[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.’
[comics] The High Cost of (Being) Death … interview with the woman who was the inspiration for Death In The Sandman … ‘Hadley explains how she went from begging for spare change and living in the infamous ‘80s Salt Lake City flophouse called Kill Pigs to gracing the pages of a world-famous comic. “Mike Dringenberg was a good friend of mine,” says Hadley. “He told me that he wanted to use me for a model for a character in a comic book, but I didn’t think anything about it.” It wasn’t until years later, the conversation long forgotten, that she leafed through an issue at a friend’s apartment in Houston, Texas and found Dringenberg’s original drawing of her looking up from the pages and a personal thanks from the author for the use of her image. “Hey, this is me!” she exclaimed, to the amazement of her friend.’
I came to the conclusion that the brain, in sectioned form, was still in the possession of the pathologist who removed it from the Einstein head, Dr. Thomas Harvey. I tracked him down in Wichita, Kansas. At first he didn’t want to tell me anything, but after a while he finally admitted that he had the brain. After a longer while, he sheepishly told me it was IN THE VERY OFFICE WE WERE SITTING IN. He walked to a box labeled “Costa Cider” and pulled out two big Mason jars. In those were the remains of the brain that changed the world.
[apple] How Robert X. Cringely summed up Steve Jobs in 1992…
The most dangerous man in Silicon Valley sits alone on many weekday mornings, drinking coffee at Il Fornaio, an Italian restaurant on Cowper Street in Palo Alto. He’s not the richest guy around or the smartest, but under a haircut that looks as if someone put a bowl on his head and trimmed around the edges, Steve Jobs holds an idea that keeps some grown men and women of the Valley awake at night. Unlike these insomaniacs, Jobs isn’t in this business for the money, and that’s what makes him dangerous.
I wish, sometimes, that I could say this personal computer stuff is just a matter of hard-headed business, but that would in no way account for the phenomenon of Steve Jobs. Co-founder of Apple Computer and founder of NeXT Inc., Jobs has literally forced the personal computer industry to follow his direction for fifteen years, a direction based not on business or intellectual principles but on a combination of technical vision and ego gratification in which both business and technical acumen played only small parts.
Steve Jobs sees the personal computer as his tool for changing the world. I know that sounds a lot like Bill Gates, but it’s really very different. Gates sees the personal computer as a tool for transferring every stray dollar, deutsche mark, and kopek in the world into his pocket. Gates doesn’t give a damn how people interact with their computers as long as they pay up. Jobs gives a damn. He wants to tell the world how to compute, to set the style of computing.
Bill Gates has no style; Steve Jobs has nothing but style.
A friend once suggested that Gates switch to Armani suits from his regular plaid shirt and Levis Dockers look. “I can’t do that,” Bill replied. “Steve Jobs wears Armani suits.”
Think of Bill Gates as the emir of Kuwait and Steve Jobs as Saddam Hussein.
Like the emir, Gates wants to run his particular subculture with an iron hand, dispensing flawed justice as he sees fit and generally keeping the bucks flowing in, not out. Jobs wants to control the world. He doesn’t care about mantaining a strategic advantage; he wants to attack, to bring death to the infidels. We’re talking rivers of blood here. We’re talking martyrs. Jobs doesn’t care if there are a dozen companies or a hundred companies opposing him. He doesn’t care what the odds are against success. Like Saddam, he doesn’t even care how much his losses are. Nor does he even have to win, if, by losing the mother of all battles he can maintain his peculiar form of conviction, still stand before an adoring crowd of nerds, symbolically firing his 9mm automatic into the air, telling the victors that they are still full of shit.
You guessed it. By the usual standards of Silicon Valley CEOs, where job satisfaction is measured in dollars, and an opulent retirement by age 40 is the goal, Steve Jobs is crazy.
And with that he’s off again. Of Salman Rushdie, who once gave him a terrible review in the New York Times, he says: “That flaccid fuckhead. He was detestable. I called up the Ayatollah, nobody knows that.” Roald Dahl: “The cruelty in his books is off-putting. Scary guy. I know he’s very popular but what’s nice about this guy? He’s dead, that’s what’s nice about him.” Stephen King: “Bullshit.” Gwyneth Paltrow: “I can’t stand her.”
I’m thinking about the great American physicist, Richard Feynman, sitting in New Mexico, at the bed of his dying wife. He’d been called, and told that she had only hours to live; he’d hitchhiked from Los Alamos, where he was working on the top secret atomic bomb project. It was 1945.
He walks to her bedside, kisses her; she is breathing shallow breaths. We are still at war and six weeks later, America will explode its first atomic bomb. He stands there, sits there, watches her, kisses her, and very quietly, the Hodgkin’s disease that had attacked her young body takes her. She was in her 20s, he was 27. They’d been married only two years. The nurse records the time of death: 9:21 p.m. He is empty with loss. What few things she had, he packs up; he arranges for a cremation, walks back into her room and sees that the clock had strangely stopped ticking. The hands are frozen at 9:21, the very moment of her death.
I know how this story would feel to me. It would be as though the universe had somehow noticed what had happened, that some invisible hand slipped into my world and pointed, as if to say, “We know. This is part of the plan.”
So many of us, I think, would have this sense. Lawrence Krauss, in his new biography of Feynman, Quantum Man, says, “We seem to be hard-wired to find that what happens to each of us naturally appears to take on a special significance and meaning, even if it’s an accident.” But Feynman, he says, was unable to think that way. He couldn’t and he wouldn’t.
What he did was, he remembered that the clock had been fragile. He had been asked to fuss with it; he’d fixed it several times. In his memoirs (that is, in his version of this story), he says the nurse must have picked up the clock to determine the time of death, unsettled the workings inside, and the clock stopped. No miracle. Just an ordinary, accidental jostle. Here he is, describing a moment of enormous significance, and he won’t allow a Signifier.
At one point, he says, a senior editor at the Sun made a point of sending him a message via another Labour MP: “Tell that fat bastard Watson we know about his little planning matter.” This, he says, was a reference to his application to put a conservatory on his family home in the Midlands: a typical “non-newsy, low-level thing” that played its part in making him “start to think like a conspiracy theorist”.
Then – in 1995 – Murdoch begins to change. He decides he likes Tony Blair and tells [Woodrow] Wyatt he may support him at the coming election. Wyatt can’t believe it. He had thought that Murdoch would always support the Conservatives.
And then Murdoch does something worse. He tells the editor of the News of the World to cut back on the column that he had allowed Wyatt to write every week.
Wyatt is in despair. There is a wonderful moment in the diaries when Wyatt sleeps all night on the floor of his study next to the phone waiting for Murdoch to ring.
[people] Five Reasons To Be Concerned Your Husband Is A Psychopath … from Jon Ronson … ‘In my book “The Psychopath Test,” I meet an enormously wealthy former Fortune 500-type CEO, Al Dunlap, to ask him which of the 20 Hare psychopathic traits he felt most applied to him. He instantly confessed to Grandiose Sense of Self Worth, which would have been a hard one for him to deny as he was at the time standing underneath a giant oil painting of himself.’
[nyc] The Terminal: The Roughest Bar In New York City … a brief and fascinating look with video … ‘I used to poke my head into the Terminal back in the late 70s. Its notoriety drew artists and punks and the curious. But, it wasn’t welcoming to slumming hipsters or bush league Bukowskis. It was an enclosed society with it’s own brutal code, not easily cracked by the voyeuristic aesthete.’
[people] The Quaid Conspiracy … the story of how actor Randy Quaid and his wife ended up as fugatives living out of their car … ‘It was hard to wrap my mind around the web of intrigue she was spinning, with her nonstop rapid-fire delivery, a tale out of Thomas Pynchon, or perhaps just Law & Order: Los Angeles, that somehow involved the death of Michael Jackson and the “framing” of Mel Gibson. “I’ve spent three years figuring this out,” Evi said, detailing how her investigation had taken her to courthouses, record bureaus, and morgues, how she’d been knocking on strangers’ doors, looking for information. Randy listened intently, driving. I thought about how on Good Morning America he’d said how “very alive” he felt because of all this.’
[books] The Bobby Fischer Defense … Garry Kasparov On Bobby Fischer … ‘[Fischer’s] paranoia was far beyond the more calculated, even principled, “madness” of his playing years, well described by Voltaire in his Philosophical Dictionary: “Have in your madness reason enough to guide your extravagancies; and, forget not to be excessively opinionated and obstinate.” That is, purposeful and successful madness can hardly be called mad. After Fischer left chess the dark forces inside him no longer had purpose.’
What a shame, I remark, that he never got to work with Stanley Kubrick, the king of the neverending takes. And with that, Reeves is off and running.
“I would’ve been his wet dream!” he enthuses. “After take 400, Kubrick would’ve been, [adopts grizzled Brooklyn accent] ‘All right, cut!’ and I’d be, like, ‘Stanley, can I do one more?’ ‘Whaaat?’ ‘Look, I know I’m just drinking this glass of water, but I think I can find another side to this. Let’s just do one more, OK?’ ‘Arrrgh, OK, Reeves.’ You know what? I would’ve broken Kubrick. ‘Please, sir, can I have some more?’ ‘Take 600. All you gotta do is walk across the road.’ ‘Come on, Stanley, one more!'”
Yet just as we feel all hope is lost and we sink back into the miasma, back to the shadow world of ghosts and gods, a miracle arises; everywhere before the direction of self interest is known, people yearn to see where its compass points and then they hunger for truth with passion and beauty and insight. He loves me. He loves me not. Here then is the truth to set them free. Free from the manipulations and constraints of the mendacious. Free to choose their path, free to remove the ring from their noses, free to look up into the infinite voids and choose wonder over whatever gets them though. And before this feeling to cast blessings on the profits and prophets of truth, on the liberators and martyrs of truth, on the Voltaires, Galileos, and Principias of truth, on the Gutenburgs, Marconis and Internets of truth, on those serial killers of delusion, those brutal, driven and obsessed miners of reality, smashing, smashing, smashing every rotten edifice until all is ruins and the seeds of the new.
[twitter] Twitter: The great pretenders … some interviews with Twitter’s most successful spoof account creators [@CherylKerl | @chilean_miner | @CatBinLady | @dianainheaven | @DrSamuelJohnson] … ‘I’ve yet to meet a female fake tweeter. I think the whole idea has that mix of Radio 4 panel game and practical joke that appeals to a certain type of nerdy Englishman. At the launch of my Dr Johnson book, it was like a cross between an AGM of trainspotters and the League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.’
[people] Tony Curtis goes to grave with iPhone … ‘The family revealed that Curtis was buried with a range of his favourite possessions, AP reports, including an iPhone, copy of his favourite novel, Anthony Adverse, a Stetson hat, an Armani scarf and a pair of driving gloves.’
[twitter] Sam Leith On 50 Cent’s Twitter feed … ‘If you ever wondered what really went on in the heads of the people you are used to goggling at on telly, you needed wonder no longer: now, thanks to the wonder of Twitter, we would be able to SEE DIRECTLY INTO THEIR BRAINS.’
[space] Carl Sagan – Pale Blue Dot … ‘Consider again that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.’
[bb] Top Ten Big Brother housemates no-one remembers … George (BB7): ‘…was less a wannabe, more a neverwas. The self-confessed mummy’s boy walked on Day 13, claiming probable post-BB fame would be too much for him. More likely the prospect of eleven weeks in the company of Nikki Grahame filled him with terror.’ [via Feeling Listless]
‘He went to the computer that he was using to write the script. He typed, marked, cut, pasted, while I faked interest. When he was finished with the routine, Christiane phoned to say that dinner was ready. As we left, I reminded him that he hadn’t turned the computers off.
“They like to be left on,” he said ironically, factually, tenderly.
[people] Jackal novelist blames NSA for wife’s laptop hack … ‘Novelist Frederick Forsyth has accused heavy handed US cyber-spies of destroying his wife’s computer in an attempt to tap into copy he was filling for the Daily Express from West Africa.’
[blogs] He pioneered upskirt shots. Can we pay a bigger tribute? … Marina Hyde on Perez Hilton … ‘Yet increasingly, that old mainstream media/blogger distinction seems outmoded. It’s surely time to bury the lie that super-bloggers such as Perez are in some way outsiders. He may care to style himself as a renegade – the John Rambo of gossip – but the fact is, Perez is now as insider as they come. All pseudo-dissidents go establishment in the end. Once-idealistic rock stars buy country piles and whinge about paying tax, the likes of Perez start taking the freebies and decline to call Paris Hilton out for homophobic remarks because she buys him off with access.’
He had sold, he believed, between 25 and 35 million copies of The Longest Day and 400,000 hardcover copies of The Last Battle in the United States alone. Yet each book had cost him some $150,000 to research. “I have no less than 7,000 books on every aspect of World War II. My files contain some 16,000 different interviews with Germans, British, French, etc,” he wrote. “Then there is the chronology of each battle, 5×7 cards, detailing each movement by hour for the particular work I’m engaged in. You may think this is all a kind of madness, an obsession. I suppose it is.”
[books] Dave Eggers on J. D. Salinger: ‘I wish I’d met the man. I hope he was happy. I worry sometimes that he wasn’t a happy recluse, but I like to think he was. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he actually felt like he said all he needed to say and then just called it a day (for four or five decades?). The strength of his convictions, in any case, serves as a model for us all.’
[media] Michael Wolff on Rupert Murdoch … ‘Murdoch’s abiding love of newspapers has turned into a personal antipathy to the Internet: for him it’s a place for porn, thievery, and hackers. In 2005, not long after News Corp. bought MySpace, when it still seemed like a brilliant purchase—before its fortunes sank under News Corp.’s inability to keep pace with advances in social-network technology—I congratulated him on the acquisition. “Now,” he said, “we’re in the stalking business”.’