As short stories go, this one’s very clever — and ruthless.
Following on from yesterday’s post on successful and unsuccessful restoration projects, here are a few more. Let’s start with this example of when a more cartoony, less realistic painting was deliberate rather than the result of a botched job.
Ghent altarpiece restorations reveal the alarmingly humanoid face of the famous mystic lamb – Smithsonian Magazine
To be fair, the lamb—which features prominently in a panel appropriately titled Adoration of the Mystic Lamb—is meant to represent Christ himself. But perched atop its fluffy woolly-white body, the penetrating, close-set eyes, full pink lips and flared nostrils of the original lamb are, at a minimum, eye-catching, if not alarmingly anthropomorphic. Its “cartoonish” appearance is a marked departure from the serene, naturalistic style characterizing the rest of the scene surrounding it, as well as the other panels, Hélène Dubois, the head of the Royal Institute’s restoration project, tells Hannah McGivern at the Art Newspaper.
For that reason, during the century or so that the painting hung in its full, unadulterated glory, onlookers gazing upon the lamb probably got a more “intense interaction” than they bargained for, Dubois suggests. Perhaps the anomalous nature of this riveting stare was part of the motivation behind a spate of modifications to the painting in 1550, when a second set of artists swapped the lamb’s soul-penetrating gaze for a more “impassive and … neutral” expression, restorers explained in a statement, as reported by Flanders Today’s Lisa Bradshaw in 2018.
As we read yesterday with the Vermeer, these restoration projects can take years…
The restoration of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch begins: Watch the painstaking process on-site and online – Open Culture
“It is like a military operation in the planning,” said Dibbets, and it has required the utmost precision and expert teams of restorers, data experts, art historians, and the professionals who moved the enormous painting into the glass case it will occupy during this intense period. The crew of restorers will work from digital images taken with a macro X-ray fluorescence scanner, a technique, says Dibbets, that allowed them to “make a full body scan” and “discover which pigments [Rembrandt] used.”
…but here’s an approach I wasn’t expecting with this painting.
AI helps return Rembrandt’s The Night Watch to original size – The Guardian
In 1715, three-quarters of a century after it was painted, the canvas was trimmed – 60cm (2ft) cut from the left side of the painting, 22cm (9ins) from the top, 12cm from the bottom and 7cm from the right – so that the masterpiece might fit between two doors at Amsterdam’s city hall. But using high-resolution photography of what is left of the original, computer learning of Rembrandt’s techniques and a contemporary copy of the full painting by Gerrit Lundens hanging in London’s National Gallery, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam was able to reproduce the work in all its glory.
I’m a big fan of Antony Gormley’s spooky and solemn sculptures on Crosby beach near Liverpool, so I was happy to read that they’re being looked after.
Antony Gormley asks for ‘vandalised’ beach sculptures to be cleaned – The Guardian
Antony Gormley has asked for paint to be removed from his iron men sculptures on Crosby beach after they were embellished with colourful outfits by an unknown artist. At least nine of the famous group of statues, which face out to sea and have been standing naked on the Merseyside beach for a decade, have been brightly decorated in the past week.
Antony Gormley hopes Crosby statues last 1,000 years after reset – The Guardian
One hundred cast-iron statues modelled on Gormley were installed in 2005 at Crosby beach, spread across 3km (2 miles) of the foreshore and stretching almost 1km out to sea. The installation, Another Place, was only supposed to last 16 months in Crosby, and the men were almost sent packing early amid safety complaints including cases of the coastguard being called out to “rescue” them. Sixteen years on, the artwork has become a tourist attraction for the Sefton borough of Merseyside and a beloved local institution. But unnoticed by all but the keenest eye, 10 of the men have been missing in action for the past few years after their concrete support piles disintegrated, plunging them face-first into the mud.
Of course, restoration isn’t just limited to paintings and sculptures. There are people who also want to restore … letters of the alphabet?
Petition · Restore the ampersand as the 27th letter of the alphabet – Change.org
The ampersand dates all the way back to 45 AD and Johannes Gutenberg even included it on his first printing press in 1440. During the 19th century, American schoolchildren were taught to end their ABC’s with “X, Y, Z, and per se and” because the ampersand was indeed the 27th letter. But then it mysteriously and inexplicably disappeared from the alphabet. […]
This isn’t just for us. Think of all the uses of the ampersand out there, and all the people and organizations that could benefit from allowing the ampersand back into our alphabet. We’re not asking for much. And to be completely honest, we’re not exactly sure who calls the shots on these sorts of things, but having Merriam-Webster on our side seems like a good start.
For law firms, the ampersand is a character worth saving – ABA Journal
Paul Hastings, Norton Rose Fulbright, Hogan Lovells, Proskauer Rose, Baker Botts: the list of new BigLaw titles built on the corpses of ampersands is almost endless. All these firms discarded their ampersands as if they were ashamed of them. The BigLaw ampersand now stands on the precipice of extinction. Accordingly, it is up to BigLaw partners and associates to see to its survival. You’re thinking, “But what can I do? I’m only one lawyer among tens of thousands?” You have answered your own question: You are one of tens of thousands. Your voice, added to the voices of your brother and sister lawyers across the land, can be a mighty chorus demanding the restoration of the ampersand to its rightful place in American law.
The latest batch of Public Domain Review postcards arrived the other day. Mad and fab, as always.
Postcards – The Public Domain Review
Twice a year we send out our special postcard packs — eight postcards, with a textual insert, curated around a different theme each time.
The ‘textual insert’ this time was especially loopy.
The prezent sistem, baist on the prinsipl ov yuezing no nyu caracterz or acsented leterz, iz surtinly not so elegant or so sientific az a sistem bi which sum fifteen nyu caracterz shood be aded tu the egzisting alfabet. But such an alfabet wood meen the scraping ov aul our egzisting founts ov tiep, tiep-rieterz, ets., ets., besiedz being dificult ov acwizishon for the adult jeneraishon. Thairfor such a reform iz unliecly tu cum for meny a dai, if it ever cumz at aul; and we se no reezon whi th children ov the neer fyuetyur shood not, bi a practical mezher ov simplificaishon, be releeved ov the sensles laibor which nou absorbz tu no purpos a hoel yeer ov thair short scuul lief.From “Tu the Reeder” in the inaugaral issue of The Pioneer ov Simplified Speling (March, 1912) the flagship journal of the Simplified Speling Soesiety.
Goodness me. A bold move to change an alphabet like that (I wonder how Kazakhstan is getting on), they sound off their rocker.
Speaking of which, here’s something else from The Public Domain Review.
Postures of Transport: Sex, God, and Rocking Chairs – The Public Domain Review
What if chairs had the ability to shift our state of consciousness, transporting the imagination into distant landscapes and ecstatic experiences, both religious and erotic? In an essay about the British and American fascination with rocking chairs and upholstery springs in the 19th century, Hunter Dukes discovers how simple furniture technologies allowed armchair travelers to explore worlds beyond their own.
Rocking chairs (and seats that rocked) carried an erotic charge in the nineteenth century. For a certain type of Victorian mind, easy chairs made easy women. Polite society sat erect.
Chairs are weird, though, aren’t they?
Most consonants, fewest vowels – The Generalist Academy
In contrast to this paucity of vowels [two], Ubykh has a lot of consonants. Eighty-four, in fact, including common stalwarts like /p/ and /g/, trills, twenty different sounds made with the uvula (that dangly thing at the back of your throat), a class of sound called ejectives that we don’t have in English, and a delightfully obscure sound called an unvoiced labialized pharyngealized back dorsal uvular ejective stop – /qˤʷʼ/.
I may have been familiar with this type of word puzzle, though I was unaware of its name or history.
Emoji 🐝4 Emoji – I love Typography
Rebus writing substitutes pictures or symbols for words, but not in the same way that pictograms do. With pictograms, a picture of, for example, a bee simply represents the insect. But in rebus writing, a picture of a bee is used to substitute for the letter b or its sound — as in the title of this article. Likewise, a picture of an eye represents the letter i, and so on. The use of rebuses turns what is otherwise an unremarkable broadside advertisement into something much more engaging, fun, and valuable.
Although emoji started out as a limited number of symbols, they were eventually expanded into a dizzying number of pictograms and ideograms, many of which can be used in rebus writing. The ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, and Chinese, to name just a few, used rebuses thousands of years before emoji appeared on our screens. And it would appear that our fascination with symbols, of all kinds, and our willingness to experiment and use them in reshaping how we communicate is motivated by the very same thing that inspired our very distant ancestors — a desire to communicate better.
Sorry to any bean curd enthusiasts out there, but this has nothing to do with coagulating soy milk but is about these little boxes and Google’s plan to get rid of them.
Google Noto Fonts
When text is rendered by a computer, sometimes characters are displayed as “tofu”. They are little boxes to indicate your device doesn’t have a font to display the text. Google has been developing a font family called Noto, which aims to support all languages with a harmonious look and feel. Noto is Google’s answer to tofu. The name noto is to convey the idea that Google’s goal is to see “no more tofu”.
I had picked the Noto Sans typeface for this blog without realising any of this — I just thought it looked quite elegant.
Preserving endangered languages with Noto fonts – Google Keyword
From billions of readers to very small language communities, the freely available, open source Noto font family from Google Fonts supports literacy for hundreds of languages. The Cherokee Nation, with an estimated 20,000 speakers, uses Noto on phones for texting, email and teaching their language in the USA. Noto is used every day for Tibetan, millions of African users, and hundreds of languages of Asia. The government of British Columbia in Canada, with a population of 5 million people, wanted to cover all their languages, including indigenous ones, in a single font and merged Noto Sans + Noto Sans Canadian Aboriginal into a single font, BC Sans font.
Google and Monotype launch Noto, an open-source typeface family for all the world’s languages – It’s Nice That
Many of the scripts required significant research for Monotype, in order to apply the rules and traditions of the individual languages to the designs of their fonts. For example for the Tibetan face, Monotype did in-depth research into a vast library of writings and then enlisted the help of Buddhist monks to critique the font and make adjustments to the design.
“There are some characters you can only see on stones,” says Xiangye Xiao, product manager at Google. “If you don’t move them to the web, over time those stones will become sand and we’ll never be able to recover those drawings or that writing.”
Well, if it’s good enough for IKEA, it’s good enough for me.
Adani’s rebirth as ‘Bravus’ won’t wipe slate clean say campaigners – Echo Net Daily
Adani Australia has decided it is time for a name change to celebrate their tenth year endeavouring to build the largest coal mine in Australia. Their new name is Bravus Mining & Resources. […]
‘Adani is at pains to stress it is not rebranding due to the Stop Adani campaign or because the brand is now globally toxic. This is despite the fact over 85 insurers, contractors and financiers have ruled out working with Adani on the destructive Carmichael coal project,’ said a Stop Adani spokesperson in a press release this morning.
Crooked not courageous: Adani renames Australian group Bravus, mistaking it for ‘brave’ – The Guardian
The controversial mining group, which is responsible for the Carmichael coalmine in central Queensland, announced on Thursday it would change the name of its Australian operation to “Bravus”, a word identified by chief executive David Boshoff as the medieval Latin word for “courageous”.
Boshoff told the Australian Financial Review it was a good fit because the company “took a lot of courage to get where we are and we will stand up for what we believe in”. However, multiple Latin experts have pointed out that “bravus” does not mean “brave” and is more accurately translated as “crooked” or “mercenary”.
From shambles to disaster, the vocabulary of failure has had an unhappy airing this results season – iNews
Synonyms for “fool” abound in the dictionary, including the “saddle-goose” and “buffard” from the 1400s, “little Witham” from the 1500s (apparently after a village whose inhabitants were well known for their stupidity), and “niddicock”, “noddypeak” and “dizzard” from the 1600s. All of them led up to today’s “nincompoops”, “wallies”, “sapheads”, “chumps” and “plonkers”.
If, hypothetically speaking, all those fools came together and acted in extreme combined idiocy, they could be described as “unasinous”, a word with only a single quotation in the OED, from 1656, but which is surely due a comeback. A riff on “unanimous”, it means “united in stupidity”, and comes from the Latin unus, “one”, and asinus, “ass”. Worth bearing in mind when the buffards begin to bray.
Who knew there was so much to say about punctuation, those strange squiggles that sit in between the usual carriers of meaning, the words?
How to punctuate with style: Lewis Thomas’s charming meditation on the subtleties of language – Brain Pickings
Thomas opens the essay, the whole of which is strewn with clever meta-demonstrations of his points about the marks, with a Russian nesting doll of punctuational observations:
There are no precise rules about punctuation (Fowler lays out some general advice (as best he can under the complex circumstances of English prose (he points out, for example, that we possess only four stops (the comma, the semicolon, the colon and the period (the question mark and exclamation point are not, strictly speaking, stops; they are indicators of tone (oddly enough, the Greeks employed the semicolon for their question mark (it produces a strange sensation to read a Greek sentence which is a straightforward question: Why weepest thou; (instead of Why weepest thou? (and, of course, there are parentheses (which are surely a kind of punctuation making this whole matter much more complicated by having to count up the left-handed parentheses in order to be sure of closing with the right number (but if the parentheses were left out, with nothing to work with but the stops, we would have considerably more flexibility in the deploying of layers of meaning than if we tried to separate all the clauses by physical barriers (and in the latter case, while we might have more precision and exactitude for our meaning, we would lose the essential flavor of language, which is its wonderful ambiguity)))))))))))).
As found in Maria Popova’s ever-wonderful Brain Pickings blog. She illustrates that post with images taken from Rathna Ramanathan’s artwork for a modern graphic design edition of Christian Morgenstern’s 1905 poem “In the Land of Punctuation”.
A darkly delightful 1905 poem celebrating punctuation, newly illustrated in silkscreened typographic art – Brain Pickings
Morgenstern, a sort of German Lewis Carroll who crafted literary nonsense with an aphoristic quality and a touch of wry wisdom, was in his early thirties when he wrote the poem — a jocular parable of how dividing a common lot into warring subgroups produces only devastation and no winners. That he died mere months before the start of WWI only lends the piece an eerie air of prescient poignancy.
What to ask instead of ‘How are you ?’ during a pandemic – The Atlantic
How are we? People are sick and dying in alarming numbers all around us. Maybe we’re lucky enough not to be sick or dying, but any of us could be soon. Everyone we know is in danger. Our jobs, and really our entire financial futures, are in jeopardy. Are we really going to paper over these grim truths with the usual, compulsorily breezy “I’m good! You?”
(It feels a little stupid and pointless to be carrying on with this blog, with all this anxiety and stress swirling around us. The future is so uncertain—jobs, schools, buses even—and yet the view out of my window, as I type this, looks perfectly normal (the lack of traffic notwithstanding). Nothing has changed, everything has changed. But I’ve started now, so I may as well continue. I guess it’s just the
Monday Blursday blues.)
Other questions might work better as a conversational warm-up or quick check-in. Tannen is partial to “What am I interrupting?” as a conversation starter for phone calls. Meanwhile, Butler recommends “Are you still holding up okay?,” which can work as a succinct check-in before moving the discussion to other matters: It tacitly acknowledges the circumstances but nudges the respondent toward a succinct yes-or-no (or “More or less!”) answer.
It’s not just how we speak to each other that’s changing, but the words themselves.
Coronavirus has led to an explosion of new words and phrases – and that helps us cope – The Conversation
Established terms such as “self-isolating”, “pandemic”, “quarantine”, “lockdown” and “key workers” have increased in use, while coronavirus/COVID-19 neologisms are being coined quicker than ever. These include “covidiot” (someone ignoring public health advice), “covideo party”(online parties via Zoom or Skype), and “covexit” (the strategy for exiting lockdown), while coronavirus has acquired new descriptors – including “the ‘rona” and “Miley Cyrus” (Cockney rhyming slang).
‘Iso’, ‘boomer remover’ and ‘quarantini’: how coronavirus is changing our language – The Conversation
What is interesting about COVID-lingo is the large number of creations that are blended expressions formed by combining two existing words. The new portmanteau then incorporates meaningful characteristics from both. Newly spawned “coronials” (corona + millennials) has the predicted baby boom in late 2020 already covered.
Perhaps language is a virus after all?
What to do when you’ve got too much time on your hands? Play a video game? This one looks a little laggy.
Some people are just eating their way through this time of uncertainty.
Don’t overdo it, though, or you’ll be expanding your vocabulary as well as your waistline.
1. Coronavirus fat (noun)
German workers ordered to stay at home to help the government flatten one sort of curve have found themselves battling the emergence of another, just above the belt. Home workouts sound great, but the days are long and dull and your latest bout of Hamsterkäufe (panic-buying; lit. “hamster-purchase”) has left the fridge gloriously well-stocked. There’s always another variety of Ritter Sport to try, oder? Anyway, what’s a few kilos between socially distanced friends?
Coronaspeck is the helpful German word for the fat deposited by weeks of stay-at-home grazing. Shoppers in Germany may know Speck as a bacon-like foodstuff, perhaps found on a crisp Flammkuchen or inside hearty Swabian Maultaschen. But its broader meaning corresponds to something like the English “flab”.
Perhaps you need some exercise, but what if you can’t think of a routine or a soundtrack? No problem. This website will pair up a random move with a random piece of music.
I’ll pass on that, thanks. But speaking of music…
That sounds more like it.
I’m not sure if Duolingo will be turning this into a new language course any time soon.
For Sale: Sir Thomas More’s Utopian alphabet – Atlas Obscura
The characters in the Utopian language walk the line between Greek and geometric runes. There is no casing, just large circles, squares, triangles and lines, with various accents attached. It would be gobbledygook if not for its accompanying Latin translation, which speaks to the creation of Utopia and its singularity as a philosophical—and aspirational—place.
Thomas More is the villain of Wolf Hall. But is he getting a raw deal? – The Guardian
The other piece of influential writing that has helped emphasise More’s superior character is his own book, Utopia. A philosophical argument couched in the tale of a traveller who returns from an unknown land, it has furnished English literature with many enduring ideas – not least that of a Utopia itself; a perfect, unattainable society. Published in Latin in 1516, Utopia still intrigues and amuses readers despite having been around for half a millennium. In More’s imagined Utopia, property, goods and food are all shared among the households in each city and there is a heavy emphasis on agriculture, although some weight is given to academic learning as well. When it comes to government: “Anyone who campaigns for public office becomes disqualified for holding any office at all,” he suggests.
That last line reminds me of that Groucho quote about not wanting to belong to a club that would have him as a member.
But perhaps $81,000 is a little steep for just one book. Maybe you’re just after something to fill your shelves.
Books sold by the linear foot – Boing Boing
So it turns out there’s an entire industry of books hand-picked and organized to look good, sold in bulk according to a variety of visual or conceptual themes. Color gradients is a hot trend in the world of books sold by the linear foot.
Just a few stores I found: Books by the Foot, Zubal Books, The Book Bundler, Decades of Vintage and Booth & Williams all specialize in books sold for their aesthetic appeal rather than their contents.
Never mind the quality, feel the width.
Bong Joon Ho’s latest film Parasite has been doing quite well recently, subtitles notwithstanding.
Trump inexplicably complains about ‘Parasite’ Oscar wins – The Wrap
“By the way, how bad were the Academy Awards? And the winner is a movie from South Korea,” said Trump. “What the hell was that all about? We got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of it, they give him the best movie of the year? Was it good? I don’t know. Can we get ‘Gone With the Wind’ back please? ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ So many great movies, the winner is from South Korea. I thought it was best foreign film, right? Best foreign movie. No! Did this ever happen before?”
I loved this take on it from Language Log, a wonderfully anachronistic-looking blog from the University of Pennsylvania.
“Overcoming the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles”: The Oscars and multilingualism – Language Log
It is well known that multilingualism is the norm rather than the exception around the world … so monolingualism in countries like the USA is at least as unnatural as subtitles on a movie, if not more so.
In his speeches and interviews, director Bong Joon Ho consistently code-switches between English and Korean (e.g. here). This is another novelty. Code-switching is not commonly seen on American TV. I loved his half-apologetic, half-cheeky laugh when he said in perfect English: “I am a foreign language filmmaker so I need a translator here. Please understand.” The interpreter herself has been in the spotlight as well.
Whilst I could be described as being a ‘knowledge worker’, I work in a place as far from Silicon Valley as it’s possible to be. There is no table-football or Lego in my office. We don’t have hot desks or use Slack. And there’s no expectation that we swap the 9-to-5 with 996, that is 9am to 9pm, six days a week. Less 24/7, more 7-and-a-half/5. Others aren’t so lucky, however.
Silicon Valley ruined work culture – Wired
Lyons believes these new-agey corporate practices, along with perks like free snacks or beer on tap, are simply a misdirection from something rotten at the core. He blames worker unhappiness not just on Silicon Valley’s work culture but also on its business model—one he calls “shareholder capitalism.” The modern tech company is obsessed with growth and profit, at the expense of its employees and to the benefit of its investors. Some lucky employees might have stock options, but most don’t, and even then it’s a small percentage of the money flowing back to investors. The perks, then, function like trick mirrors, “a way to distract employees and keep them from noticing that their pockets are being picked.”
Seduced by Start-up Land: A new memoir about millennial ambition in Silicon Valley – The Cut
Uncanny Valley is a memoir about Wiener’s journey through start-up culture during its most bullish and self-aggrandizing era, and how her idealism gives way to disappointment and horror as society starts to suffer the consequences of tech’s unchecked fetish for growth.
Examining endemic ills of tech bros in ‘Uncanny Valley’ – The Boston Globe
The most valuable question Wiener asks is why we are allowing that to happen — why we have such blind faith in these “ambitious, aggressive, arrogant young men from America’s soft suburbs,” why we’re so seduced by their confidence that we assume their priorities should be our own, why we defer to them when we ought to be saying no.
As well as via some very suspect management practices, that culture is expressed by the choice of language being used.
Garbage language: Why do corporations speak the way they do? – Vulture
Wiener writes especially well — with both fluency and astonishment — about the verbal habits of her peers: “People used a sort of nonlanguage, which was neither beautiful nor especially efficient: a mash-up of business-speak with athletic and wartime metaphors, inflated with self-importance. Calls to action; front lines and trenches; blitzscaling. Companies didn’t fail, they died.” She describes a man who wheels around her office on a scooter barking into a wireless headset about growth hacking, proactive technology, parallelization, and the first-mover advantage. “It was garbage language,” Wiener writes, “but customers loved him.” […]
I like Anna Wiener’s term for this kind of talk: garbage language. It’s more descriptive than corporatespeak or buzzwords or jargon. Corporatespeak is dated; buzzword is autological, since it is arguably an example of what it describes; and jargon conflates stupid usages with specialist languages that are actually purposeful, like those of law or science or medicine. Wiener’s garbage language works because garbage is what we produce mindlessly in the course of our days and because it smells horrible and looks ugly and we don’t think about it except when we’re saying that it’s bad, as I am right now.
She’s not the only one to spot this, of course.
Corporate buzzwords are how workers pretend to be adults – The Atlantic
From a more cynical perspective, buzzwords are useful when office workers need to dress up their otherwise pointless tasks with fancier phrases—you know, for the optics. Coal miners and doctors and tennis instructors have specific jargon they use to get their points across, but “all-purpose business language is the language you use when you aren’t really doing anything.”
Perhaps, instead of using garbage language, we could flick through the pages of Eunoia, a diction of words that don’t translate.
Eunoia: The internet’s dictionary of untranslatable words – Blog of the Long Now
Eunoia is itself an untranslatable word meaning a “well-mind” or “beautiful thinking.” The user can search Eunoia’s database by “language, tag, or the word itself. There are over 500 words in the database, across 50+ languages and 50+ tags.”
The language with the highest untranslatable words was German; from the well-known Schadenfreude, which means to be happy at someone else’s misfortune, to the complicated Jein, meaning both yes and no.
That last one, jein, reminded me of this new construction that I’m still looking for an excuse to use.
But/and – Robin Sloan
I find that in my own writing, my own sequencing of ideas, what I most often want is “and,” except that “and” is so linear: it can’t capture a turn or a twist. The layers of “but/and” do it almost perfectly, and, as a bonus, its clumsiness basically admits, “I am no great rhetorician; this is not a mathematical proof; I’m just trying my best,” which, to me, is a great benefit. […]
“And” is the continuation, fine as far as is goes; “but” is the negation, even if you pretend it’s not; “but/and” is the turn, the twist, the resonance, the perfect fifth.
Today in History 1921: The word ‘Robot’ enters the English language – Boing Boing
On January 25, 1921 the Czech play Rossum’s Universal Robots premiered, entering the word into the Science Fiction vocabulary.
The Czech play that gave us the word ‘Robot’ – The MIT Press Reader
Thus, “R.U.R.,” which gave birth to the robot, was a critique of mechanization and the ways it can dehumanize people. The word itself derives from the Czech word “robota,” or forced labor, as done by serfs. Its Slavic linguistic root, “rab,” means “slave.” The original word for robots more accurately defines androids, then, in that they were neither metallic nor mechanical.
The contrast between robots as mechanical slaves and potentially rebellious destroyers of their human makers echoes Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and helps set the tone for later Western characterizations of robots as slaves straining against their lot, ready to burst out of control. The duality echoes throughout the twentieth century: Terminator, HAL 9000, Blade Runner’s replicants.
Machine Morality and Human Responsibility – The New Atlantis
This year  marks the ninetieth anniversary of the first performance of the play from which we get the term “robot.” The Czech playwright Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. premiered in Prague on January 25, 1921. Physically, Čapek’s robots were not the kind of things to which we now apply the term: they were biological rather than mechanical, and humanlike in appearance. But their behavior should be familiar from its echoes in later science fiction — for Čapek’s robots ultimately bring about the destruction of the human race.
Before R.U.R., artificially created anthropoids, like Frankenstein’s monster or modern versions of the Jewish legend of the golem, might have acted destructively on a small scale; but Čapek seems to have been the first to see robots as an extension of the Industrial Revolution, and hence to grant them a reach capable of global transformation. Though his robots are closer to what we now might call androids, only a pedant would refuse Čapek honors as the father of the robot apocalypse.
I hope someone’s planning a big celebration next year.
Whilst colours can be strange sometimes, they all have names, right? From red, green and blue to maroon, mint and midnight. The designers at the paint shop Farrow & Ball come up with some great names: mouse’s back, skimming stone, elephant’s breath. Now you can get in on the act and name your very own colour.
Kolormark – The world’s leading color naming platform
The Kolormark project aims to name all the colors in the world. There are 16,777,216 colors, but only a handful have a name. We believe that every color has its own unique personality and deserves an original name.
This platform is designed for people and colors. We want to allow people to leave a colorful legacy by taking part in the Kolormark project. Participating in the project means more than naming a color. It’s giving a color a loving home.
Sounds a little scammy, though I’m sure it’s legit. It reminds me a little of that million dollar homepage selling off its pixels. Or naming and claiming your very own star. There isn’t a real, physical product for sale, and you don’t really get anything concrete or tangible for your money.
So of course I had to buy one.
If you’re struggling for inspiration, they have an AI colour matchmaker (because of course they do), “powered by a proprietary set of algorithms fine-tuned to match you with that perfect hue.”
Red and black have already been taken, unfortunately.
Why red means red in almost every language – Nautilus
The results revealed two remarkable patterns, which Kay and Berlin laid out in their 1969 monograph, Basic Color Terms. First, almost all of the languages they examined appeared to have color words that drew from the same 11 basic categories: white, black, red, green, yellow, blue, brown, purple, pink, orange, and gray. Second, cultures seemed to build up their color vocabularies in a predictable way. Languages with only two color categories chunked the spectrum into blacks and whites. Languages with three categories also had a word for red. Green or yellow came next. Then blue. Then brown. And so on.
BMW unveils “blackest black” car sprayed with Vantablack – Dezeen
“Internally, we often refer to the BMW X6 as ‘The Beast’,” said Hussein Al Attar, designer of the BMW X6. “The Vantablack VBx2 finish emphasises this aspect and makes it look particularly menacing. We often prefer to talk about silhouettes and proportions rather than surfaces and lines,” he added. “The Vantablack VBx2 coating foregrounds these fundamental aspects of automotive design, without any distraction from light and reflections.”
General Election 2019: Longest voting queues ever at polling stations – Metro News
It’s been dubbed the most important election in a generation, and if the queues at polling stations this morning are anything to go by, that message has sunk in.
Thursday briefing: Now for the only poll that counts – The Guardian
Well, the campaign is finally over. It’s been a whirlwind six weeks in which the leaders have travelled across the country, stolen phones, hidden in fridges, refused to apologise for their party’s handling of antisemitism when repeatedly asked by Andrew Neil, refused to be interviewed by Andrew Neil at all, posed in boxing rings, posed bulldozing a menacing tower of styrofoam blocks, watched as their confident promise of becoming prime minister quickly became a vanishingly small prospect, or as their pledge to help the Tories by pulling out of seats backfired.
Campaigns are always a little scrappy and gaffe-prone. Here’s a quick look at how the parties are trying to spin the issues behind the photo ops.
The British election explained in five key phrases – The Conversation
Tensions have been high as the country attempts to resolve the identity crisis first sparked by the Brexit vote in 2016. It’s a complicated moment for the nation and, at times like these, it can help to observe the big issues through the lens of language. The slogans and terms that get thrown around again and again during a campaign can often tell us a lot about the bigger picture.
That ‘get Brexit done’ line is so insincere. If anything, it should be ‘get Brexit started’.
Boris Johnson’s Brexit policy explained – The Conversation
The UK and the EU have between the withdrawal date and December 31 2020 (the end of the transition period) to negotiate and ratify the full agreement on their future relationship, which should govern relations in a vast range of areas such as trade, migration, security foreign policy and data.
It has taken three and a half years to negotiate the withdrawal agreement, which covers a much smaller set of issues and has not yet been ratified. It will be highly challenging to resolve the future relationship in such a short timeframe, not least because the future relationship agreement may need to be ratified by each EU member state’s parliament, as well as several regional parliaments, which is not the case for the withdrawal agreement.
I loved the caption they used to go with this photo of Johnson and other EU leaders.
Getting the deal through the UK parliament is only the first stage. Then comes the boss level.
What I have found worrying though (apart from the prospect of this deluded act of national self-harm actually taking place), was the level of vitriol the BBC has had to sustain, from both sides of the divide.
BBC caught in the crossfire: why the UK’s public broadcaster is becoming a big election story – The Conversation
Traditionally, the BBC is regarded as left wing by the right and right wing by the left and has perhaps taken comfort that this indicates balanced news coverage. But the Conservative Party has a traditionally feisty relationship with the BBC dating back, famously, to Margaret Thatcher’s fury over its coverage of the Falklands conflict. More recently, David Cameron threatened to “close down” the corporation during the 2015 election campaign.
But – more recently and less obviously outside the mainstream – relentless social media activity from a range of increasingly popular alt-left media websites has kept the BBC in the crosshairs throughout the campaign and might have provided the Conservatives with some cover. Given that the most recent Ofcom report notes that ITV and SKY News are perceived as marginally more trustworthy than BBC, then alt-left criticism might simply be fanning the flames of anti-BBC sentiment already emanating from the opposite side of the political divide.
Indeed our Cardiff/Swansea research examining the Facebook activity of alt-left media sites supports the notion that their critiques might be strengthening the prime minister’s resolve. Their collective seething at what they see as right-wing bias might be reinterpreted by the BBC’s critics as the public broadcaster being no longer fit for purpose.
In effect, left-wing media may have legitimised right-wing plans to abolish the licence fee.
The Apostrophe Protection Society was started by journalist and sub editor John Richards, in 2001. 18 year’s later, hes calling it a day.
‘Laziness has won’: apostrophe society admits its defeat – The Guardian
Now 96, Richards is calling time on the society, which lists the three simple rules for correct use of the punctuation mark.
Writing on the society’s website, he said: “Fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English language.
“We, and our many supporters worldwide, have done our best but the ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!”
Update – 06/12/2019
Heres an interesting follow-up.
Apostrophes: linguistics expert imagines a happier world without them – The Conversation
Hardcore apostrophites would no longer be able to roll their eyes at people’s inability to work out where the apostrophe goes in examples such as “The Joneses front door”, “Holding each others hand” or “Others opinions”. Neither would they be able to indulge in their habitual mocking of someone who has used the wrong form of “its”.
In fact, by removing apostrophes altogether, the pedantry arsenal is vastly reduced. Without their favourite punctuation mark of judgement, your average pedant will be forced to make do with old favourites such as split infinitives and insisting on the “correct” meaning of “decimate”. […]
In reality, the Apostrophe Protection Society did not, of course, hold dominion over apostrophes or any other aspect of English. Nobody does. Linguistic conventions (for this is all they are) come and go, and are often based on idiosyncratic preferences from another era. A good grasp of apostrophe use says more about your ability to remember inconsistent patterns than it does about your intelligence.
It seems to me that apostrophes are used to judge others as much as they are used to clarify writing. Maybe the APS finally saw the light and realised this, and decided it wanted no further part in the snobbish pedantry that surrounds this fetishised punctuation mark.
See also this earlier post about apostrophe use.