February 15, 2017
[books] Xenu’s Paradox: The Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard and the Making of Scientology
… interesting overview of L. Ron Hubbard’s writing career and how it influenced Scientology …
The story itself, which has become more familiar than Hubbard or any of his disciples ever intended, revolves around the figure of Xenu, the tyrannical dictator of the Galactic Confederation. Millions of years ago, Xenu, faced with an overpopulation crisis, threw hordes of his own people into volcanoes on the planet Earth—then known as Teegeeack—and blew them up with atomic bombs. Their spirits, called thetans, survive to the present day, clinging to unsuspecting humans, and they can only be removed through dianetic auditing, a form of talk therapy that clears the subject of its unwanted passengers.
One of the church members who read this account was screenwriter and director Paul Haggis, who was a devoted Scientologist for over three decades before resigning in an ugly public split. Haggis told Lawrence Wright, the author of the seminal New Yorker piece that became the exposé Going Clear, that after finishing the story, he got the wild idea that it was some sort of insanity test—if you believed it, you were kicked out. When he asked his supervisor for clarification, he was informed: “It is what it is.” Haggis read it again, but the same thought continued to resound in his brain: “This is madness.”
Hubbard himself had another term for it. In an insertion to the original manuscript, squeezed between two lines, the author left his own description of what he had written: “Very space opera.”
February 14, 2017
February 13, 2017
[herzog] Werner Herzog Valentines
… ‘The trees are in misery. The birds do not sing to you, my valentine, they just screech in pain.’
February 10, 2017
— Stuart from Feeling Listless reviews the Amazon Echo/Dot. ‘Within a day of installation it had replaced the bell alarm clock which has woken me ever day since my 18th birthday with just a simple directive to play its space age sounding alarm at 6.45am each morning. I no longer get out of bed to tune to the Today programme on Radio Four. I’ll ask it for the news and it’ll play me the BBC radio headlines both from Radio 2 and the World Service. I’ll ask for NPR and I’ll receive the hourly bulletin from Washington. No need to check the BBC weather app either. Alexa knows how cold it is out there.’
February 9, 2017
[movies] Gene Hackman: 10 essential films
… ‘Less well known than The Conversation, but just as impressive, Night Moves is one of the great thrillers of the 1970s. It’s a detective story in which Hackman plays Harry Moseby, a football player turned private eye who gets caught in the middle of dubious activities in the Florida Keys. He’s on his very best form, the tough humour hiding a deep sensitivity about his decaying marriage and his own personal failures, and he relishes the literate, witty dialogue provided by Alan Sharp and the chance to play opposite the splendid Jennifer Warren, an actor with whom he has great chemistry.’
February 8, 2017
[fascism] “Dude! Let me in!”
February 7, 2017
[movies] The Other Kane
… the fascinating story of the other actor who (briefly) played Kane in Alien before John Hurt … ‘In the beginning, the actor portraying Kane was Shakespearean stage veteran, Jon Finch. The story of Finch’s departure is somewhat muddled. Most sources agree that Finch left the film due to a diabetic attack, which is denied by Finch himself. Some say that Finch’s illness revealed itself before the cameras, another says it took place in a plasterer’s chair. Some say he filmed for weeks, some say he filmed for days, and some say he filmed for merely one shot.’
February 6, 2017
[ftangn!] Does An Octopus Have A Soul? This Author Thinks So
… another look at the crafty, intelligent and playful minds of Octopuses … ‘Oh, boy, can they run! [Laughs] At the Middlebury Octopus Lab in Vermont they work with very small, pocket octopuses. The students often try to get them out of the tanks to run mazes or for experiments and these little guys will use the net like a trampoline, jump off the net on to the floor and run around like a cat! One student was chasing an octopus around, thinking, “This is insane, this can’t be happening!” But, it totally was happening. Octopuses are also really smart about getting out of their tanks. Aquariums work really hard to make octopus-proof lids. They’ve been known to free themselves, get in an adjacent tank and eat everybody in that tank. At the Seattle Aquarium they had octopuses in a tank with sharks. They were worried about whether the octopus would be safe around the sharks. Then the sharks started turning up dead—not eaten. Killed. Clearly, the octopus was worried about the sharks, too, and preemptively killed them!’
February 3, 2017
February 2, 2017
[politics] The man who could make Marine Le Pen president of France
… a profile of Marine Le Pen’s right hand man… ‘The night Britain voted on whether to leave the European Union, before the polls had even closed, Philippot hosted a Front National Brexit celebration dinner at a Parisian bistro. Marine Le Pen was there, smiling and laughing, eating fish and chips and waving French and British flags. Philippot later said that there were two key moments in his life when he cried – when his mother died in 2009 and his tears of joy when Britain voted to leave the EU.’
February 1, 2017
[trump] Screaming About Trump Into a Well: A Text Adventure
>scream into the well about Trump moving forward with building a wall between Mexico
You scream. The well echoes back that Mexico will never reimburse the cost and wonders why Republicans are so willing to pay for an ineffectual wall but not a social safety net.
Yes, this is the best you’ve felt since election night! The well is your friend.
Unfortunately all this screaming is making your head flush and hot. If you want to continue screaming, you’ll have to find a way to cool off.
The air inside the well feels nice.
>lean further into the well
January 31, 2017
[life] Don’t floss, peel veg or wash your jeans: 40 things you can stop doing right now
… a list of everyday things you shouldn’t bother with … ’23. Playing the lottery – You’re far more likely to be struck by lightning twice than to win the UK’s Lotto draw. Just give up and accept your miserable fate.’
January 30, 2017
[comics] Steranko’s Outland
… go and look at scans from Jim Steranko’s stunning comic adaptation of the 1981 Sci-fi movie Outland …
January 27, 2017
[life] You are Most Likely to Die at 11am
… Does death follows a pattern? … ‘Particularly when you’re older, you are 14 percent more likely to die on your birthday than on any other day of the year. Particularly when you live in certain geographical areas, you are 13 percent more likely to die after getting a paycheck. And particularly when you’re human, you are more likely to die in the late morning — around 11 a.m., specifically — than at any other time during the day. Yes. That last one comes from a new study, published in the Annals of Neurology, that identifies a common gene variant affecting circadian rhythms. And that variant, it seems, could also predict the time of day you will die. Even death, apparently, has a circadian rhythm.’
January 25, 2017
[space] Martians Might Be Real. That Makes Mars Exploration Way More Complicated
… A look at the job of the woman whose job at NASA is to make sure we don’t kill Martians before we find them … ‘If alien life exists, researchers will of course want to study how it originated and evolved—to glimpse what planetary scientist Chris McKay calls a “second Genesis.” And to prevent false leads, humans have to be careful not to muddy space with our own trail of bacteria. Another less official rationale for today’s planetary protection policy is ecological—you might even call it anticolonial. Essentially, Conley’s office serves to prevent NASA from doing to Martians what European explorers did to Native Americans with smallpox. Because Mars lacks Earth’s history of abundant life, it has that much more raw material for Earth’s bacterial stowaways to devour—should any of them, say, come into contact with water, find a niche they can survive in, and start to reproduce. “The whole planet is a dinner plate for these organisms,” she says. “They will eat Mars.” Conley wants to make sure we at least know whether Martian life exists before we introduce an invasive species that will wipe it out.’
January 23, 2017
[comics] How Batman Helps Me Survive My Mental Illness
… How Batman can help with your mental health …
I’ve been ill for as long as I can remember, and probably always will be. I have plenty of good days, when life seems delicious and my tasks seem surmountable, but over and over again, I have the bad days, ones where the voices in my head — my own supervillains — tell me to give in to chaos. There’s the baddie who says I’m insignificant, the one who says I’m unable to love, the one who says I’m lazy, the one who says I’m defined by my failures, the one who says I’ll never be successful, and so on. They’re recurring characters. Sometimes, I’m fighting one; other times, a few of them team up. I push back as much as I can: I go to therapy, I meditate, I medicate. The antagonists go away for a while. But they never permanently disappear.
On a very literal level, Batman has been facing the same fight for the 77 years since his creation. His challenges, too, are chronic: He throws his enemies in Arkham, but they’re never there for long. Wins don’t last. There will always be new stories in which an individual force of evil or a team of villains will concoct a plan to take him down. Other superheroes have their own lineups of baddies, but Batman’s is easily the deepest bench, filled with vivid — and archetypal — characters who come back again and again. What made that scene with Alfred in Dark Knight so compelling was the manifest exhaustion of Bruce Wayne that any Batman reader or viewer always assumed: How can he possibly withstand the demoralizing truth of knowing all of his victories are provisional?
January 20, 2017
[comics] The Unquotable Trump
… Who could have guessed that Donald Trump works well as a comic book villian? …
January 19, 2017
[moore] “The interior of the human head is infinite”: A Conversation with Alan Moore
… Extras from another interview with Alan Moore
… ‘ Our leaders are like surfers who are on top of an enormous wave. They are hanging on with their toes as tightly as they can. They are in a state of complete terror and yet, to the people down on the beach, they might even look like they are controlling the wave. That they were guiding or leading the wave. No, I think that the state of our modern leaders is that, like all of us, they are caught in this current of history. They are trying to make it seem as if they are leading the way, but they are being borne along it like all of us are.’
January 18, 2017
[murder] Solving the crime that changed my life: the murder of British backpacker Peter Falconio
… some true-crime from the Outback of Australia… ‘Then a detective – the one Gwynne had chosen for her acute attention to detail and who had sifted through thousands of Murdoch’s belongings – discovered a small, round, Mary Jane hair tie. “It was the hair tie that was taken from Joanne Lees when she struggled to survive and keep her life. [Murdoch] had it wrapped around his shoulder holster, inside his belongings. I think it was a trophy but no one will ever know.” Months later, when the hair tie was presented as evidence in the trial, it clearly made an impression on Murdoch. “He recoiled and he wouldn’t touch it,” recalls Gwynne. “You could see that he knew that was it. That was the nail in his coffin.”’
January 17, 2017
[moore] Alan Moore’s Most Controversial Comic Book Stories
… Unsurprisingly, this is a long list! … ‘“Saga of the Swamp Thing” was, like pretty much all of DC Comics’ output at the time, approved by the Comics Code Authority. However, that changed with “Saga of the Swamp Thing” #29 (by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben). The issue included zombies, which were still a “no no” according to the Comics Code, but it also had Abby having sex with her husband, Matt Cable, who was possessed by her uncle Anton Arcane. It was likely way too disturbing for the Comics Code, so DC released the issue without Comics Code approval. Since they knew Moore was going to keep doing these types of stories, DC decided to stop submitting the book for Code approval and then with “Swamp Thing” #31 they began to label the book as “Sophisticated Suspense.”’
January 16, 2017
[shipwrecks] The Last Great Arctic Shipwreck
… a look at the history behind the wrecks of HMS Erebus
whose wrecks have recently been found in the Arctic … ‘When it was John Franklin’s turn to etch his name in this roster of arctic disaster he was no noob: a previous harrowing expedition in search of the Passage had earned him the oddly specific nickname “the man who ate his boots.” But the style of expedition Franklin came to represent—what modern British explorer Benedict Allen has described as “the siege, where you took your world with you and set about defeating the place”—was one of the last of its kind. Like the many doomed voyages that came before, Franklin’s ships quickly encountered what British explorer James Clark Ross described as the unforgiving solidity of ice, “not less solid than if it were a land of granite … meetings as mountains in motion would meet, with the noise of thunder.”’
January 13, 2017
[world] The place furthest from land is known as Point Nemo
… A look at the most remotest place on earth – the “oceanic pole of inaccessibility” … ‘Despite writing 66 years before its discovery, science fiction author HP Lovecraft chose a site eerily close to the oceanic pole of inaccessibility for R’lyeh, the home of his legendary tentacle-faced creature Cthulhu.’
January 12, 2017
[politics] BBC’s Adam Curtis: How Propaganda Turned Russian Politics Into Theater
… This, from Adam Curtis seems pertinent somehow …
So much of the news this year has been hopeless, depressing, and above all, confusing. To which the only response is to say, “oh dear.” What this film is going to suggest is that that defeatist response has become a central part of a new system of political control. And to understand how this is happening, you have to look to Russia, to a man called Vladislav Surkov, who is a hero of our time.
Surkov is one of President Putin’s advisers, and has helped him maintain his power for 15 years, but he has done it in a very new way.
He came originally from the avant-garde art world, and those who have studied his career, say that what Surkov has done, is to import ideas from conceptual art into the very heart of politics.
His aim is to undermine peoples’ perceptions of the world, so they never know what is really happening.
Surkov turned Russian politics into a bewildering, constantly changing piece of theater. He sponsored all kinds of groups, from neo-Nazi skinheads to liberal human rights groups. He even backed parties that were opposed to President Putin.
But the key thing was, that Surkov then let it be known that this was what he was doing, which meant that no one was sure what was real or fake. As one journalist put it: “It is a strategy of power that keeps any opposition constantly confused.”
January 11, 2017
January 10, 2017
[people] Was 2016 especially dangerous for celebrities? An empirical analysis.
… ‘2016’s P200s were: Fidel Castro, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Johan Cruyff, Bhumibol Adulyadej, Leonard Cohen, Antonin Scalia, Elie Wiesel, Nancy Reagan, John Glenn, Carrie Fisher, Chyna, Harper Lee, Kimbo Slice, Ernst Nolte, Rob Ford, Pierre Boulez, Alan Rickman, Shimon Peres, Christina Grimmie, Terry Wogan, Abbas Kiarostami, and Merle Haggard.’
January 9, 2017
[weird] The movie that doesn’t exist and the Redditors who think it does
… Do you remember a movie from early Nineties called Shazaam? …
It wasn’t until last year that things took a dramatic turn.
On 11 August 2015, the popular gonzo news site VICE published a story about a conspiracy theory surrounding the children’s storybook characters the Berenstain Bears. The theory went like this: many people remember that the bears’ name was spelt “Berenstein” – with an “e” – but pictures and old copies proved it was always spelt with an “a”. The fact that so many people had the same false memory was seen as concrete proof of the supernatural.
“Berenstein” truthers believe in something called the “Mandela Effect”: a theory that a large group of people with the same false memory used to live in a parallel universe (the name comes from those who fervently believe that Nelson Mandela died while in prison). VICE’s article about the theory was shared widely, leading thousands of people to r/MandelaEffect, a subreddit for those with false memories to share their experiences.
January 6, 2017
[docu] The 16 Best Documentaries of 2016
… ‘Not many movies have been accused of throwing national elections, intentionally or otherwise. And while the sentiment that Weiner is somehow at fault for the presidential result is a bit ridiculous. It’s a testament to the incredibly strange year that directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg have had. In January it was an epilogue. In August it became a second act. By November, it had become a prop in a much grander narrative. Yet what is most impressive about Weiner is the way that its treatment of the nuts and bolts of politics only gets more compelling. From the constant thrum of media distraction to the choreographed avoidance of already-made mistakes, it is a film in constant motion. And the scene of Weiner yelling at the unseen head of Lawrence O’Donnell will go down as one of American political cinema’s most resonant images.’
January 5, 2017
[ai] Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People
… some critical analysis by Maciej Cegłowski on the recent hype about the risks Artificial Inteilligence, the Singularity and Simulated Realities … ‘Every base reality can contain a vast number of nested simulations, and a simple counting argument tells us we’re much more likely to live in a simulated world than the real one. But if you believe this, you believe in magic. Because if we’re in a simulation, we know nothing about the rules in the level above. We don’t even know if math works the same way—maybe in the simulating world 2+2=5, or maybe 2+2=👹. A simulated world gives us no information about the world it’s running in. In a simulation, people could easily rise from the dead, if the sysadmin just kept the right backups. And if we can communicate with one of the admins, then we basically have a hotline to God. This is a powerful solvent for sanity. When you start getting deep into simulation world, you begin to go nuts.’
January 4, 2017
[moon] The Dark Side of the Moon
… go read this powerful profile of Buzz Aldrin …
You smile at him, your face opening the way every single face in the entire world opens when it encounters him. Because he is: Buzz Aldrin. And we are: mankind.
He takes note of your smile, and just as quickly looks past you. It’s the same way with everybody. It’s your pregnant anticipation: I can’t wait to hear the amazing synthesis of moon wisdom you are about to bestow upon me.
He has no idea what to do with that. None. He’s turning 85 this month. He went to the moon when he was 39. Mankind has been coming at him with your same smile ever since. What do you expect him to do with that?
January 3, 2017
[tv] Love Boat Insanity
… a fantasy wish list of guest stars for the TV series The Love Boat