July 4, 2015
[ceres] Ceres: Dawn images reveal a 5 km tall mountain. … some analysis on an odd mountain recently found on Ceres by the orbiting Dawn spacecraft‘Mountains on airless bodies like asteroids (or our Moon) can be made in several ways as well. Giant impacts have mountain ranges around their rim, created by rocks lifted up at the edge of the crater. But this mountain on Ceres is alone. Smaller craters can get central peaks, where the rock rebounds upward after the initial impact (similar to the drop that splashes up in the center of a glass when you pour milk). But there’s no obvious crater around this mountain. Maybe other forces filled it in, or subsequent impacts eroded it away. There’s evidence of landslides on the surface as well, which could eventually erase the features of a crater. This seems most likely to me. We’ve seen other craters on Ceres with central peaks, but I don’t think any yet this size.’
July 3, 2015
[web] The Dark Web as You Know It Is a Myth … a look at what The Dark Web actually is … ‘Of course, there is a technological space called the dark web, where the servers of websites are hidden behind a veil of cryptography, and users also enjoy strong anonymity protections. But that space is nothing like the fairy tale that has been concocted around it; that of a colossal ocean of digital stores selling exclusive products, where criminals are free from prosecution. That characterization is not true. Instead, the dark web is a small collection of sites that reflect the limited number of good, bad, and downright weird humans that use it. Doctors can give impartial advice to drug users, who come out of the woodwork because of the anonymity awarded to them by Tor; Chinese citizens can discuss whatever they like and circumvent The Great Firewall, and, yes, the dark web is also used to host some seriously depraved sites, such as extreme pornography. At the moment, the space is probably used mostly for criminal purposes, but its relevance to the world of cybercrime and other domains has been grossly exaggerated.’
July 2, 2015
[tv] The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote … the very specific formula to creating an episode of the long-running crime series …

JESSICA: Oh, it was quite simple, really. The moss. When I saw you at the funeral earlier, the camera focused weirdly on a piece of moss on your shoe. I happened to remember that this moss only grows in one place in the world, the crime scene, and it only sticks to murderers.

But I had to wait for someone to mention the word ‘moss’ in a different context before I made this trivial extra step as if it was a moment of serendipitous inspiration, which for some reason is how we want crimes to be solved.

SOMEONE’S WIFE, YOU FORGET WHOSE: I regret stepping in the murder moss.

July 1, 2015
[wisdom] Alain de Bottom … Alain, Rik and Ade – Together at Last!…


June 30, 2015
[web] How Minions Destroyed the Internet … On the rise and rise of Minions … ‘Wait, no, wait I just got it. I figured out their appeal. Minions are basically emoji. They’re yellow, they run the emotional spectrum, they function as a malleable shorthand for almost indescribable feelings. Like, do you know what the nail art emoji means? It means a million different things. So does the prayer hands emoji. (This is an emerging area of academic study.) Okay, so… Minions are emoji with arms, legs, and goggles.’
June 29, 2015
[lego] On Sorting Lego … a look at the various stages of sorting a Lego collector goes through. ’23. You now have what, to a stranger, would be a bizarre sorting system. You have some parts thrown together in bins by type. You have some parts split out with a separate bin for each part. You have some parts split out with a separate bin for each color. You even have some parts split out by how old they are: red 1x2s from the 60s, red 1x2s from the 70s, new red 1x2s that hold really well, and all the other red 1x2s. And you have an alphabetized pile of large buckets for the overflow pieces and another one for the 1st stage of sorting. 23.5. That stranger would also think you were certifiably insane. Or at least retentive. 24. You start looking for a new house. One with a large basement.’
June 28, 2015
[kubrick] Rejected ‘The Shining’ Poster Designs From Saul Bass, With Stanley Kubrick’s Notes … fascintaing look at Kubrick’s process … ‘While the final result is the iconic, yellow one-sheet, there were a number of iterations, and we can now see the rejected ones. Drawing from different aspects of the film, including the maze, the hotel, and the family unit, there’s some striking imagery, but we can see why Kubrick went with the one he did.’
June 27, 2015
[obit] Patrick Macnee, Avengers star and symbol of ‘Swinging Sixties’ dies … RIP Patrick Macnee. His obituary is well worth reading…

He was born Daniel Patrick Macnee in London in 1922 and raised at first in Berkshire, where his father Daniel, known as Shrimp, was renowned in racing circles, but also in pubs and bookies – “a genius with a horse but not so good with human beings”, in his son’s words. Macnee would go on to base much of the Steed persona on his father, who at dinner parties disconcerted fellow guests whom he suspected of being a pacifist by pulling an unloaded gun on them, and was deported from India – where he later settled – for urinating from a balcony on to the heads of high-ranking Raj officials.

His mother, Dorothea, who had aristocratic connections, was 22 years younger than her husband and left him when Patrick was eight for her lesbian lover, Evelyn Spottswood, an heir to the Dewar’s whisky family. Men were banned from the house and Patrick’s mother and her partner did their best to expunge any whiff of masculinity by trying to coax him into wearing dresses. The horrified young boy mollified them by wearing only kilts until the age of 11. Uncle Evelyn, as he was instructed to call her, helped pay his fees for Eton. He expended most of his energy setting himself up as a pornography salesman and bookmaker, using tips from his father. “I had pounds 200 in the kitty when they caught me.” He was expelled.

June 26, 2015
[war] The man who sleeps in Hitler’s bed … a visit to the world’s biggest collection of Nazi memorabilia and a profile of the man who built it … ‘Later, among engine parts and ironwork, I came across a massive bust of Hitler, sitting on the floor next to a condom vending machine (“I collect pub memorabilia, too,” Wheatcroft explained). “I have the largest collection of Hitler heads in the world,” he said, a refrain that returned again and again. “This one came from a ruined castle in Austria. I bought it from the town council.” “Things have the longest memories of all,” says the introduction to a recent essay by Teju Cole, “beneath their stillness, they are alive with the terrors they have witnessed.” This is what you feel in the presence of the Wheatcroft Collection – a sense of great proximity to history, to horror, an uncanny feeling that the objects know more than they are letting on.’
June 25, 2015
[web] 20 years of space photos: an oral history of Astronomy Picture of the Day … the inside story of APOD – the remarkably long running daily website … ‘Before we posted our first image we debated this, Jerry and I, as to whether we were going to run out of images in a few days and then say, “Well that was stupid.” But actually there were many images around even back then. And NASA’s Ranger series took tens of thousands of images of the lunar surface, so if we had to we could just start putting up other pictures of the lunar surface. “Here’s another crater that’s a little bit different than yesterday’s crater.” But we never ran out of images. We always had interesting images, and as time went on we were sent more and more images. And now we reject 10 to 1, so for every image you see we’ve rejected 10.’
June 24, 2015
[web] The Internet Doesn’t Exist … an attempt to describe just what the term “The Internet” actually means … ‘What we call the Internet—and what web writers so lazily draw on for their work—is less a hive mind or a throng or a gathering place and more a personalized set of online manoeuvres guided by algorithmic recommendations. When we look at our browser windows, we see our own particular interests, social networks, and purchasing histories scrambled up to stare back at us. But because we haven’t found a shared discourse to talk about this complex arrangement of competing influences and relationships, we reach for a term to contain it all. Enter “the Internet.” The Internet is a linguistic trope but also an ideology and even a business plan. If your job is to create content out of (mostly) nothing, then you can always turn to something/someone that “the Internet” is mad or excited about. And you don’t have to worry about alienating readers because “the Internet” is so general, so vast and all-encompassing, that it always has room. This form of writing is widely adaptable. Now it’s common to see stories where “Facebook” or “Twitter” stands in for the Internet, offering approval or judgement on the latest viral schlock. Choose your (anec)data carefully, and Twitter can tell any story you want.’
June 23, 2015
[books] Grey by EL James … a digested read from John Grace‘I instruct her in the basic rules of our relationship. I will buy her a laptop, a BlackBerry and a new car and in return she will sign a contract promising to allow me to abuse her in whatever way I want. She has two days to consider my proposal. The two days pass in agony as my enormous cock waits for its answer. Even when I am donating billions of dollars to charitable causes in Darfur, I can barely concentrate. I have to have her. She is the ONE. My enormous cock concurs.’
June 22, 2015
[cats] A Letter from Ayn Rand to the editor of Cat Fancy magazine in 1966‘You ask whether I own cats or simply enjoy them, or both. The answer is: both. I love cats in general and own two in particular. You ask: “We are assuming that you have an interest in cats, or was your subscription strictly objective?” My subscription was strictly objective because I have an interest in cats. I can demonstrate objectively that cats are of a great value, and the charter issue of Cat Fancy magazine can serve as part of the evidence. ‘

Text of a Letter from Ayn Rand in 1966 to Cat Fancy magazine.

June 21, 2015
[tv] Watching the detectives: why the police procedural is more popular than ever … a look at the current line-up of Police dramas on TV … ‘The Wire was the anti-procedural; as Simon put it in his pitch for the show, it was “not so much [about] the dogged police pursuit of the bad guys but rather a Greek tragedy”. The Wire, however, did not kill the procedural. The procedural simply borrowed The Wire’s aesthetic. The detectives may trudge sombrely from one improbable homicide scene to another, week in, week out, as the blue lights circle bleakly, but we, the viewers, sink gleefully into our sofas ready to drink it in like cocoa. It’s a parlour game, a ritual. Our cosy lives are thankfully not this unremittingly tragic and grim, but it’s strangely cathartic to pretend that they are. Granted, this or that series will pill the sugar with a dose of realism here and there but with noble exceptions, the detective procedural is the very definition of fiction.’
June 20, 2015
[tv] Nic Pizzolatto, the Man Behind True Detective … amusingly over-cooked profile of the True Detective creator … ‘Dennis Potter was the true progenitor, Nic told me. “He did The Singing Detective and Pennies from Heaven and Lipstick on Your Collar and Karaoke and Cold Lazarus and Blackeyes, all this great stuff. That was your TV auteur right there, and there’s still never been any TV like it. The Singing Detective is not for everybody, but it’s still the best thing ever done on television. Before we had a notion of a show-runner, that’s the guy who wrote a different mini-series every couple years. That was somebody making art as ambitious as any art being done but using this popular fallen medium of TV.”’
June 19, 2015
[property] This is the most incredible property deal in London right now — there’s just one small problem … a bargain flat in desirable location with a remarkable history! … ‘It even has an awesome private balcony, which is rare in London flats at this price. One prospective buyer remarked to John that the property had “killer views”.’
June 18, 2015
[movies] The Cult of ‘Jurassic Park’ … a look at the long-term fascination with Jurassic Park from academic and amateur fans …

This is getting us close to the soul of Jurassic Park, so I make one last call to Phil Tippett. Phil — an Oscar-winning effects man who helped dream up Jabba the Hutt — was Jurassic Park’s dino-director. Phil says what makes Jurassic Park click is that “it’s a movie from a different age.”

Though we remember it for the effects, Jurassic Park feels … palpable in a way few CGI-loaded movies do today. When the T. rex smushes the Ford Explorer, that’s a real Ford Explorer. When the electric fence topples, that’s a real fence. Richards says perhaps 80 percent of her dinosaur scenes were shot with Winston models, allowing her and Neill and other actors to actually be with the effects.

Fanboy-dom is about something irretrievable, a lost world of childhood. And here, from the age of Avatar, we can see it clearly. Jurassic Park, along with The Abyss (1989) and Terminator 2 (1991), were the stars of an amazing in-between period of summer-movie history. An interesting couple of years between the Analog Era and the Computer Era. We were charging headfirst into the movie future, but we hadn’t quite left the past. Jurassic Park had 55 computer-effects shots; The Phantom Menace, released six years later, had around 2,000.

June 17, 2015
[weird] Has the Internet solved the mystery of this 40-year-old radio signal? … what’s the story behind Russian radio signal UVB-76? … ‘It’s easy to dismiss the signal as pre-recorded, or a looping tone. But what listeners quickly realized was that UVB-76 is not a recording. The buzzer noise is generated manually. The reason for hearing telephone conversations and banging noises in the background of the signal is that a speaker creating the buzzer is constantly placed next to the microphone, giving the world an eerie insight into whatever cavern the signal originates from.’
June 16, 2015
[life] Other People’s Shopping Lists. … … ‘Wine. Fags. Beers.’

A List containing Wine, Fags and Beers.

June 15, 2015
[politics] What’s the worst British law of all time?‘Last but certainly not least is another Act from the early days of the New Labour government, which is notable for one reason above all others: It made it an offence to detonate a nuclear bomb. What is the punishment for such an act? Life imprisonment. During its time in office, New Labour passed a remarkable volume of legislation. There was one new offence for every day Tony Blair was in office and the passing of a criminal justice bill became a de facto annual event. This law gives some indication as to why that might be. One imagines other laws, not least of all the law against murder, might have covered it. But apparently not.’
June 14, 2015
[web] A Complete Taxonomy of Internet Chum … some analysis of those grids of advertisements you see on web pages… ‘Like everything else on the internet, traffic flowing through chumboxes must be tracked in order for everyone to be paid. Each box in the grid’s performance can be tracked both individually and in context of its neighbors. This allows them to be highly optimized; some chum is clearly better than others. As a byproduct of this optimization, an aesthetic has arisen. An effective chumbox clearly plays on reflex and the subconscious. The chumbox aesthetic broadcasts our most basic, libidinal, electrical desires back at us. And gets us to click. Clicking on a chumlink—even one on the site of a relatively high-class chummer, like—is a guaranteed way to find more, weirder, grosser chum. The boxes are daisy-chained together in an increasingly cynical, gross funnel; quickly, the open ocean becomes a sewer of chum.’
June 13, 2015
[movies] Christopher Nolan explains Inception’s ending… ‘The film-maker explained that he saw the concept of reality in the film – and real life – as entirely subjective. So DiCaprio’s character doesn’t wait to see if the spinning top drops because he no longer cares to distinguish between a possible harsh reality and a potentially wonderful dream.’
June 12, 2015
[space] Ceres: Weird white spots are still weird. … What are the White Spots on Ceres? … ‘You can bet every penny you have planetary scientists are poring over these images and examining every detail. These bright spots are unique; no other such high-contrast feature is seen on airless, rocky bodies. We know Ceres has a lot of water ice under the surface, so it’s not too far out to think that may be what we’re seeing. A recent impact could’ve dredged up ice (we’ve seen that on Mars, in far smaller craters), splashing it around the crater, and also caused that darker spray. But right in the exact center of that big crater (which is clearly much older)? That seems like a big coincidence. Could it be from some sort of vent?’
June 11, 2015
[music] How the compact disc lost its shine … A look at the rise and fall of the CD … ‘The CD was introduced to the British public in a 1981 episode of the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World, in which Kieran Prendeville mauled a test disc of the Bee Gees’ Living Eyes to demonstrate the format’s alleged indestructibility. It caught the public imagination, but Immink found the claim puzzling and embarrassing because it was clearly untrue. “We should not put emphasis on the fact it will last for ever because it will not last for ever,” he says. “We should put emphasis on the quality of sound and ease of handling.” (Paul McCartney recently recalled the first time George Martin showed him a CD. “George said, ‘This will change the world.’ He told us it was indestructible, you can’t smash it. Look! And – whack – it broke in half.”)’
June 10, 2015
[dick] All Richard Nixon, all the time … a tumblr about Richard Nixon … ‘I LIKE DICK’

Dick Nixon Campaign Badge

June 9, 2015
[fifa] How a curmudgeonly old reporter exposed the FIFA scandal that toppled Sepp Blatter … some fascinating background on the FIFA scandal … ‘The best way for Americans to imagine Andrew Jennings is to roll Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein together, then add a touch of a Scottish burr and plenty of flannel. Jennings was born in Scotland but moved to London as a child. His grandfather played for a prominent London soccer team, Clapton Orient (now called Leyton Orient), but Jennings had little interest in the sport. He did, however, have a nose for journalism.’
June 8, 2015
[politics] The undoing of Ed Miliband – and how Labour lost the election … More on the downfall of Ed Miliband … ‘In a car park in Hastings, Miliband unveiled an 8ft 6in slab of limestone, into which had been carved Labour’s six election pledges. The mockery was so intense that the location of the “Ed Stone” became the subject of frenzied media speculation after the election. “The only reason it got through 10 planning meetings was because we were all distracted, looking for a way to punch through on the SNP,” one adviser said.The stone’s demolition, in the event of a Labour loss, had been agreed at the time it was commissioned. After the election, the party drew up two plans for its disposal: one was simply to smash the stone up and throw the rubble onto a scrap heap. The second was to break it up and sell chunks, like the Berlin Wall, to party members as a fundraising effort. The first attempts to destroy the stone had to be postponed when the media tracked its location to a south London warehouse. There are claims it has been destroyed, but even Miliband’s close advisers cannot confirm its fate’
June 7, 2015
[comics] 36 Things That Will Always Happen At A Comic Convention’14. Someone will ask a question at a Q&A that’s actually just a long story about themselves and the answer will be silence.’
June 6, 2015
[games] Behind a pizza-slice smile: the dark side of Pac-Man… a look at Pac-man’s dark heart … ‘Researcher Alex Wade draws comparisons between Pac-Man’s inescapable maze and the Labyrinths imagined by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges – the exits are just entrances to other parts of the whole. Similarly, comic writer Zach Weiner, has pictured the game as a sort of terrifying Kafka-esque nightmare, in which a man wakes up to find he has been reduced to a living mouth that must consume to survive. This ties in with another interpretation of Pac-Man as the ultimate modern shopper, trapped in a cycle of meaningless consumption and endless binging on electronic treats in a sterile technological landscape. “He is the pure consumer,” wrote Poole in Trigger Happy.’
June 5, 2015
[war] Letters of Note: You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade… Eisenhower’s Order of the Day On June 5th, 1944 … ‘Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.’

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