September 20, 2017
[people] Why Steve Bannon Wears So Many Shirts
… ‘He’s a layering extremist, if you will, adhering to a disheveled uniform of shirts from Brooks Brothers and Orvis, a brand that makes clothes for fly fishing and other outdoor sports (he does not fly fish). He keeps them both folded and hanging in his closet at the Breitbart headquarters, a townhouse in D.C. known as the “Breitbart Embassy,” as well as in other unspecified closets in unspecified locations. “They’re not all long sleeve,” his spokesperson explained. “There’s some polos that are short sleeve.” They added that when wearing a suit in the White House, perhaps he only wore two shirts beneath his blazer — an undershirt and then a button-down — but wasn’t sure.’
August 24, 2017
[trump] The President of Blank Sucking Nullity
… more Trump analysis … ‘Trump will never get better as a president or a person: it will always and only be about him. History matters only insofar as it brought him to this moment; the roaring and endless present in which he lives matters because it is where he is now; the future is the place in which he will do it all again. Trump’s world ends with him, and a discourse or a politics that is locked into scrutinizing or obsessively #resisting or otherwise chasing him will invariably end up as arid and abstracted and curdled as he is.’
August 15, 2017
[tv] Noel Edmonds: TV’s emperor of folly
… a look at Noel Edmonds new game show
… ‘In Cheap Cheap Cheap, Edmonds plays the owner of a dilapidated general store. Sometimes the shop’s manager wobbles into view to drop a leaden one-liner. Sometimes the tenant of the upstairs flat pops down to blurt something in a mangled fake-European accent – she calls Edmonds her “rent boy” very early on – or a shop assistant will take a selfie, or a deliveryman will sort of wander around a bit. This is the set of the gameshow. There is no studio audience, and Edmonds doesn’t say hello or goodbye. It’s like this collection of weirdos have been trapped in this empty and possibly extra-dimensional shop for all eternity. It’s like Edmonds, having grown terrified by the horrors of the real world, has built his very own Red Room for sanctuary. Watching Cheap Cheap Cheap is like watching a weird piece of existential Lithuanian amateur community theatre. It’s like watching QVC, if QVC was beamed in from an irradiated wasteland four billion years in the future.’
August 9, 2017
[moore] Alan Moore Interviewed by Greg Wilson & Kermit Leveridge
… a wide-ranging discussion on counterculture … ‘Back in 1976, something like that, I was down visiting my late friend and mentor Steve Moore on the top of Shooter’s Hill and Steve, who was much more connected with the London fantasy and comics scene than I was, he’d got this new trilogy of books that he’d come across that I might be interested in, which was ‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’ by Wilson and Shea. I devoured them and I was absolutely blown away; I thought, “This is great!” All of these frankly ridiculous, paranoid conspiracy stories that are so popular amongst the right and the left wing – that it’s making it all, instead of being a debilitating illness, which is the way people like David Icke have tended to make this field of inquiry – they made it into this brilliant intellectual game and made it really enlightening. It was almost like an Anarchist primer – an Occult/Anarchist primer!’
August 8, 2017
[art] What The KLF Burning A Million Quid Means In 2017
… ‘All artworks cost a certain amount of money to make – and clearly, this one cost more than most. They then generate profit – whether financial or reputational – for a closed loop of people. However, by burning their money, Drummond and Cauty were effectively sharing it. According to the standard process of retail transaction, the money was ours as customers, before becoming theirs as successful artists. But suddenly, via the pair’s remarkable act of communion; their uncompromising rejection of the arbitrary values with which the market codifies and reduces art, we all had a stake. By sacrificing that million, they effectively gave it to everyone from that day forward, who despaired at money’s monstrous, bullying power. And in the process, they created an infinite, galvanising resource; something from which we could all draw strength when we felt the need. It’s a gesture that will only lose its power when the social and economic conditions which made it such a transgressive, aberrant act disappear too. Viewed from that perspective, not only was the burning a mythical act, it was also an extremely generous and even rather moving one.’
August 7, 2017
[space] The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe
… a wonderful profile of the team managing the Voyager Probes on their long journey into interstellar space … ‘Even though they simulate every patch with software, there is plenty of room for human error. Far more often, hardware fails for no evident reason. In 1998, Voyager 2 reacted to a command by going silent. For 64 hours straight, the flight team studied the specific instruction — consisting of 18 bits, or 1s and 0s — that preceded the blackout. Bits have been known to ‘‘flip’’ to the opposite value, changing the instruction the same way that swapping a single letter turns ‘‘cat’’ into ‘‘cut.’’ The question was: What instruction had they accidentally given and how could they undo it? At last, modeling the outcome of each possible bit, they discovered one that turned off the exciter, which generates the spacecraft’s radio signal; when they turned it back on, the transmissions resumed.’
July 27, 2017
[trump] Steve Bannon Is Back in Trump’s Good Graces
… More on the rise, fall and rise again of Steve Bannon
… ‘Bannon became a vital figure in Trump’s orbit during the early days of his political rise. The two met late in 2010, when David Bossie, the veteran conservative activist, brought Bannon along on a trip to Trump Tower to offer advice about how Trump might prepare for a presidential run. Like Trump, Bannon was a businessman and born deal-maker. With experience on Wall Street and in Hollywood, he was nothing if not high energy, a mile-a-minute talker with a volcanic temper who rarely slept and possessed a media metabolism to rival Trump’s own. And Bannon, too, had a healthy self-regard. On his office wall hung an oil painting of Bannon dressed as Napoleon in his study at the Tuileries, done in the style of Jacques-Louis David’s famous neoclassical painting — a gift from Nigel Farage.’
July 26, 2017
[moore] “I did it thirty-five minutes ago.”
July 24, 2017
[games] How Checkers Was Solved
… the fascinating story of the greatest Checkers player in the world and how Checkers was beaten by computers …
Marion Tinsley—math professor, minister, and the best checkers player in the world—sat across a game board from a computer, dying.
Tinsley had been the world’s best for 40 years, a time during which he’d lost a handful of games to humans, but never a match. It’s possible no single person had ever dominated a competitive pursuit the way Tinsley dominated checkers. But this was a different sort of competition, the Man-Machine World Championship.
His opponent was Chinook, a checkers-playing program programmed by Jonathan Schaeffer, a round, frizzy-haired professor from the University of Alberta, who operated the machine. Through obsessive work, Chinook had become very good. It hadn’t lost a game in its last 125—and since they’d come close to defeating Tinsley in 1992, Schaeffer’s team had spent thousands of hours perfecting his machine.
The night before the match, Tinsley dreamt that God spoke to him and said, “I like Jonathan, too,” which had led him to believe that he might have lost exclusive divine backing…’
July 19, 2017
[politics] Dominic Cummings: the ‘career psychopath’ who thinks David Davis is ‘as thick as mince’
… Pass Notes on Dominic Cummings
… ‘Appearance: A hard-boiled egg with the haunted eyes of a man who has seen Michael Gove without his mask.’
July 18, 2017
[comics] Inside the surprisingly dark world of Rube Goldberg machines
… A look at why Rube Goldberg Machines
remain relevant… … ‘Almost a century old, Rube Goldberg machines retain their appeal: “There’s something in our brains that likes to see cause and effect played out, to see it in a way that we can understand,” Joseph Herscher, the Brooklyn-based artist, told me. Herscher has judged at the past three college national competitions but was absent this year. “Most of the technology we live with is designed to be invisible,” he said. “A computer is the ultimate example: it’s so advanced, so sophisticated, and yet it’s not interesting to watch it run whatsoever.” When we watch the movements of a Rube Goldberg machine, “it’s our world that we’re seeing, and it makes us appreciate our world. You don’t see that nowadays.” Meanwhile, most of Goldberg’s comics seem dated: the jokes don’t make sense or are lame, and cultural references fall flat. But some feel as relevant ever, and maybe that’s because the technical absurdities that the cartoonist parodied are still very real…’
June 2, 2017
[books] Drif Field, Raymond Carver, and the infamous Guide
… a look at Drif’s Guide to All the Second-hand and Antiquarian Bookshops in Britain … ‘It all has the tone of a man about to bow out, and leave the blinkered inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah to their well-deserved ruin. And his prophesy has largely come to pass. The ranks of second-hand booksellers have thinned drastically. There are still some left in Sussex, but like antiques in general it’s a dying trade in which a very few discreet high-class niche dealers (without the overheads of a shop) might still do well, but most bookshop-owners won’t. The times are against them.’
May 25, 2017
[life] Andy Warhol on being shot by Valerie Solanas in 1968: “Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there – I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. People sometimes say that the way things happen in the movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen to you in life that’s unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it’s like watching television – you don’t feel anything. Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television. The channels switch, but it’s all television.”
May 16, 2017
[press] Is the editor of the Daily Mail the most dangerous man in Britain?
… The Guardian on on Paul Dacre
and Brexit… ‘His own success at the Mail has bought him schooling for his two sons at Eton, membership of the Garrick, a chauffeur, a house in the country, flat in town and a shooting estate in Scotland (generously subsidised by the EU). He rarely rubs up against the people he believes he represents. “It always amused me that his shoe leather never wore out,” one reporter told Addison, “because every day he was on a carpet in the office; he strode out the door and was in a car which deposited him either at home or a restaurant. He would be horrified at what modern Britain had become – but he was never part of it.” Despite this insulation, Dacre has always presented himself as having a unique “feel for the emotions of ordinary people”. He still apparently locates this feeling in the 1950s London suburb of Arnos Grove in which he grew up, and which persists as the model of the Mail’s middle England.’
May 9, 2017
[crime] What Bullets Do to Bodies
… powerful profile of a trauma surgeon in North Philadelphia and what happens to the gunshot victims she treats …
It’s possible for a surgeon to get distracted by the wrong wound. The most dangerous wounds don’t always look the worst. People can get shot in the head and they’re leaking bits of brain from a hole in the skull and that’s not the fatal wound; the fatal wound is from another bullet that ripped through the chest. One patient a few years ago was shot in the face with a shotgun at close range over some money owed. He pulled his coat up over his mangled face and walked to the ER of one of Temple’s sister hospitals, approaching a nurse. She looked at him. He lowered the coat. The nurse thought to herself what you might expect a person to think in such a situation: “Daaaaaamn.” He was stabilized, then transferred to Temple. He lived.
The price of survival is often lasting disability. Some patients, often young guys, wind up carrying around colostomy bags for the rest of their lives because they can’t poop normally anymore. They poop through a “stoma,” a hole in the abdomen. “They’re so angry,” Goldberg said. “They should be angry.” Some are paralyzed by bullets that sever the spinal column. Some lose limbs entirely…
April 24, 2017
[trump] Fairytale Prisoner by Choice: The Photographic Eye of Melania Trump
… What Melania Trump’s stream of Twitter photos tells us about her life … ‘Melania posted her last photo to Twitter on Thursday, June 11, 2015, five days before her husband announced his candidacy for president. It is an old photograph, of a then six-year-old Barron, taken on the beach. He is looking down at the ground ahead and waving goodbye to a professionally built sandcastle in the background. That day Melania knew, of course, that the campaign was coming. In retrospect her choice of a Throwback Thursday post reads as prophecy: a goodbye to her golden towers, to the home destined to crumble. To this day she’s still up there, in the golden Tower, holding onto it for as long as she can.’
April 3, 2017
[politics] Stephen King on Donald Trump: ‘How do such men rise? First as a joke’
… King analyses Trump with fictional characters …
These stories were written years ago, but Stillson and Rennie bear enough of a resemblance to the current resident of the White House for me to flatter myself I have a country-fair understanding of how such men rise: first as a joke, then as a viable alternative to the status quo, and finally as elected officials who are headstrong, self-centered and inexperienced. Such men do not succeed to high office often, but when they do, the times are always troubled, the candidates in question charismatic, their proposed solutions to complex problems simple, straightforward and impractical. The baggage that should weigh these hucksters down becomes magically light, lifting them over the competition like Carl Fredricksen in the Pixar film Up. Trump’s negatives didn’t drag him down; on the contrary, they helped get him elected.
March 31, 2017
[web] This Is Almost Certainly James Comey’s Twitter Account
… Impressive web-Stalking – finding the the Director of the FBI’s Twitter and Instagram accounts … ‘Of course, none of this is definitive proof @projectexile7 is FBI Director James Comey, but it would take a nearly impossible confluence of coincidences for it to be anyone else. Take what you will from the fact that the director of the FBI appears to have liked a tweet from the New York Times about Mike Flynn and Jared Kushner meeting a Russian envoy in December.’
March 29, 2017
[comics] How Dilbert’s Scott Adams Got Hypnotized by Trump
… a glimpse into Scott Adams’ world and odd ideas … ‘Getting a comic strip, even one as occasionally edgy as Dilbert, into family newspapers requires observing a certain set of norms. Adams’s viral analyses of Trump introduced many people, including me, to his more unusual fixations. Between political ponderings, he blogged about fitness and seduction, posting photos of his abs and writing a series of essays on how to deploy hypnosis and persuasion for better orgasms. “My language skills activate your sex drive, and you know it,” he wrote at one point. So-called men’s rights activists became vocal fans. I was just baffled. As Trump and Clinton entered the home stretch of the campaign, I wondered if Dilbert’s success had made Scott Adams eccentric—or if this had always been the mind behind the strip.’
March 21, 2017
[crime] Steve Bannon’s Sad, Desperate Crusade
… a nicely written analysis of Steve Bannon … ‘Even pieces of ostensible criticism reach, almost unfailingly, a passage of barely hidden astonishment, writers gazing at his references to the ancient Roman working class or Thomas Cromwell like they just peeked inside the Matrix. He is, in a way, a journalist’s dream prompt: His mysterious biography invites investigation; his mongrel-like appearance a paradise for vivid similes; his appetite for literature just like theirs. So what should be an attack on an irredeemable charlatan instead becomes something closer to fascination. Writing about Bannon tends to be studiously impartial, analytical, even as his worldview is dismissed as an absurdity. This is wrong. Bannon can be a disheveled maniac and only that—there doesn’t need to be a revelation or nuance or anything beyond a bloodshot sack of demented ambition, no matter how high he ascends. He is not a Svengali, he’s a shipwrecked banker who washed ashore and wound up the president’s ventriloquist. Hate is still just hate, no matter how intricately ornamented it is with Ronald Reagan idolatry.’
March 16, 2017
[books] The Complicated Friendship of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert Barlow, One of His Biggest Fans
… ‘Barlow didn’t invent Cthulhu. He lived in Lovecraft’s great dream, but he never became a great dreamer himself. Until he got to Mexico, he was a serial abandoner of projects, who set out to do everything but left most of it unfinished. He was also too interested in reality: where Lovecraft had sublimated his fears and desires, Barlow had sex and saw the world. Rather than imagining dreadful Others, he took note of what other people were actually like.’
March 7, 2017
[books] Three days with The Dice Man: ‘I never wrote for money or fame’
… Tanya Gold interviews Luke Rhinehart (aka George Cockcroft) author of The Dice Man … ‘He says he has no idea why he began writing. He read outsiders, and men who railed against belonging: Tolstoy, Kafka, Hemingway. His first attempt at fiction was about a young boy who is locked up in a psychiatric institution because he thinks he is Jesus Christ. He abandoned it after 80 pages, but one chapter featured a psychiatrist called Dr Luke Rhinehart. “He was a minor character,” Cockcroft says, “but there he was.”’
January 10, 2017
[people] Was 2016 especially dangerous for celebrities? An empirical analysis.
… ‘2016’s P200s were: Fidel Castro, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Johan Cruyff, Bhumibol Adulyadej, Leonard Cohen, Antonin Scalia, Elie Wiesel, Nancy Reagan, John Glenn, Carrie Fisher, Chyna, Harper Lee, Kimbo Slice, Ernst Nolte, Rob Ford, Pierre Boulez, Alan Rickman, Shimon Peres, Christina Grimmie, Terry Wogan, Abbas Kiarostami, and Merle Haggard.’
January 4, 2017
[moon] The Dark Side of the Moon
… go read this powerful profile of Buzz Aldrin …
You smile at him, your face opening the way every single face in the entire world opens when it encounters him. Because he is: Buzz Aldrin. And we are: mankind.
He takes note of your smile, and just as quickly looks past you. It’s the same way with everybody. It’s your pregnant anticipation: I can’t wait to hear the amazing synthesis of moon wisdom you are about to bestow upon me.
He has no idea what to do with that. None. He’s turning 85 this month. He went to the moon when he was 39. Mankind has been coming at him with your same smile ever since. What do you expect him to do with that?
December 12, 2016
[people] Lessons from My Father
… Powerful piece of writing from Joe McGinniss, Jr. on the downfall of his father
… ‘The subject of his book “Fatal Vision,” the convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald, upset that the book portrayed him as guilty of the crime, sued my father for fraud. The contract for the book granted my father the freedom to tell the story as he saw fit, but the jury deadlocked anyway, and a mistrial was declared; the case was settled out of court a few years later. A few years after that, a famous piece in The New Yorker, “The Journalist and the Murderer,” by Janet Malcolm, took the case as emblematic of the moral compromises made by writers. Few in the publishing world came to my father’s defense. His reputation was in tatters, and he wondered aloud whether he’d ever write another book. If he’d ever crawl out of the dark black pit of depression. If he’d see fifty-five, sixty? His freezer was filled with bottles of gin and vodka. He’d pour drinks and stir them with an index finger, suck it dry. Have a bottle of wine at dinner, a second. Then he’d call. If I answered, it was to listen, and I knew before he completed his first sentence.’
November 22, 2016
[crime] Framed – She was the PTA mom everyone knew. Who would want to harm her?
… an engrossing long-read about a suburban middle-class Mum and Dad’s attempt to destroy another parent at the school their child attended …
“I want you to use that big brain of yours, mouth closed, listen,” Brannon told him. “At some point during this conversation you’re going to have to make a big-boy decision, and that’s gonna be on you.”
In the age of computers and technology and cell phones, Brannon said, “Big Brother’s always watching. We’re absolutely not the smartest guys in the shed, OK? But we can follow the dots from one to the next to the next.”
They knew, he said, that Easter’s phone had been pinging in the middle of the night near Peters’ apartment. And if there was DNA on the drugs in Peters’ car, they would find it.
Brannon said, “I would hope and pray for your sake that there’s a big light going off, big bells going off. Knowing what I just told you, is there anything that you would like to add to your statement to me, whether retracting or adding anything to your statement?”
“I would like to get a lawyer.”
“That’s the big-boy answer.”
October 28, 2016
[books] In ‘Hitler,’ an Ascent From ‘Dunderhead’ to Demagogue
… Nicely done book review on the rise of
Adolf Hitler … ‘Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a “bottomless mendacity” that would later be magnified by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology (radio, gramophone records, film) to spread his message. A former finance minister wrote that Hitler “was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth” and editors of one edition of “Mein Kampf” described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.”’
October 21, 2016
[trump] ‘I think he’s a very dangerous man for the next three or four weeks’
… An “emergency meeting” of Trumpologists discuss Trump’s final weeks in the US Election … ‘The parallels between the period of time leading up to his downfall in 1990 and the campaign now are striking. And what he did last night in standing up in this moment of crisis and being a victim — he thought of himself as a victim in the downfall of 1990 and playing the victim card and being as angry at others as he was in the ’90s in the way in which he dealt with the bankers. It was very strikingly similar to that period of time. But when you’ve dealt with the bankers in 1990, you could figure out a way where both of you came out with something and lost something. But in this case, there’s going to be a winner and a loser. And so there’s some similarities, but ultimately, he’s going to be a loser. He managed to survive in almost an unbelievable way when his empire collapsed, but managed to survive with the aid of the bankers. But this time, it’s going to be a straight-out loss on the biggest stage he’s ever been on, and how he handles that — I don’t think we’ve got any precedent for that.’
October 6, 2016
[savile] Louis Theroux: Looking back on Jimmy Savile
… Louis Theroux reflects on his relationship with Jimmy Savile … ‘With all the victims, there was the slightly uncomfortable moment of soliciting their opinions on my original documentary. It was oddly bracing to feel the force of their unvarnished feedback. “I remember thinking ‘Poor Louis’,” said one. She said she felt I’d been “hoodwinked” by him. Another remarked on how “silly” I seemed, being pushed around by a puffed-up celebrity. It is fair comment. At the time, I’d done my best to be tough with him. I knew he was weird and, with all his mannerisms, rather irritating – I had no interest in making a soft piece about Jimmy the Charity Fundraiser. The dark rumours – of sexual deviance, of being unemotional, of having a morbid interest in corpses – were one of the reasons I’d taken him on as a subject. I wanted to get the goods on Savile. The trouble was, I had no clear sense of what those goods were.’
September 30, 2016
[tweets] Following On Twitter: @WernerTwertzog
… ‘In the future, everyone will be dead for an infinite number of minutes.’
September 27, 2016
[ww2] High Hitler: How Nazi Drug Abuse Steered the Course of History
… an interesting examination of Adolf Hitler’s drug addictions …
For Hitler, though, a crisis was coming. When the factories where Pervitin and Eukodal were made were bombed by the allies, supplies of his favourite drugs began to run out, and by February 1945 he was suffering withdrawal. Bowed and drooling and stabbing at his skin with a pair of golden tweezers, he cut a pitiful sight. “Everyone describes the bad health of Hitler in those final days [in the Führerbunker in Berlin],” says Ohler. “But there’s no clear explanation for it. It has been suggested that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. To me, though, it’s pretty clear that it was partly withdrawal.” He grins. “Yeah, it must have been pretty awful. He’s losing a world war, and he’s coming off drugs.”
September 19, 2016
[people] An Extremely Awkward Encounter with Larry David
… Larry David discusses the Seinfeld Curse amongst other things …
LD: Here’s what I’ll have: split-pea soup and white-bean hummus. Is that okay?
PUBLICIST: Whatever you want.
LD: And I don’t need the cheesy croutons. And if there’s cream in the soup, don’t get it.
PUBLICIST: I’ll check.
LD: Yeah. No cream or butter in the soup or the hummus.
SR: Is that a lactose thing or a general-health thing?
LD: General health.
SR: So you tolerate lactose.
LD: I tolerate lactose like I tolerate people.
September 2, 2016
[life] Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom Murdered
… disturbing true-life story of Munchausen by proxy and murder … ‘Because Dee Dee is dead, it’s impossible to diagnose her. She didn’t leave behind a diary or some other documentation of her intentions. She did keep a binder of medical information in which she seemed to be sorting through the different information she’d given to various doctors. And she did fit certain parameters that doctors often cite as red flags for Munchausen syndrome: For example, she had some medical training. The number of doctors she took Gypsy to see over the years, and her propensity for changing locations so there was no clear medical trail, is also common. So are the concerns over sleep apnea, which is one way Munchausen often seems to begin in the various documented cases.’
August 19, 2016
[history] Interview with Joseph Goebbels’ 105-year-old secretary
… ‘But really, I didn’t do anything other than type in Goebbels’ office.’
June 20, 2016
[internet] Lonelygirl15: how one mysterious vlogger changed the internet
… fascinating back story behind one of Youtube’s earliest web series
which turned out to be professionally done … ‘As far as Beckett was concerned, it was a race against time before someone else pipped them to the post. He said: “Somebody was going to create a scripted show on YouTube that uses the vlogger format and if they were marketing savvy they would make it feel real so there would be talk about it. “If we didn’t do it, then somebody else would.” The business side was headed up by their friend Greg Goodfried, a lawyer who later became one of the show’s producers. His wife Amanda, then working at the Creative Artists’ Agency (CAA), was tasked with maintaining Bree’s Myspace page. They had a plan, they had the webcam, they had the scripts. All they needed now, was the right girl for the part.’
May 19, 2016
[books] H. P. Lovecraft in 1919
… What was H. P. Lovecraft up to in 1919? … ‘Much of what we know of Lovecraft for this year comes from his amateur publications and his few surviving letters—only a handful have survived from this period—but it was a quietly formative year in his life. The discovery of Lord Dunsany gave shape to his experiments in fiction, and he began to find his own voice and preferred style, while the hospitalization of his mother gave him an unexpected freedom, living alone for the first time.’
May 4, 2016
[politics] Maybe Donald Trump has really lost his mind: What if the GOP frontrunner isn’t crazy, but simply not well?
… ‘The first time I wondered at something being not quite right with Trump’s brain was during the first debate in August 2015 when Trump said “We need brain in this country to turn it around.” Even my 10-year-old son noted that Trump had suggested we need intelligence in government in a really stupid way. But it was more than stupid; it was ungrammatical. It wasn’t simply a basic use of language; it lacked the grammar structure that even a third grader has readily available. And for all of the ease with which we Trump bash, it’s worth remembering that he did, in fact, graduate from Wharton as an undergraduate in economics. He might have been full of bluster back then, but I’m guessing he still could speak in a complete sentence.’
April 13, 2016
[politics] Has Jeremy Corbyn’s spin doctor Seumas Milne gone rogue?
… an interesing profile (but written by Alex Wickham so YMMV) … ‘A recurring theme is Milne’s disconcertingly endearing comic character. Dressing in a communist-chic black rollneck jumper and white chinos, Milne offers great value as a self-deprecating self-parody. “He’s like Swallows And Amazons meets Spetsnaz,” says one journalist who has worked with him.’
April 8, 2016
[movies] ‘Superman,’ The Inside Story: Director Richard Donner Remembers Meeting Stallone to Play the Lead, Working With Brando, and a Near-Fatal Knife Attack
… Richard Donner describes how Superman: The Movie got made …
I was brought up on Superman as a kid. There was a whole point in my life where I read Superman. So when I was finished with it, I was like, “Man, if they make this movie, they are destroying the legend of Superman.” I wanted to do it just to defend him.I called [writer] Tom Mankiewicz, who had been a friend for years. He said, “I don’t want to get involved. I don’t want to do a comic book.” I said, “Tom, it’s more than a comic book. Please come over.”I got a little stoned, smoked some weed, put on the Superman costume. I was in pretty good shape then. It was like elastic. And Tom pulled up, and I ran across the lawn and Tom turned and looked at me and ran back to his car.Tom says, “You’re crazy. Get the f— away from me!”
February 26, 2016
[comics] It’s Stan Lee’s Universe
… must-read attempt to sum up Stan Lee’s legacy in comics …
“Stan’s gotten far too much credit,” says veteran comics writer Gerry Conway, who’s known Lee since 1970. “People have said Stan was out for No. 1, and to a very large degree, that’s true. He’s a good guy. He’s just not a great guy.”
“Unfortunately, from day one, Jack was doing part of Stan’s job, and Stan was not doing part of Jack’s job,” says comics historian Mark Evanier, who worked as Kirby’s assistant and has worked on and off with Lee since the 1970s. “When you talk to Stan Lee, when he turns the Stan Lee act off, he’s a very decent human being who is chronically obsessed with himself. He’s very insecure. Those of us who have trouble being angry for some of the things that happened, it’s because we saw the real human being there at times.”
“It’s one of those things where you sit down and you say, ‘You gotta be forgiving of your parents,’” says artist Colleen Doran, who drew Lee’s new memoir. “I don’t know of anyone who knows Stan and doesn’t love him, even if they hate things he’s done.”
February 22, 2016
[magazines] The many, many trials of Judy Finnigan
… The strange world of British women’s weekly magazines… ‘The inventiveness of the editors of Bella, Best, Woman and Woman’s Own is hugely impressive, and I am in awe of their ability to create compelling, gripping coverlines each week from perhaps three interesting words in a dull interview or an out-of-context Loose Women soundbite. These headlines are always accompanied by a grainy, blown up paparazzi pic or screen grab of the story’s subject looking either demented, drunk, dying or, if they get very lucky, all three at once.’
February 17, 2016
[celebrity] 19 Completely Underwhelming Real-Life Celebrity Encounters
… ‘I queued behind Matt Smith from Dr Who in a Tesco Express. He was buying hummus and a kit kat chunky.’
February 1, 2016
[conspiracy] What Kind of Person Calls a Mass Shooting a Hoax?
… an appalling story about how parents of children murdered in a mass shootings get harassed by mass-shooting conspiracy truthers … ‘The conspiracy movement’s personal attacks show no sign of abating. Early this November, a 32-year-old man was arrested for accosting the sisters of Vicki Soto, a slain teacher, at a Newtown charity event; he wanted to ask them whether a family photo of theirs had been photoshopped. For the hoaxers, no private moment has been sacred. At one point, they vigorously picked over the details of Noah’s funeral. Prior to the ceremony, the family opened Noah’s casket for a private viewing, which was reported in the news. It’s not an unusual custom for Jewish families, but hoaxers alleged it was against the laws of the religion, which somehow helped substantiate their claim that Noah wasn’t real.’
January 18, 2016
[magic] Seems Legit: We Talked to a Witch Who Casts Viruses Out of Computers With Magic
… ‘There’s all different kinds of energies, including entities that may or may not be noticeable to human beings. You might want to call them ghosts or angels or spirits or demons. Think of demons as entities—they eat, they absorb energy, and they want to be fed. Computers are a vast store of electromagnetic energy, as well as messages. Sometimes when a demon is in a computer system, it’s just like a roach in a kitchen. It just eats and stays out of the way. But some demons are working for someone’s who’s trying to hurt you, and those are the really hard ones.’
December 28, 2015
[people] Donald Trump Really Doesn’t Want Me to Tell You This, but…
Mark Bowden remembers a weekend with Donald Trump …
He was like one of those characters in an 18th-century comedy meant to embody a particular flavor of human folly. Trump struck me as adolescent, hilariously ostentatious, arbitrary, unkind, profane, dishonest, loudly opinionated, and consistently wrong. He remains the most vain man I have ever met. And he was trying to make a good impression. Who could have predicted that those very traits, now on prominent daily display, would turn him into the leading G.O.P. candidate for president of the United States?
His latest outrageous edict on banning all Muslims from entering the country comes as no surprise to me based on the man I met nearly 20 years ago. He has no coherent political philosophy, so comparisons with Fascist leaders miss the mark. He just reacts. Trump lives in a fantasy of perfection, with himself as its animating force.
December 26, 2015
[comics] Raymond Briggs: ‘Don’t call me the king of Christmas. I don’t like children, I try to avoid them’
… cartoonist Raymond Briggs on Christmas… Indeed, Briggs argues, far from being an advocate for Christmas, he hates the event. “I don’t like the Christmas thing at all. It’s so full of anxiety – have I got enough stuff? Where am I going to go? What should I get for presents? I just give cheques these days because I can’t buy things for teenagers. It’s a bit impersonal but what can you do?” Briggs has watched the new Fungus on a friend’s laptop – “I’m too old and too tired to trek up to first nights [screening], much as I would have liked to go” – and says it “seemed perfectly OK; they always do these things very well”. This is high praise considering he still finds the adaptation of The Snowman “corny” despite conceding that “film-making is a very different form from books and you have to make something commercially viable so putting Father Christmas in as [producer] John Coates suggested was right, even though I hated it at the time.” There’s a rather gloomy pause before he adds Eeyorishly: “Of course, he’s dead now, like everybody else.”
December 16, 2015
[politics] Is Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In!
… ‘For mental-health professionals, Donald Trump is at once easily diagnosed but slightly confounding. “Remarkably narcissistic,” said developmental psychologist Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education. “Textbook narcissistic personality disorder,” echoed clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis. “He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics,” said clinical psychologist George Simon, who conducts lectures and seminars on manipulative behavior. “Otherwise, I would have had to hire actors and write vignettes. He’s like a dream come true.”’
December 15, 2015
[whatif] The Ethics of Killing Baby Hitler
… the reasons why a time-traveller shouldn’t kill Baby Hitler …
These questions should inspire two feelings. The first is humility. We can never know what a universe without Hitler would have looked like. But the implicit argument that his removal would improve history must also consider that his removal could make it worse. Indeed, recent experience should make us doubt our abilities to bend the course of human events towards our will. The Bush administration naively claimed that toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003 would produce a vibrant liberal democracy in the largely illiberal Middle East. Instead it brought about regional instability, ethnic cleansing, civil war, and ISIS.
The second is relief. We live in cynical times, which masks the fact that we live in extraordinary times. Atrocities still occur, but human rights are now a normative value throughout most of the world, even if their enforcement is imperfect. Conflicts are still fought, but the great powers have avoided another world war for seven decades. Racism and anti-Semitism still exist, but pre-war forms of colonialism and pogroms have largely disappeared. This is not the future for which Nazi Germany fought and fell. Removing Hitler from history would gamble with one irrefutable truth: He lost.
December 4, 2015
[law] One lawyer’s crusade to defend extreme pornography
… fascinating profile of Myles Jackman
… ‘Jackman fervently believes he has to lead a crusade against what he sees as the unjust obscenity laws and that he absolutely must succeed – or else fail himself, his allies and the wider cause of civilisation as he sees it. He maintains that pornography is a class issue, a gender issue, a philosophical issue, a freedom issue, an everything issue. (One of his many dicta: “Pornography is the canary in the coal mine of free speech.”) And his campaign is against both state and statutes alike. By day, beneath the dark lawyerly suits that strain to contain him, he likes to wear Batman socks; by night, he wears Batman T-shirts. In the last six years or so, he has transformed himself from being just another lawyer into the Batman of obscenity.’