linkmachinego.com
August 20, 2019
[comics] Watchmen, t-SNE sorted … Every panel in Watchmen sorted by similarity using a machine learning algorithm by Pete Ashton.

August 19, 2019
August 16, 2019
[blogs] Monster or guru? What Dominic Cummings’ blog tells us about him … Dominic Cummings has a blog and he puts collections of links into PDFs?! 😱 ‘He started it five years ago and has used it as a dumping ground for his thoughts. All of his thoughts. Some entries are only a few lines long while others stretch to 10,000 words. The whole thing, including attachments, has a higher word count than Ulysses. Like Ulysses, it is both focused and digressive, obsessive and uncontainable; all emphatic italics and BLOCK CAPS and (1) numbered points leading to (2) apocalyptic conclusions. Cummings studied history at Oxford but writes knowingly about subjects from bio-engineering to space exploration. His style oscillates between the academic and the hard-boiled. He suggests “bunging a few million quid” to someone to liven up the civil service; claims that “great unconventional hookers and a bit of imagination … get you into pretty much anywhere”; and wonders “what is to stop someone sending a drone swarm across the river and bombing parliament during PMQs”.’
August 15, 2019
[ideas] Accelerationism: how a fringe philosophy predicted the future we live in … A long-read on Accelerationism. ‘In 1998, Land resigned from Warwick too. He and half a dozen CCRU members withdrew to the room above the Leamington Spa Body Shop. There they drifted from accelerationism into a vortex of more old-fashioned esoteric ideas, drawn from the occult, numerology, the fathomless novels of the American horror writer HP Lovecraft, and the life of the English mystic Aleister Crowley, who had been born in Leamington, in a cavernous terraced house which several CCRU members moved into. “The CCRU became quasi-cultish, quasi-religious,” says Mackay.’
August 14, 2019
August 13, 2019
[life] Having the best mattress, suitcase, and vitamins nearly broke me … A journalist uses all the best products for a week. ‘For one week, I lived the kind of life that’s scientifically concocted by marketing professionals, the kind of life that Bill O’Reilly probably thinks of when he gets riled up about annoying young people. I tried to be a different version of me; I tried to be less gross. I will not lie and say that I had fewer than two existential crises…’
August 12, 2019
[comics] A Celebration of Spain’s “Golden Generation” Comic Book Artists … A great gallery of art from Spanish comic artists.

August 9, 2019
[movies] Nicolas Cage on Acting, Philosophy and Searching for the Holy Grail … Long, readable Nick Cage Interview. ‘I put this line in “Mandy”: “The psychotic drowns where the mystic swims.” You either have the proclivity to open up your imagination or you don’t. If you have that propensity and are on camera about to do a scene, what would make you believe in what you’re about to do? Say you’re playing a demon biker with an ancient spirit. What power objects could you find that might trick your imagination? Would you find an antique from an ancient pyramid? Maybe a little sarcophagus that’s a greenish color and looks like King Tut? Would you sew that into your jacket and know that it’s right next to you when the director says “action”? Could you open yourself to that power?’
August 8, 2019
[life] A revolution in our sense of self … A fascinating look at how human consciousness may have little depth and might actually be really shallow. ‘Each of us is a unique history, together with a wonderfully creative machine for redeploying that history to create new perceptions, thoughts, emotions and stories. The layering of that history makes some patterns of thought natural for us, others awkward or uncomfortable. While drawing on our past, we are continually reinventing ourselves, and by directing that reinvention, we can shape who we are and who we will become. So we are not driven by hidden, inexorable forces from a dark and subterranean mental world. Instead, our thoughts and actions are transformations of past thoughts and actions and we often have considerable latitude, a certain judicial discretion, regarding which precedents we consider, which transformations we allow. As today’s thought or action are tomorrow’s precedents, we are reshaping ourselves, moment by moment.’
August 7, 2019
[comics] The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest … Deep Dive review of LoEG: The Tempest from the Comics Journal. ‘Moore is uniquely qualified to write a story about the role of stories at the end of narrative. He’s of the first generation of graphic novelists: people who saw the endless serialization of superhero comics and realized they were not as satisfying as an actual work of literature due to the lack of endings. He then worked, really hard, in the pages of Swamp Thing, to have enough characterization and thematic heft that story arcs could end in a satisfying way. He wrote “The Killing Joke” with enough self-seriousness it can be read as a final Batman story. He wrote “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow” after being enlisted to conclude decades worth of Superman stories, a universe of self-referentiality, and made something touching using decades of material containing wild tonal variation built around a core of self-referentiality never intended to cohere as a singular work. That was over thirty years ago, and since then, his own narrative has been taken away from him, in multiple ways. Literally, stories he’s written have been taken away from him, work he created with the intention that it would belong to him has had its meaning compromised by a corporation’s seeing greater potential for profit in franchised garbage than it does in work of literary merit.’
August 6, 2019
[tech] Future Historians Probably Won’t Understand Our Internet … A look at the difficulty of archiving Social Media. ‘If you want to understand how WordPerfect, an old word processor, functioned, then you just need that software and some way of running it. But if you want to document the experience of using Facebook five years ago or even two weeks ago … how do you do it? The truth is, right now, you can’t. No one (outside Facebook, at least) has preserved the functioning of the application. And worse, there is no thing that can be squirreled away for future historians to figure out.’
August 5, 2019
[space] Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us) … Steven Johnson on the Pros and Cons of attempting to contact Extraterrestrial Civilizations. ‘Drake leaned forward, nodding. “It raises a very interesting, nonscientific question, which is: Are extraterrestrial civilizations altruistic? Do they recognize this problem and establish a beacon for the benefit of the other folks out there? My answer is: I think it’s actually Darwinian; I think evolution favors altruistic societies. So my guess is yes. And that means there might be one powerful signal for each civilization.” Given the transit time across the universe, that signal might well outlast us as a species, in which case it might ultimately serve as a memorial as much as a message, like an interstellar version of the Great Pyramids: proof that a technologically advanced organism evolved on this planet, whatever that organism’s ultimate fate.’
July 21, 2019
[apollo] Classified Apollo 11 anomaly threatened to crash first moon astronauts … How a problem with the Service Module almost killed all the Apollo 11 Astronauts close to home. ‘About 15 minutes before the astronauts splashed into the Pacific Ocean, the CSM fully separated into its two parts. This was necessary because only the command module (which held the crew) had a heat shield. The heat shield protected the astronauts by deflecting and absorbing the scorching energies created by plowing through Earth’s atmosphere at about 25,000 mph — more than a dozen times as fast as a speeding bullet. The service module became useless and posed a collision risk after the two parts separated, so it was supposed to skip off Earth’s atmosphere like a stone thrown across a pond. But it did not.’
July 20, 2019
[apollo] Huge gallery of Apollo Program Photos … To celebrate the anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon here’s a collection of pictures NASA have uploaded. (Previously)

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon...

July 19, 2019
[apollo] The Underappreciated Power of the Apollo Computer … Alexis Madrigal on the Apollo Guidance Computer. ‘To maximize the built-in architecture, Hamilton and her colleagues came up with what they named “The Interpreter”—we’d now call it a virtualization scheme. It allowed them to run five to seven virtual machines simultaneously in two kilobytes of memory. It was terribly slow, but “now you have all the capabilities you ever dreamed of, in software,” O’Brien said.’
July 18, 2019
[apollo] Apollo 11 Landing: Norman Mailer’s Loony Account … Norman Mailer on Apollo 11. ‘This is the glory of Of a Fire on the Moon—the fidelity of Aquarius to his apprehensions; his space-operatic heebie-jeebies; his perverse, obsessive sense that under the achievement, something is dying. Plenty of people regarded the moonshot as a monstrous misallocation of resources. Aquarius alone—or alone in mass-market magazines—was ready to declare it a metaphysical catastrophe. In his stagy rhetoric, his mangled-by-moonbeams prose, he laments the lunar trespass by “strange, plasticized, half-communicating Americans,” and what it portends down here on Earth. Apollo’s success, he declares, “set electronic engineers and computer programs to dreaming of ways to attack the problems of society as well as they had attacked the problems of putting men on the moon.” Horrific prospect.’
July 17, 2019
July 16, 2019
[conspiracy] One giant … lie? Why so many people still think the moon landings were faked‘If you have ever been to the Science Museum in London, you will know that the lunar module was basically made of tinfoil. Apollo 8 had orbited the moon in 1968, but, as Armstrong remarked, correcting course and landing on the moon was “far and away the most complex part of the flight”. He rated walking around on the surface one out of 10 for difficulty (despite the problems he had with the TV cable wrapping around his feet), “but I thought the lunar descent was probably a 13”. That is until you compare it with the difficulty of maintaining a lie to the entire world for five decades without a single slip from any Nasa employee. You would also have to imagine that 2019-era special effects were available to Nasa in 1969 and not one of the 600 million TV viewers noticed anything amiss. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is a decent indication of what Hollywood special effects could do at the time – and it’s extremely shonky. It genuinely was simpler to film on location.’
July 15, 2019
[windows] Why did moving the mouse cursor cause Windows 95 to run more quickly? … Or, How to make programs install faster on Windows 95 – This isn’t very useful these days! ‘For reasons that are not entirely clear, but probably due to performance problems on low end machines, Windows 95 tends to bundle up the messages about I/O completion and doesn’t immediately wake up the application to service them. However, it does wake the application for user input, presumably to keep it feeling responsive, and when the application is awake it will handle any pending I/O messages too. Thus wiggling the mouse causes the application to process I/O messages faster, and install quicker.’
July 11, 2019
[brexit] Why People Want a No Deal Brexit‘Clearly, No Deal presents the opportunity to become part of some uniting national disaster, as if the most alive you’ll ever feel in your country will be when it’s closest to death. What this attitude belies more than anything is not the strength of feeling around Brexit, but a strange predilection for chaos and discomfort at the heart of the nation, a crazed, jingo-masochist complex among the seemingly vanilla. Discourse that might feel most at home in a radical Marxist-Accelerationist seminar has become perfectly ordinary to the Points Of View audience.’
[comics] The real reason Big Numbers #3 was never published … Reddit on Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz’s Big Numbers. ‘…The question came up, “Why didn’t they release issue 3 if the art was done?” The answer was always, “Why put out issue 3 if the series would never be finished?”‘
July 10, 2019
[comics] Webcomics: an oral history … A look back at the history of webcomics along with some interesting advice to creators on dealing with change. ‘Meredith Gran: I make my students buy a web host and a domain name and build it with HTML, from scratch. The companies that create platforms get bought and sold nonstop. You can’t be beholden to them. When things fall apart, you’d better be resourceful enough to handle the next thing.’
July 9, 2019
[brexit] There Are No Real Winners in the Culture War … Vice on Culture War and Brexit. ‘At times it feels as if this could all go on forever, that this is just how it is now – an ideological ice age. Yet there is an end of sorts in sight: No Deal – the culture war’s Enola Gay. Such an event would likely be a moment of total defeat for at least one of the sides in the war, an event extreme enough to send an entire generation into either retreat or pure, real rage. Their dreams of intersectional socialism replaced by the strangest version of kamikaze patriotism in the country’s history, while the winners get to live out the Blitz they always wanted. Looking at the real-world potentialities, the culture war already feels fairly quaint. Maybe it’s really just an amateur-dramatics second referendum – a chance to fight our corners and air our grievances before it all becomes very, very real.’
July 8, 2019
[comics] Posy Simmonds: ‘Women in books aren’t allowed to be total rotters’ … Interview with Posy Simmonds. ‘The most recent of [Posey’s notebooks] show the evolution of Cassandra from a well-upholstered granny to an obese, bespectacled grouch who stomps, effing and blinding, through a London that twinkles with commercialised seasonal jollity. Simmonds’s jewel-sharp illustrations bring the same precisely calculated heft to a West End street scene or a burger and chips as they do to the unfortunate Corker. She still does all her drawing by hand, but technological advances mean that instead of pasting scraps of text on to pictures, her husband – the graphic designer Richard Hollis – can scan them into a computer for her, which has made it much easier to create her trademark collages of word and image.’
July 5, 2019
[tech] How to speak Silicon Valley: 53 essential tech-bro terms explained‘Revolutionize (v) – To change something that does not need to be changed in order to charge money for its replacement.’
July 4, 2019
[life] Why Are Octopuses So Smart?‘Losing their shells also made the cephalopods exquisitely vulnerable. One scientist described their soft, unprotected bodies as the equivalent of “rump steak, swimming around.” The rest of the ocean seemingly agrees: Almost every major group of predators eats cephalopods, including dolphins, seals, fish, seabirds, and even other cephalopods. This gauntlet of threats might have fueled the evolution of the cephalopods’ amazing color-changing skin, their short lifespans, and their large brains.’
July 3, 2019
[comics] Made In The USA report: Fantagraphics Comics … The BBC’s Made in the USA visits Fantagraphics in 1992 and meets Peter Bagge, Roberta Gregory, Dennis Eichhorn & others. [via Comics Reporter]

July 2, 2019
[books] Occult Connections: The Strange Case of Ian Fleming, World War II, and Aleister Crowley … A fascinating conspiracy theory that reads like a chapter of Moore and O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. ‘[Rudolf] Hess took off in an airplane at 17:45 on May 10, 1941. His intended target was the Duke of Hamilton, whom Hess incorrectly believed was opposed to British involvement in the war. Captured by a Home Guard unit near Eaglesham, Hess was soon made a prisoner of war and was interrogated for further information about his failed mission. At this point, Lieutenant Commander Fleming and the spymaster Maxwell Knight, who is reportedly the inspiration for M in Fleming’s later novels, supposedly concocted a plan that would involve Crowley as an interrogator. Fleming and Knight believed that Crowley could easily exploit Hess’s interest in the occult for Great Britain’s advantage. The plan is believed to have been scrapped by higher ups, but that doesn’t mean that Crowley and Hess did not cross paths. Rumor has it that Crowley, who was known for cooking his guests spicy curries laced with drugs, was the cook responsible for Hess’s many food complaints while under captivity in Scotland.’
July 1, 2019
[tv] Streaming TV is about to get very expensive – here’s why … Stuart Heritage on trends in streaming TV. ‘Netflix didn’t become a monster because people wanted to watch a specific show; it became a monster because people wanted to watch everything. When its streaming platform launched, people were spending more than £15 just to watch a single season of a show on DVD. So to be able to watch every season of a show – and every season of hundreds of others of shows – for a fiver a month was revolutionary. The whole point of Netflix was that it was a relatively affordable bucket that contained an awful lot of television. That’s why people liked it. That’s why so many people subscribed and continue to subscribe. To pretend otherwise is to miss the point. That will be a memory soon. The Netflix model was great for viewers, but it couldn’t last…’
June 28, 2019
[shining] Screenwriter Todd Alcott’s Analysis of the Shining Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

…this is why, I think, Jack is shown writing when he really should be murdering — because Kubrick had an idea for a great scene, one of the greatest in horror-movie history, where Wendy finds Jack’s “work” and discovers that it’s complete gibberish. Actually, it’s worse than complete gibberish, because complete gibberish could still be published. Rather, it’s the work of an obsessive-compulsive maniac. (Nicholson, who had just won an Oscar for playing crazy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, would later go on to play an OCD guy in As Good As It Gets.) This is brilliant stuff, and, again, dramatizes the essentially psychological nature of the horror in The Shining — the really scary stuff is going on in Jack’s mind, not in the corridors of the Overlook.

(One of my favorite factoids regarding the movie is that Kubrick didn’t just have a ream of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” typed up, no — he had reams and reams typed up, in different languages, one for every major territory the movie would play in — Spanish, Italian, French, German, etc., all with a regional phrase specific to the territory. Production Assistant on a Kubrick movie must have been the worst job available in show business.)