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October 22, 2014
[books] Malcolm Gladwells David and Goliath Fairy Tales … a strong, convincing critique of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book … ‘The inveterate simplicity of Gladwell’s stories comes not only from a resistance to complexity, but also from a denial of tragedy. This neglect of tragic choices is not just a defect in presentation, though it helps to confer upon his books their peculiar inimitable blandness. Suppressing tragedy is also a refusal to think honestly about power. Václav Havel, who became president of his country after the collapse of the communist tyranny against which he had fought, spoke of “the power of the powerless,” but unlike Gladwell—who nowhere mentions the Czech dissident, perhaps because he was not a social scientist—Havel never underplayed the power of the powerful. He knew that Goliath was genuine and dangerous, not a timorous midget in disguise. In contrast, Gladwell would have us believe that power is a kind of illusion or confidence trick, a misinterpretation. This is a desperately dangerous view to apply in practice. For Tibetans facing becoming a minority in their own country, for Christians in Egypt and Syria, for Bahá′í in Iran, and for other imperiled groups, the power of the powerful could be potentially fatal.’
October 5, 2014
[life] 26 Times Waitrose Outright Ruined The Lives Of Decent People‘It would be much easier if Waitrose kept the carrot batons next to the houmous.’
September 24, 2014
[books] Ten things you should know about HP Lovecraft‘Lovecraft died of cancer of the small intestine in 1937. In keeping with his lifelong fascination with science, he kept a detailed diary of his eventually mortal illness. When he died, Lovecraft was buried in Swan Point Cemetery and listed on his mother’s family’s monument. This wasn’t enough for Lovecraft’s fans: in 1977, a group funded and installed a separate headstone. In 1997, a particularly avid fan attempted to dig up Lovecraft’s corpse under the headstone, but gave up after finding nothing from digging three feet.’
September 17, 2014
[funny] Werner Herzog’s Note To His Cleaning Lady‘I have conquered volcanoes and visited the bitter depths of the earth’s oceans. Nothing I have witnessed, from lava to crustacean, assailed me liked the caked debris haunting that small plastic soap hammock in the smaller of the bathrooms. Nausea is not a sufficient word.’
September 15, 2014
[books] Don Estelle: Sing Lofty (Thoughts of a Gemini) – An important and definitive guide … Scary Duck reads Don Estelle’s autobiography so we don’t have to … ‘If there’s one thing that stands out from Sing Lofty it’s this: Despite his prodigious singing voice, he was certainly no writer. And this comes out in his haphazard style, swinging from one subject to the next, recalling his exact mortgage payment at the time of the Suez Crisis and the name, address and post code of every booking he ever had, to his (probably righteous) rage at his lack of TV work after It Ain’t Half Hot Mum finished. If there’s an alternative title for this book, it’ll be Modern Life Is Shit… ‘
September 14, 2014
[people] In conversation with Werner Herzog: ‘Facts do not constitute truth’ … highlights from an evening with the eccentric movie director in Brooklyn …

Holdengräber reminded him of the dictum, attributed to Blaise Pascal, that opens Lessons of Darkness, Herzog’s 1992 documentary: “The collapse of the stellar universe will occur – like creation – in grandiose splendour.”

Herzog repeated it. He said, “Actually, Pascal didn’t write that. I wrote that.”

Holdengräber said: “But it sounds so very like Pascal.”

“Pascal should have written it,” Herzog said, of the 17th-century philosopher. “That’s why I signed his name.”

September 5, 2014
[comics] The Unlikely Rise, Fall, And Rise Again Of “Viz” Comic … profile of Viz from Buzzfeed … ‘Some of the best-loved characters have changed in line with society. Student Grant, a nerdy university stereotype, began to feel outdated. (“They’re customers now,” says Dury.) Roger Mellie was just a sweary TV presenter; now he’s a way to satirise recent media scandals (at the time of writing Ian Botham’s Twitter account has recently posted a picture of an erect penis, and Thorp and Dury are going to have Roger’s do the same). Others remain a constant: Sid the Sexist is still yet to lose his virginity, and Fru ‘T’ Bunn remains a sketch about a baker who makes his own sex dolls…’
September 1, 2014
[people] Werner Hertzog On Chickens‘The enormity of their flat brain, the enormity of their stupidity, is just overwhelming.’
August 29, 2014
[history] Kill A Commie For Crom … nicely photoshopped, the orginal says Kill A Commie For Christ

Kill A Commie For Crom

August 26, 2014
[dawkins] Richard Dawkins’ Apology Generator … handy tool for when the evolutionary biologist offends large sections of the public‘If you transcended human emotion you’d know that you are delusional.’
August 21, 2014
[politics] Poll confirms everything anti-capital punishment people thought about pro-capital punishment people‘Comedians #1: Jim Davidson.’
August 14, 2014
[books] Against the Tide … Review of a book profiling the late Mary Whitehouse via her archive of letters … ‘Reading Mary Whitehouse’s letters is like digesting a scrambled Charlie Brooker. Dr Who is “teatime brutality for tots”. The World at War has too much genocide in it. Complaining of Chuck Berry’s performance of “My Ding-a-Ling” on Top of the Pops in 1972, she elicited the observation that the song began “with such a clear account of the contraption in question including bells”, that although the possibility of a double entendre was recognised, the BBC felt it was unlikely to “disturb or emotionally agitate its listeners”. But of course Whitehouse was permanently agitated. In editing this material from her archive, Ben Thompson not only works hard to salvage entertainment from some tedious cultural jeremiads, he also – and more interestingly – tries to make some sense of them…’
August 6, 2014
[clowns] Don’t Be Afraid Of The Clowns … Leigh Cowart visits the 2014 World Clown Association convention …

I am not afraid of clowns. But there’s something that happens when you walk into the forgettable bathroom of a hotel lobby and meet a fully made-up clown standing by the sink, reflection staring back at you with the Kubrickian blankness of a greasepaint grimace.

I almost wet my pants.

Media seminar fresh in my head, I choke the gasp in my throat and try to smile. While I am going for “warm and effusive,” I’m sure my face is more a pained amalgamation of terror. I can only hope that she thinks I’m trying to be polite. I’m sure she gets it all the time.

But. There are reasons people can find clowns to be so unsettling. That makeup: white face; huge, red mouth; drawn-on smile; eyebrows that kiss the hairline. “When it’s up close, it’s the visual equivalent of being screamed at,” explains Jaron Aviv Hollander, the co-founder and artistic director of the Kinetic Arts Center in Oakland. And it’s all the big top’s fault: When a clown is standing in one of three or more rings and playing to a huge crowd, the audience needs to be able to read familiar facial landmarks in order to get the bit.

July 28, 2014
[politics] ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ – the two faces of Michael Gove … intriguing profile of the recently demoted Tory minister … ‘As brokering replaced bombing in Northern Ireland, most people in Britain were relieved, but Gove pamphleteered for an alternative strategy of “resolute security action”. He retained an anachronistic feeling for “Greater Britain”. After 9/11 he sometimes wrapped up fervent support for Blair-Bush crusades in the modern parlance of liberal interventionism, and sometimes lapsed into an older discourse. In one sweeping column, he hailed the 1704 capture of Gibraltar “as an opening chapter in democracy’s vindication”, noted “profound echoes” with today’s struggles against autocrats in the Muslim world, and even suggested that “far-sighted” Spaniards might learn to see Britain’s Iberian outpost as the rock on which western success was built. Columnists are employed to grab interest rather than decide things, but Gove’s stridency on world affairs survived his 2005 move into parliament…’
July 17, 2014
[moon] A Stowaway to the Thanatosphere: My Voyage Beyond Apollo with Norman Mailer, Rex Weiner… Gonzo-esque tale of two stowaways on a cruise ship voyage to watch the last Apollo Moon launch in 1972 …

Nixon was president, Watergate was still a third-rate burglary, and Tom and I were left feeling anxious, paranoid, and bored. We were both admirers of Mailer—the tough little reefer smoker, contrarian wordsmith, libertarian politico, and no-nonsense ladies’ man—so the story about the Voyage Beyond Apollo stirred our interest.

“They’ve cleverly organized this thing on a ship, you dig, that way no one can crash it,” mused Forcade. He theorized that the cruise was just a cover for an elite conclave conspiring to jettison Earth once they’d totally ravaged it, and establish an exclusive colony for the rich and powerful in space. Everyone else would be left to fight over dwindling resources and perish in the terrestrial ruins. “Mailer is either in on the scam or they’ve suckered him into it. We have got to get on board that ship,” Tom said, “find out what these motherfuckers are up to, blow their cover, and rescue Mailer before it’s too late.”

Under the influence of a fresh shipment of Tom’s Columbian import, I thought it seemed like an entirely reasonable plan…

July 13, 2014
[movies] A Whole Bunch Of People On Facebook Thought Steven Spielberg Killed A Real Dinosaur‘Internet humourist Jay Branscomb posted it on Facebook with the caption: “Disgraceful photo of recreational hunter happily posing next to a triceratops he just slaughtered. Please share so the world can name and shame this despicable man.” A lot of people didn’t get the joke, and thought Spielberg really had shot a dinosaur. This person called him an “inhumane prick”…’
July 12, 2014
[books] 30 Writers Other Writers Loved To Hate‘Saint David Foster Wallace: a generation trying to read him feels smart about themselves which is part of the whole bullshit package.’ — Bret Easton Ellis on David Foster Wallace.
July 10, 2014
[savile] David Hare on Jimmy Savile: biography of the man who ‘groomed a nation’‘In his own words: “I am a man what knows everything but says nothing.” As he moved to consolidate his position and to work for the knighthood that he believed would make him untouchable, he took to raising vast sums of money for charity, most especially for a spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville. His first question on arriving in any town was to ask where the hospital was. This was not just because a hospital offered sexual pickings and a captive audience for his ceaseless self-glorying monologues. Nor was it wholly because he needed the immunity that came from apparent respectability. Most important of all, he believed that the day would come when he would have to offer his good works as some mitigation against a final reckoning.’
July 7, 2014
[crime] Pablo Escobar’s hippos: A growing problem … a strange legacy of the the late Colombian drug lord … ‘[Carlos] Valderrama, whose job until recently included watching over the hippos in the Magdalena, has seen animals up to 250km (155 miles) away from Hacienda Napoles. Fishermen are terrified of the three-tonne herbivores, he says. At night, the animals roam the countryside, wandering into ranches, eating crops and occasionally crushing small cows.’
July 5, 2014
[people] Rolf Harris, Savile and Clifford all pulled the wool over my eyes… Simon Hattenstone reflects on his interviews with three celebrity sex offenders…

I have never felt so strongly the presence of two contrasting characters as when I interviewed Harris. For much of the interview he performed, just as he did in court – he sang, he laughed in that exaggerated way, he whispered in that exaggerated way, he drew me a miniature flick cartoon book. Then, when he wasn’t performing, he was miserable as sin.

Whereas Clifford and Savile never appeared to question their essential goodness as men and altruists, Harris hated himself. He talked about what a useless father he’d been – selfish, paying more attention to strangers than to his wife and daughter, chasing his own dreams and desires, ignoring those of his family. He had recently written an autobiography and it had forced him to reassess his life. “You start writing it by thinking what a great guy I am. I’ve done this, that and the other. Then you suddenly think it’s all been inward focussing, only me, me, me, me, me, me, me, and people who are really close …” I never began to suspect why he was so tortured. At the time he came across as a man with humility, in touch with his flaws. But in retrospect, I think even here he was indulging himself – only this time, it was his guilt rather than his libido

June 28, 2014
[movies] Mandy Patinkin on playing Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride‘And in my mind, I feel that… when I killed the six fingered man, I killed the cancer that killed my father. And for a moment he was alive…’
June 27, 2014
[people] The 17 Most Furious People In Local Newspapers … Buzzfeed condenses down Angry People in Local Newspapers‘These people are angry because someone keeps leaving bags of poo in Hoo.’
June 19, 2014
[life] Has David Birnbaum solved the mystery of existence?… engrossing profile of “outsider thinker” David Birnbaum … ‘There is no shortage of people who would say no, at least in Birnbaum’s case. His work, said a commenter on the Chronicle’s website, “reads like L Ron Hubbard had drunken sex one night with Ayn Rand and produced this bastard thought-child”. One scholar who became professionally involved with Birnbaum described the experience as “unsettling, unfortunate and, to my knowledge, unprecedented in academic circles”. Another just called him “toxic”. But then again – as Birnbaum pointed out to me, more than once, during the weeks I spent trying to figure out exactly what he was up to – just suppose that a scrappy, philosophically unqualified Jewish guy from Queens really had cracked the cosmic code, embarrassing the ivory-tower elites: well, isn’t this exactly the kind of defensive response you’d expect?’
June 12, 2014
[comics] Neil Tennant’s FURY… a fascinating look at a 1977 Marvel comic edited by Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys … ‘The covers of Fury were also similar to the ones Battle had been running. Powerful images with a punchy message. None punchier than the brilliant one shown at the top of this post by Carlos Ezquerra. The artist had produced many similarly strong images for Battle’s covers so it was quite a coup for Marvel UK to commission him for Fury. Unfortunately, the company were not given a budget by their American owners to produce British strips so although Fury looked like a traditional UK war comic on the outside, the interiors were a different matter…’

A war comic cover edited by Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys

June 11, 2014
[people] 27 People Who Have Better Job Titles Than You‘Lonnie Johnson – Professional Snuggler’
June 7, 2014
[life] Tweet … Channelling Allen Ginsberg in 2014 … ‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by brevity, over-connectedness, emotionally starving for attention, dragging themselves through virtual communities at 3 am, surrounded by stale pizza and neglected dreams, looking for angry meaning, any meaning…’
June 2, 2014
[ukip] Ukip founder Alan Sked: ‘The party has become a Frankenstein’s monster’ … a fascinating interview with UKIP’s founder… ‘Sked recalls, too, the letters of complaint he received from Salisbury, when Farage stood for Ukip in 1997’s general election. “I remember one that said, ‘I’m very glad your candidate believes in education, but until he learns to spell it, I’m not voting for him.’ That’s the kind of person people are voting for when they vote Ukip. Why does anyone have time for this creature? He’s a dimwitted racist.”‘
May 27, 2014
[people] If Danny Dyer’s Tweets Were Motivational Posters‘Embrace your insecurities and contradictions… don’t let em drown the fuck out of ya…’
May 26, 2014
[comics] “Kid… Comics Will Break Your Heart” … Jack Kirby by Dylan Horrocks‘In the 1980s, Romberger met Kirby at a convention in New York. Kirby kindly looked at Romberger’s work and then gave him a piece of advice: “Kid, you’re one of the best. But put your work in galleries. Don’t do comics. Comics will break your heart.”’

"Kid... Comics Will Break Your Heart."

May 23, 2014
[people] What has been seen cannot be unseen: Here’s Victoria Beckham Looking A Lot Like Cliff Richard.
May 14, 2014
[life] 15 weird things that 9% of Britons say they believe. Including supporting the Lib Dems‘When it comes to foreigners, 9% of Brits would like to see less tourists arriving from China. Which seems an incredibly specific and odd thing to be getting vexed about.’
May 12, 2014
[crime] My Roommate, The Diamond Thief … fabulous true-crime story about a man realising his flatmate has a big secret …

I thought about the break-in, his absences, the dead sister, the fingerprinting . . . but what did it all add up to? Was he a victim of circumstance—or a serial killer? Was I his next target? I became obsessed with getting answers. Then I searched the most obvious place of all: Google. I typed in the name “Dino Smith,” and a couple of clicks later, there it was. His mug shot, on the America’s Most Wanted Website. He was a suspect in the biggest jewel heist in San Francisco history. I gaped at the screen in disbelief, then ran in circles, howling obscenities: “Fuck fuck fucking shit fuck fucker! Holy FUCK!”

May 5, 2014
[politics] Nigel Farage is just Russell Brand for old people … some thoughts on Nigel Farage … ‘Nigel Farage is a phoney. There is a simple solution to everything that ails the United Kingdom: leave the European Union and, to all intents and purposes, close our borders. Then we shall enjoy a new Golden Age. It is an illusion wrapped in a lie inside a fraud. No such solution presents itself. In the unlikely event Mr Farage got his way almost every problem this country faces would remain intact – and remain as impervious to simple solution.’
May 3, 2014
[yewtree] Max Clifford: the rise and fall of the UK’s king of spin … Simon Hatterstone on Max Clifford’s downfall … ‘The trial ranged from Greek tragedy to Carry On farce. At times, it felt too strange to be true – or, as the prosecution argued, too strange not to be true. Max’s Angels, as Clifford’s all-female office team are known, attended on a shift basis, one at a time, sitting loyally in the public gallery as their boss was labelled an exhibitionist and an abuser. They were joined by a handful of civilians (largely retired, portly men), there on a regular basis to enjoy the spectacle. Occasionally, eccentrics walked into court: one man took umbrage when asked by the clerk to stop filming; a drunk woman sidled up to me and whispered that she had a story to sell. The air fizzed with schadenfreude.’
April 22, 2014
[tv] Danny Trejo: I always just kinda say “Yeah, but did your head crawl across the desert on a tortoise?”
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).’

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