[politics] The relentless charm of Nigel Farage … fascinating profile of UKIP’s leader … ‘It also strikes me that the geniality, the pints, the cigarettes, the red meat, the hail-fellow-well-met—that these totems take their toll on Farage far more than he lets on. “I’ve learned how to do it,” he says, meaning his affability, “how to exaggerate it. Of course you learn in this job.” He’s eccentric in a way, but most of all he is what he is: a suburban stockbroker from a minor public school with one very good point. And perhaps his greatest significance is as an indictment of the other party leaders.’
[funny] I Lived With John Humphrys – He Was a Nightmare … ‘He used to sit me down and make me watch Fort Boyard. “Look at her,” he said, pointing at Melinda Messenger. “Have you seen such a thing? She has eleven O-Levels.” And then his breathing went all funny.’
…There’s a half-expected (but still surprising) guest appearance from what I would be willing to bet is a young Christopher Hitchens. In a diverting rant about the increasing presence of voice effects in games, Amis recalls his first exposure to such gimmickry at a bar in Paris on New Year’s Day, 1980:
I was with a friend, a hard-drinking journalist, who had drunk roughly three times as much Calvados as I had drunk the night before. And I had drunk a lot of Calvados the night before. I called for coffee, croissants, juice; with a frown the barman also obeyed my friend’s croaked request for a glass of Calvados.
Then we heard, from nowhere, a deep, guttural, Dalek-like voice which seemed to say: “Heed! Gorgar! Heed! Gorgar … speaks!
“… Now what the hell was that?” asked my friend.
“I think it was one of the machines,” I said, rising in wonder.
“I’ve had it,” said my friend with finality. “I can’t cope with this,” he explained as he stumbled from the bar.
[people] Ain’t It Cool’s Harry Knowles: The Cash-Strapped King of the Nerds Plots a Comeback … profile / update on Harry Knowles … ‘His phone rang. Still trudging, Knowles answered. It was Roland De Noie, his business manager. “I really f—ed up,” said De Noie in a panic. “It’s all my fault.” He had discovered that Ain’t It Cool News — the website Knowles started in his Texas bedroom that grew to be the scourge of Hollywood, redefined the nature and pace of entertainment journalism and turned an overweight, ginger-haired self-diagnosed movie nerd into the face of a geek nation on the rise — owed about $300,000 in unpaid taxes. While Ain’t It Cool News had been making $700,000 a year in gross advertising revenue at its height in the early- to mid-2000s, that had dipped to the low-six figures by 2012. The business had no cash reserves and no way to pay the bills. Its bank account had been seized. “We’re not going to be able to get out of this one,” said De Noie.’
[ww2] Hitler’s Food Taster: One Bite Away from Death … The remarkable story of one of Hitler’s team of food tasters who survived the war … ‘Hitler’s thugs brought her and the other young women to barracks in nearby Krausendorf, where cooks prepared the food for the Wolf’s Lair in a two-story building. The service personnel filled platters with vegetables, sauces, noodle dishes and exotic fruits, placing them in a room with a large wooden table, where the food had to be tasted. “There was never meat because Hitler was a vegetarian,” Wölk recalls. “The food was good — very good. But we couldn’t enjoy it.” There were rumors that the Allies had plans to poison Hitler. After the women confirmed that the food was safe, members of the SS brought it to the main headquarters in crates.’
[chess] Playing Chess With Kubrick… Jeremy Bernstein reminisces about meeting and playing chess with Stanley Kubrick … ‘The next day Clarke called to say that I was expected that afternoon at Kubrick’s apartment on Central Park West. I had never met a movie mogul and had no idea what to expect. But as soon as Kubrick opened the door I felt an immediate kindred spirit. He looked and acted like every obsessive theoretical physicist I have ever known. His obsession at that moment was whether or not anything could go faster than the speed of light. I explained to him that according to the theory of relativity no information bearing signal could go faster. We conversed like that for about an hour when I looked at my watch and realized I had to go. “Why?” he asked, seeing no reason why a conversation that he was finding interesting should stop.’
[facebook] I Am Facebook Friends With Ryan Lanza … What happens if you’re friends on Facebook with somebody who is suddenly receiving a lot of media attention … ‘I found myself inundated with messages, some from journalists seeking confirmation, many from people saying angry and bizarre things to me or about Ryan. One demanded to know how I could be friends with such a monster. Could I help a random internet sleuth create a “psychological profile”? Did I see warning signs in Ryan? Why did I suspiciously post cartoons about mass shootings only days before? That was very tasteless. A text to my phone from an unknown number read “looks like this killer is a fan of yours.” A Twitter user declared me a “snitch” for sharing Ryan’s post. Someone accused me of having something to do with the killings, “which you take delight in,” they wrote, and hoped the FBI would hold me accountable.’
[web] The Hacking Of A General’s Mistress … a look at how long it takes to hack a password used by General Petraeus’ girlfriend … ‘Using oclHashtcat, it’ll take 17 hours to crack her password using a GPU accelerator trying 3.5-billion password attempts per second, trying all combinations of upper/lower case and digits. After doing this, you’ll discover the original password is “vsKLVg8L”. This is a fairly strong password, consisting of random upper/lower case letters and numbers, which is why it takes 17 hours to crack.’
Savile went to work in light entertainment and thrived there: of course he did, because those places were custom-built for men who wanted to dandle dreaming kids on their knees. If you grew up during ‘the golden era of British television’, the 1970s, when light entertainment was tapping deep into the national unconscious, particularly the more perverted parts, you got used to grown-up men like Rod Hull clowning around on stage with a girl like Lena Zavaroni. You got used to Hughie Green holding the little girl’s hand and asking her if she wanted an ice-cream. Far from wanting an ice-cream, the little girl was starving herself to death while helpfully glazing over for the camera and throwing out her hands and singing ‘Mama, He’s Making Eyes at Me’. She was 13.
There’s something creepy about British light entertainment and there always has been. Joe Orton meets the Marquis de Sade at the end of the pier, with a few Union Jacks fluttering in the stink and a mother-in-law tied in bunting to a ducking-stool. Those of us who grew up on it liked its oddness without quite understanding how creepy it was. I mean, Benny Hill? And then we wake up one day, in 2012, and wonder why so many of them turned out to be deviants and weirdos. Our papers explode in outrage and we put on our Crucible expressions before setting off to the graveyard to take down the celebrity graves and break them up for landfill. Of course. Graffiti the plaques and take down the statues, because the joy of execration must match the original sin, when we made heroes out of these damaged and damaging ‘entertainers’. We suddenly wish them to have been normal, when all we ever ask of our celebrities is that they be much more fucked up than we are. And what do we do now? Do we burn the commemorative programmes, scratch their names from the national memory?
[conspiracy] Jimmy Savile and David Icke – All the Pieces Matter … a summary of all the comspiracy theories posted to David Icke’s internet forum regarding Jimmy Savile … ‘Is it possible he has shaved his head or dyed his hair, smokes cigarettes and wears old man’s clothes and NHS glasses? Who would recognise an old man living in a semi-reclusive life that looked like that? I’m sure if he had the influence people here are suggesting, a fake death could have been arranged.’
Co-hoaxer Mike Scott says: “I was annoyed when the
script leaked because it was a rough draft in dire need of roughening
up. I thought it’d never fool anyone unless it was toned down a bit. I
heard that Paul Merton was infuriated by it, which disappointed me at
“Amusingly,” says Joseph Champniss, “the publication
resulted in something similar to what we’d planned, albeit via a more
scenic route. It certainly wasn’t a planned forum-leak. Had we realised
beforehand what was going to happen, we would have removed the credit
from the base of the page! We probably should have put a stop to it
sooner, but all three of us were fascinated – and not a little excited -
about how far it could conceivably go.
“We found out for sure a
bit later when solicitors, apparently acting on behalf of Sir James
Savile OBE, managed to close down the site pending an enquiry re libel,
defamation of character etc etc. As webmaster, Rob was required to write
a legally-binding letter in hardcopy pointing out that the script in
question had never actually been ‘officially’ published on the site (and
that we had no plans to publish it in the future) before the ban could
One reason why I thought the fake transcript was so
convincing was because, I assumed, the people who wrote it were TV
insiders. But I was wrong. Appearances can be
[funny] A Speculative List Of Jay-Z’s 99 Problems … ‘#73: Disparity b/t morning coffee preferences in combination with Beyonce insisting that they have breakfast and coffee together every morning leading to being ‘forced’ to drink watered down, half-caff coffee maker coffee, rather than the preferred full-strength french press coffee.’
[movies] Six degrees of Kevin Bacon: scientists expose the seedy underbelly … some of the science behind the Six Degrees of separation theory … ‘Reynolds categorized the few people who surpass the Bacon four degree threshold in his data set as “old, foreign and obscure”. People like William Rufus Shafter, an army officer from the American civil war, who appeared as himself in two short silent films from 1898, and is one of 27 people who are a rule-breaking eight degrees from Bacon.’
[space] Was Neil Armstrong a real hero? … ‘The weekend’s retelling of the 1969 moon landing reminded us just how risky it was and how Armstrong’s quick wits and calmness saved the day. The Eagle landing craft contained no more computer power than a modern washing machine, and was heading slightly off course for the rocks when Armstrong took over the controls manually. He landed with 20 seconds’ worth of fuel, and got the Eagle back up again to rendezvous with Apollo 11. There was no backup plan, no way of rescuing the crew. Sitting in the co-pilot’s seat with his spear (well, you never know, do you?), even Achilles might have been grudgingly impressed, though Armstrong’s lack of melodrama would have annoyed him. And therein perhaps lies the clincher for Armstrong’s heroic status. No boasting, no bullying, just a soft-spoken man who insisted he was only doing his job.’
[movies] The legacy of British director and minor Hollywood legend Tony Scott … Alex Pappademas sums up Tony Scott … ’2005′s spastic, pummeling Domino is probably the best example of how the New Jitteriness freed up Scott to make his movies that much more Tony Scott–like, and it’s thrilling, at least until it wears out your last neurotransmitter. 2004′s Man on Fire is even better, a biblical revenge flick in which Scott uses every image-destabilizing technique in his utility belt to put you right in damaged mercenary Denzel’s increasingly unhinged head space. The colors are gorgeous, too — it’s easily the most ravishingly beautiful movie ever made in which the hero kills another character by sticking an explosive device up that character’s ass.’
[politics] So, bumbling Boris Johnson is lovable and funny? Well, have I got news for you … What is Boris Johnson really like? … ‘[Max] Hastings, who has known him for nearly 30 years, still has affection for his former protege but has also sounded warnings about his unsuitability to become PM, not least because of his “startling flashes of instability”. To those who have worked closely with Johnson, his outbursts of temper are notorious; even his sister, Rachel, describes his approach to those who dare to criticise him as “Sicilian”. Female members of the London Assembly have lodged a formal complaint about his offensive conduct.’
[politics] Taxi for Mr Buckles: MPs savage G4S boss over Olympics chaos … Simon Hoggart describes the appearance of Nick Buckles before a group MP’s yesterday … ‘Disaster followed disaster. It turns out that too few G4S staff turned up at a cycling event in Surrey . When would Mr Buckles know how few people would show? At 9 o’clock, he said. That’s 9pm after the understaffed event. Mr Horseman-Sewell chipped in. There was a difference between people not showing up having been accepted, he said, and a shortfall. We were in the realm of the higher metaphysics…’
[religion] Hearing the Voice of God … An anthropologist vists with and studies American evangelicals and attempts to understand their experience …
Stanford was the setting for a psychological experiment described in When God Talks Back. To better understand if and how spiritual practice impacts the mind, Luhrmann randomly divided volunteers who were Christian into groups: one listened on iPods for 30 minutes a day to lectures on the gospels. Another group participated in a more interactive, imagination-rich way, similar to the prayer style of Vineyard members. Their recordings invited them to see, hear and touch God in the mind’s eye, to carry on a dialogue with Jesus, to imagine a psalm in every detail.
“I found that after a month of prayer practice, people reported more vivid mental imagery than those who listened to the lectures,” she says. “They used mental imagery more readily and had somewhat better perceptual attention, and they reported more unusual sensory experience. In short, they attended to their inner experience more seriously, and that altered how real that experience became for them.”
[comics] The secret hero of Spider-Man … The New York Post profiles Steve Ditko … ‘When The Post knocked on his door, Ditko — who turns out to be a owlish man with wisps of white hair and ink-stained hands, wearing large black glasses and an unbuttoned white shirt with a white tee beneath — pleasantly but firmly declines to answer any questions. Though he did say he reads The Post.’
[blogs] Jim Davidson’s Official Blog … ‘I have put on some replies to my blog on the Jubilee. It would seem that I am once again a racist. I am not. Why do people get so upset? was it because I didn’t like Grace Jones or because I described her as a black woman dressed as bat girl. Well I’am sorry if that caused offence. I really am, but come on, get a life.’
[politics] Oh Happy Days: A Personal Recollection Of Working For Jeremy Hunt … ‘I distinctly recall one presentation after a period of company expansion. All of us, old stagers and new recruits, were gathered together in front of a Powerpoint screen. On it were projected smiling photographs of various members of staff, the heads of sales, IT and so on. The company had recently outsourced much of the data entry work to a centre in India. Jeremy Hunt, smiling away in that peculiarly insincere, head-bobbing way that you’ve all seen on the news, was leading. We gasped in horror as our “new colleagues in India” were introduced: there glowed a slide that featured row after row of the same cartoon clip art Generic Brown Person, sat behind a computer.’
[life] Alfred Hitchcock On Happiness … ‘A clear horizon — nothing to worry about on your plate, only things that are creative and not destructive… I can’t bear quarreling, I can’t bear feelings between people — I think hatred is wasted energy, and it’s all non-productive. I’m very sensitive — a sharp word, said by a person, say, who has a temper, if they’re close for me, haunts me for days. I know we’re only human, we do go in for these various emotions, call them negative emotions, but when all these are removed and you can look forward and the road is clear ahead, and now you’re going to create something — I think that’s as happy as I’ll ever want to be.’
Despite his success, he says he retains a pessimistic outlook. “Whenever something good happens to me, it’s usually followed by something terrible,” he told the Writers Guild of America recently, when accepting its Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for “outstanding contributions to the profession of the television writer”. “This [award] has got disaster and doom written all over it. I mean, it’s a great honour but it’s not worth getting hit by a bus.”
[comics] Ware’s World: Inside The Home Of Cartoonist Chris Ware … pictures of the delightful home of one of the world’s most talented cartoonists! ‘As an unabashed admirer of Mr. Ware’s work, I’ve read many an interview with him, and I’ve seen photos of his historic home previous, but I wasn’t prepared by how amazing it would be. Ware’s collection lives throughout the warm and tastefully decorated home. Atop mantlepieces sit his handmade mechanical wonders like his Acme Book Dispenser, his Quimbies The Mouse and Sparky The Singing Cat sculptures. Behind glass doors live Gasoline Alley and Peanuts merchandise, Krazy Kat dolls, Buck Rogers rockets, and many other items of amazement from bygone eras.’
[comics] Crumb On Others Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 … Robert Crumb On “Famous And Infamous” people. Crumb Meets Jim Morrison: ‘I forget what the exact circumstances were, but he brought Jim Morrison over to my house one day. I think I was still living with Dana at the time, but I don’t remember if she was there. S. Clay Wilson was there. But Morrison, he seemed really over the hill by then. It wasn’t too long before he died. He just seemed like a kind of puffy-looking, overweight guy who was burned-out from too many drugs. He just sat in the corner kind of mumbling. [laughs] He was wearing this greasy, suede jacket with that fringe hanging off the sleeves. He had greasy, long hair. He did not look like the adonis that you saw in the photos a couple years before. But you know, that kind of worship that he received, when you’re young, it’s really hard to survive intact. He probably took too many drugs, but I don’t know. I don’t know what his problem was. He didn’t seem brilliant or anything to me. He didn’t have any insight or anything interesting to say. He just seemed like the typical hippie you would see on Haight Street at that time, mumbling about the drugs and shit…’
[books] H. P. Lovecraft: The man who haunted horror fans … BBC News On H. P. Lovecraft … ‘The Call of Cthulhu is the most famous tale of his invented mythos, which is itself a stage in Lovecraft’s attempts to create a perfect form for his preoccupations and for the weird tale. The mythos was also meant to counteract the over-explanation and lack of imaginative suggestiveness he found in conventional occult fiction. The following year Lovecraft wrote The Colour out of Space, which he later regarded as his best work. It tells the story of a strange meteorite that blights a farming community. “It was just a colour out of space”, but it is Lovecraft’s purest symbol, the strongest expression of his sense that the universe, and anything living out there in the dark of space or time, is indifferent to man.’
[war] Never Surrender: The Lonely War Of Hiroo Onoda … the story of the last WW2 Japanese soldier to surrender… in 1974! ‘Onoda was officially relived from military duties and told to hand over his rifle, ammunition and hand grenades. He was both stunned and horrified.
‘We really lost the war!’ were his first words. ‘How could they [the Japanese army] have been so sloppy?” [via YMFY]
James’s fondness for cheese is believed to be a matter of which no one in this earthly sphere is unaware. For a time, it was assumed that there were some remote peoples still untouched by his rennet-based droning, but in that recent aerial footage of the uncontacted Amazon society, the tribe was seen to have arranged a collection of bones and earthenware shards into the words: “PLEASE STOP ALEX JAMES GOING ON ABOUT BLOODY CHEESE.”
[comics] Dave Sim On Oscar Wilde:‘Why be prolific when one could be charming? Why produce when there’s so much to consume? I have to credit all the research that I did on Oscar Wilde for convincing me that I don’t want to be like that. If I can end my life with a large body of completed works and a reputation as a cantankerous old hermit I’ll consider my time well spent.’
ART is for weeds and sissies whose mater hav said Take care of my dear little Cedric, he is delicate you kno and cannot stand a foopball to the head. Whenever anebode mention Art they all sa gosh mikelangelo leenardo wot magnificent simetry of line. Shurely the very pinnackle of western civilisation etc.etc. Pass me my oils Molesworth that I may paint my masterpeece. The headmaster sa gosh cor is that the medeechi venus hem-hem a grate work so true to life reminds me of young mrs filips enuff said.
Molesworth sa on the contry the most beatiful form in art is a Ronald Searle GURL from St Trinian’s in a tunick with black suspenders and armed with a hockey stick to beat the daylites out of another gurl or maybe just a teacher chortle chortle.
[comics] Ronald Searle was our greatest cartoonist – and he sent me his pens … Martin Rowson remembers Ronald Searle … ‘It is interesting to note how men of Searle’s generation – Spike Milligan being another notable example – translated the unimaginable trauma of the war into stuff like St Trinian’s or The Goon Show. And how distinctly unsettling it is to when you look at the drawings he produced in secret on the Burma Railway, and then see direct visual quotations of torture and beheadings in his later St Trinian’s cartoons. Even if most Britons will remember him as ‘the St Trinian’s cartoonist’, Searle was much more than that. Without him, it’s almost impossible to imagine cartoonists like Scarfe or Steadman or the subsequent generations inspired by them.’
[science] Stephen Hawking Seeks Geek To Maintain His Unique Wheelchair‘…the ideal candidate must be able to work under pressure, maintain “black box” systems with no instruction manual or technical support, be a whiz with computers and electronics, be able to speak to large audiences and show others how to use complex systems. Not a big ask, then. The salary is roughly £25k…’
[science] Richard Feynman on Curiosity … ‘The world is strange. The whole universe is very strange, but you see when you look at the details that the rules of the game are very simple – the mechanical rules by which you can figure out exactly what is going to happen when the situation is simple. It is like a chess game. If you are in a corner with only a few pieces involved, you can work out exactly what is going to happen, and you can always do that when there are only a few pieces. And yet in the real game there are so many pieces that you can’t figure out what is going to happen – so there is a kind of hierarchy of different complexities. It is hard to believe. It is incredible! In fact, most people don’t believe that the behavior of, say, me is the result of lots and lots of atoms all obeying very simple rules and evolving into such a creature that a billion years of life has produced.’