Not a lot of watch for your money

You can never have too many watches, I say. I used to have a very thin one, a Swatch Skin possibly? It was nothing like this one from Piaget, that’s for sure.

Altiplano Ultimate Concept WatchPiaget
Altiplano watch, 41 mm. Cobalt alloy case. World’s thinnest mechanical hand-wound watch : 2 mm, a total fusion between the case and the Manufacture movement. Manufacture Piaget 900P ultra-thin, hand-wound mechanical movement. Winner of the prestigious “Aiguille d’Or” watch price at the 2020 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG).

It’s only 2mm thick? Yep.

The incredible inner workings of the world’s thinnest watchWired UK
The Piaget Ultimate Concept first launched as a show-stealing proof-of-concept in 2018; now the watch is now in fully commercialised form (confusingly, still with the “Concept” nomination). It’s a mere 2mm-thick whisper of mechanical virtuosity that’s unlikely to be trumped in thinness any time soon […]

Made to order, the watch is described as “price on application”, though WIRED understands it to be well to the north of 300,000 Swiss francs.

So what’s 300,000 Swiss francs in sterling? Perhaps it’s one of those hyperinflated currencies like the Zimbabwe dollar and this amazing watch is within reach after all.

(For instance, did you know that a German 5 Million Mark coin, worth about $700 in January 1923, was only worth about one-thousandth of one cent by October 1923. And in Hungary, their highest banknote value in 1944 was 1,000 pengő, but by the end of 1945, it was 10,000,000 pengő, and the highest value in mid-1946 was 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 pengő.)

OK, maybe not.

Some monumental women

A recently unveiled memorial to Mary Wollstonecraft, the “mother of feminism,” has raised many an eyebrow, though I think people are coming round now.

Mary Wollstonecraft statue: a provocative tribute for a radical womanThe Conversation
Ultimately, statues don’t represent people, they represent ideas. Ideas of how we choose to see the world. Hambling’s more abstract and representative form perhaps tries to do too much: to celebrate the life and contribution of one woman, whilst celebrating the life and possibilities of all women.

Of, or For Mary Wollstonecraft?History Workshop
Hambling asserts that it is a sculpture, rather than a statue, that is for Wollstonecraft, not of her. A video to mark the unveiling of the statue premiered on the Mary on the Green social media profile in which Hambling describes the design as ‘a tower of intermingling female forms, culminating in the figure of the woman at the top who is challenging, and ready to challenge, the world.’ The ‘intermingling’ forms are suggestive of a historic community of women, out of which the more detailed, lone female figure is born into the ‘now’. This design choice is intended to represent the legacy of Wollstonecraft’s feminist work.

But, as this piece from The Art Newspaper says, even backlashes get a backlash.

People see only ‘silver tits’ and ‘bouffant pubes’ now—but I predict Mary Wollstonecraft sculpture will become widely admiredThe Art Newspaper
If Sculpture for Mary Wollstonecraft does become more widely admired, then I claim my place among those who declared that “actually, they always quite liked it”. Certainly, the silvery colour takes getting used to—it looks as if Goldfinger has been experimenting with cheaper ways to kill—but a few years of London pollution will help it acquire some much-needed patina. […]

What I like about Hambling’s figure is that it is nude, but not erotic. Wollstonecraft would have recognised the honesty of Hambling’s focus. “For man and woman,” she wrote in The Vindications of the Rights of Women (1792), “truth… must be the same; yet the fanciful female character, so prettily drawn by poets and novelists, demanding the sacrifice of truth and sincerity, virtue becomes a relative idea, having no other foundation than utility, and of that utility men pretend arbitrarily to judge, shaping it to their own convenience.” Naked, stripped of outward signs of wealth and privilege, we are all equal.

This status, for a very different woman, is also proving controversial, though for very different reasons.

Is Margaret Thatcher’s hometown ready to put her on a pedestal?The New York Times
[W]hile the unveiling of a statue is usually a festive occasion, few in Grantham expect Mrs. Thatcher’s homecoming to be celebrated as a hero’s return. “If you’re a Conservative,” said Graham Newton, the news editor of the weekly Grantham Journal, “you want a statue, and you want her recognized. But if you’re not, there’s a lot of people who — not to put a fine point on it — hated her.”

“She was never very fond of Grantham, and so Grantham was never very fond of her,” said John Campbell, a biographer, pointing out that Mrs. Thacher rarely visited the town as prime minister, and did not mention it in speeches. “She was happy to leave it behind,” he said.

Meanwhile.

Provocative Marilyn Monroe sculpture to return to Palm Springs—permanentlyThe Art Newspaper
When it was first shown in the California desert town, from 2012 to 2014, Forever Marilyn was a popular tourist attraction, with many visitors posing for photographs between the statue’s feet. But its return is seen as an embarrassment to the feminist movement and the local art community, and the art museum’s director has spoken out against it.

“You come out of the museum and the first thing you’re going to see is a 26-foot-tall Marilyn Monroe with her entire backside and underwear exposed,” Grachos pointed out. “We serve over 100,000 school-age children that come to our museum every single year. What message does that send to our young people, our visitors and community to present a statue that objectifies women, is sexually charged and disrespectful?”

Objectified

Making a spectacle of themselves.

Let’s have some quirky selfies and self portraits of a different kind, now.

Helmut Smits creates pinhole cameras that take playful selfies of your favourite objectsIt’s Nice That
What would a self-portrait made by an object look like? We usually forget a product’s packaging once we bin it after using the product. But what about, say, a tin of pringles? Is it the too-salty curved crisps that you think of, or is it the red tin that’s always too small for your hand to fit through? Can you separate what you consume from the way that it has been advertised?

In his project, A Product’s Self Portrait, Rotterdam-based visual artist Helmut Smits commits a playful approach to this topic. Because photography is a material process, Helmut has been magically creating 27 pinhole photos of products, using 27 matching pinhole cameras made from their packaging.

A beautiful year, nevertheless

It wasn’t all bad.

The of the year articles seem a little early this year. I wonder why we’re so keen to get 2020 behind us.

2020’s weather photography of the year doesn’t disappointMoss and Fog
The Royal Meteorological Society Weather Photographer of the Year contest is now in its 5th year, and has some amazing entrants that show us 2020 wasn’t just about a raging global pandemic. Indeed, Mother Nature, combined with a rapidly warming planet has resulted in record storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires this year.

Phu Tho province, Vietnam — Vu Trung Huan
Lake Baikal, Siberia — Alexey Trofimov

Top shots from the 2020 International Landscape Photographer of the YearThe Atlantic
More than 3,800 entries were received in this year’s landscape-photography competition, from professional and amateur photographers around the world.

Tromsø, Norway — Kelvin Yuen
Motukiekie Beach, New Zealand — Sergey Aleshchenko

There are many more beautiful images on those pages, do check them out. And here are some more wonderful things of a different kind.

100 best inventions of 2020TIME
Every year, TIME highlights inventions that are making the world better, smarter and even a bit more fun. … 100 groundbreaking inventions—including a smarter beehive, a greener tube of toothpaste, and technology that could catalyze a COVID-19 vaccine—that are changing the way we live, work, play and think about what’s possible.

Verso

Is this what happens when you paint a palindrome?

This painting caught my eye recently. I love the idea of not being sure which way round to hang it.

The Reverse of a Framed Painting, and other trompe l’oeil by Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts (ca. 1670)The Public Domain Review
On Easter Sunday 1669, the diarist Samuel Pepys was bowled over by the ability of the Dutch painter Simon Verelst (1644-1710),

who took us to his lodging close by, and did shew us a little flower-pot of his doing, the finest thing that ever, I think, I saw in my life; the drops of dew hanging on the leaves, so as I was forced, again and again, to put my finger to it, to feel whether my eyes were deceived or no. He do ask 70l. for it: I had the vanity to bid him 20l.; but a better picture I never saw in my whole life; and it is worth going twenty miles to see it.

Around the time Peyps was poking the painting of Verelst, another northern European painter, Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts, was also causing confusion with the brush, creating his masterpiece known as The Reverse of a Framed Painting (ca. 1670), an image that is, to modern eyes at least, his most striking.

I love it, but I wonder how it was initially shown off. The gag would be wholly lost if this painting of a frame was itself framed. But weren’t all paintings framed?

I’ve been revisiting my post earlier in the week about the online worldwide Van Gogh exhibition. As well as high resolution scans of the actual paintings, the curators have documented the backs of them too — sturdy, wooden frames covered in gallery stickers. They remind me of airport tags on luggage.

Wheatfield with Crows was in Manchester? I would have loved to have seen that.

Monolith? What monolith?

Has anyone checked for any radio signals being transmitted to Jupiter?

DPS Aero Bureau encounters monolith in Red Rock CountryDPS News
Official Statement from the Bureau of Land Management: “Although we can’t comment on active investigations, the Bureau of Land Management would like to remind public land visitors that using, occupying, or developing the public lands or their resources without a required authorization is illegal, no matter what planet you are from.”

A towering metallic monolith was just discovered in a remote area of UtahColossal
As of Tuesday morning, it’s still unknown who created the structure, although internet sleuths who located the object on Google Earth suggest it may have been in existence for more than five years.

Even Utah’s mysterious monolith may be no match for Google EarthThe Verge
A Utah DPS public affairs officer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the supposed location of the monolith. And I’m not printing the alleged coordinates beyond confirming that the place is remote and highly inhospitable. In all seriousness: please don’t visit the mysterious Utah monolith.

That said, the monolith-hunting process is impressive in its own right. And the evidence for its location, put forward by Reddit user Tim Slane, is strong. Slane pinpointed the coordinates of a small redstone canyon with a narrow gap that closely matches the social media photos. Satellite images from Google Earth reveal something in the middle: a hard-to-see object that casts a sharp, tall, and narrow shadow across the ground. The object seems relatively new. Google Earth photos from 2013 and mid-2015 show no trace of it, but it’s clearly visible by October of 2016, when the surrounding ground has also been apparently cleared of scrub.

Update 29/11/2020

Looks like the aliens have come back for their property.

Mysterious metal monolith in Utah disappears days after it was discoveredSky News
On Facebook, the bureau said: “We have received credible reports that the illegally installed structure, referred to as the ‘monolith’ has been removed from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands by an unknown party.”

Update 01/12/2020

OK, so not aliens.

Earthlings, it seems, not aliens, removed the Utah monolithThe New York Times
He did not photograph the men who took down the sculpture, saying he “didn’t want to start a confrontation by bringing out my camera and putting it in their face — especially since I agreed with what they were doing.” But a friend who accompanied him on the trip, Michael James Newlands, 38, of Denver, took a few quick photographs with his cellphone.

2020 continues to be very 2020.

Mystery monolith identical to one which disappeared in US desert reappears in EuropeMirror Online
The monolith was spotted on Batca Doamnei Hill in the city of Piatra Neamt in Romania’s north-eastern Neamt County on November 26. Authorities said the owner of the property is still unknown but whoever propped the monument up should have sought permission from the country’s Ministry of Culture.

They’re taking over

Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there.

I’ve shared articles about these fake, engineered nobodies before, but the transitions, animations and sliders in this piece from the New York Times are very effective, and great fun — a genuine individual on every frame.

Designed to deceive: Do these people look real to you?The New York Times
Given the pace of improvement, it’s easy to imagine a not-so-distant future in which we are confronted with not just single portraits of fake people but whole collections of them — at a party with fake friends, hanging out with their fake dogs, holding their fake babies. It will become increasingly difficult to tell who is real online and who is a figment of a computer’s imagination.

You think you know someone …

… but they turn out to be …

… someone completely different.

All these fakes — people, art, feet — it’s hard to keep track. Well, not any more.

This X Does Not Exist
Using generative adversarial networks (GAN), we can learn how to create realistic-looking fake versions of almost anything, as shown by this collection of sites that have sprung up in the past month.

Pluralism spelt right

Deborah Roberts reminding us that even a flat sheet of text isn’t a level playing field.

As well as saying that Black lives, history, respect and status matters, I should have added spelling.

The Spell Checkers AgendaKottke
The piece above is part of a series called Pluralism by artist Deborah Roberts — it’s a collage of dozens of Black names marked as misspelled by Microsoft Word’s built-in spell checker. I don’t know about you, but this makes me think about the neutrality of technology, how software is built, who builds it, and for whom it is designed.

Glasstire and Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles have more on this piece, and how it fits in with Deborah’s wider body of work.

Naming and shaming: Deborah Roberts at Art PalaceGlasstire
Other text pieces involve roughly printed words like bad offset printing. In the best of these, Roberts prints black-sounding women’s names (Tynisha, Shawanna, Roneshia) in a jittery, repeated overlay of red and black. Printed over them in a nearly-illegible, but unmistakable, light yellow, are four white women’s names: lean in close and you can barely discern Bethany, Lindsey, Becky, Haley.

Deborah Roberts at Luis De JesusCarla
Opposite Human nature and Golden Smile hung the triptych Sovereignty (2016), a hand-drawn set of three serigraphs of black women’s names that Roberts sourced from friends. The far right in the triptych was a dense list of 213 names, from Khepri to Sharnell. All, however, were underlined with that all-too-familiar squiggly red line—these names were ostensibly misspelled, unrecognizable to word processing programs. The drawing on the left side of the triptych contrasted the list by featuring a sole name— Sharkesha—in large serif font. This work followed a similar logic to the collages: the viewer’s gaze moved from the minute to the masses and back again. However, the simplicity of this solution—names, listed— can’t be ignored. Sovereignty suggested a way to begin to humanize the silent figures that Roberts depicts, or at least to begin to find words that do the work.

Find more of her work on her website or on Instagram.

Calming colours

Feeling blue these days? We should be feeling cozy shades of green really.

Almost a year ago now, Pantone chose its colour of the year for 2020.

Color of the Year 2020Pantone
Suggestive of the sky at dusk, the reassuring qualities of the thought-provoking PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue highlight our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era. Imprinted in our psyches as a restful color, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge. Aiding concentration and bringing laser like clarity, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue re-centers our thoughts. A reflective blue tone, Classic Blue fosters resilience.

I had picked a blue too, back in January, but obviously, with such a subjective topic, not everyone agreed with the choice.

“In choosing blue Pantone has missed the mark once more”Dezeen
Certainly, the dominant narrative in many other 2020 COTY camps has been green. Whether dark or bright, neon or dusky, colour companies and trend forecasters from Dulux and WGSN to the US-based Behr paints, plumped for the colour intuitively associated with regrowth and rebirth. Green reassures us at a primal level and speaks of optimism. Crucially, it’s representative of the wider ecological story that’s top of the cultural agenda right now. In this way, green chimes with the zeitgeist and its ascension of the colour charts is born of authenticity, not marketing.

Interestingly, that critique was written back in December 2019, before we knew the full extent of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on all our lives. They were focussing on greens because of environmental connections, not realising what 2020 had in store for us.

The surprising power of color to ease quarantine anxietyARTnews.com
Global sales of Curator’s three most popular greens—Fisherman’s Boat, Dock Leaf, and March Day—increased by 59 percent during the pandemic while a few of its neutrals—Scalloped Silk, Soft Bisque, and Stoney Way—increased 57.8 percent. Rather than urban excitement, the selection conjures an outdoor adventure, or perhaps the waiting room of a well-appointed doctor’s office. We want to be reassured, not overstimulated, by our wall colors. It’s a contrast to Pantone’s 2019 color of the year, the electric Living Coral, which was described as “vivifying and effervescent.” “Everyone is a bit upset; they want things clean,” Cohn said. “They’re choosing positive colors because when things are negative, you want to be out there with something positive.”

What will 2021 bring?

Worldwide Van Gogh

We might not be able to get to the galleries, but now some of them can come to us.

He’s the artist I keep coming back to. He’s even on my phone’s lockscreen now.

Van Gogh’s self portrait recreated with stunning sculpture paintingMoss and Fog
Artist Timur Zagirov has created a beautiful rendition of Van Gogh’s famous self portrait, using a myriad of colored wooden blocks. 425 polished pine cubes, to be precise.

I love the idea of an abstract, sculptural painting.

But wait, here’s more Van Gogh. Lots more.

Dive into Van Gogh Worldwide, a digital archive of more than 1,000 works by the renowned Dutch artistColossal
A point of levity during the temporary shutdowns of museums and cultural institutions during the last few months has been the plethora of digital archives making artworks and historical objects available for perusing from the comfort and safety of our couches. A recent addition is Van Gogh Worldwide, a massive collection of the post-impressionist artist’s paintings, sketches, and drawings.

Dutch museums unveil free digital collection of 1,000+ artworks by Van GoghMy Modern Met
Van Gogh Worldwide is a new project by a group of Dutch museums which presents a digital collection of over 1,000 of the artist’s masterpieces. Building off the digitized collection begun several years ago by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, almost half of the post-Impressionist works of this prolific artist are now available to view—with scholarly commentary—from the safety of your own home.

Take a wander yourself, there’s so much to take in.

Van Gogh Worldwide
Van Gogh Worldwide is a free digital platform providing art-historical and technical data about the work of Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). The artist produced a total of approximately 2000 artworks, and the aim of Van Gogh Worldwide is to present data for these in an accessible way, via a user-friendly website.

The resolution of each image is wonderful, allowing you to get closer to the paintings than you probably could in real life.

And you can even view the paintings in a raking light, to get a sense of just how heavily textured and expressive these were. Not quite as three-dimensional as Timur Zagirov’s wooden blocks, but still.

Happy shopper #2

The shops need customers, but do the customers need to be in the shops?

Black Friday’s just round the corner, or is it?

When is Black Friday 2020? The deals aren’t canceled, but shopping will look differentGood Housekeeping
Black Friday is going to look a little different this year. Even if you’re used to going in person to a certain store every year for its Black Friday sales, this year you’re going to want to call ahead and confirm that they’re going to be open on the big day. If you are going out, you can assume most stores will have COVID-19 safety protocols in place and limits on how many people will be allowed in the building at once, so endless lines and door-buster stampedes are going to be a thing of the past.

Holiday shopping will certainly be different this year — less crowds, more clicks.

Reinventing online shopping on Microsoft EdgeMicrosoft Design
As new shopping behaviours emerge and retailers revamp their selling strategies, we investigated how the browser can play a more active role to help navigate online shopping instead of being the traditionally dormant gateway to websites. Our vision is to empower people to make confident purchase decisions by saving time and money. By automatically applying coupons and surfacing price comparisons in the browser, we are taking our first step towards realizing this vision.

So it’s safer online, but safer for who?

Amazon says more than 19,000 workers got Covid-19CNBC
The information comes months after labor groups, politicians and regulators repeatedly pressed Amazon to disclose how many of its workers were infected by Covid-19. Early on in the pandemic, warehouse workers raised concerns that Amazon wasn’t doing enough to protect them from getting sick and called for facilities with confirmed cases to be shut down. Lacking data from Amazon, warehouse workers compiled a crowdsourced database of infections based on notifications of new cases at facilities across the U.S.

Almost 20,000 Amazon workers in US test positive for Covid-19The Guardian
Athena, a coalition of US activist groups campaigning for greater regulatory oversight over Amazon, called for immediate investigations into the company by public health officials as well as regular reporting on the number of employees with Covid-19. Athena’s director, Dania Rajendra, said in a statement: “Amazon allowed Covid-19 to spread like wildfire in its facilities, risking the health of tens of thousands of people who work at Amazon – as well as their family members, neighbours and friends. “Amazon is, in no uncertain terms, a threat to public health.”

Inside an Amazon fulfillment center, masked up and spaced apart during COVID-19GeekWire
Not far from where hundreds of robots were buzzing about the floor of Amazon’s sprawling BFI4 fulfillment center south of Seattle this week, a human stood in her own wheeled contraption. The innovation-in-progress, intended to allow a supervisor to roll up to various work stations and provide support behind a protective barrier, is one of the more striking ways the tech giant is addressing employee safety in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But we just can’t get enough of it, can we?

How Amazon became a pandemic giant – and why that could be a threat to us allThe Guardian
A few weeks ago, Amazon announced results from the following quarter, and yet another boost to sales and profits. Now Christmas looms, while lockdowns have returned across the world, sending even more customers its way. Every time “nonessential” bricks-and-mortar shops are told to close, you can sense the company once again seizing its chances, and a great social and economic transformation gaining pace. […]

“You’ll never get a major retailer boasting about opportunity in the middle of a pandemic,” [says Natalie Berg]. “But it’s clear that the timing and very nature of Covid has been fortunate for Amazon. I think they’ll be the only retailer in the UK, possibly the world, to come out stronger on the other side. If there are winners and losers of the pandemic, Amazon is hands-down the winner.”

The Truth About AmazonAll 4
As the high street goes into lockdown, Amazon is booming. This Supershoppers special reveals how to buy smart off the online retail giant, from the best bargains to avoiding scams.

Out with the new, in with the old

I got off the iPhone conveyor belt around iPhone 4, I think, so all the recent talk about the new Windows Phone-style widgets within iOS14 has passed me by.

These iOS 14 apps offer home screen widgets and more9to5Mac
Apple has officially released iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and watchOS 7 to the public. The updates bring many new features to iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch users, and third-party developers have been hard at work on updating their apps to take advantage of Apple’s latest tools.

I know I’m biased but– I don’t know, is it all starting to look a little too busy? I’d much rather look at these homescreens.

iOS: A visual historyThe Verge
Although it may be difficult to imagine now, when the original iPhone was introduced, it was actually well behind the competition when it came to a strict feature-by-feature comparison. Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Symbian, and even BlackBerry were all established systems in 2007, with a wide and deep array of features. Comparatively, the iPhone didn’t support 3G, it didn’t support multitasking, it didn’t support 3rd party apps, you couldn’t copy or paste text, you couldn’t attach arbitrary files to emails, it didn’t support MMS, it didn’t support Exchange push email, it didn’t have a customizable home screen, it didn’t support tethering, it hid the filesystem from users, it didn’t support editing Office documents, it didn’t support voice dialing, and it was almost entirely locked down to hackers and developers.

Yet all of those missing features hardly mattered and nearly everybody knew it.

A Presidential memoir and library without precedent

I’ve been reading about two things that seem to happen to each US President once they’ve left office. They write a memoir, and get a library. Here’s something to set the mood.

In ‘A Promised Land,’ Barack Obama thinks — and thinks some more — over his first termThe New York Times
Nearly every president since Theodore Roosevelt has written a memoir that covers his years in office; this one contains some inevitable moments of reputation-burnishing and legacy-shaping, though the narrative hews so closely to Obama’s own discursive habits of thought that any victories he depicts feel both hard-won and tenuous. An adverb he likes to use is “still” — placed at the beginning of a sentence, to qualify and counter whatever he said just before. Another favorite is “maybe,” as he reflects on alternatives to what happened, offering frank confessions of his own uncertainties and doubts. At a time of grandiose mythologizing, he marshals his considerable storytelling skills to demythologize himself.

Can you imagine Trump being so reflective? Me neither.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama review – memoir of a presidentThe Guardian
To read Barack Obama’s autobiography in the last, snarling days of Donald Trump is to stare into an abyss between two opposite ends of humanity, and wonder once again at how the same country came to choose two such disparate men.

Who knows what he’d write about. Certainly not the truth.

A Trump memoir would sell. Will publishers buy it?The New York Times
“I would take a meeting,” said Dana Canedy, the senior vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster’s namesake imprint. “But there’s a huge gap between taking a meeting and publishing a book.” … “I’d have to be satisfied that he met Simon & Schuster’s overall standards for publishing a book, which is that book be honest, fair and balanced,” Ms. Canedy said. “We’d want to know that he would be willing to be edited and submit to a rigorous fact-checking process.”

The Office of Presidential Libraries, within the National Archives and Records Administration agency, oversees the 14 libraries established so far, from Hoover’s to Obama’s (possibly), via JFK’s, Nixon’s and all the others in between. These are repositories for preserving and making accessible the papers, records, and other historical materials of the US Presidents. Many aspects of Trump’s presidency are without precedent, so who knows if he’ll get one. Not that there will be much to archive.

Will Trump burn the evidence?The New Yorker
Donald Trump is not much of a note-taker, and he does not like his staff to take notes. He has a habit of tearing up documents at the close of meetings. (Records analysts, armed with Scotch Tape, have tried to put the pieces back together.) No real record exists for five meetings Trump had with Vladimir Putin during the first two years of his Presidency. Members of his staff have routinely used apps that automatically erase text messages, and Trump often deletes his own tweets, notwithstanding a warning from the National Archives and Records Administration that doing so contravenes the Presidential Records Act.

Trump’s library hasn’t been built yet, but as we’re used to wandering around libraries and museums virtually these days, let’s take a stroll round this online version. With its Autocrats Gallery, Alt-Right Auditorium, Felon’s Lounge and Wall of Criminality, there’s something for everyone.

Donald J. Trump Presidential Library
We are still grappling with what it means to have endured Donald J. Trump’s presidency while still repairing the historic carnage of this tumultuous period in American history. This Presidential Library is an attempt to provide the American and International communities a place to reflect on what the rise of White Nationalism has meant to our country and try to eradicate it from our political discourse.

What an accurate presidential library for Donald Trump would look likeFast Company
It’s clearly a parody. But the design also highlights a major question facing the post-Trump era, whenever that may be: How might such a presidential library attempt an accurate historical representation of a president and administration so prone to disinformation and falsehood?

Twitter Gallery
Alt-Right Auditorium
Covid Memorial
Drumpf’s Diner

Update 26/11/2020

The Library now has a Gift Grift Shop.

And it’s fun to see others joining in with the pranks.

President pranked as comedians snap up Trump 2024 domainThe Guardian
“We got the domain DonaldJTrump2024.com,” comics Jason Selvig and Davram Stiefler, AKA The Good Liars, wrote on Twitter. … Selvig and Stiefler offered to give the president the domain name “if you tweet ‘My name is Donald Trump and I lost the 2020 election by A LOT. I am a loser. SAD!’” As of Wednesday lunchtime Trump had not done so, despite having plenty of phone time on a day officially free of public engagements.

Grown on me

Spindly trees, I’m a big fan. They’re just giant, 3D pen and ink drawings, really, and I’ve been snapping photos of them for a while. Though none of my pics come anywhere close to capturing the atmosphere of these tulgey woods, as Things Magazine described them.

MysticalNeil Burnell
“There’s real magic in this series, with thick fog shrouding the gnarled moss-clad oaks, one can almost visualise fairies flying effortlessly into the scenes.”

Perhaps my love of twisty, organic lines explains why I found these sculptures by Sun-Hyuk Kim so fascinating.

Stainless steel roots sprawl into figurative sculptures by artist Sun-Hyuk KimColossal
Just like a tree, the spindly branches that shape Sun-Hyuk Kim’s sculptures extend from a larger, sturdy limb—or in the South Korean artist’s case, neck or spine, too. Kim creates sprawling artworks that merge human anatomy and the root systems that crawl underneath the earth’s surface. Sometimes painted in neutral tones and others plated in gold, the sculptures are composed of stainless steel that trails out into figurative forms.

Something about them reminds me of Kumi Yamashita’s installations.

Had enough?

Covid-19 had a kind of birthday yesterday.

Today marks a year of Covid-19Kottke
According to an unpublicized report by the Chinese government, the first documented case of Covid-19 was a 55-year-old person living in Hubei province on November 17, 2019. That makes today the first anniversary of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A year later, and 1,340,000 people have died. That might not be enough for some, though.

Solve suffering by blowing up the universe? The dubious philosophy of human extinctionThe Conversation
At a time when humans are threatening the extinction of so many other species, it might not seem so surprising that some people think that the extinction of our own species would be a good thing. Take, for example, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, whose founder believes that our extinction would put an end to the damage we inflict on each other and ecosystems more generally.

Why stop there?

Hartmann was convinced this was the purpose of creation: that our universe exists in order to evolve beings compassionate and clever enough to decide to abolish existence itself. He imagined this final moment as a shockwave of deadly euthanasia rippling outwards from Earth, blotting out the “existence of this cosmos” until “all its world-lenses and nebulae have been abolished”.

What’s in a name #8

What do you get if you cross that guy who accidentally deleted his company with little Bobby Tables?

Company forced to change name that could be used to hack websitesThe Guardian
The company now legally known as “THAT COMPANY WHOSE NAME USED TO CONTAIN HTML SCRIPT TAGS LTD” was set up by a British software engineer, who says he did it purely because he thought it would be “a fun playful name” for his consulting business. He now says he didn’t realise that Companies House was actually vulnerable to the extremely simple technique he used, known as “cross-site scripting”, which allows an attacker to run code from one website on another.

The original name of the company was “”›‹SCRIPT SRC=HTTPS://MJT.XSS.HT› LTD”.

THAT COMPANY WHOSE NAME USED TO CONTAIN HTML SCRIPT TAGS LTDCompanies House
Previous company names: [NAME AVAILABLE ON REQUEST FROM COMPANIES HOUSE]

Pardon?

Glad it wasn’t just me and Hugh struggling with this.

Tenet up: listen, Christopher Nolan, we just can’t hear a word you’re sayingThe Guardian
It’s hard to be anything other than completely perplexed by Tenet’s sound mix, where almost every scrap of dialogue that isn’t being screamed by Kenneth Branagh is smothered under a thick blanket of soupy noise. Don’t get me wrong, it might still be a good film – I’m looking forward to watching it at home with the subtitles on to find out – but a movie where you have to try to lip-read several complicated theories about the nature of time isn’t exactly accessible to a mass audience.

Stuck

I’m trying to cut down on the Trump posts, as the whole situation is so depressing, but I enjoyed this look at other crazy characters, historical and fictional, who have had trouble moving on — from ambassadors and governors to King Lear and Bartleby the Scrivener, amongst others.

When a leader just won’t goThe New York Times
Timothy Naftali, a history professor at New York University, said that one way to view Mr. Trump would be as a version of Miss Havisham, the jilted bride from “Great Expectations” who lives forever in the past, never taking off her tattered wedding gown even as her house decays around her.

“He’s wearing the cloak of the presidency and he’s stuck in his room, getting dusty, while everyone else has moved on,” Mr. Naftali said.

Holding on

Banksy’s not the only street artist out there trying to make a difference.

Stik hoping to raise £120k at auction to fund sculptures by local artistsHackney Citizen
Hackney’s street art megastar Stik is to auction off a unique model of his first ever public sculpture, Holding Hands, to fund a series of outdoor artworks by local artists. The maquette, a one-off, small-scale version of the sculpture, is predicted to fetch around £120,000 when it opens for bidding at Christie’s tomorrow as part of the auction house’s ‘Post-War and Contemporary Art’ sale. All proceeds will be donated to Hackney Council to help bankroll a series of public works by East London artists.

Hackney Street artist Stik to ‘empower’ local artists by funding a series of sculpturesHackney Gazette
Hackney Mayor Phillip Glanville thanked the artist, who has lived and worked in Hackney for 20 years, for his “record of activism” and generous donation. “We’re proud in Hackney to be able to support and share the creativity of our residents. This represents a long-standing commitment to inclusive public art that can be enjoyed by everyone in our parks and public spaces and I can’t wait to see the creativity that Stik is helping us to showcase and unlock,” the mayor said.

Check out Christie’s video about the original sculpture.

How the street artist STIK is standing up for the next generationChristie’s
The Holding Hands sculpture is being installed at a poignant time in our history, when holding hands is not always possible. But it is a symbol of hope for what has always been, and what will be again.

That bronze maquette had an estimate of £80,000–120,000, and went for a fantastic £287,500, great news for Hackney’s artists and residents.

The story doesn’t end there, though.

Stolen posters donated to Hackney by artist Stik returned after appealSky News
“Holding Hands shows two people looking in opposite directions yet holding hands in a symbol of universal love and solidarity,” Stik said. “The fact that so many prints were returned to the people of Hackney only amplifies its meaning.”

Detective Constable James Readman said it is “really encouraging” that the public has listened to the appeal and “done the right thing by returning a large proportion of the prints”.

Gift ideas for book lovers

Christmas is just round the corner. Have you started buying presents yet?

The new COVID trend? Apparently, it’s buying rare books.Literary Hub
“We’ve seen an uptick in participation and enthusiasm,” James Gannon, director of rare books at Heritage Auctions, told Bloomberg. Heritage’s third auction of books from the library of Otto Penzler doubled its estimate; similarly, all online sales at Christie’s during COVID have surpassed their low estimates. This trend actually makes sense: the extremely wealthy have remained wealthy during COVID, and are left at home searching for things that bring them joy, like gazing at a letter written by Ludwig Wittgenstein and knowing you paid the most anyone in the world has ever paid for a letter written by Ludwig Wittgenstein.

if $137,575 for an author’s letter is a little steep, don’t worry, here’s another idea for the book lover in your life.

Portland’s iconic Powell’s Books is selling a book-scented unisex fragranceCNN
With hints of violet, wood and biblichor, the $24.99 perfume aims to replicate the smell of old paper that “creates an atmosphere ripe with mood and possibility, invoking a labyrinth of books; secret libraries; ancient scrolls; and cognac swilled by philosopher-kings,” according to the product description on Powell’s website.

Powell’s Books is releasing a fragrance that smells like a bookstoreKottke
If you can’t get your hands on Powell’s scent, you have other options. Demeter makes a fragrance called Paperback that’s available in a variety of formats (cologne, shower gel, diffuser oil) and Christopher Brosius offers a scent called In The Library in his shop.

I love the smell of books, but I don’t know I’d want to smell like “a warm blend of English Novel, Russian and Moroccan Leather Bindings, Worn Cloth and a hint of Wood Polish.”