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April 19, 2014
[movies] Irrational Treasure … a look back at the last ten years of Nicolas Cage movies… ‘The main problem with the notion that Cage squandered his post-Oscar momentum on dumb action movies and thereby lost something irretrievable is that Cage’s sellout movies are more consistently entertaining than just about anybody else’s. His inherent absurdity infects and elevates them; Cage’s own expansive persona fills in the gaps in action-movie characters without qualities.’
April 2, 2014
[books] Capote’s Co-conspirators in “In Cold Blood” … a look at what’s true and untrue in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood … ‘In his 1988 biography of Capote, Gerald Clarke reveals that the redemptive coda at the end of the book, in which Dewey encounters a friend of Nancy Clutter’s in a cemetery, was fiction: their conversation, which Capote relates in direct quotes, never happened. Even so, Capote is right to suggest that any narrative representation of events is an accumulation of “selected” details, and that the process of selection and arrangement through which a writer converts disparate facts into an absorbing story entails an inevitable measure of artifice.’
April 1, 2014
[conspiracy] Confessions of a Non–Serial Killer … what it’s like to be part of a conspircacy theory and incorrectly identified as as serial killer… ‘ As I understand it, Penn first decided I was the culprit after analyzing the Zodiac’s messages to the San Francisco Chronicle and determining that the murderer was an artist with the initials HOH, whose crimes formed, on a map, some sort of graphic having to do with a radian (the angle formed by laying a circle’s radius along its circumference, about 57 degrees) and Mt. Diablo, a Bay Area landmark. There is also something about water, whose chemical formula is sometimes written HOH, and my initials (my middle name, which I rarely use even as an initial, is Henry).’
March 30, 2014
[people] Ayn Rand Comic Biography … from Darryl Cunningham

Ayn Rand's Childhood

March 28, 2014
[suicide] The Woman in 606 … well written investigation into the suicide of a woman in Seatle …

What could she be trying to communicate through all that stuff about being from the future? I asked. What about the flour she poured everywhere?

“A person in a psychotic state is trying to push their reality back into the environment,” the psychologist said, describing a theory from psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion. “In a sense, you’re holding it because she pushed it back out of herself. She put it back into your environment—whatever she was trying to express. So you’re left with it as a mystery. Everybody in proximity is left with it. Everybody who witnessed it is holding it. So the cop has to hold it. You have to hold it. Your boyfriend is trying to hold it. And it’s her trauma. It’s her experience of trying to communicate a trauma, while not necessarily being able to process it herself. So when you work with people who are psychotic, the challenging thing is you’re dealing with unspoken, often preverbal trauma that they’re not emotionally processing, so you end up holding it for them. It’s almost like they scattershot their reality at everyone. You’re left with the mystery, right? What was the powder? Why’d she go out the window like that? What’s with the white cat? We’re still in her dream with her. So in a sense”—the psychologist stopped for a moment, watching me take notes—”so in a sense, you’re writing about this because in a way she left you with all these mysteries. She left you with an unfinished dream and you’re trying to finish it for her.”

It’s impossible to know what was happening in her mind, but it’s also impossible not to wonder…

March 15, 2014
[histort] The First Ever Selfie‘Robert Cornelius, an amateur chemist, took this self-portrait 175 years ago in the back of his family’s silver-plating shop in Philadelphia. On the back, Cornelius wrote: “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839.” It was one of the first Daguerreotypes to be produced in America…’
March 12, 2014
[london] Oh shit, say tube drivers … The Daily Mash on the death of Bob Crow… ‘Martin Bishop, a driver from Peckham, said: “I would very much like the RMT to advertise – immediately – for a New Person to Scare the Shit Out of Capitalists. “However, I suspect it may now be time for me to drive a taxi.”’
February 26, 2014
[people] Ghosting … a long read from Andrew O’Hagan on what it’s like ghostwriting for Julian Assange … ‘ I am sure this is what happens in many of his scrapes: he runs on a high-octane belief in his own rectitude and wisdom, only to find later that other people had their own views – of what is sound journalism or agreeable sex – and the idea that he might be complicit in his own mess baffles him. Fact is, he was not in control of himself and most of what his former colleagues said about him just might be true. He is thin-skinned, conspiratorial, untruthful, narcissistic, and he thinks he owns the material he conduits. It may turn out that Julian is not Daniel Ellsberg or John Wilkes, but Charles Foster Kane, abusive and monstrous in his pursuit of the truth that interests him, and a man who, it turns out, was motivated all the while not by high principles but by a deep sentimental wound. Perhaps we won’t know until the final frames of the movie.’
February 12, 2014
[politics] Rory Stewart: ‘The secret of modern Britain is there is no power anywhere’ … a fascinating interview with a Tory MP …

In a way, he says, ordinary Afghans are far more powerful than British citizens, because at least they feel they can have a role in one of the country’s 20,000 villages. “But in our situation we’re all powerless. I mean, we pretend we’re run by people. We’re not run by anybody. The secret of modern Britain is there is no power anywhere.” Some commentators, he says, think we’re run by an oligarchy. “But we’re not. I mean, nobody can see power in Britain. The politicians think journalists have power. The journalists know they don’t have any. Then they think the bankers have power. The bankers know they don’t have any. None of them have any power.”

And this from a man who only two years ago attended the Bilderberg conference, a highly exclusive and secretive gathering of the world’s most powerful bankers, politicians and businesspeople?

“Well there we are, you see,” he smiles. “I can tell you, there is nothing there. It’s like the wizard of Oz. This is the age of the wizard of Oz, you know. In the end you get behind the curtain and you finally meet the wizard – and there’s this tiny, frightened figure. I think every prime minister has sort of said this since Blair. You get there and you pull the lever, and nothing happens.”

February 9, 2014
[crime] Mug shots from Newcastle in the 1930’s

George Coulson Criminal

February 8, 2014
[people] New Blog Piece On Woody Allen To Settle Everything‘The truly essential 1,200-word online article, which, given its unique and illuminating insights into the topic and its wealth of arguments previously unconsidered by all other blog pieces on the subject, definitively answers all open questions about the 20-year-old case and effectively ends any dispute over Woody Allen’s culpability, how Americans should feel about his work, and his eventual standing in the annals of American cinema.’
February 7, 2014
[posh] The 28 Poshest Things That Have Ever Happened‘This birth announcement in The Times: On 29th March 2013, to Emily (née Kew) and Christian, a son, Biggles George Fittleworth, and a daughter, Posie Betsy Winifred, a brother and sister for Tuppence.’
January 18, 2014
[politics] Why do British prime ministers never wear wedding rings?‘The last married male occupant of 10 Downing Street to wear a wedding ring in public was Harold Wilson, who was PM from 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976.’
November 29, 2013
[facebook] 7 Ways To Be Insufferable On Facebook … the humblebrag, image-crafting, attention craving – a pretty comprehensive list of annoying approaches to Facebook … ‘A Facebook status is annoying if it primarily serves the author and does nothing positive for anyone reading it.’
November 4, 2013
[batman] What happens when you look up Adam West in the phone book?‘West, Adam …. See Wayne, Bruce (Millionaire).’
October 22, 2013
[politics] Margaret Thatcher: five things you didn’t know about her

On holiday on the Islay estate of her aide Peter Morrison, Thatcher – wishing to avoid post-dinner party games – went for a nocturnal walk. Her protection officers, thinking her asleep, were in the pub, but one policeman was still on duty. Suspecting the unknown figure, in a long, hooded cloak, was an intruder, he unleashed his alsatian, who knocked Thatcher down and pinned her to the muddy turf. “The incident passed into legend among her inner circle,” writes Aitken, “with the punchline question: ‘How on earth did the dog dare?’”

October 16, 2013
[life] Once a celebrity has been linked with a silly object, they stay connected for ever… Can public figures be defined by ridiculous objects they stumble upon? … ‘I’ve never been convinced that Philip Larkin was right when he wrote that all that remains of us is love. After Bill Clinton is dead and gone, it’s not love that I’ll remember him for. It’s an object – and I don’t even mean that cigar that went on holiday somewhere in Monica Lewinsky’s nether regions. The object was brought to my attention in Alastair Campbell’s diaries, in a story where Tony Blair, Kevin Spacey and Bill Clinton are all sitting in a McDonald’s restaurant. In Blackpool. “So there we were,” Campbell writes, “drinking Diet Coke and eating chicken nuggets as he [Clinton] poured forth on the theme of interdependence and the role of the Third Way in progressive politics.” Obviously, it is the chicken nuggets that get me.’
October 14, 2013
[funny] Depraved Masochist Enjoys Following The News … more from The Onion … ‘Sources confirmed that Petrillo makes no effort whatsoever to conceal his insatiable desire for self-inflicted torment, going so far as to take pride in his familiarity with issues such as America’s distribution of wealth, the latest jobs report, what’s happening in Congress recently, and the nation’s current incarceration rate. In fact, he is reportedly not content with simple masochism, and often spreads the anguish of his knowledge to his fellow citizens. “Whenever I come across an interesting article online, I like to email it to my friends and try to get a conversation going,” said Petrillo, his voice betraying no shame.’
October 1, 2013
[politics] Digested Read: Power Trip by Damian McBride

I should stress that never at any time did Gordon or the two Eds have any idea whatsoever that I was leaking stories to the media or briefing against colleagues. Every time something to our advantage dominated the headlines, they would all three gasp with amazement and say: “Wow! What a brilliant coincidence. Aren’t we lucky to have so many coincidences! Are you sure you didn’t have anything to do with this?” And I would reply: “I know I’ve got a reputation for being a bit of a liar, but I promise I’m not lying this time. Believe me, if I’d known the minister was shagging his secretary, I’d have told the Mail ages ago.” And they would say: “You’re so sweet, Damian.”

September 23, 2013
[books] Stephen King: on alcoholism and returning to the Shining … King is interviewed by Emma Brockes.

…without labouring the point, [Doctor Sleep] has good allegorical bones: the sick buzz one gets from consuming the grisliest news stories. It also captures the reality of a recovering alcoholic, a state with which King is intimately familiar. “The hungover eye,” he writes, “had a weird ability to find the ugliest things in any given landscape.” Danny turns his life around and starts going to AA meetings, where, King writes, he discovers that memories are the “real ghosts”. It is a book as extravagantly inventive as any in King’s pantheon, and a careful study of self-haunting: “You take yourself with you, wherever you go.”

September 18, 2013
[twitter] First World Problems on Twitter‘It’s generally a fact that there is no kale available in Crouch End because of the Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook. #unbearable’
September 17, 2013
[history] Early recollections of Adolf Hitler: “Eccentric but quite a pleasant fellow” … a profile of Adolf Hitler published in the New Statesman in 1933 …

In those days in Munich I lived in the Thiersh Strasse, and I frequently noticed in the street a man who vaguely reminded me of a militant edition of Charles Chaplin, owing to his characteristic moustache and his bouncing way of walking. He always carried a riding whip in his hand with which he used incessantly to chop off imaginary heads as he walked. He was so funny that I inquired from neighbours who he might be: most of them, owing to his Slav type, took him to be one of these Russian émigrés who abounded in Germany at that time, and they freely talked of his being probably a trifle mentally deranged. But my grocer told me it was a Herr Adolf Hitler from Braunau in Austria, and that he was leader of a tiny political group which called itself the “German National Socialist Workers Party”. He lived as a boarder in the apartment of a small artisan, wrote articles for an obscure paper called the Völkischer Beobachter, and orated in hole-and-corner meetings before audiences of a dozen or two. Out of curiosity I bought the paper once or twice, and found it a scatter-brained collection of wild anti-Jewish stories and articles interlarded with panegyrics on the Germanic race. My obliging grocer closed his information on Hitler by remarking that he frequently purchased things in his shop and was, despite his eccentric appearance, quite a pleasant fellow, though inclined to talk sixteen to the dozen about anything and everything.

September 15, 2013
[comics] Twitter / MattBors: ‘The quintessential comics fan—reading books he can’t stand for 45 years.’
August 29, 2013
[people] Ask Ayn Rand … John Hodgman rediscovers long-lost Ayn Rand magazine columns from 1980 …

My moral philosophy is founded on the idea that there is an objective reality, and that man’s senses can perceive this objective reality. This faculty, which is man’s reason, is paramount above all else. He takes for evidence only his own experience, his own judgment, and that is why I do not hesitate to say, objectively, definitively, that “Caddyshack” is the year’s best movie.

Rodney Dangerfield plays a self-made man who is not ashamed of his ambition, who does not apologize for his success, and who gets excitement from the joyful reality that we are all going to get laid if we are willing to be productively selfish and to stop coddling the weak. In other movie news, I did not like how easily the boy escaped Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” I have solved all the hedge mazes in the United States and Europe, and I can tell you they are not that complicated.

August 9, 2013
[books] Stephen King’s Family Business … a warm profile of Stephen King and his family … ‘At times in his life, [Joe] Hill actually contemplated hiring an actor to do readings of his work, to conceal that unmistakable resemblance to his father. By the time “Heart-Shaped Box” was published and he had forged ahead with some readings, his alias had been blown. In the end, in light of the book’s success, that did not seem to matter; now he’s comfortable writing in a genre his father dominates. “Sometimes I think the kid who’s like, ‘I’m never going to be like my dad in any way whatsoever,’ is less his own person,” he said.’
August 5, 2013
[people] Steve Coogan: ‘There is an overlap between me and Alan Partridge’ … fascinating profile of Steve Coogan / Alan Partridge …

I follow Coogan’s fast-moving white Dunlops up the cliff and back to the hotel. “It started out not being like me at all. It’s probably got more like me,” puffs Coogan, as the wind buffets his impeccable Partridge hairpiece. “It’s recognising your own vanities and insecurities and turning the volume up on them. Anyone who is creative puts something of themselves in what they do, and I’ve put lots in, but it’s the warped, prejudicial side of myself. It’s not just a mocking caricature. It has to have some degree of humanity. On one level, Alan is very likable because he makes mistakes and vocalises a lot of the insecurities that people feel. He’s also a contemptuous Little Englander, the kind of person who I see as my life to rail against. Part of him is everything I hate about Britain. It’s a bit complicated.”

June 26, 2013
[people] Tony Blackburn’s Autobiography Compressed … amusing collection of Smashie and Nicey-style quotes from Blackburn’s autobiography …

Excerpt from Tony Blackburn's Autobiography

June 21, 2013
[people] James Gandolfini, 1961-2013 … David Remnick remembers James Gandolfini …

Gandolfini was the focal point of “The Sopranos,” the incendiary, sybaritic neurotic who must play the Godfather at home and at the Bada Bing but knows that everything—his family, his racket, his way of life—is collapsing all around him.

As the seasons passed, Gandolfini gained weight at an alarming pace. His death, at the age of fifty-one, in Italy, does not come entirely as a shock. But that makes it no less a loss. Gandolfini was not a fantastically varied actor. He played within a certain range. Like Jackie Gleason, he’ll be remembered for a particular role, and a particular kind of role, but there is no underestimating his devotion to the part of a lifetime that was given to him. In the dozens of hours he had on the screen, he made Tony Soprano—lovable, repulsive, cunning, ignorant, brutal—more ruthlessly alive than any character we’ve ever encountered in television.

June 18, 2013
[crime] Russian Mafia Tombstones … Live Fast and leave a gravestone to be puzzled over by archaeologists in a 1000 years time … ‘These photos were taken in the cemetery of Dnepropetrovsk, in the Ukraine, a place much like the mafia-infested Yekaterinburg, in Mother Russia. Although the two cities are 2,000 km apart, mafia fashion is very much the same. During the Russian Mafia Wars of the ’90s bosses started commissioning these lavish tombstones for them and their loyal subjects.’
June 14, 2013
[fun] Ed Balls Teaches Typing … old-school web fun with Ed Balls.
June 13, 2013
[politics] Whistleblowers Are Weird … The Daily Beast on Edward Snowden … ‘[Whistleblowers] are weird in their own way, because they have to be in order to be willing to violate the trust of their group in order to protect a principle. In Eyal Press’ book on dissenters, Beautiful Souls, they come off as rigid, idealistic, a bit self-righteous, and more than a little naive. Those are not characteristics that make you fit in.’
June 11, 2013
[people] Rich Kids Of Instagram … Let me tell you about the very rich. They have more luggage than you and me.
June 3, 2013
[london] Highgate Vampire … fascinating story of the creation of a urban-legend in 1970s … ‘The Hampstead and Highgate Express reported [Seán Manchester] on 27 February 1970 as saying that he believed that ‘a King Vampire of the Undead’, a medieval nobleman who had practised black magic in medieval Wallachia (Romania), had been brought to England in a coffin in the early eighteenth century, by followers who bought a house for him in the West End. He was buried on the site that later became Highgate Cemetery, and Manchester claimed that modern Satanists had roused him. He said the right thing to do would be to stake the vampire’s body, and then behead and burn it, but this would nowadays be illegal. The paper headlined this: ‘Does a Vampyr walk in Highgate?’ Manchester later claimed, however, that the reference to ‘a King Vampire from Wallachia’ was a journalistic embellishment. Nevertheless, the 1985 edition of his book also speaks of an unnamed nobleman’s body brought to Highgate in a coffin from somewhere in Europe. In his interview of 27 February, Manchester offered no evidence in support of his theory.’
May 29, 2013
[books] I Am Very Real … a letter from Kurt Vonnegut to the leader of a school board which had burned a number of his books … ‘If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don’t damage children much. They didn’t damage us when we were young.’
May 28, 2013
[wikipedia] Revenge, ego and the corruption of Wikipedia … a fascinating look at the detection of a rogue Wikipedia editor … ‘Some parts of the exchange struck me as odd, particularly his declaration that he was was “tech-deficient.” Young has over 5,000 friends on Facebook, a Twitter account, a resume that includes a stint teaching at the online-only University of Phoenix and a credit on his eldercare website that says “Designed by Robert Young © 2012 using Homestead website templates.” He sounded right at home in the realm of new technology.’
May 24, 2013
[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.’
May 7, 2013
[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.’
April 29, 2013
[books] Martin Amis’ Guide to Classic Video Games … a fascinating look at the video game book that Martin Amis wrote in the early 1980′s and doesn’t like to discuss…

…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.

April 23, 2013
[blogs] Ms. Attribution … a tumblr that mixes up historical figures with quotes and song lyrics …

False Ted Bundy Quote

April 15, 2013
[people] Noel Edmonds Biography Condensed

Excerpt from Noel Edmonds Biography

April 12, 2013
[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.’
April 8, 2013
[news] Evening Standard – Margaret Thatcher Dies

Evening Standard Headline Board: Margaret Thatcher Dies

April 5, 2013
[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.’
March 21, 2013
[comics] Go Look: An Actor Who Should Have Played Green Arrow.
March 15, 2013
[weird] Richard Nixon Meets Robocop

Richard Nixon and Robocop

February 25, 2013
[comics] Upcoming: Darryl Cunningham’s Ayn Rand Memoir …Forbidden Planet has some pages from Darryl Cunningham’s latest comic strip.
February 22, 2013
[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.’
January 23, 2013
[space] Philip Bond’s Portraits Of Women Astronauts

Philip Bond Drawing Of Astronaut Jan Davis

January 1, 2013
[uk] 21 Brilliant British People Problems‘I don’t feel well but I don’t want to disturb my doctor.’
December 30, 2012
[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.’

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