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August 4, 2021
[music] New Order’s 30 greatest tracks – ranked!‘Fine Time (1989) – A baffling choice for a first single from Technique – largely instrumental, not much of a melody – Fine Time is still impossibly exciting: an urgent, clattering rhythm track, acid house squelches, sampled voices. Steve “Silk” Hurley’s remix turned it into streamlined, straightforward house music, but the idiosyncrasies of New Order’s approach to the genre are part of the appeal.’
August 2, 2021
[apollo] Here’s an unprecedented look at Apollo 13’s damaged service module / Apollo 13: Enhanced images reveal life on stricken spacecraft … Ars Technica and BBC News takes a look at a collection of digitally remastered photos from the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. ‘While working on Apollo 13 images, Saunders said he was struck by how calm Lovell and the other two crew members, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert, appear. Much of the film he worked on was shot in the lunar module, after the oxygen tank exploded. The crew was exhausted, it was cold, and the astronauts found themselves in the gravest of situations. And yet they appeared to be in good spirits.’
July 30, 2021
[tv] Columbo: an origin story … A look at the early origins of the TV detective series and the three versions of Columbo. ‘It became a case of third time lucky for Levinson and Link (and the Lieutenant) when they heard Universal were on the lookout for good mystery scripts in 1967. The Prescription: Murder teleplay was duly picked up by the studio, but who to cast as Columbo – a character more pivotal to the story than originally intended? Lee J. Cobb, then in his 50s, is said to have been the first choice, but his schedule was too full to allow it. Bing Crosby was famously offered the role but turned it down as he was enjoying retirement (and the lure of the golf links) too much. Instead, and despite reservations about him being ‘too young’, Levinson and Link turned to Peter Falk, who had just turned 40. Filming wrapped up in late 1967. The rest, as they say, is history.’
July 29, 2021
[metafilter] What are some impeccably designed, everyday, simple objects? … I always find something interesting in these lists – and TIL that the British plug is a design classic.
July 28, 2021
[curtis] Adam Curtis Knows Exactly What’s Wrong With Right Now … The documenatary filmaker is interviewed about his latest series Can’t Get You Out of My Head.

In his new epic series, Curtis pulls together such disparate threads as Chairman Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, the stoner duo who created the Illuminati conspiracy theory, Tupac Shakur, and Dominic Cummings. Through these personal histories – and many, many, more – the six-part film picks apart the rise of individualism, the fall of democracy, failed revolutions and corrupt systems of power, the addictive nature of social media and the combined psychological impact all of that has had on us.

If that particular synopsis makes it sound like the whole world is burning, while we sit helplessly and watch, Curtis wants you to know that is not his intention at all. While there are several points in the documentary that have quite nihilistic undertones, he directs me to the opening quote in the first film, by anthropologist David Graeber: “The ultimate hidden truth of the world is that it is just something we make, and could just as easily make something different.”

July 27, 2021
[music] How we made Beat Dis by Bomb the Bass … Tim Simenon: ‘I grabbed a smiley face image from Alan Moore’s Watchmen for the sleeve and it transformed into this symbol for acid house which threw me off as it was never my intention. I would always struggle when people said: “You’re acid house.” Bomb the Bass was a lot of different things thrown together at once – there didn’t seem to be a name for that.’
July 26, 2021
[funny] Effin’ Birds … Twitter’s rudest birds.

July 21, 2021
[apollo] Alan Shepard smacked golf balls on the Moon — and now we know where they landed … It turns out that golf on the Moon is harder than you’d imagine. ‘Image specialist Andy Saunders recently analyzed archival stills taken by the astronauts with their Hasselblad cameras, as well as video from the lunar ascent module as it lifted off from the surface. Saunders managed to identify not only Shepard’s golf balls, but also his footprints from his stance and his divots. By comparing these to more recent satellite images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Saunders was able to measure the distance on Shepard’s second shot. The result? A rather tame 40 yards (120 feet).’
July 20, 2021
[lifehacks] The Simple Genius of Checklists, from B-17 to the Apollo Missions‘Checklists proliferated to every corner of habitable environment of Apollo 11 and became what astronaut Michael Collins called the spacecraft’s “fourth crew member” – and, for all intents and purposes, its real commander. Checklists even covered their spacesuits, for example, the left gloves of Armstrong and Aldrin.’
July 19, 2021
[space] The little-known Soviet mission to rescue a dead space station … The true story of how Salyut 7 was saved after a total systems failure in orbit whilst uncrewed.

They floated in with their flashlights and their winter coats, and found the station cold and dark, with frost along the walls. Savinikh tried to turn the lights on—nothing, not that he expected anything. They took off their gas masks—they were making it even more difficult to see around the darkened station, and there was no smell of fire. Savinikh dived to the floor and opened the shade covering a window. A ray of sunlight fell on the ceiling, illuminating the station a little bit. They found the crackers and salt tablets that were left on the table by the previous crew—part of a traditional Russian welcoming ceremony that is still performed on the ISS today—as well as all the onboard station documentation neatly packed and secured to its shelves. All of the ventilators and other systems that normally hummed noisily were off. Savinikh recalls in his flight journal “it felt like being in an old, abandoned home. There was a deafening silence pressing upon our ears.”

July 16, 2021
July 15, 2021
[retrogaming] The Making of Micro Machines … The story of how the NES/Mega Drive classic racing game was created. ‘Graham also included a single-player Challenge mode, where players competed against computer controlled drivers over a series of races. This meant developing some kind of AI system with the game already pushing at the limits of the cart capacity. However, Gavin Raeburn, the coder behind Spectrum and C64 driving game, Rallycross Simulator, had an economical solution. ‘Essentially you cover the entire map in an invisible layer of arrows which tell each car in which direction to drive whenever it’s in that part of the map,’ says Graham. ‘So there are arrows all along the track itself, and there are arrows off the track which point back to it. That’s about as far as the AI goes. What I’ve found over the years is that people read a lot more into it!’’
July 14, 2021
[horror] Eddie Munster and me: the secret lives of spooky, sinister screen children … A look at how children cope with playing horror roles on TV and film. ‘In another film Kord references in her book – 2008’s horror-thriller The Children – the actor Eva Birthistle remembers the barely contained glee of the obstreperous child actors assigned to murder her on set. “Their confidence just grew, like, in the first week, then they were sort of … delighted they were going to kill us all,” said Birthistle.’
July 13, 2021
[comics] The First Sketch of Wonder Woman … A remarkable look at the earliest design sketches of Wonder Woman from 1941 by H.G. Peter. ‘Dear Dr. Marston, I slapped these two out in a hurry…’ [via Kottke]

July 12, 2021
[lifehacks] What tiny purchases have disproportionately improved your life? | Ask MetaFilter‘Good rechargeable batteries and a good charger for them are a fantastic investment in removing obnoxiousness from one’s life, especially now that nobody wants to run to the store for just one thing. Eneloop is the battery brand I settled on, with a Panasonic BQ-CC55 charger because someone who sounded like they knew what they were talking about said it was their favorite.’
July 9, 2021
[movies] How They Shot the Wrong-Way Car Chase in To Live and Die in L.A. … How William Friedkin and team created shot an unforgettable car chase for the 1985 movie To Live and Die in L.A. ‘In the narrative of the film, Chance and Vukovich are driving against traffic. But, in reality, the opposite was true. Petersen and Pankow drove in the correct direction. Meanwhile, “traffic” actually flowed backward on the wrong side of the road. This is possible to spot in several brief cuts. According to an interview with Hooker on Shout Factory’s Blu-ray release, one of the reasons Friedkin wanted Petersen and Pankow to drive in that particular direction was “because there were these beautiful oil refineries with all the lights, and it was a dusk shot. [Friedkin] wanted to see that in the background with the cars going and the only way he could do that was to reverse the flow of the traffic.”’
July 8, 2021
[web] Photopea … Amazing online photo editor – a free alternative to Photoshop that works in the browser.
July 7, 2021
[fractals] Benoît Mandelbrot, The Father of Fractals… Shortly before he died in 2010 Benoît Mandelbrot was interviewed by Errol Morris.

July 6, 2021
[retrogaming] In the ’80s, she was a video game pioneer. Today, no one can find her … The search for Vietnamese woman who programmed an Atari 2600 games featuring one of the first female characters in gaming. ‘Firsthand accounts from the few Apollo developers with an online presence don’t even remember who she was, exactly, other than knowing she was Vietnamese and determined to get hired. These developers assume she must be called Ban Tran, because that’s what fan sites say her name was. But they’re not sure; they can’t quite recall. Where did the fan sites get the name in the first place? Like Score before her, Tran’s contribution to video games is hanging by a thread.’
July 5, 2021
[podcast] The Great Post Office Trial … A powerful podcast on the British Post Office scandal – the complex story about what is likely to be the biggest miscarriage of justice in British history.
July 1, 2021
[comics] Tom Frame Interviews Alan Moore … from issue 4 of Deadline, February 1989. Tom was famous for lettering and colouring something in almost every issue of 2000AD for many years.
June 30, 2021
[ldn] Why is central London suddenly full of American sweetshops?‘If you walk from Kingdom of Sweets towards Marble Arch, you’ll pass American Candy Land, Worldwide Candy: The House of American Candy and, four doors down from that, the words ‘American Candy’ printed on a blue banner covering an old shop name. Look over the road: there’s Candy Surprise. If you walk back towards Tottenham Court Road, you’ll pass Candy Shop, American Candy, American Candy World, and – if you pop round the corner on to Charing Cross Road – Candy World. That’s nine American sweetshops in just two kilometres. More than one every 250 metres…’
June 29, 2021
[tech] Ransomware Attacks … Powerful infographic showing the rise of ransomware attacks over the last five years.
June 28, 2021
[moore] The Craft: An Interview with Alan Moore by Daniel Whiston … Long interview on writing, comics, magic and much more from 2008. ‘There does come this point when characters start talking to you. They’ll start telling you what they want to do, you’ll know what they would say and what they wouldn’t say. I mean when I started writing Watchmen , I’d got no idea that Rorschach was gonna be dead by the end of it, it was just by about issue three I started to know the character and I thought: “he’s got a death wish”… he’s so self-destructive, he’s clearly… he wants out. There’s no way that he’s gonna live through this, he wouldn’t be able to live with any sort of moral compromises, so he’ll have to die. But it was the character himself who told me that, after two or three issues. I’d got no idea when I started it.’
June 24, 2021
[fun] Vincent Price rides some rolly-coasters … Go watch some small clips of Vincent Price having fun riding Roller Coasters. They are taken from a documentary called America Screams about the history of amusement parks and roller coasters in the US.
June 23, 2021
[health] The Super-Soldier Cells Hiding in Your Pus … The Atlantic takes a look at one of our immune system’s most potent weapons. ‘Neutrophils are more Cylons than stormtroopers. While other immune cells creep by at speeds of just a couple micrometers per minute, neutrophils can barrel through vessels 10 times as fast, and are flexible enough to squeeze themselves through spaces that span less than an eighth of their width. They are healers that can help stitch torn tissues back together; they can wrangle tumors too, and shape the fate of the immune cells that follow them. Neutrophils also harbor one of the immune system’s most terrifying armaments: They can unspool the genetic material that’s normally packed into a tight wad at their center, freckle it with toxic proteins and compounds, and then spew it out their side like a lethal sneeze—a weaponization of their own DNA.’
June 22, 2021
[books] Douglas Coupland on Generation X at 30: ‘Generational trashing is eternal’‘This discussion of brains and generations is important because around 2010 my own brain started feeling truly different. I realised that I was never going to go back to my old, pre-internet brain: I’d been completely rewired. Ten years later I don’t even remember what my pre-internet brain felt like. I find comfort in the fact that brains all over the planet have been rewired similarly to mine. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that our species has never been as neurally homogenised as it is now.’
June 21, 2021
[people] Be Glad You’re Neurotic Contents … Amusing book contents spotted via Twitter. ‘Your Compulsions Are Calls For Help’

June 18, 2021
[people] Stewart Lee Interviewed — 1996/2021… Fascinating Stewart Lee interview – He’s asked the same questions 25 years apart. ‘I hope when I’m picking on people or things to laugh at, there’s always an element of me being the twat for bothering to express the wrong/mad/obsessional opinion I am – I hope it works both ways, with me as a kind of ignorant victim of myself, maybe not.’
June 17, 2021
[politics] Vladimir Putin’s most unforgettable quotes. … Vladimir Putin used a Tolstoy quote after meeting Joe Biden yesterday: ‘At the press conference after the meeting, a journalist asked Putin whether the summit had helped build trust between the two men. In response, he turned mysterious. Putin quoted Russian writer Leo Tolstoy: “There’s no happiness in life, only a mirage of it on the horizon.” Putin clarified that there is no “family trust” between Biden and him, but he has seen the “mirage” of it.’