October 1, 2019
[books] The cult books that lost their cool
… A list of books that have not aged well. ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, 1970 – So, yes, Jonathan Livingston Seagull really is a seagull, but he’s a seagull with aspirations, a non-conformist who yearns to soar above the flock and up into the heavens, just as the book itself conquered the bestseller charts back in the day. Its saccharine idealism isn’t made any more palatable by learning that Richard Nixon’s FBI director, L Patrick Gray, ordered all his staff to read it, and a 1973 movie adaptation, complete with Neil Diamond soundtrack, did it no favours either.’
October 2, 2019
[kubrick] ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’: Kubrick’s Pioneering Achievement As One of the Most Significant Films Ever Made
… Huge page of digital artifacts from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. ‘Dear Mr Clarke: It’s a very interesting coincidence that our mutual friend Caras mentioned you in a conversation we were having about a Questar telescope. I had been a great admirer of your books for quite a time and had always wanted to discuss with you the possibility of doing the proverbial “really good” science-fiction movie…’
October 3, 2019
[life] List: Famous Philosophers’ Pick-Up Lines
… from McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
. ‘Arthur Schopenhauer: “Life is nothing but a meaningless fluctuation between pain and boredom. And we are but worms. And our only chance of freedom is to embrace the dark nothingness that surrounds us. And to cast off the burdensome yoke of individualism. And to embrace the void. And to become one with the unyielding Will of the universe. Anyhoo… wanna smush?”’
October 4, 2019
[aircrash] What Really Brought Down the Boeing 737 Max
… William Langewiesche on the downfall of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft.
All signs are that the reintroduction of the 737 Max will be exceedingly difficult because of political and bureaucratic obstacles that are formidable and widespread. Who in a position of authority will say to the public that the airplane is safe?
I would if I were in such a position. What we had in the two downed airplanes was a textbook failure of airmanship. In broad daylight, these pilots couldn’t decipher a variant of a simple runaway trim, and they ended up flying too fast at low altitude, neglecting to throttle back and leading their passengers over an aerodynamic edge into oblivion. They were the deciding factor here — not the MCAS, not the Max. Furthermore, it is certain that thousands of similar crews are at work around the world, enduring as rote pilots and apparently safe, but only so long as conditions are routine.
October 8, 2019
[mac] Thoughts on (and pics of) the original Macintosh User Manual
… I never realised that the target market for the original Macintosh was Patrick Bateman. ‘Perhaps the strangest sentence: “The Finder is like a central hallway in the Macintosh house.”And the disk is a… guest? Someone looking for the bathroom?’
October 9, 2019
[tube] What’s the best connected Tube Station?
… Diamond Geezer crunches the numbers. ‘Eight of these are on the Circle line and six are on the District line. Only one is on the Victoria line (because the Victoria line’s quite short and doesn’t have many stations). Mile End is the best connected tube station outside zone 1. Holborn is the best-connected tube station on only two lines. Slightly further down the list are Bank (top 20) and Monument (top 30). If you combined them to make one mega-station, it would connect to 162 other stations, which would would put Bank/Monument in second place. But Bank and Monument are officially two stations, according to TfL’s official data, so this doesn’t count.’
October 10, 2019
[drinks] How Fanta Was Created for Nazi Germany
… The wartime origin of the soft drink Fanta. ‘The drink was technically fruit-flavored, but limited wartime resources made that descriptor not wholly accurate. Its ingredients were less than appetizing: leftover apple fibers, mash from cider presses, and whey, a cheese by-product. “[Fanta] was made from the leftovers of the leftovers,” says Mark Pendergrast, who, as the author of For God, Country, and Coca-Cola, revealed this hidden past.’
October 11, 2019
[unix] Ken Thompson’s Unix password
… Cracking passwords from late 1970s. ‘However, kens password eluded my cracking endeavor. Even an exhaustive search over all lower-case letters and digits took several days (back in 2014) and yielded no result. Since the algorithm was developed by Ken Thompson and Robert Morris, I wondered what’s up there. I also realized, that, compared to other password hashing schemes (such as NTLM), crypt(3) turns out to be quite a bit slower to crack (and perhaps was also less optimized).Did he really use uppercase letters or even special chars? (A 7-bit exhaustive search would still take over 2 years on a modern GPU.)’
October 14, 2019
[socialmedia] The machine always wins: what drives our addiction to social media
… A Long Read on social media addiction. ‘Part of what keeps us hooked is the so-called variability of rewards: what the US computer scientist Jaron Lanier calls “carrot and shtick”. The Twittering Machine gives us both positive and negative reinforcements, and the unpredictable variation of its feedback is what makes it so compulsive. Like a mercurial lover, the machine keeps us needy and guessing; we can never be sure how to stay in its good graces. Indeed, the app manufacturers increasingly build in artificial-intelligence machine-learning systems so that they can learn from us how to randomise rewards and punishments more effectively. This sounds like an abusive relationship. Indeed, much as we describe relationships as having gone toxic, it is common to hear of “Twitter toxicity”. Toxicity is a useful starting point for understanding a machine that hooks us with unpleasure, because it indexes both the pleasure of intoxication and the danger of having too much.’
October 16, 2019
[columbo] My top 10 favourite Columbo episodes
… ‘A typewriter pounds. A Mercedes cruises through the LA streets. A writer in a high-rise is lost in a world of his own invention. As the typewriter continues to pound the car parks in an empty lot, the driver steps out and slips a gun into his jacket. So begins one of the pivotal TV experiences of our time. From those first arresting moments, Murder by the Book grabs the viewer by the throat and never lets go. It’s still a cause of pride and joy for Columbo fans that a young Steven Spielberg was in the director’s chair for this. His touch and flair make this a visually unique outing, but he’s only one reason for its success. Peter Falk and Jack Cassidy establish an on-screen rapport that would enrich the series on three occasions, while Steven Bochco’s script and Blly Goldenberg’s score are world class. In short, it’s an A Grade cast and crew and they all bring their A Game to proceedings.’
October 17, 2019
[life] Escape rooms are very big business
… A fascinating look at the world of Escape Rooms. ‘…Escape rooms are fundamentally odd. It is weird to gather in a themed room for an hour to unlock combination locks in a high-stakes situation that matters not at all. We didn’t use to trap ourselves in $30 rooms and now we do, and it doesn’t feel like an accident that the rise of escape rooms in the first half of this decade corresponds almost exactly with a seismic shift in how we relate to technology (intimately, all the time). Escape rooms are an antidote: They require you to exist, in real life, with other real-life people, in the same place, at the same time, manipulating tangible objects. But you only have to do it for an hour! High intensity, low commitment. You get the thrill of deep connection, but you don’t have to, like, talk about your feelings. Maybe we talk about feelings too much anyway. Maybe we should just do stuff. But who has time to do stuff?’
October 18, 2019
[code] The lines of code that changed everything
… A list of software that changed the world. ‘The Apollo 11 Lunar Module’s BAILOUT Code – The [Apollo Guidance Computer] software team knew there were eventualities they couldn’t plan for. So they created BAILOUT. When the computer was at risk of running out of space (or “overflow”), the AGC triggered BAILOUT to schedule less important data and operations so it could keep the vital ones up and running. As the Eagle lander descended toward the moon’s surface, at 30,000 feet the AGC flashed a “1202” alarm, which neither Neil Armstrong nor the flight controller in Houston immediately recognized. But in less than 30 seconds, the computer experts in Mission Control relayed that the AGC software was doing just what it was supposed to: drop lower-priority work and restart the important jobs (so quickly that it was imperceptible to the crew).’
October 23, 2019
[brexit] You could have had Brexit by now if you hadn’t been such d*cks about it
… ‘You could have had it! All you had to do was stay in a customs union and you could have stopped immigration, which was all you cared about anyway. But no. Nobody had heard of bloody no-deal before last summer but suddenly that was all you wanted and nothing else would do and look where it’s got you. Now we’re at the point where you’ve got an actual Brexit deal actually passed and the first thing you do is stop everything because you’re not allowed to ram it through in three days. Seriously?’
October 24, 2019
[email] Was E-mail a Mistake?
… A good look at synchronous Vs. asynchronous communications. ‘The dream of replacing the quick phone call with an even quicker e-mail message didn’t come to fruition; instead, what once could have been resolved in a few minutes on the phone now takes a dozen back-and-forth messages to sort out. With larger groups of people, this increased complexity becomes even more notable. Is an unresponsive colleague just delayed, or is she completely checked out? When has consensus been reached in a group e-mail exchange? Are you, the e-mail recipient, required to respond, or can you stay silent without holding up the decision-making process? Was your point properly understood, or do you now need to clarify with a follow-up message? Office workers pondering these puzzles—the real-life analogues of the theory of distributed systems—now dedicate an increasing amount of time to managing a growing number of never-ending interactions.’
October 25, 2019
[comics] Untold Constantine Tales
… Steve Bissette on one of the inspirations for John Constantine. ‘We’ve always talked about the Police and Sting‘s role in Quadrophenia, the movie (1979), but it was indeed Sting‘s ominous presence and role in Richard Loncraine‘s theatrical film adaptation of Dennis Potter‘s Brimstone & Treacle (1982) that fueled those fires back in 1983-84 for us.’
October 28, 2019
[anime] The best 25(-ish) anime of all time
… Mefi lists Glass Reflection’s Top 25-ish Recommended Anime.
October 29, 2019
[comics] Ed Brubaker Takes Criminals From Comic-Con To Amazon Prime
… Ed Brubaker interview updating on recent work in TV and his comics with Sean Phillips
. ‘I think there’s something very special about comic books, and the whole trek to the comic shop every week to see what’s out. I think everyone should put more effort into making the single issues less of just a chapter of a trade, you know? Make the comic itself something special. Then make the trade or hardback collection special too. They’re different formats, they each have advantages, but a lot of publishers single issues seem like afterthoughts lately. So I want to make sure our comics stand out from that, and are always worth your money. I take a great amount of pride in that, even though almost no one but me seems to care.’
October 30, 2019
[morris] “The World Is, of Course, Insane”: An Interview with Errol Morris
… The New Yorker interviews Errol Morris on Steve Bannon amongst other things.
Ed Gein was the famous “Psycho” killer, arrested in Plainfield, Wisconsin, in 1957. A kind of American fable, if you like, and I really, really wanted to meet Ed Gein. I remember lying to people about how I had met him, when I hadn’t. And then I thought to myself, why lie about meeting him when you can actually meet Ed Gein?
I got in to see Ed, finally, because I had these letters of introduction from various forensic psychiatrists at Berkeley School of Criminology. The head of the hospital, Dr. Schubert, was probably as nuts as Ed Gein. I ask him if there’s any truth to the claims that Ed was a cannibal. He seems insulted, he says absolutely not. I asked Ed about this very issue, and he told me that, although he had tasted human flesh many times, that he didn’t like it.
See, I live for this kind of thing. It confirms some kind of satisfying idea about the world that the world is really fucked. It’s really insane. Our heads are such foreign countries. Such strange, uncharted territories. And it’s fun. It’s fun for me to talk to geniuses, it’s fun for me to talk to monsters.