2 July 2018
[people] Ask Reddit: What drama is currently going down in the world of your hobby that the rest of us probably haven’t heard about?
… Large collection of amusing posts about some huge dramas in small worlds. ‘Cockygate – A lucrative erotica e-author tried to trademark the word “cocky” and was going after romance authors. Romance Writers of America hired a lawyer to contest that nonsense.’
3 July 2018
[comics] The ‘Lost’ Alan Moore interview
… a little-known pre-Watchmen interview from 1985. ‘My basic theory is that I’ve got a single world that I’m writing about in three dimensions. I want to get that over to the artist, but I don’t want to imprison the artist. Especially since it’s quite likely that he’s got a better visual imagination than I have. I try to give them as much detail as they possibly need, but also explain in the script that if there’s a panel that they want to change or if they think they have a better idea, they should follow it up. The script’s not, engraved in stone. I want to give them maximum freedom and, with the amount of detail, maximum support as well. WATCHMEN, in particular, has been really, really thick, like I’ve said. I’m capable of spending two or three typed pages just on one panel, especially if I’m talking about the lighting, and the camera angles, and the positioning of the figures, the atmosphere, the expressions on their faces… when you try to describe reality, there’s quite a lot to talk about.’
4 July 2018
[comics] Creator of Milk & Cheese Talks About a Weird, Brilliant Career
… Evan Dorkin Interviewed. ‘In general, these stories that go too far, after a while, it’s just diminishing returns. In wrestling, with pornography, in horror movies, in horror comics, you always end up reaching this point of no return. So you have to do three women getting their heads cut off, or five guys stitched together into a centipede, or whatever the fuck. And when you save the Earth and everybody dies every three months in Marvel and DC Comics, where do you go from there? You can’t have bank robberies anymore. Everybody goes bigger all the time, and nobody cares about what’s going on with anybody other than the top five wrestlers…’
5 July 2018
[funny] Mattel Master of the Universe Spoof Advert
… ‘NICE GUY – Why Won’t You Ladies Just Give Him a Chance?’
6 July 2018
[life] Prick from school now describing himself as an ‘influencer’
… ‘Tom Booker, a devious little shit you assumed was going to be an letting agent, is instead putting a lot of selfies on Instagram and referring to himself ‘a brand ambassador in waiting’.’
9 July 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…’
10 July 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.
11 July 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.’
12 July 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.’
13 July 2018
[movies] The meaning of the ending of 2001 according to Stanley Kubrick
… Two Kubrick interviews where he explains 2001: A Space Odyssey
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.
17 July 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.’
18 July 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.
19 July 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.’
20 July 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?’
21 July 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!”
22 July 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.’
23 July 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.”’
25 July 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.’
26 July 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.’
27 July 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.’
30 July 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.’