Wednesday, 29 November 2023

For a spell from 1988 Remo was a Sydney store run by Remo Giuffré selling weird and wonderful things. Eventually it collapsed, but it’s now come back to life as a twice a year catalog of … well of weird and wonderful things. You can subscribe for A$72 a year.

Issue 1 of REMOЯANDOM – Everything Interesting featured 90 interesting ideas, here are 10 that caught my attention:

20 – Dvorak Simplified Keyboard – and why we stick with QWERTY even though it isn’t efficient.

24 – Fisher Space Pen – the ink is fed down the pen by pressurised nitrogen so when you’re in outer space you can keep writing even without gravity to move the ink down, like a regular ballpoint pen. They’re used in all manned spaceflights and you can own one – go to the Fisher Space Pen website – or, of course, you can get one from Amazon. For a while the Russians used pencils.

26 – Fosbury Flop – Dick Fosbury invented his high jump technique to win a gold medal at the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968. Remarkably – despite the gold medal – it didn’t catch on immediately. Fosbury died in March 2023.

33 – New York Central Station Oyster Bar – it’s only three weeks younger than the train station itself and 110 years later it’s still going strong. Not only for oysters, it’s a general seafood specialist, but only Monday to Friday, it’s closed on weekends. My Grand Central Station favourite is the hidden away Campbell Apartment bar – now just The Campbell – Wikipedia’s how to find it instructions: ‘Located in the southwestern corner of the Grand Central Terminal building — above the northeastern corner of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue — the space is reached by a staircase from the terminal’s balcony level.’

52 – Nouns of Assembly – well I really like a murder of crows and a superfluity of nuns, a charm of finches or a barrel of monkeys are rather mundane. The 1993 book An Exaltation of Larks details more than 1100 of them.

76 – Spam – how it started, how it shifted from ‘the world’s most famous meat product’ to a computer terminology. And check Fray Bentos – the town in Uruguay I visited recently, better known in Britain as a canned steak & kidney pie.

78 – Swiss Railway Clocks – the clock face that features on every railway station in Switzerland and, as a Mondaine Watch, on my wrist

81 – Theremin – ever since I saw Fay Lovsky play a Theremin at a PINC (People Ideas Nature Creativity) (a sort of pre-TED TED conference) gathering in the Netherlands in 2003 I’ve been fascinated by this weird musical instrument. Invented by a Russian in 1919 it emits radio waves and when you move your hand close to the device it interrupts the waves and makes a noise.

You play a theremin without ever touching it and every now and then I encounter a street musician performing with one.

85 – Untranslatable Words – we all know schadenfreude, but I wasn’t aware of schnapsidee (also German) which means having a great idea when you’re drunk only to realise, when you sober up, that it wasn’t so clever after all. Or the Italian term sprezzatura which means to dress with style, but to carry it off as if you’d put no effort into it at all.

89 – The Meaning of XXX – it’s the flag of Amsterdam and REMOЯANDOM suggests half a dozen different reasons why the citizens of Amsterdam have adopted XXX as their calling sign.