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December 31, 2020
[movies] The Great Unknown: The Story Behind Jerry Goldsmith’s Score for “Alien” … An interesting look at the struggle behind the creation of Alien’s soundtrack. ‘”I always think of space as being the great unknown,” Goldsmith had said in an interview for 2004 DVD documentary “The Beast Within,” “sort of an air of romance about it. And I approached ‘Alien’ that way … I thought ‘Well, let me play the whole opening very romantically and very lyrically and then let the shock come as the story evolves.’ It didn’t go over too well.” Goldsmith’s original main title is a gorgeous cue that is indeed incredibly romantic, while still having an air of mystery, with a grand statement of his main theme, a far cry from the more obtuse and esoteric film version, which carries a more foreboding tone and uses wind and string effect influenced by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki originally intended to be used later in the picture. “I wrote a new main title, which was the obvious thing, weird and strange, which everybody loved. The original one took me a day to write and the alternate one took me about five minutes.”‘
December 30, 2020
[comics] Séamas O’Reilly’s Bumper Comics Of The Year 2020 Extravaganza … Round up of 2020’s comics – a standout is Immortal Hulk from Al Ewing and Joe Bennett… ‘Immortal Hulk’s premise, if you’re not aware, is simple. It takes that old complaint levelled on superheroes — they can’t die so what’s the point? — and turns it into something existential — I cannot die, what is the point?!?. It posits that a bullet to Bruce Banner’s brain, or any fatal blow, will kill him, but not the Hulk, who will rise again, forever undying, rendering both he and Banner, effectively, immortal. Thereafter, it follows this thought to its conclusion, not merely as a schlocky power fantasy, but a horror of possession and personality disorders that takes proper delight in body horror. Hulk is mainstream superheroism’s werewolf, Hyde, Gremlin type — he has transmogrification baked into the text. But Immortal Hulk takes a pride, nay, a perverse ecstasy in the grisly, bloody, sinewy splatter of gore and guts that this transformation would entail. The stories themselves unfold mostly in a Monster Of The Week format, with several overarching strands of a greater story looped over the top. It’s one of the chewiest, grisliest titles on the stands and if you haven’t dug in yet, I simply don’t know what else to tell you.’
December 28, 2020
[til] 52 things I learned in 2020 … Fifty-two TIL from Tom Whitwell. ‘The inventor of the pixel died in 2020 aged 91. He always regretted making pixels square, describing the decision as “something very foolish that everyone in the world has been suffering from ever since.”’
December 25, 2020
[xmas] ‘That’s not a star. That’s an aeroplane’ — Maxwell the Magic Cat, December 1981.

December 24, 2020
[games] Looking Back at Lode Runner … A nicely-done history / appreciation of the 1983 computer game. ‘Playing each level entails first experimenting and dying — dying a lot — until you can devise a thoroughgoing plan for how to tackle it. Then, it’s just a matter of executing the plan perfectly; this is where the action elements come into play. The levels in Lode Runner are dynamic enough that getting through them doesn’t require stumbling across a single rote, set-piece solution envisioned by the designer; there’s space here for player creativity, space for variation, space for quick thinking that gets you out of an unanticipated jam — or that fails to do so just when you believe you’re on the brink of victory.’
December 23, 2020
[xmas] Eyes Wide Shut is an anti-consumerist holiday classic … Is Eyes Wide Shut a Christmas Movie? ‘The film is bookended by two extravagant Christmas scenes: first, the luxurious holiday party thrown by Bill’s wealthy patient Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack); and finally, the Harfords following their daughter Helena (Madison Eginton) around an enormous toy store while she points out gifts she’d like Santa to bring her. All the while, the manufactured lustre of Christmas permeates every scene – except, that is, within the cult, where the only decorative flourishes are the claret hues of the carpeting and the cult leader’s cloak. The outside world is already swathed in the drapery of one form of zealous, ritualistic worship – what need is there to bring it in another?’
December 22, 2020
[politics] An Oral History of Dominic Cummings’s Barnard Castle Scandal‘Reporters gather outside Cummings’s house for a second morning… Minnie Stephenson, Channel 4 news reporter: He was taking such a long time to come out, and it was freezing, so I Deliveroo-ed two coffees to my house, for me and the cameraman. And then, sod’s law, as soon as the driver arrives with the coffee, Cummings comes out. I’m running after Cummings, asking him my question — I think I said, “Is it one rule for you and one rule for everyone else?” — and meanwhile, this poor, bewildered Deliveroo driver is in the background, holding the coffees. You can actually see him in the footage.’
December 21, 2020
[xmas] Wondermark — The Breakthrough“What if we Jingled… All the Way?”

December 18, 2020
[xmas] How Retail Workers Deal With Nonstop Christmas Music Without Going Nuts … Or, how to cope with having to listen to the same music over-and-over again. ‘Sean worked at Younkers — a Midwest version of Macy’s — where corporate controlled the playlist. “All they played was maudlin Christmas music from the World War II era,” he says. But just because his new store simulcasts the radio, he’s not saved from hearing the same songs over and over again. “The radio station we’re forced to listen to goes from adult contemporary to nothing but Christmas music with the flip of a switch,” he explains. “During my normal shifts, I can hear the same song at least six times. Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ is a big culprit, along with ‘We Need a Little Christmas.’” “I know the first milliseconds of them because of the sheer number of times I’ve heard them all,” he continues.’ [via Feeling Listless]
December 17, 2020
[space] A Rocket From 1966 Has Found Its Way Back to Earth’s Orbit‘Chodas sent out an email alert to his fellow astronomers around the world so everyone could help track 2020 SO’s progress over the next few months as it moved closer and closer to Earth. Follow-up spectroscopy observations yielded insight into the object’s composition, and the spectrum data was consistent with the stainless steel used to manufacture Centaur rocket boosters in the 1960s. But the hypothesis wasn’t yet a slam dunk, although the small discrepancies in the data could be explained by the weathering of the steel after 54 years of exposure to harsh space weather…’
December 16, 2020
[comics] Alan Moore’s unpublished Gen13 script… Go read two pages from an unfinished Gen 13 script from Alan Moore.

December 14, 2020
[xmas] Christmas Links 2020 … Stuart over at Feeling Listless is collecting seasonal links as he did in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. He does a better job than I ever have!
December 11, 2020
[movies] Full Metal Jacket to Rocky IV: the least festive Christmas movies ever‘At one point Gunnery Sergeant Hartman tells his troops: “Today is Christmas. There will be a magic show at zero nine thirty. Chaplain Charlie will tell you about how the free world will conquer communism with the aid of God and a few marines. God has a hard-on for marines, because we kill everything we see.” Is this the only reference to Christmas in an otherwise bleak and dread-soaked war movie? Yes.’
December 10, 2020
[comics] The Fourth Dimension is a Many-Splattered Thing … a really oddball comic from 1957 by Jack Kirby.

December 9, 2020
[retrogaming] The Making of Donkey Kong on the Atari 2600‘In the summer of 1982, I spent about three months creating a list of 4,096 numbers, meticulously ensuring that every single number was the right value, and in the correct place in the list. When I finished, the only tangible evidence of my work was that long list of numbers. When the list was complete, after nearly 1,000 hours of work, the former Connecticut Leather Company¹ put the numbers (in order) into a computer memory chip and plastic case and sold it at stores throughout the country. And people actually bought it…’
December 7, 2020
[comics] Wondermark – In which a Visitor proves a Nuisance‘You ever get the feeling you’re on the cusp of doing something either really great or really terrible?’
December 3, 2020
[movies] Misery at 30: a terrifying look at the toxicity of fandom … A look back at one of the best adaptions of a Stephen King novel. ‘Misery was different. In placing a bizarrely childish, mad spinster in the spotlight, it had more in common with the campy Grande Dame Guignol movies of the 60s and 70s than it did with the sleek, sleazy chillers popular at the time. Grandmothers aren’t supposed to be killers, yet the knife-wielding biddies of hagsploitation cinema proved otherwise. Likewise Annie, a virginal nerd who refuses to swear, shoots a bullet through a sheriff’s belly and smashes Paul’s ankles with two strokes of a hammer without ever blinking an eye. Thirty years on, Misery’s gleefully demented union of innocence and brutality still captivates…’
December 2, 2020
[herzog] Five of the best documentaries, as chosen by Werner Herzog‘Vernon, Florida – This was his second documentary, after Gates of Heaven, and I pushed Errol [Morris] into doing it at the time, when he was very young. He spent some time in a small town in the Florida Panhandle, just engaging with and talking to local people. And it’s a completely incredible world of fantasies and strangeness. You have to see it. How can I describe it? I’m not a reviewer. It’s a great, great film.’
December 1, 2020
[comics] Writer Al Ewing Discusses The Horror Influences Hiding Beneath The Surface of Marvel Comics Series Immortal Hulk … If you’re not reading Immortal Hulk you should be. ‘The horror of the modern world – Hulk, as Marvel’s most anti-establishment character and an avatar of human anger, was bound to get into the unique horrors of capitalism. We manage to take in both the dark 3A.M. nightmares as the brain digests the day’s news, and slightly more lurid business-level horrors – think Society or The Stuff. Not to mention we get into some Lovecraftian cosmic horror and even take a ringside seat for the death of a couple of universes… there’s a lot there for a horror fan.’
November 30, 2020
[tv] Rediscovering “Columbo” in 2020 … Great comic on the pleasures of watching Columbo right now.

Rediscovering Columbo in 2020 Panel

November 26, 2020
[movies] Every Movie Cough … A collection of coughs and sneezes captured in movies. I’m particularly fond of this one.
November 25, 2020
[retrogaming] The boy behind the biggest coin-op conversion of the 80s … A look at how a british teenager converted the arcade game Outrun to the Commodore 64 in 1987. ‘It seemed that the 17-year-old in the room had a prototype of just what US Gold needed – and this was around Eastertime, giving them months to get the game ready for Christmas 1987. “Geoff took me into a side room where there sat an OutRun arcade machine. He said ‘Martin you can do this right? You can convert this to the C64?’ I was gobsmacked. Within an hour the lawyers and my dad had made a contract and that’s how I landed my first conversion. The upfront fee was about £20k. That was a lot of cash back in 1987.”‘
November 23, 2020
[trump] How long till Trump Leaves Office?‘It is 57 days, 13 hours, 10 minutes, 31 seconds until Wednesday, 20 January 2021’
November 20, 2020
[funny] Diana twats the Queen with a corgi: how accurate is The Crown?‘Mrs Thatcher chucks an unflushable turd out of a Balmoral window – In a socially awkward visit by the Thatchers to Balmoral, the panicked prime minister blocks the cludgie and has to remove the offending log with her bare hands before throwing it from a window. In reality, Balmoral is equipped with extra-powerful toilets to cope with the Royals’ habit of eating half a stag for lunch.’
November 18, 2020
[food] Map of European Culinary Horrors‘Europe is littered with disturbing domestic meals. There’s a vast selection of fermented fish in Scandinavia, offal stews on the Balkans, deep fried pizzas in Scotland, sadistically squashed birds cooked under pressure in France, and a variety of dishes made from animal blood across the entire continent. The top spot is reserved for Sardinia, where a special type of sheep cheese, infested with semi-transparent insect larvae, will tickle all your senses in a way you won’t forget.’

Europe's Most Appalling Food

November 17, 2020
[gaming] Retro games – How I fixed the Atari 2600 awful music … How one Atari programmer managed to work around the 2600’s musical limitations. ‘I knew that a ton of the frequencies were out of tune, so what technical trick could I come up with to coax the Atari 2600 into playing beautiful, melodious in-tune music? The answer was, none. I couldn’t come up with any technical trick that worked, so I went to Plan B. Rather than forcing the Atari to do something it couldn’t do, I took the opposite approach, putting some effort into figuring out exactly what it could do.’
November 16, 2020
[corona] Pfizer Announces First Batch Of Coronavirus Vaccine Will Be Collector’s Edition Limited To 2,000 Doses‘The Covid-19 Platinum Edition Vaccine is a must-have for vaccinophiles and sure to quickly increase in value. Act now, and you’ll also receive a leather-bound volume filled with freehand ink drawings of the novel coronavirus’s genome sequence, as well as historic early sketches of our life-saving vaccine’s chemical structure. This legendary piece of inoculative history can be yours for only $4,999.’
November 13, 2020
[moore] La Frontera (2011) by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie … A charming, little-seen short story from Moore and Gebbie originally published in Spain.

La Frontera

November 12, 2020
[trump] Trump Files Lawsuit In Pennsylvania Alleging Election Officials Totally Disregarding His Feelings‘A lot of these ballots clearly contain information that makes me sad and scared, and it’s just not right…’
November 10, 2020
[funny] Hitler learns he can’t stop vote counting … The Trump Downfall meme we were all waiting for. ‘We built a diverse coalition of white people in militias and white people NOT in militias.’