January 6, 2021 in 4,147 words

• • • an aural noise • • •

word salad: Singularity is the moment we are connected in all three times: past, present and future. This soundscape was created as a continuous composition to take you on a journey from the now, into the far reaches beyond outer space, then back to the present, all the while appreciating its unique nature. This is an album that has that capacity to become a longstanding ambient classic.

I-Ones’ music is a fusion of modern electronic music and traditional ethnic music. His inspiration comes from shamanic traditions and rituals, music- therapy, all sorts of rhythms, electronic voice samples, ethnic music, effects, overtone singing and recordings from nature and intuition.

• • • some of the things I read in antisocial isolation • • •

Inside the World of British Brickophiles

To devoted collectors, the humble building materials are full of stories—and well worth stockpiling.

Devoted collectors are often drawn to bricks with striking typography and design. These appeared in Patrick Fry’s Brick Index. Embiggenable. Explore at home (likely has no bricks on offer).

FOUR HUNDRED BRICKS LINE JASON Harris’s hallway, and none of them hold the ceiling up. Arranged in an earthy ombre from ruddy terra cotta to cream, these once-functional rectangles are now purely for show. The London-based architect doesn’t think this hefty display lends him much gravitas in British brick collecting circles, though. “I’m a lightweight brick collector because I just like the color and the shapes,” Harris says. “I feel a little bit of a fraud amongst the collecting community.”

And he’d definitely be a fraud among builders, since his bricks all face the wrong way. Their frogs, the indentations on the top sides, are exposed to reveal writing that’s usually hidden in a wall.

Frogs were first pressed into bricks in the late 18th century, to make for easier handling and allow room for extra mortar. A century later, manufacturers were stamping their names and addresses into the frogs, with lettering ranging from the primly functional to the wildly ornate. “It’s design for utility that often has a strange, imperfect quality that really appeals,” says Patrick Fry, a graphic designer who published a life-sized Brick Index book based on Harris’s collection. “It holds an honest story.”

These stories can only be read once old buildings are no longer standing. But as bricks loosen from the grips of Victorian homes, factories, and shops, their embossed frogs lure British brickophiles to stockpile them.

Jason Harris displays his hall in his haulway.

Henry and Mary Holt’s collection of a whopping 7,000 bricks supposedly began after Henry saw a frog coincidentally inscribed with his last name: “E Holt and Company, Rossendale.” A retired builder, Henry Holt might have missed the feel of a brick because he spent the next three decades (into the early 1990s) hunting for more, using outdated maps to pinpoint old brickworks and collieries. He’d then try to find the fruits of those brickworks at nearby demolition sites.

RELATED: Hakone, Japan: Amazake-chaya Tea House
This teahouse’s specialty has been unchanged for over 400 years.

The Amazake-chaya Tea House. Embiggenable. Explore at home.

THE TOWN OF HAKONE HAS attracted visitors for centuries, serving as the entrance to Tokyo for those making their way from the cities of Kyoto or Nara. Naturally, Hakone had many inns and teahouses, which thrived by catering to travelers.

The Amazake-chaya Tea House is one such establishment, dating back more than 400 years. It has been damaged by fires and earthquakes several times over the course of its history, but each time the owners simply renovated and carried on. Most recently, the building was renovated in 2009 and restored to how it used to look in the Edo period (1603-1868), complete with a thatched roof.

The teahouse is named after its signature drink, amazake, which is a sweet, low-alcohol or non-alcoholic sake made from rice and kōji mold. This particular drink has existed in Japan for over 1,000 years. The teahouse’s recipe for amazake dates back to the Edo period, and the fermented kōji mold gives it sweetness instead of sugar. A cup of the teahouse’s amazake and a plate of pounded mochi are all that’s needed to give visitors a tasty glimpse into the past.

Trump and His Heirs Dream of Endless Victory

By falsely insisting that he won, the defeated president leaves a blueprint for the GOP’s future.

America’s Shithole, shithole side.

If you can spare an hour, do listen to the full tape of the conversation between the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. Whichever adjective you use to describe Trump—delusional, demented, narcissistic—this recording shows that he is unwell. His grip on reality is loose. He is by turns insulting (“They’re going around playing you and laughing at you behind your back, Brad. Whether you know it or not, they’re laughing at you”) and wheedling (“So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break”) and threatening (“You know what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal offense”).

He has weirdly specific, made-up numbers. He cites stories of “fraud” that have been thoroughly debunked. He never explains why the people who allegedly stole the presidential election didn’t steal the two Senate seats in Georgia while they were at it. He is unable to face the fact that he has comprehensively lost. He is grasping at conspiracy theories that offer him a false vision of the future—and yet he sounds completely convinced that they are true.

Since Trump won the Republican nomination in 2016, Americans have heard a lot of discussion about what exactly Trumpism is. Is it the anti-foreign-wars, anti-immigration, anti–Wall Street economic populism Trump campaigned on? Is it the nativist “national conservatism” some enthusiasts invented, post hoc, to rationalize his election? Does it imply a “draining of the swamp,” a move to rid the capital of lobbyists and sycophants? Had it been any of these things, Trumpism might have presented a problem for small-government libertarian Republicans, with their tight network of funders and their close ties to business. It might have been anathema to Democrats and progressives. It would not, however, necessarily have presented a problem for democracy, the American political system, or the rule of law.

As it turned out, Trumpism has nothing to do with economics, nothing to do with foreign policy, nothing to do with lobbyists or the business of government at all. The true nature of Trump’s “ideology” lies elsewhere: in the construction of alternative realities that make him an eternal winner, even in situations where, objectively speaking, he has lost. His slogan isn’t “America First,” in other words, but “Trump first, always and above all else.”

RELATED: This Isn’t Just Political Theater
Trump’s threats aren’t performative—he’s pointing a loaded gun at democracy.

If people “define situations as real, they are real in their consequences,” William Isaac Thomas and Dorothy Swaine Thomas wrote in 1928. That sociological insight—often referred to as the Thomas theorem—offers the best way to think about this peculiar moment in American politics.

It’s what the “senior Republican official” quoted by The Washington Post in early November, on how to respond to President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations of electoral fraud, failed to understand. “What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?” the official asked.

No one seriously thinks the results will change. He went golfing this weekend. It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20. He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits, those lawsuits will fail, then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.

On January 3, The Washington Post reported on an hour-long phone call in which the president urged Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to “find 11,780 votes” to put him over the top. Trump alleged, without any evidence, that thousands of ballots had been destroyed in Fulton County, and demanded that these phantom votes somehow be found and recorded in his favor. “That’s a criminal offense,” Trump told Brad Raffensperger, complaining about the destruction of the ballots, “and you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan [Germany], your lawyer.”

RELATED: It’s Over
The president of the United States is out of options to fulfill his authoritarian dreams.

WALK TOWARD THE WHITE HOUSE during the final days of the Trump presidency, and you’ll get an unmistakable feel of a government under siege. Buildings near Pennsylvania Avenue are boarded up in anticipation of street violence. Monuments are choked with fencing. A tall metal barricade has been erected at Lafayette Square, just north of the White House, and is covered top to bottom with signs—welcome proof that as Donald Trump maneuvers to defy the Twelfth Amendment and cling to power, the First is very much intact. YOU’RE FIRED, one sign reads.

Guards let me through the White House’s north gate, lengthened and fortified last year, and inside the complex. I was there the morning after the release of a recorded phone call in which Trump attempted to coax and scare Georgia election officials into finding the votes needed to overcome Joe Biden’s victory margin and flip the state. Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, rebuffed him, just as a slew of courts have done over the past two months. For now, at least, democracy is holding; Trump is on his way out.

On a day like this, you’d expect the West Wing to be teeming with people. Normally you’d see aides crowding the hallways, or reporters in a single-file line outside Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s doorway. The West Wing halls accessible to the press have a desultory vibe, more like a temp agency than the beating heart of the free world. As I wandered, a handful of aides worked at their desks and talked quietly among themselves. Not one wore a mask, befitting the COVID-19 denialism that has turned the complex into a breeding ground of infection.

They’re caretakers for a White House that is shutting down. And for the most part, the people who work in the building know it. None of the advisers and aides I’ve spoken with over the past couple of weeks is under any illusion that Trump will serve a second term. They realize it’s over, though one aide, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to talk more freely, told me that they’ve gotten no guidance from senior officials on what will happen come noon on January 20, when Trump’s term constitutionally ends.

Vaccine hesitancy rises in Indonesia amid COVID-19 pandemic

Experts say questions about the potential use of pork products in vaccines may hamper COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

Officers offload a box of Sinovac’s vaccine for COVID-19 as it arrives at the cold room of Indonesia’s local health department in Palembang, South Sumatra province, Indonesia, January 4, 2021.

Questions about the potential use of pork products in vaccines is compounding vaccine hesitancy in Indonesia, experts have warned, urging officials and Muslim leaders in the Southeast Asian nation to speed up efforts to gain public trust ahead of a mass immunisation campaign against COVID-19.

Pork-derived gelatin is used as a stabiliser in some vaccines. But the consumption of pork is strictly forbidden or “haram” to Muslims, who comprise 87 percent of Indonesian’s 273 million people, raising concern this may hamper vaccination in the Southeast Asian nation worst-affected by COVID-19.

Dr Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist who has helped formulate the Indonesian Ministry of Health’s pandemic management strategy for 20 years, said a halal certification for COVID-19 vaccines was essential.

“Halal is about more than just food – it incorporates more every aspect of lifestyle for observant Muslims,” said Budiman.

“If you are doing business, you must do it in a halal way and not cheat people. With regards to vaccines, halal certification is virtually mandatory in Indonesia because it ensures the production process from beginning to end is in line with Islamic teaching.”

4 Underreported Stories Nobody Is Talking About

You know how 2020 felt like an unceasing onslaught of misery, day after day, until you were about to start crying blood? Well, here are some problems that we all seemed to have overlooked to get started on your 2021 pile …

4. The Dutch Have A Big Blackface Problem

You know a story is bad when you’re not even sure if you can relay information about it without feeling like you’ve crossed a line, and with that in mind, may I present to you, uh, “Black Pete”:

This costume is from 2 years ago, and not, as one would assume, 1870.

Also known as “Zwarte Piet” this … character is portrayed as a bumbling sidekick to Sinterklaas. He’s kinda like Santa’s version of Iago from Aladdin, only instead of being voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, he’s deeply hurtful and offensive to an entire demographic of people. Naturally, as times have changed, so have people’s perception of the Christmas character, and today, Black Pete (God, I feel terrible having to type that over and over again) is the subject of many screaming matches in Dutch.

On one side of the argument are people who believe the character is incredibly racist. It’s subtle, but if you look closely, you’ll see that Black Pete evokes images made popular by the minstrel shows of yesteryear that essentially only existed to mock black people by enforcing tired and harmful stereotypes. The other side of the argument holds that they’ve never been offended by Black Pete, so that means nobody else could possibly be either. My guess is that side is mostly populated by folks who call people whatever the dutch word for “Snowflake” is a bunch. The argument has reached a fever pitch this year, spurred on by reactions to George Floydd’s tragic death, and given further mainstream attention after person-you’re-surprised-you-agree-with Kim Kardashian retweeted an article discussing why the character should be retired.

Seriously, Holland; get your crap together so we don’t have to agree with a Kardashian again.

RELATED: Man Offended By A Piece of Cotton, The Internet Has a Field Day

Bad news, friends — the annoying trend of netizens getting their panties in a twist over dumb minutiae, like Harry Styles wearing a dress and, well, the existence of vaccines, has carried over into 2021, with a London-based radio host throwing an absolute conniption over an “obscene” drawing depicting *gasp* a piece of cotton attached to a string?

As the clock struck midnight on January 1, we not only celebrated the end of 2020 and the tangible potential of a Muppets Great Gatsby reboot, but the abolition of the U.K.’s value-added tax on period products. The move, which has been heralded as a win by gender equality advocates, came as a result of Brexit, as the European Union considers these types of hygiene materials as being “non-essential,” the BBC reported. No longer beholden to these rules, the U.K. government decided to abolish this tax, which according to some estimates, will save tampon-users approximately $50 over the course of a lifetime.

As advocates took to Twitter in celebration, writer Adam Garrie chimed in with his own message of support and a hyper-specific criticism of the celebratory post from Her Majesty’s Treasury — the inclusion of an illustrated tampon.

“Good policy but is this obscene image really necessary?” he mused.

RELATED: Some Monster Decided To Air Fry A Hot Dog For Two Hours

Despite popular misconception, the modern bourgeoisie of our society consists of more than just Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and as Senator Bernie Sanders so aptly put it with his endearing Brooklyn accent, “the one percent.” It turns out the pretentious upper class of our can be easily determined by the contents not of one’s bank account, but that of one’s kitchen, namely whether one owns a glorified, miniature oven — a.k.a. an air fryer.

However, some of these modern elites have used their firm position on the culinary pedestal above us all for the greater good — in the form of bastardizing a perfectly good hot dog for our collective entertainment and the sake of science.

While the majority of us nursed the hangover from a Zoom New Years Eve’s party (or, well, from polishing off a bottle of two-buck chuck while watching Mr.305 perform to a mostly empty Times Square and a handful of heroic first responders #dale), Twitter user @KLobstar embarked on a mission to air fry a single hot dog for two hours, for no reason other than just to “see what happens.”

At first, the cooking process seemed to be running smoothly, even mirroring a few highly-rated air-fried frankfurters recipes …

… with the weiner still looking fairly good ten minutes in.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: “60 minutes has elapsed, 60 minutes remain… The air is thick with hotdog flavor.”

Silence your inner critic: a guide to self-compassion in the toughest times

Is your internal monologue friendly, calm and encouraging – or critical and bullying? Here is how to change it for the better.

It is unrealistic to expect to silence your inner critic altogether– but you can train up another voice to counter it.

Tobyn Bell still remembers the precise moment when his self-compassion practice paid off.

He had just arrived home from work and was turning over in his mind the mistakes he had made that day, what he could or should have done – the kind of self-critical thoughts he had struggled with for years. Then, unexpectedly, another voice piped up in response, calm and steadying, addressing Bell by a fond nickname from his childhood.

While training to be a mental health nurse, Bell had learned tactics to counter and give context to his inner critic. In that otherwise mundane moment, when his internal monologue leapt to meet cruelty with kindness, they were revealed to have been effective.

“Because I’d really practised this self-compassionate voice, it just showed up and answered,” Bell says. “It felt really moving. I’d never thought that could be possible.”

Many of us may see self-compassion as akin to mindfulness or gratitude: a worthy goal that is hard to turn into a habitual practice. But, as Bell’s example shows, it is possible to change our inner monologue, with benefits for not only our individual health and happiness, but perhaps that of society.

Meet Flipper, the Tamagotchi You Feed by Hacking Stuff

A group of hackers created the handheld device and its adorable dolphin resident to make hacking more accessible to the masses.

In the hacking world, advanced tools for snooping on networks and cracking devices are not known for being easy to use—or aesthetically attractive. But over the past year, a team of Russian hackers have designed and mass-produced a powerful handheld hacking device that takes the form of an adorable virtual pet you can play with by hacking into stuff.

Flipper Zero, which was inspired by the cybernetic dolphin from Johnny Mnemonic, is set to begin shipping in February, and it promises to revolutionize everything from white hat penetration testing to teenage hacking hijinks. The dolphin that lives inside each device evolves the more its owner interacts with it, and gets mad when it’s not frequently in use. Its creators say it holds left-wing political views, listens to techno, and has no pronounced gender identity.

The $100 device is smaller than a cell phone and is controlled by a microcomputer similar in size and function to the Raspberry Pi. Like the Pwnagotchi—a network trolling device with an open source platform and Tamagotchi-like interface—Flipper is a utility hacker tool designed for all levels of technical expertise. Unlike the Pwnagotchi, Flipper Zero is equipped to intercept all kinds of frequencies, not just Wi-Fi.

Alexander Kulagin, one of Flipper’s co-creators, says that the initial idea for the product arose during his time working on 4G networks in remote areas where the need arose for durable pen-testing tools. Ideas for the device then began to percolate in hackerspaces back in St. Petersburg and Moscow. When Kulagin and his co-founders started a Kickstarter to fund the project, they blew past their initial goal of $60,000, raising almost $5 million through 40,000 backers.

“Flipper was born in hackerspaces, but while the modern meaning of this word “hacker” is to break or steal, its initial meaning was to learn something deeply,” Kulagin told Motherboard. “In Russia there was a wide range of white hat security guys and [bug] bounty hunters, and everybody there was obsessed with finding and learning the next big thing.”

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Dulcé Sloan investigates a Wisconsin-based company that installed microchips in its employees’ hands and weighs the effects of the technology.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah and Dulcé Sloan for making this program available on YouTube.

To certify or not to certify? That’s the question. Find out the answer in this edition of “The Adventures Of Mike Pence!”

THANKS to CBS and A Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

Vice President Mike Pence faces a “gut wrenching” day on Wednesday as he must choose whether to uphold the Constitution or obey the president he serves, who has called on Pence to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s win in the Electoral College.

Seth takes a closer look at President Trump defending his possibly illegal phone call pressuring Georgia election officials to overturn his loss to Joe Biden.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.

でんぐり返しを教えるまる。Maru teaches forward roll to Kitten Miri!


When memes fail anatomy: The scale of a blue whale’s butthole

Is a politician really the world’s second biggest a-hole?

Enlarge / That stuff floating in the water is exactly what you think it is.

When we saw the memes scoring the size of a blue whale’s anus second to some of the year’s most reviled politicians, our first thought was that it was deliciously funny. Naturally, our next thought was, “Is this true?” and “How big is a blue whale’s anus, anyway?”

The first obstacle getting an answer to these pressing questions was persuading scientists to answer interview requests. One admitted that at first, he assumed his colleagues were messing with him. Once convinced our request was not a joke, the situation improved only slightly.

“Most of the data that we have on large whale species comes from back in the day when we used to kill a lot of them,” says Dr. Matt Leslie, a visiting assistant professor of biology at Swarthmore College. And by “a lot” Leslie refers to a whaling industry that killed hundreds of thousands of blue whales, likely restructured marine ecosystems, and nearly drove them extinct. “And to be honest,” Leslie says, “there wasn’t a whole lot of interest in anuses.”

Marine mammal illustrator and American Cetacean Society President Uko Gorter agrees, “The rectum or anus of whales escaped scientific scrutiny for centuries. There was—and still is— simply no interest in documenting its absolute size, or its capacity for super flatulence.” Whalers were much more concerned with how much blood, meat, and blubber the whale could provide. Though whalers sometimes did note an especially impressive penis.

“If you were to just take a blue whale and roll it over—as if that were easy to do—the female is going to have a slit, like right at the base of her tail,” Leslie says. That slit covers both her genitalia and anus, and while whalers “didn’t spend a lot of time fishing around inside of the slits,” he says, they did take measurements from the anus to the clitoris, or the length of the slit, which for the largest whales measured four to five feet. (Males have two slits: one each for the anal opening and the penis.) Today few of these giants are left, so we can view this measure as a whale butthole upper bound.

POINT OF REFLECTION: You may previously have had absolutely no reason to want to know about this.

Ed. More tomorrow? Possibly. Probably. Maybe. Likely, if I find nothing more barely uninteresting at all to do.


Good times!

Ed. Five days into the year, my brain is still thinking the year twenty-twenty-one should be typed as 20201. I know 2020 seems like it lasted 18,180 years, but I’m really not that old yet.