxx is mentioned on a site called rip-off report by a consumer in Staten Island who had paid for and cast Voxx’s “spells” but wasn’t initially satisfied because his “demands were not being fulfilled.”

Conclusion: Intentional misuse of data filtering tools shifts context and allows for the machine discovery of multilayered, wail-worthy, illustrative perfection. Truly a wonder.

11.23. filed under: bits&bytes. misc. play. 2

Some researchers at the University of Bristol, UK, have unveiled their findings as to a 46-centimetre eurypterid claw which was found near Prüm in Germany. After some fevered calculations and ratio checking the fossil is now believed to have belonged to the largest sea scorpion ever discovered. As Nature reports, “At 2.5 meters, this monster was bigger than a man.” Eeek.

To give you a real sense of scale I’ve included the image above, in which we see a eurypterid beside both Jean Paul Sartre’s grave, which he shares with Simone de Beauvoir, and a certain Duane Schneider from the hit 1970’s television show One Day at a Time. Hopefully that gives you some perspective.

(Story brought to my attention by the excellent Heraclitean Fire.)

11.22. filed under: science. wtf. 9

Prussian Blue

Fe7(CN)18(H2O)x where 14 ≤ x ≤ 16. RGB 0, 49, 83. HEX #003153.


Heinrich Diesbach, the German painter and colormaker, was after Cochineal Red Lake, a pigment originally obtained by crushing the bodies of cochineal insects. Toward this end, sometime in 1704, in the laboratory of alchemist Johann Konrad Dippel, Diesbach mixed iron sulphate and carbonate of potash. The potash was contaminated with animal oil, however, and the result was not Cochineal Red. The potash (an alkali) reacted with the animal oil (prepared from blood), to create potassium ferrocyanide. Mixing this with the iron sulphate, created the chemical compound iron ferrocyanide, better known as the first modern synthetic pigment ever created, albeit accidentally: Prussian Blue.

11.22. filed under: history. misc. 2

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