November 13, 2019
[scams] I was an astrologer – here’s how it really works, and why I had to stop
… An insiders story about Astrology. ‘I also learned that intelligence and education do not protect against superstition. Many customers were stockbrokers, advertising executives or politicians, dealing with issues whose outcomes couldn’t be controlled. It’s uncertainty that drives people into woo, not stupidity, so I’m not surprised millennials are into astrology. They grew up with Harry Potter and graduated into a precarious economy, making them the ideal customers.’
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.
September 24, 2019
[people] My (33F) husband’s (35M) career in academic philosophy is ruining our marriage
… Epic Reddit r/relationships posting. ‘His obsession with Hegel himself has reached the point of creepiness. At one point he literally told me that all other work either agrees with Hegel so is redundant, or disagrees with Hegel and is wrong. He keeps a framed picture of Hegel on the nightstand in our bedroom. In fact, he even changed his phone’s background from a picture of me to this same picture of Hegel. I feel like I am competing with a 200 year old philosopher for my husband’s attention.’
September 18, 2019
[fandom] Superfans: A Love Story
… A profile of fandom from the New Yorker.
Annie Wilkes, [Stephen] King told me recently, was inspired in part by Mark David Chapman, who assassinated John Lennon hours after getting his autograph. As an author, King is familiar with fan enthusiasm gone awry. “There was a lot of backlash about the way that the ‘Dark Tower’ books ended,” he told me, referring to his multipart fantasy series. “Those fans were absolutely rabid about those books.” Not long after “Misery” came out, King and his son were at a baseball game when a man broke into his house with what he said was a bomb, claiming that Annie Wilkes had secretly been based on his aunt. “My wife ran out in her bare feet and called the cops,” King recalled, “and the guy was cowering in the turret of the third floor of our Victorian home.” The bomb turned out to be a bunch of pencils in a rubber band. Still, it unnerved King: his novel about a stalker fan had summoned a stalker fan. “People have gotten invested in culture and make-believe in a way that I think is a little bit unhealthy,” King said. “I mean, it’s supposed to be fun, right?”
September 12, 2019
[brexit] This Is How Dominic Cummings Sees The World — And What It Means For Brexit
… ‘One Whitehall source, pointing out that there’s more to government than what Cummings saw at the Department for Education, acerbically noted that the bureaucracy he despises exists to stop poor performances such as departments producing error-strewn financial statements. This was something Cummings’ own department did. Another source familiar with his work offered a particularly withering assessment, describing him as “a man with a history degree — who has seen Terminator.”’
September 9, 2019
[comics] How Ex-CIA Officer Tom King Became the World’s Hottest Comic Book Writer
… The Daily Beast profiles Tom King. ‘The most inspired moments in Mister Miracle relegate the physical war against Darkseid to the background, often literally. In one sequence, Scott and Barda deflect lasers, wade past freakish sea monsters, and take out armed guards as they break into Apokolips. They spend the entire scene—nine-plus pages—discussing little more than the cons and merits of decluttering their condo. After Scott is sentenced to be executed in a rigged trial, they spend a day at the Santa Monica pier, then stuck in traffic, shooting the shit in the comfortable banter of a long-term couple. And Darkseid’s most memorable transgression, apart from being an evil warlord, is double-dipping a half-bitten carrot in a veggie platter’s ranch tray.’
August 27, 2019
[books] My Favorite Anti-Semite: H.P. Lovecraft
… A well-written attempt to square the circle of being a Jewish HPL fan whilst dealing with his prejudices and bigotry. ‘Why did he at once obsess over spreading Jewish influence in the media and then encourage and enable young Jewish authors? Why did a man who believed in the evils of Aryan “mongrelization” marry a Jewish woman? If he believed that the only good Jew was an assimilated Jew, why did he admire the traditional Jewish imagination? I have no answers. Like so much of the forbidden knowledge and alien monsters that fill Lovecraft’s stories, bigotry is by its nature irrational, contradictory, and more than a little insane. His anti-Semitism seems illogical because it was illogical, the product of personal factors and frustrations about which we can but speculate.’
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 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.’
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 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.’
June 6, 2019
[tv] Toast star Matt Berry: ‘Nobody wants to hear about my psychic wound’
… Profiling Matt Berry and his new TV show Year of the Rabbit
. ‘One lovely moment has Rabbit explaining his beat. “This city is a rat eating its own babies, babies made of shit, and once it eats its own shit babies, it shits them out again, and then it noshes them, and that goes on and on until the sun turns cold and the sea goes back into the sky.” Which is of course exactly the sort of briefing Met boss Cressida Dick wishes she could make. Year of the Rabbit could be the unexpected comedy delight of 2019. Equally welcome news is the fact that Berry is planning a fourth series of Toast of London…’
May 24, 2019
[internet] Why People Fake Cancer Online
… A look at why people fake illness on the Internet. ‘This condition of faking illness online has a name: “Munchausen by internet,” or MBI. It’s a form of factitious disorder, the mental disorder formerly known as Munchausen syndrome, in which people feign illness or actually make themselves sick for sympathy and attention. According to Marc Feldman, the psychiatrist at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa who coined the term MBI back in 2000, people with the condition are often motivated to lie by a need to control the reactions of others, particularly if they feel out of control in their own lives. He believes that the veil of the internet makes MBI much more common among Americans than the 1 percent in hospitals who are estimated to have factitious disorder.’
May 22, 2019
[people] It’s Still Roy Cohn’s World, And You’re Living in It
… A great comic profile from Levi Hastings and Josh Trujillo.
May 13, 2019
[life] John Horton Conway: the world’s most charismatic mathematician
… enjoyable profile of John Horton Conway – the creator of the cellular automaton called Game of Life
Conway made what he called “The Vow”, promising himself: “Thou shalt stop worrying and feeling guilty; thou shalt do whatever thou pleasest.” He no longer worried that he was eroding his mathematical soul when he indulged his curiosity and followed wherever it went, whether towards recreation or research, or somewhere altogether nonmathematical, such as his longing to learn the etymology of words. Conway’s fate now was to do all the stuff that he had formerly feared his fellow mathematicians might floccinaucinihilipilificate. “Floccinaucinihilipilification” is his favourite word. He reckons it’s the longest word in the Oxford English Dictionary (it is certainly in the top three), and without prompting he gives an account of its etymology: it is a Latin-based word, invented circa 1730 at Eton as a schoolboy’s joke. And, Conway recites nearly verbatim the OED’s definition: “the action or habit of estimating as worthless.”
April 11, 2019
… seems like a good time to repost this long read from Andrew O’Hagan on what it’s like ghostwriting for Julian Assange. ‘ I am sure this is what happens in many of his scrapes: he runs on a high-octane belief in his own rectitude and wisdom, only to find later that other people had their own views – of what is sound journalism or agreeable sex – and the idea that he might be complicit in his own mess baffles him. Fact is, he was not in control of himself and most of what his former colleagues said about him just might be true. He is thin-skinned, conspiratorial, untruthful, narcissistic, and he thinks he owns the material he conduits. It may turn out that Julian is not Daniel Ellsberg or John Wilkes, but Charles Foster Kane, abusive and monstrous in his pursuit of the truth that interests him, and a man who, it turns out, was motivated all the while not by high principles but by a deep sentimental wound. Perhaps we won’t know until the final frames of the movie.’
April 9, 2019
[life] Mickey Rooney’s Wacko Businesses from Mickey’s Weenie World to Mickey’s Tip-offs Disposable
… It turns out that Mickey Rooney had many wacky businesses! ‘To Mr. Rooney, every phrase suggests a book title, every person a character for a show, every mouthful a fast-food empire. ”He’s so creative it verges on insanity,” said his dresser Tony Buonauro. Mr. Rooney had written six unpublished novels and and had “Eight or 10 filmscripts ready for production. Scripts for all genres: a horror film for Bette Davis, a thriller for Glen Ford, and television pilots that range from ”Roughshod,” a Western, to ”The Discoverers,” which Mr. Rooney describes as ”the episodic adventures of Balboa, Cortez and Ponce De Leon.” One favorite was ”The Picture Nobody Should See.” ”It’s about Charlie and Hazel Crow,” says Mr. Rooney, ”a milkman and his wife who set out to make a porno film. That’s the picture nobody should see.” He claps his hands. ”It’s a picture within a picture!”’
March 21, 2019
[morris] Was Thomas Kuhn Evil?
… Nice overview of Errol Morris’ big problems with Thomas Kuhn. ‘Morris, who calls his philosophy “investigative realism,” writes, “I feel very strongly that, even though the world is unutterably insane, there is this idea—perhaps a hope—that we can reach outside of the insanity and find truth, find the world, find ourselves.” Kuhn, for all his faults, goaded Morris into writing a brilliant work of investigative realism.’
March 7, 2019
[life] Mob deep: Russian mafia gravestones
… Collection of oddly compelling photo-realistic gravestones of Russian gangsters and family.
February 22, 2019
[tv] ‘We’ve had a love-hate relationship’: Steve Coogan on bringing Alan Partridge back to the BBC
… ‘But timing is everything, and the alchemy that sees Partridge back at the BBC on the cusp of such huge national change couldn’t be more perfect. Like King Arthur in Avalon, he waited for his time to come. And come it has. Although the show doesn’t directly reference Brexit, because it’s a train that is moving too fast, and they’re not in the business of political satire, it hints at the current divisions over everything from gender politics to the #MeToo movement and lets Partridge grapple with them. Coogan says Partridge’s lack of a mental gatekeeper is the gift that keeps on giving…’
January 24, 2019
[politics] Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier
… Profiling Christopher Steele and the Trump Dossier. ‘Steele, on that January night, was stunned to learn that U.S. politicians were calling him a criminal. He told Christopher Burrows, with whom he co-founded Orbis, that the sensation was “a feeling like vertigo.” Burrows, in his first public interview on the dossier controversy, recalled Steele telling him, “You have this thudding headache—you can’t think straight, you have no appetite, you feel ill.” Steele compared it to the disorientation that he had felt in 2009, when his first wife, Laura, had died, after a long illness, leaving him to care for their three young children.’
January 21, 2019
[media] Vice Media Was Built on a Bluff
… A profile of Vice Media. ‘All this left Smith heading into 2017 in a position he hadn’t planned to be in: still owning his company, which was now populated by employees 20-plus years his junior who didn’t care that he’d once been in a punk band called Leatherassbuttfuk.’
December 12, 2018
[goop] How Goop’s Haters Made Gwyneth Paltrow’s Company Worth $250 Million
…A deep, amusing dive into Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop
. ‘Goop began publishing extended Q. and A.s with doctors and healers like Alejandro Junger, a cardiologist who created an anti-inflammatory regimen and recently talked on Goop’s podcast about frog venom as a psychedelic for healing, which, O.K.! Steven Gundry, a cardiac surgeon, believes that lectins, a protein in some foods, are dangerous for people with autoimmune diseases. (There are a great many people who do not believe this.) Anyone from an acupuncturist to a psychic to an endocrinologist to a psychologist addressed questions that the modern woman couldn’t seem to find answers to: Why am I so unhappy? Why am I so tired? Why am I so fat? Why don’t I want to have sex anymore? There were stories that talked about bee-sting therapy (don’t try it; someone died from it this year) and ashwagandha and adaptogens and autoimmune diseases — an autoimmune disease at every corner, be it thyroid disease, arthritis or celiac disease; trust them, you have one.’
November 21, 2018
[conspiracy] Inside the Flat Earth Conference, Where the World’s Oldest Conspiracy Theory Is Hot Again
… ‘Hughes and his Ozman are members of a Flat Earth group that describes itself as “anti-media” “autohoaxers.” “We are the ONLY opposition to the controlled opposition,” the paper says of the group. “Controlled opposition” is a truther term for efforts to undermine conspiracy groups. “Autohoaxers” are a movement that reflexively declares every significant event a hoax, sometimes just for argument’s sake. The group’s manifesto, then, is an appeal to seed confusion and dismantle established facts, in order to let conspiracy run rampant.Days before the conference, I try entering the group’s chat channel on Discord, a messaging app. Before I’m banned (almost immediately, by users who announce “spy!” when I join) I notice most people have adopted near-identical usernames bashing one of the Flat Earth community’s Tim Ozmans. They’ve taken up Fepe, a Flat Earth-specific variant on the alt-right meme Pepe. Flat Earth is weird, but this is weird-weird. This is shitposting into oblivion. This is the information equivalent of clear-cutting a forest.’
November 12, 2018
[politics] How to explain Jacob Rees-Mogg?
… An attempt at understanding Jacob Rees-Mogg – reminds me a little of Adam Curtis. ‘Rees-Mogg’s journey also helps explain his increasingly powerful but still quite opaque son, Jacob: not just as a supporter of Brexit, but as an unsentimental and nimble “sovereign individual” of exactly the type his father envisaged. Simultaneously, Rees-Mogg Jr has managed to become a successful player in the modern, borderless financial industries, and a nationalist politician with an instantly recognisable retro image. He has seduced some Labour MPs with his old-fashioned manners; and he has met privately in a Mayfair hotel with the would-be guru of the international far right, Steve Bannon. This lack of squeamishness about how the conservative establishment holds on to political and economic power has been passed down the Rees-Mogg generations.’
October 18, 2018
[trump] The Original Donald Trump
… Profile of Roy Cohn
and his influence on Donald Trump. ‘Trump practiced bigotry on a grand scale, was a world-class liar, and ripped off customers, investors, and the city itself. Yet for many among New York’s upper register, there was no horror he could commit that would merit his excommunication. As with Cohn before him, the more outrageously and reprehensibly Trump behaved, the more the top rungs of society were titillated by him. They could cop out of any moral judgments or actions by rationalizing him as an entertaining con man: a cheesy, cynical, dumbed-down Gatsby who fit the city’s tacky 1980s Gilded Age much as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s more romantic prototype had the soigné Jazz Age of the 1920s. And so most of those who might have stopped Trump gawked like the rest of us as he scrambled up the city’s ladder, grabbing anything that wasn’t nailed down.’
September 14, 2018
[magic] The Limits of Reason
… Philip Pullman on magic. ‘My attitude to magical things is very much like that attributed to the great physicist Niels Bohr. Asked about the horseshoe that used to hang over the door to his laboratory, he’s claimed to have said that he didn’t believe it worked but he’d been told that it worked whether he believed in it or not.’
August 6, 2018
[tv] Harvey Pekar Collection on Late Night, Late Show, 1986-1994
… Interesting compliation of Harvey Pekar’s appearances on Letterman especially if you’ve read his comics but never seen the shows.
July 2, 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.’
June 29, 2018
[people] Inside Trials of Johnny Depp: Lawsuits, Drinking, Marriage Gone Wrong
… Unputdownable profile of Johnny Depp. ‘We move to the dining room for a three-course meal of pad thai, duck and gingerbread with berries. Depp sits at the head of the table and motions toward some rolling papers and two equal piles of tobacco and hash, and asks if I mind. I don’t. He pauses for a second. “Well, let’s drink some wine first.” This goes on for 72 hours.’
June 25, 2018
[movies] David Lynch: ‘You gotta be selfish. It’s a terrible thing’
… A Profile of David Lynch. ‘There is another striking scene from childhood. One night, Lynch writes, he encountered a beautiful naked woman walking down the street, bruised and traumatised. “It was so incredible. It seemed to me that her skin was the colour of milk, and she had a bloodied mouth.” He was too young or too transfixed to find out who she was before she vanished. After art school, Lynch hustled for years to make Eraserhead, widely believed to be a response to the birth of his first child, Jennifer, who had club feet. Cineasts still debate what the onscreen infant was made of: skinned rabbit, lamb foetus? But when I ask Lynch he bats it away. “I don’t talk about the baby.”’
June 20, 2018
[wiki] Galloway’s war of words with a mystery Wikipedia editor
… A look at George Galloway’s feud with a supposedly bias pseudonymous Wikipedia editor… ‘He’s recently caught the attention of bloggers and has been the subject of stories in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Russian state-owned outlets Sputnik and RT. There have been allegations on social media – all unproven – that he’s a government agent, employed by rich and powerful media interests, or is a mainstream journalist with an obsessive hobby.’
June 8, 2018
[social] Meet the people who still use Myspace: ‘It’s given me so much joy’
… Reads slightly like an Onion article but I can relate… I am available for interviews on people who still blog. :) ‘The homepage automatically pulls in articles from other websites, giving the ghost town a veneer of vitality. However, a prominent invitation to “connect with” Avicii, the Swedish DJ who died in April, acts as a jarring reminder of the site’s zombie status. “It’s almost like I’ve taken over a dead site,” he said, noting that at least women did not block him or remove his comments any more. “I think it’s funny. I’ll leave comments and messages for girls who haven’t been on there for years.” Scalir achieved minor celebrity status in the 1990s and 2000s through several appearances on TV dating shows including Blind Date, Love Connection and Singled Out. Myspace offered an alternative way to meet women. “I always hoped I’d get a girlfriend out of it, but it never really happened,” he added.’
June 6, 2018
[life] I Am A Recently Divorced And Laid-Off Middle-Aged Man With A Lot Of Health Problems, And Everything I Say Is Incredibly Depressing. Ask Questions At Me.
… ‘It’s important to remember that though you might think you’re going through one enormous loss, there are actually hundreds of other, tinier losses you’ll experience along the way. For example, one thing you don’t realize until you get divorced is that only one of you gets to keep all the baby photos of your kids. I try to use my faith as a way to cope with all the pain of losing my job and my family. It hasn’t worked for me so far. One time I flipped to a random page in the Bible and put my finger down, hoping to land on something encouraging, but instead I landed on a verse about God ruining a man’s life as an example to others.’
May 25, 2018
[comics] Inside the biggest comic book collection in the world
… Interview with a man who has the biggest collection of comics in the world. ‘Bretall displays his most valuable and treasured comics and collectibles in a large showcase room in his California home, with the rest in a three-car garage filled with long boxes — 391 at the moment, along with some 50 short boxes, 30 magazine boxes, 45 diamond boxes, 10 bookshelves and two spinner racks.All told, he’s got about 105,000 comics at the moment — over 3,000 more than when his record was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2014. Remarkably, he’s assembled the collection largely by purchasing single issues. That said, he has been at it awhile, as the shopping stretches back to 1970, with The Amazing Spider-Man #88.’
May 18, 2018
[drink] How I let drinking take over my life
… powerful long-read from William Leith analysing his heavy drinking. ‘Some people drink, and then they drink more, and at a certain point, they become obsessed with drink. I always used to notice bottles, the shapes of bottles, the labels and coloured glass. Just looking at the bottles would make me feel a rush of desire. I would know which pubs stocked the strongest beers and ciders, just in case. I loved walking around off-licences, and picking up bottles, and holding them. Sometimes, in the middle of the day, I’d go into an off-licence for a few minutes and talk about wine or whisky with the person behind the counter. For a year, I took a wine course, because wine seemed civilised. I sat in a classroom, one evening a week, talking about wine, and drinking wine, and taking notes. Afterwards, I’d go off with another member of the class, or perhaps two, for a couple more bottles of wine. There were always bottles in my life, bottles everywhere, more bottles than I could believe.’
May 9, 2018
[books] Roger Moore’s 1973 Book About The Making Of Live And Let Die Is Straight-Up Bonkers
… An amusing look at Roger Moore’s warts-and-all account of filming Live and Let Die … ‘B-Day Twenty-two started off on a very black note when in the middle of my knees-bend morning work-out Mike Jones, my hairdresser, telephoned from London to tell me he would not be joining me in Jamaica as a unit hairdresser after all. Mike, who chopped off my locks for Bond, has been with me for several years but out of two hairdressers on the unit list it was decided to bring only one to Jamaica. Harry chose to axe my man which displeased me no end. I finished my work-out in a furious mood and flung my breakfast toast across the room in rage.’
February 19, 2018
[politics] Jacob Rees-Mogg shows just how much the British love a caricature
… The New Statesman attempts to understand Jacob Rees-Mogg. ‘There is a strange internal logic about the rise of Rees-Mogg, connected to both Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn’s survival and ideological confidence, mad as it sounds, brings new vitality to the Conservative extreme: Labour are doing it, perhaps we should, too. No wonder Rees-Mogg has carefully praised Corbyn’s “integrity”. As Stephen Bush recently explored in these pages, Rees-Mogg is being positioned as the appropriate and symmetrical cure to the Corbyn problem.’
January 29, 2018
[history] Untangling the Tale of Ada Lovelace
… a fascinating deep-dive blog post on the life of Ada Lovelace from Stephen Wolfram. ‘When Ada wrote about Babbage’s machine, she wanted to explain what it did in the clearest way—and to do this she looked at the machine more abstractly, with the result that she ended up exploring and articulating something quite recognizable as the modern notion of universal computation. What Ada did was lost for many years. But as the field of mathematical logic developed, the idea of universal computation arose again, most clearly in the work of Alan Turing in 1936. Then when electronic computers were built in the 1940s, it was realized they too exhibited universal computation, and the connection was made with Turing’s work.’
January 11, 2018
[politics] What Putin Really Wants
… Some interesting analysis of Vladimir Putin’s motivations and objectives.
A forgery, a couple of groups of hackers, and a drip of well-timed leaks were all it took to throw American politics into chaos. Whether and to what extent the Trump campaign was complicit in the Russian efforts is the subject of active inquiries today. Regardless, Putin pulled off a spectacular geopolitical heist on a shoestring budget—about $200 million, according to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. This point is lost on many Americans: The subversion of the election was as much a product of improvisation and entropy as it was of long-range vision. What makes Putin effective, what makes him dangerous, is not strategic brilliance but a tactical flexibility and adaptability—a willingness to experiment, to disrupt, and to take big risks.
“They do plan,” said a senior Obama-administration official. “They’re not stupid at all. But the idea that they have this all perfectly planned and that Putin is an amazing chess player—that’s not quite it. He knows where he wants to end up, he plans the first few moves, and then he figures out the rest later. People ask if he plays chess or checkers. It’s neither: He plays blackjack. He has a higher acceptance of risk. Think about it. The election interference—that was pretty risky, what he did. If Hillary Clinton had won, there would’ve been hell to pay.”
January 9, 2018
[comics] Being Chris Ware
… Profile of Chris Ware. ‘Ware has a deadpan self-abnegation that is, by all accounts, genuine. But in such an enormous book as this, which is fairly bursting with photographs of his accomplishments and friends, and all the amazing drawings documenting his rise from lonely, fatherless child to fifty-year-old genius, it does seems a terrific struggle to keep the humble pie hot through 275 pages…’
December 12, 2017
[tv] Steve Coogan wrestled with including Brexit in Alan Partridge’s return
… Today in Alan Partridge news… ‘It was only after some soul-searching that the comedian opted to include the decision to leave the EU in his alter ego’s return to the BBC. “The world has coalesced into a situation that is sympathetic to Alan, which for me is quite depressing,” Coogan told the Radio Times.’
December 8, 2017
[people] The unlikely life of Norris McWhirter, kids’ TV star and the original Brexiter
… a look at the fascinating life of the co-creator of the Guinness Book of Records and extreme-right winger …
If you wanted to be unstoppably hectored by someone in tie and blazer about how the Edward Heath government had committed treason by taking us into the Common Market in 1972 and then find out the the name of the acrobat who performed a quadruple back-somersault on to a chair at the New York Hippodrome in 1915, and the artiste who caught him, Norris McWhirter was your man.
And you can add to that the fact that Norris, along with his twin brother Ross, created the Guinness Book of Records, which had sold more than 75m copies in 37 languages by the time his involvement ended in 1996.
We will never see his like again, not because the world doesn’t teem with libertarian ideologues, nor with grown men who know too much about the minutiae of stuff; but because combining these two disciplines successfully in public seems beyond our wit in 2017.
December 7, 2017
[politics] No more ‘my dog ate it’ excuses. Where are the Brexit impact reports?
… a political sketch of David Davies from John Crace. ‘David Davis knew he had a choice to make. Either to be in contempt of parliament for deliberately failing to provide full disclosure on his department’s Brexit impact assessments. Or to own up to incompetence and laziness. No contest. Incompetence and laziness won hands down. For one thing, they had the virtue of truth. For another, he was just too lazy and incompetent to do anything else.’
December 6, 2017
[comics] Comics USA: Alan Moore Visits New York in 1984
… Scans from Escape Magazine
of an article written by Moore after a visit to America in 1984. (Repost – Scans back online.)
’24th August, Thursday – My Taxi to Heathrow arrives driven by comics’s answer to Robert de Niro, Jamie Delano, who combines scripting ‘Nightraven’ and ‘Captain Britain’ with taxi work. Phyllis and the children Amber and Leah make a brave attempt at concealing the turbulent emotions aroused in them by my departure, but I can tell they are secretly heartbroken. My flight is a seven hour sneak preview of purgatory. I read Alexei Sayle’s ‘Train to Hell’ from cover to cover. I’m sitting in the central aisle and I can’t see out of the window. What’s the point of flying if you can’t see how many thousands of feet you’ve got to fall shrieking to your death?’
November 28, 2017
[slack] The Church of the SubGenius Finally Plays It Straight
… a look behind the curtains at the Church of the SubGenius
In 1980, two smart, goofy nerds in Dallas decided to start their own religion. Their names were Doug and Steve, but in the grand tradition of charlatans everywhere, they invented new names for themselves as apostles of the deity of their made-up belief system: Reverend Ivan Stang (born Douglass St. Clair Smith) and Dr. Philo Drummond (Steve Wilcox), ready to educate the masses through the Church of the SubGenius about the great J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and to spread his gospel of “Slack.”
Somehow, against all odds, the Church of the SubGenius became a real thing, if not exactly a real religion. It spread well beyond Dallas, capturing the imaginations of a number of important counterculture figures of the era. Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh, actor Paul Reubens (known for his role as Pee-wee Herman), Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, cartoonist R. Crumb, gonzo bluesman Mojo Nixon, and more all claimed a SubGenius affiliation. All of them sought Slack, an unspecified philosophical state that the church maintained as its answer to enlightenment.
To be clear, all of this was something between a con job and an inside joke. But the people involved took perpetuating that joke seriously…