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August 16, 2018
[coke] BREAKING: Man Who Drinks 5 Diet Cokes Per Day Hoping Doctors Working On Cure For Whatever He’s Getting‘It makes sense because medicine is already so advanced that in 15 to 20 years, when I finally experience the full onset of whatever the hell freaky illness is slowly gestating inside of me with each sugar-free can of this shit, there’s bound to be at least one cure. And I hope they start working on it soon, too, because I’m not feeling so great.’
August 15, 2018
[tv] Alan Moore on Patrick McGoohan’s “The Prisoner” Part 1 | Part 2 … Moore also discusses Twin Peaks in this focussed interview. ‘In my opinion, and possibly in Patrick McGoohan’s, the trick is to recall that your prison and its bars — at least the mental ones — are entirely of your own manufacture. Free the mind and, as they say, the body may well follow. Seen in this light, The Prisoner becomes a big and mouth-watering cake of a production, with succulent sultanas of plot and speculation, a frosting of cryptic mystery, and an enormous rasp-file at the centre of it.’
August 14, 2018
[movies] I watched Nicolas Cage movies for 14 hours straight, and I’m sold … Some thoughts on Nic Cage from a journalist who attends a 7 movie Cage marathon. ‘It is during the fourth feature – the 1989 black comedy Vampire’s Kiss – that all hell breaks loose. Vampire’s Kiss is the movie you recommend if Cage’s greatness is ever called into question. His performance as a maniacal literary agent perfectly encapsulates why David Lynch described him as “the jazz musician of American acting”. Or, less charitably, why Sean Penn once famously called Cage “no longer an actor” and “more like a performer”. You could deride Cage for over-acting, as many have, or you could say his performance in Vampire’s Kiss is so exquisitely eccentric – so wild and restless and imaginative – it virtually defies description. I’ll have a crack anyway: it’s German expressionism meets Monty Python absurdism meets contemporary dance. The legendary alphabet scene generates a response so loud and enthusiastic I can feel my seat shaking.’
August 13, 2018
[movies] Stephen King’s Son Believes He Solved a 44-Year-Old Murder Mystery By Watching Jaws … Joe Hill on Jaw’s connections with a murder from 1974. ’54 minutes in, he leapt out of his seat, his arms prickled with goosebumps and his heart pounding, at a scene that startled him for the first time despite the many times he had watched the movie. It wasn’t your typical jump-scare, no image of a hungry Great White Shark attacking a beachgoer. Instead, it was a scene in which a crowd boards a ferry on the Fourth of July, a seemingly innocuous moment in Steven Spielberg’s iconic masterpiece. In the shot, a female extra wearing a blue bandana over her auburn hair caught Hill’s attention. She was “almost a twin of the figure” in a forensic recreation image he recently saw of the Lady of the Dunes, the still-unidentified murder victim discovered in Provincetown in 1974—the very same year Jaws was filmed on nearby Martha’s Vineyard.’
August 10, 2018
[photos] From Errol Morris, a list of 10 things you should know about truth & photography‘6. Uncovering the relationship between a photograph and reality is no easy matter.’
August 9, 2018
[life] Cognitive Biases and the Human Brain … A look at the many ways our brain deceives itself and how we can improve our thinking. ‘When people hear the word bias, many if not most will think of either racial prejudice or news organizations that slant their coverage to favor one political position over another. Present bias, by contrast, is an example of cognitive bias—the collection of faulty ways of thinking that is apparently hardwired into the human brain. The collection is large. Wikipedia’s “List of cognitive biases” contains 185 entries, from actor-observer bias (“the tendency for explanations of other individuals’ behaviors to overemphasize the influence of their personality and underemphasize the influence of their situation … and for explanations of one’s own behaviors to do the opposite”) to the Zeigarnik effect (“uncompleted or interrupted tasks are remembered better than completed ones”).’
August 7, 2018
[comics] Weimar America … Howard Chaykin on the 35th Anniversary of American Flagg! among other things. ‘What little talk about the book in this anniversary year often refers to how much I “got right…” in regard to the dystopic future portrayed in the series. Computer generated imagery, ecological devastation, reality television, the decline of the United States, the (imminent) desertion of the country by the people responsible for the decline…there’s likely more, but you get the picture. For the record, I got plenty wrong, too—but to my mind, neither is relevant. The motivation behind FLAGG! was my young man’s outrage at the triumph of Reagan’s administration, which for me was the exhumation of Herbert Hoover and his plutocratic shmuckery, here to dismantle and demolish everything Franklin Roosevelt did to create a truly modern America.’
August 6, 2018
[tv] Harvey Pekar Collection on Late Night, Late Show, 1986-1994 … Interesting compliation of Harvey Pekar’s appearances on Letterman especially if you’ve read his comics but never seen the shows.

August 3, 2018
[comics] The 10 Best Alan Moore Comics of All Time … A good attempt at picking a list of Alan Moore’s best work. ‘There’s a contingent of Moore fans who prefer to view him as a purveyor of dour, gothy culture. But that’s a limited perspective. For starters, Moore made his bread in a daily comic about a magic cat. That was his go-to; that’s how he began the business. Honestly, once you start reading all of Moore, it’s amazing how often the goofy and absurd shows up in his work. Outside of the serious books, Moore is surprisingly funny. Put simply, D.R. & Quinch is his guilty pleasure, and The Bojeffries Saga is his account of childhood.’
August 2, 2018
[comics] The Beano at 80: How a British institution is keeping the kids chuckling … it was The Beano’s 80th Birthday earlier in the week. ‘What made The Beano stand out at the beginning as the most exciting entertainment product available to children, says Stirling, is what has kept it alive even after its stablemate the Dandy – launched in 1937 – has gone (although the hardback Dandy annual is still a bestseller). “The Beano was the first comic to have all kids as their main core of characters, and this core has lasted until today,” he says.’
August 1, 2018
[history] On the Hunt for the Lost Wonders of Medieval Britain … A modern search for the location of some lost wonders of Ancient Britain. ‘Standing on the 2,000-year-old stones of the Roman baths, however, and dipping a finger into the warm mineral water did transmit a touch of awe. But the experience of standing in Caerwent, looking out from the port wall to see the one-time path of the River Severn and finding the dips of the dried-up Whirlyholes, while not spectacular, had its own power. The wonders list can act as a decoder for the landscape, revealing secrets in a nondescript underpass, a featureless field, an ordinary intersection. These places might seem like they have no history, but once they were remarkable.’ [via As Above]
July 31, 2018
July 30, 2018
[brexit] That sinking feeling … Charlie Stross on Brexit. ‘A Hard Brexit, on its own, would be a very dubious but probably long-term survivable scenario, with the UK economy taking a hit not much worse than the 10% downsizing Margaret Thatcher inflicted on it in 1979-80. But a hard Brexit, coinciding with the worst harvest failures in decades, ongoing climate destabilization, a fisheries collapse, and a global trade war being started by the Tangerine Shitgibbon in the White House is … well, I’m not optimistic.’
July 27, 2018
[brexit] From anxiety to Zuckerberg: an A-Z of Brexit‘Hard Brexit – As the Pet Shop Boys presciently asked: which do you choose, the hard or soft option? The metaphor of a “hard Brexit” appealed to soft-fleshed types who dream of being manly and thrusting, while a “soft Brexit” still sounds altogether too submissive. Having newly discovered a concern for hygiene, Tory rebels now say they want a “clean Brexit”, not the filthy, presumably French kind.’
July 26, 2018
[life] The Secret Facebook Groups for Shocking DNA Tests … A look at how people cope when DNA Tests reveals huge surprises about parentage. ‘In conversations and correspondence with more than two dozen people for this story, I heard of DNA tests that unearthed affairs, secret pregnancies, quietly buried incidents of rape and incest, and fertility doctors using their own sperm to inseminate patients. These secrets otherwise would have—or even did—go the grave. “It’s getting harder and harder to keep secrets in our society,” says CeCe Moore, a prominent genetic genealogist who consults for the television show Finding Your Roots. “If people haven’t come to that realization, they probably should.” St Clair told me she sees it as a generational shift. The generation whose 50-year-old secrets are now being unearthed could not have imagined a world of $99 mail-in DNA kits. But times are changing, and the culture with it. “This generation right now and maybe the next 15 years or so, there’s going to be a lot of shocking results coming out. I’d say in 20 years’ time it’s going to dissipate,” she predicted. By then, our expectations of privacy will have caught up with the new reality created by the rise of consumer DNA tests.’
July 25, 2018
[religion] Why Is Google Translate Spitting Out Sinister Religious Prophecies? … Is Google Translate’s AI a Prophet? ‘In Somali, for instance, strings of the word “ag” translate into missives about the “sons of Gershon,” the “name of the LORD,” and references to Biblical terminology like “cubits” and Deuteronomy.’ [via jwz]
July 24, 2018
July 23, 2018
[moon] How the Earliest Images of the Moon Were so Much Better than we Realised … The story of how images taken by a Moon Orbiter in 1966 were saved from obsolete analog media. ‘Since 2007 the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project has brought back 2000 images from 1500 analog tapes. The first ever picture of an earthrise. As Keith Cowing said “an image taken a quarter of a fucking million miles away in 1966. The Beatles were warming up to play Shea Stadium at the moment it was being taken.”’
July 22, 2018
[space] First contact: what if we find not organic life but ET’s AI? … More interesing hypotheticals on alien hunting. ‘The most challenging task for a nursery-room AI would be how to expose its collective of savants to the complexity of the real-world environment. Nature isn’t just about meeting fixed goals; it’s full of noise, randomness and trillions upon trillions of interacting pieces. For example, from the very instant an embryo forms, it is exposed to constant variation. First just a few cells, it senses the world purely from a molecular point of view. As the embryo develops organs to register light, sound, touch and smell, the portals to experience – and their complexity – expand. In short, the way for a species to make a better AI is to let that AI and its components explore the messy Universe. As complex and nourishing as a single planet can be, a cosmos filled with worlds offers millions, billions, even trillions of natural test tubes, each with its own tale of natural selection and chance. Spreading savant AI pieces across the stars offers a way to exploit these endless natural experiments and sensory inputs.’
July 21, 2018
[space] NASA astronaut Ellison Onizuka’s soccer ball that survived the Challenger explosion … the moving story of a long forgotten football from the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and the family that sent it back into space.

Clear Lake High School principal, Karen Engle, got an email from a parent. He was leaving a booster club meeting and stopped to look at the ball, remembering it from so long ago. He figured it should have its own display case, and he offered to build it.

Karen didn’t believe him at first. She’d seen the Challenger explode. There was no way a soccer ball survived that — and if it had, there was no way it had been sitting in a display case just outside her office. She walked out into the hallway and looked at it closely through the glass. There was no plaque or dedication, nothing explaining what it was or all that it had survived. Just a bunch of faded signatures. Maybe the parent was mistaken; maybe it was just an old championship ball.

But as she looked closer, there in faded ink were the words that made her realize what she’d unknowingly walked by since her first day as principal: “Good Luck, Shuttle Crew!”

July 20, 2018
[spaceships] On the Taxonomy of Spaceships … An attempt to classify types of fictional spacecraft. ‘There are lots of different ship classes in science fiction, and I’m not talking about the designated name for a particular frame (like Victory-class or Firefly-class). I’m talking about classification of ship roles; or ship types. You have your cruisers, your destroyers, your frigates and corvettes, your dreadnoughts, and all sorts of other roles. But something that always confused me is exactly what the differences are between them. If you had shown me two ships and claimed one was a destroyer and one was a cruiser I wouldn’t have really understood what that actually means and what roles they employ in a battle. How is a battleship different from a battlecruiser? Is there any difference between a star cruiser and an assault cruiser, and if so what is it?’
July 19, 2018
[space] For all we know, aliens could be as careless with space junk as us … Interesting approach to discovering aliens by looking for evidence their garbage in space. ‘However, while it is looking like humankind may soon be able to spot the biomarkers of exolife, spotting a technologically advanced civilisation continues to present a challenge. Astroboffin Hector Socas-Navarro proposes that rather than looking at the exoplanet itself, researchers turn their attention to the “Clarke Exobelt” (CEB). This is an area around the planet touchingly named after Arthur C Clarke, who proposed using a geostationary orbit around the Earth for satellite communications in a 1945 paper.’
July 18, 2018
[aliens] Fermi paradox: why haven’t we found aliens yet?… An attempt to answer a (currently) unanswerable question.

…the idea that intelligent life is extremely rare in the universe feels completely counterintuitive. We exist, along with other intelligent life like dolphins and octopi, so we assume what we see must be extrapolatable beyond Earth.

But this alone is not proof that intelligent civilizations are therefore ubiquitous. Whether the true likelihood is as high as one in two, or as inconceivable as one in a trillion trillion trillion, the mere ability to consciously ask ourselves that question depends on the fact that life has already successfully originated.

This phenomenon is known as an observer selection effect — a bias that can occur when thinking about the likelihood of an event because an observer has to be there to observe the event in the first place. As we only have one data point (us), we have no reliable way to predict the true likelihood of intelligent life. The only conclusion we can confidently draw is that it can exist.

July 17, 2018
[books] 55 Essential Space Operas from the Last 70 Years … Great list of Sci-fi books… ‘Use of Weapons, by Iain M. Banks – Though it technically kicked off in the late ’80s, Iain M. Banks Culture novels could be said to be the genesis of what came to be known as the New British Space Opera in the ’90s and 2000s. An twist on utopian space operas, The Culture presents a future where benevolent AIs govern everything, genetic engineering has resulted in immortality and perfected human design, and the most powerful faction in the universe (next to the energy beings) is the Culture, a group of cheerful collectivists with massive, heavily armed sentient starships. Banks’ imaginative world design and massive scope is paired with an iconoclastic and anarchic sense of humor for a modern classic.’
July 16, 2018
[space] Cinema Space Tribute

July 13, 2018
[movies] The meaning of the ending of 2001 according to Stanley Kubrick … Two Kubrick interviews where he explains 2001: A Space Odyssey collected together.

The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film.

They choose this room, which is a very inaccurate replica of French architecture (deliberately so, inaccurate) because one was suggesting that they had some idea of something that he might think was pretty, but wasn’t quite sure. Just as we’re not quite sure what do in zoos with animals to try to give them what we think is their natural environment.

Anyway, when they get finished with him, as happens in so many myths of all cultures in the world, he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made into some sort of superman.

July 12, 2018
[movies] My Incredible, Agonising Quest to Find the Worst Movie on Netflix‘But my quest hit a snag. Though there were many truly awful sounding movies listed, every single thing I looked up seemed to have been removed from Netflix. InAPPropriate Comedy, a sketch comedy show directed by the Shamwow Guy that was widely accused of being racist? Gone. Avalanche Sharks, a horror film about, well, what it sounds like it’s about? Also gone. I was beginning to worry that, due to the constant reduction in the number of movies on Netflix, all the real garbage had been purged.’
July 11, 2018
[politics] What If Trump Has Been a Russian Asset Since 1987? … Long, plausible scenario about Trump’s collusion with Russia. ‘Then there is Trump himself. While the president’s character has never been exactly deemed above reproach, some doubts have lingered about whether he would really hire prostitutes to defile a bed merely because Obama had slept there and whether a tape of such a thing would truly shame him. These questions have been answered in the affirmative. Trump’s payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels and other women proves that he holds his sexual privacy dear. And the obsessive hatred of Obama that grew out of Trump’s humiliation at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner has blossomed into a perverse and often self-destructive mania. People both inside and outside the administration report that Trump will ultimately pick whatever option he believes is the negation of Obama’s legacy.’
July 10, 2018
[movies] Doctors Diagnose The Injuries In Home Alone … Doctors give their opinions on the injuries the criminals in Home Alone would have received if the movie was set in the real world.

July 9, 2018
[true crime] The Queasy Verdict of ‘The Staircase’ … A spoiler filled examination of the true-crime documentary “The Staircase”. ‘It’s tempting to call the story of Michael Peterson a tragedy. Not just because his protestations of innocence and grief are pitiable (although they are), or because he summarizes his life with a quote from Romeo and Juliet, “All are punished” (although he does). It’s tempting because, in The Staircase, it’s Peterson—as opposed to his dead wife—who’s unfailingly presented as the victim. After a short news brief detailing how Kathleen Peterson’s body has been found in the couple’s mansion in Durham, North Carolina, the series begins in earnest with Peterson walking the camera crew around the home, describing the events on the evening of Kathleen’s death. He’s calm and detailed in his account of how the couple watched a movie, talked about their kids, and drank a first bottle of wine, followed by a second. Then, he explains, the couple went down to the pool on their property. In Peterson’s telling, Kathleen went upstairs to bed while he stayed by the pool with his wine. It was the last time he saw her alive. What happened next was so bizarre, so unpredictable, that it made the Peterson murder investigation a national story…’

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