1 November 2003
[fim] Alien: the Director’s Cut — a review of the re-released sci-fi horror film …

‘It is a genuinely frightening movie which makes splatterfests like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre look juvenile. With style and intelligence, Scott absorbs the influences of Kubrick and Spielberg, together with movies like Westworld and The Stepford Wives, but makes a movie quite distinct from any of these. He puts together a white-knuckle intergalactic ride of tension and fear, which is also an essay on the hell of other people, the vulnerability of our bodies, and the idea of space as a limitless new extension of human paranoia. Alien also functions as a nightmare-parody of the Apollo 11 moon-landing, which had happened just 10 years previously, with all its earnest optimism about human endeavour. And perhaps most stunningly of all, this new version of the movie reveals how it works as a conspiracy satire about state-corporate complicity in manufacturing biological weapons of mass destruction.’

2 November 2003
[data] World Drowning in Oceans of Data — BBC News reports on a estimate of the vast amounts of raw data being generated worldwide … ‘US researchers estimate that every year 800MB of information is produced for every person on the planet. Their study found that information stored on paper, film, magnetic and optical disks has doubled since 1999.’
3 November 2003
[comics] The Superhero as House Guest — a profile of Alex Ross who is living the fanboy dream [thanks Kabir] …

‘To see the really cool stuff, you have to sneak into the room above the garage, which Mr. Ross calls “my fortress of solitude of collectibles.” Two lifelike figures — a 6-foot-3 Superman and a 6-foot-2 Batman sculptured in wax, resin and fiberglass by a British artist, Mike Hill — dominate the room. Action figures including one-of-a-kind pieces bought on eBay and cheap mass-produced fast-food favors are arranged museum-style in vitrines on every wall. A small jointed wooden Superman from 1939, bought for a song at a toy show, has its own shelf.’

‘Mr. Ross went to his own party as the Phantom, an often overlooked superhero also known as “the ghost who walks.” At 6 feet 3, Mr. Ross can actually be rather unghostlike — especially in a hooded Danskin bodysuit the color of grape Kool-Aid.’

4 November 2003
[history] At home with the Führer — nice summary from Simon Waldman about what happened when he posted a Hello-type article on Hitler from 1938 to his weblog … ‘As a result of this casual browse through an old magazine, I have struck up a friendship with an amateur historian in Louisiana, been involved in a copyright tussle with the UK’s biggest magazine publisher, been branded a Nazi sympathiser, been written about in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune and the Jerusalem Post, and become the subject of a petition from 60 Holocaust scholars as well as protests from David Irving.’
5 November 2003
[comics] The Books of Heaven, the Comics of Hell: The Graphic Novel in America — Stuart Moore on Graphic Novels … ‘It’s easy to see why writers champion the graphic novel. It’s very liberating to be able to craft a lengthy narrative and let the tension points fall where they may, instead of having to break the flow every 22 pages. But there are two reasons why the graphic novel format hasn’t taken over, despite some pretty zealous proponents. The first drawback is visibility. This is more of a problem for the artist than for the writer, because generally speaking, comics take a lot longer to draw than they take to write. That means that, for some artists, doing a stand-alone graphic novel can take them out of the marketplace entirely for six months to a year. […] The other problem is stickier: economics…’
6 November 2003
[ukkblogs] Updated UK Weblogs — I’ve spent the last few weeks updating the list of Recently Updated UK Weblogs. There are plenty of interesting UK blogs to check out …

  • XFM Breakfast Show Blog‘We’re in trouble with the Muppets, apparently. After the interview yesterday, when Christian, erm, questioned Fozzie Bear closely about his sexuality, the Henson people have apprently gone tits. I hope they don’t set Animal on us. The bear doth protest too much, methinks.’

  • Belle de Jour — Diary of a London Call Girl …‘The client was in law enforcement, and the first time out he’d taken me to a semiformal work event. From the ratio of nubile cuties to paunchy detectives, I may not have been the only paid girl there. Or perhaps the Met’s PR efforts are paying off in unexpected ways.’

  • Memex 1.1 — John Naughton’s online diary … ‘I’ve discovered that I appear in Colin Jarman’s The Nasty Quote Book! [I described Radovan Karadzic, the infamous Serbian politician as “a rambling, inconsistent, sentimental, bouffanted crook”. Nasty, perhaps; but also true.]’

7 November 2003
[comics] The Saga of the Earth Pig — summary of Dave Sim’s Cerebus … [via ¡Journalista!]

‘Cerebus is unique among other comics for its length of story, depth of character, breadth of detail, and evolution over time. It exists in 4 dimensions. The series focuses on Cerebus, a 3-foot tall aardvark man, who lives in a pre-industrial medieval fantasy world. As the story progresses, Cerebus finds himself involved with people and events that change history. He becomes a politician, pope, houseguest, bartender, and prophet, in that order. He finds and loses love. He speaks with beings of great power and knowledge, including his creator, Dave Sim. And yet, he still cannot find happiness in day-to-day life. Cerebus has done it all, been everywhere, and seen everybody. And he still fucks up.’

9 November 2003
[murder] Terrible history haunts the Old Bailey — Poignant summary of the first weeks evidence at the Soham Murder Trial. ‘…whatever the outcome of this trial, I suspect that the three-day opening statement leaves us with a different sense of our own anonymity. If the story is big enough, the shock and outrage sufficient, then heaven and earth will be moved; history itself will give a shake, and come to life. Point by slow point, graphic by triplicate graphic, belt and buttons and braces, one week last summer was carried into court and had life breathed back into it, and a strangely unsettling experience it was, to realise how many thousands footprints we all leave, if someone starts looking hard enough.’
10 November 2003
[books] You Ask The Questions — Philip Pullman‘Q: Do you crave adventure? A: No. On the contrary, I crave dullness and routine – that’s when I work best. What I would really like is a fairly long period of imprisonment, in a reasonably comfortable prison with a good library. That would keep the outside world at bay. I have no desire to be out on the ocean again. It would give me inspiration, but I’ve got plenty of that. What I don’t have is time.’
11 November 2003
[comics] Howard Chaykin on American Flagg: ‘Twenty years ago I did a comic book about a twenty-first century America with endless reality shows based on public humiliation; a federal government secretly selling off pieces of the United States; and a citizenry so drugged out on media they colluded in their own betrayal. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.’
[books] A Writer’s Life — an interview with Iain Banks‘At 14, he wrote his first novel, The Hungarian Lift Jet, which he wrote in pencil on a series of jotters. “The idea,” he tells me, “is that Hungary has invented this radical lift jet” – a sort of hovering warplane – “and the secret service had nicked it. It was just an excuse for vast amounts of mayhem. It all ended badly. Everybody died.” Meanwhile, Banks was developing “a really bad pun habit”. Pun habit? “Well,” says Banks, “say you’re describing a chandelier. You would have a character who was drinking shandy and leered at somebody. It’s that bad, I’m afraid.”‘
12 November 2003
[comics] Brought To Book — interview with Posy Simmonds … ‘Not only is she the author and illustrator of five successful children’s books, but this feeling of being treated as a sub-species is also the lot of the cartoonist. ‘People often ask, “Who thinks of your ideas for you?” When you reply that you think of your own, they sometimes say, “Do you do the drawings as well?”‘ She relates this in a deadpan tone, but behind it you can see amusement rather than irritation.’
[blogs] Mom Finds Out About Blog “God, my links alone contain unlimited fodder for Mom’s neuroses,” Widmar said. “She’ll have access to not only my life, but the lives of all my friends who have web sites. She’ll have the names of all the places in Minneapolis where we hang out, which she can — and will — look up. With the raw materials in my blog, she could actually construct an accurate picture of who I am. This is fucking serious.”‘ [via Anil’s Daily Links]
13 November 2003
[comics] “Captain America! I Command You To — “ WANK! [via me(ish)]
[party] UK Bloggers Christmas Party 2003Downstairs at the Well in London on Sat. 29th. November …

image of a church sign
Thanks to the Church Sign Generator

14 November 2003
[games] Jeff Minter interview by B3ta‘Q: What imagery was rejected from the Attack of the Mutant Camels games? A: I drew the line at exposing my innocent young gamers to images of Margaret Thatcher. Hallucinogenic imagery and implied bestiality seemed mild by comparison.’
15 November 2003
[911] Operation Holy Tuesday — insight into the planning behind 9-11 … ‘The prisoner no longer recalls precisely when he heard these words and in which of the many hideouts in the mountains bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, this single sentence uttered by Osama Bin Laden has burned itself into his memory, this decisive sentence, spoken in a soft and silky voice, that would ultimately become a death sentence for about 3,000 people: “Why do you use an ax when you can use a bulldozer?”‘ [via Metafilter]
16 November 2003
[comics] After the 30-year Struggle, a Heroic Victory — interview with Paul Levitz, president of DC Comics … ‘It is easy to imagine the small-framed Levitz feeling like an outsider when editing a comic fanzine while he was growing up in Brooklyn. Not any more. “Popular culture has shifted,” he says. “It’s not just the function of the comic book movie per se. Look at everything from Men in Black to Lord of the Rings. This is the kind of material that as young men my friends and I loved, and we were rather at the edge of things. That material is now squarely in the centre.” DC sits in the shadow of the sleek, modern towers that will serve as the new head office of parent company Time Warner, an appropriate position for a business described by investment bank Thomas Weisel as a “hidden asset” buried within the Warner Brothers division…’
17 November 2003
[blogs] Technorati Growing Pains: ‘Right now, we’re adding 8,000-9,000 new weblogs every day, not counting the 1.2 Million weblogs we already are tracking. That means that on average, a brand new weblog is created every 11 seconds. We’re also seeing about 100,000 weblogs update every day as well, which means that on average, a weblog is updated every 0.86 seconds.’ [via Scripting News]
[comics] Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex — Larry Niven wonders about Superman’s Sex Life … ‘Ejaculation of semen is entirely involuntary in the human male, and in all other forms of terrestrial life. It would be unreasonable to assume otherwise for a kryptonian. But with kryptonian muscles behind it, Kal-El’s semen would emerge with the muzzle velocity of a machine gun bullet. (*One can imagine that the Kent home in Smallville was riddled with holes during Superboy’s puberty. And why did Lana Lang never notice that?*)’ [via Many Comic Blogs]
18 November 2003
[comics] Alan Moore is 50. Happy Birthday… and enjoy your retirement!

‘Sat in a sandwich bar in Westminster I meet the sharp south-London wideboy occultist that I’d created some years previously for a U.S. comic book. He looks at me. He nods, and smiles, and walks away. Years later, in another place, he steps out from the dark and speaks to me. He whispers: I’ll tell you the ultimate secret of Magic. Any cunt can do it.’ [link]

‘The basic thing to remember is that, eventually, I am always right’ [link]

‘Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen it’s true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save us!”… and I’ll look down and whisper, “No.” They had a choice, all of them. They could have followed in the footsteps of good men like my father, or President Truman. Decent men who believed in a days work for a days pay. Instead they followed the droppings of lechers and communists and didn’t realize that the trail led over a precipice until it was too late. Don’t tell me they didn’t have a choice. Now the whole world stands on the brink, staring down into bloody hell, all those liberals and intellectuals and smooth-talkers… and all of a sudden, nobody can think of anything to say.’ [link]

‘…with the world political situation as it is at the moment the political radical is put in a difficult position because, hum, how do you rebel against chaos? You know, much as political conspiracy theorists would like to think otherwise, the brutal truth of the thing is nobody’s in control, this is a runaway train. Nobody’s in control, there’s not some big conspiracy in control, whether it’s Jewish bankers or nazis or CIA spooks, the simple truth is that the world is a complex storm of mathematics, basically… Very complicated mathematics that is beyond human comprehension.’ [link]

‘I made it all up, and it all came true anyway. That’s the funny part.’ [link]

19 November 2003
[murder] Huntley Carr Trial Reports‘A selection of reports of the trial of Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr in connection with the murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.’ [via Blah Blah Flowers]
[potus] Reporters’ log: Bush in Britain‘The BBC’s team of correspondents bring you news updates, as they happen, on President George Bush’s state visit to the UK.’ [Related: Chasing Bush]
20 November 2003
[retro-games] Masters of their Universe — extract from Backroom Boys by Francis Spufford about the creation of the computer game Elite‘In 1982, popularised science hadn’t yet risen above the horizon in Britain as a cultural phenomenon. No chaos theory as a universal reference point; not much evolutionary biology, since Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould were only then beginning to make their mark on public consciousness; no cosmology deployed à la Stephen Hawking as a modern replacement for religious truths. In particular, computing in its DIY phase didn’t resonate as it would later. You wouldn’t have found French literary theorists writing about cyberspace in 1982, any more than they’d have written about household plumbing. Computers weren’t glamorous. The result of all this was that what Braben and Bell achieved together while they were at Cambridge was, effectively, invisible.’
[blogs] Venusberg‘This forces us to only one conclusion. Death is MacGyver.’
21 November 2003
[food] Belly — a new recipe blog from‘Nepali, Indian, Italian, Argentine and assorted goodies are all to come, inlcuding some ancient family recipes filtered through my haphazard skills in the kitchen. Good food for and by idiots, if you will.’
22 November 2003
[tv] The Miserable King of Comedy — profile of Larry David. ‘…If there is a master storyline [to Curb Your Enthusiasm], it is that Larry simply wants to go about his daily business but is constantly mystified by the obstacles thrown up in front of him. The obstacles may be no more than a bothersome word, or a small tic of behaviour, or the suspicion that some rule of social etiquette has been broken (for example, the show where he becomes convinced that a television executive has stolen the shrimp out of his Chinese takeaway). Larry’s attempts either to overcome these obstacles, or get even for them, invariably entangle him further. That’s when he gets mad – convincing himself that he is a reasonable guy when we, the audience, can see how he has set himself up for trouble from the very start.’
23 November 2003
[film] Love Actually — amusing review of Richard Curtis’ new film … ‘Does Mr Curtis have special screenwriting software to produce this sort of thing? Using a Q-tip and bodily fluid, he must have impregnated a disk of the Final Draft programme with his DNA, so that all he has to do is type, say, control-shift-NUPTIALS, to get a complete quirky-yet-touching wedding scene. Or maybe control-shift-PRESSCONF, and we get one of his press conferences with a coded public declaration of love. Perhaps apple-control-SIBLING generates a scene with a trademark disabled sibling or loved one, or maybe he just types alt-ROMCOM and the entire movie comes chuntering out of the printer…’
24 November 2003
[comics] The Graphic Novel Silver Anniversary — Time Magazine on 25 years of Graphic Novels. ‘…Eisner had to come up with his own, spontaneous sleight-of-hand marketing. “[The phrase] ‘graphic novel’ was kind of accidental,” Eisner said. While pitching the book to an important trade-book editor in New York, says Eisner, “a little voice inside me said, ‘Hey stupid, don’t tell him it’s a comic or he’ll hang up on you.’ So I said, ‘It’s a graphic novel.'” Though that particular editor wasn’t swayed by the semantics, dismissing the book as “comics,” a small publisher eventually took the project and put the phrase “A Graphic Novel” prominently on the jacket, thereby cementing the term permanently into the lexicon.’ [thanks Kabir]
25 November 2003
[comics] Deadlock — amusing online comic from Other People’s Stories. ‘…My solution was brilliant in its passive agressive deviousness! I was asking Lisa out on a date without actually going through the humiliation of asking her out on a date!’ [via IllNation]
[wifi] In the Air Tonight — report about Wifi Networks being installed aboard trains in Britain … ‘The train is fitted with a satellite dish on top of its restaurant carriage. This connects to the internet through a range of different networks (including satellite and GPRS) and then distributes the bandwidth throughout the train. Connecting in this way means that if one connection goes down, another automatically replaces it, which allows for a constant connection even at speeds in excess of 100mph. The service, which is in its early stages, is variable. Some areas provide faster net access than others, but simple tasks, like accessing web pages and sending email, worked quite well throughout my two and a half hour journey’ [via The Daily Chump]
26 November 2003
[quote] Memorable Book Openings (#8): The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams …

‘Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. This planet has-or rather had-a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches. Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans. ‘

28 November 2003
[comics] ‘Hello, I’m Grant Morrison and I write the X-Men.’ [link]

image from the simpsons comic with grant morrison and mark millar

30 November 2003
[books] The Daemon King — profile of Philip Pullman‘His powerful trilogy touches on the great issues common to all human imagination. Eternal oppositions such as love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, life and death, truth and lies, courage and cowardice are common themes in the experience of his main characters. In epic style, these leave the security of home in the quest of something far greater than themselves whatever the danger – a plot as old as Beowulf, but as resonant as ever. Stories have always had the capacity to show us the best as well as the worst of ourselves.’