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.)

June 27, 2019
[comics] How ‘This is Fine’ Dog Creator KC Green Made Money From Meme … How a comic creator made lemonade when one of his creations became a popular meme. ‘But most of all, Green has stolen from the people who stole from him. “I can write to Redbubble, or Etsy, or any other place, to ask them to take something down, but I think the best way to try and take it back yourself is to steal other people’s ideas,” he says with a laugh. “Like, Oh, they wanted a tote bag with this on it? Then I’ll make a tote bag with that on it. I’ll stop them. Like, they want a shirt print with just the two panels on it, so they go to Etsy to make a dumb version of the print. Then here” — that is, on his site and on his store at creator-friendly merch site TopatoCo — “we offer a print with just the two panels, or we offer a shirt with just the two panels, because that’s all people fucking want.” Turnabout’s fair play, after all.’
June 26, 2019
[comics] The story of Mad Love’s AARGH! (Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia) anthology comic‘Alan Moore half-jokingly told a college classroom in Northampton that because he “had access to a lot of famous comic book people [he] could . . . morally blackmail most of them” into contributing something to an anthology. The artists and writers who contributed were myriad, including, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Art Spiegelman, Harvey Pekar, Howard Cruse, Dave Sim, Robert Crumb, Mark Buckingham, Dave McKean, David Lloyd, Dave Gibbons, and many, many more. The pieces range from comic strips to bizarre dreams illustrated, from poetry to rhyming couplets of verse mimicking the cautionary tales for children popular in the late 19th century, and countless more forms of art and prose.’
June 25, 2019
[tv] The Max Headroom TV Series was really on point about the future back in 1987… ‘Adults, kids, everyone addicted to their screens.’

June 24, 2019
[comics] Wallace Wood’s Official Shit List … File under Ancient Comics Gossip. ‘Rick Stoner, who visited Wood’s home in Derby, Connecticut, on the 14th and 15th of April 1978 then went with him to Niagara Falls on the 16th, would give no clues. “I won’t name any names from this list of about twenty or so,” he wrote in his article Remembering Wally Wood, printed in issue 11 of The Journal of Madness in June 2001, “I’m just glad I wasn’t on that one”. Thankfully for us, Stoner took plenty of photographs of Wood’s home on Saturday the 15th April 1978, some of which were reprinted in that same issue of The Journal of Madness, and one of them features a very clear shot of Wood’s Official Shit List. Twenty-one names of important and well-respected members of the comics industry…’
June 21, 2019
[distractions] How to reduce digital distractions: advice from medieval monks‘Sometimes they accused demons of making their minds wander. Sometimes they blamed the body’s base instincts. But the mind was the root problem: it is an inherently jumpy thing. John Cassian, whose thoughts about thinking influenced centuries of monks, knew this problem all too well. He complained that the mind ‘seems driven by random incursions’. It ‘wanders around like it were drunk’. It would think about something else while it prayed and sang. It would meander into its future plans or past regrets in the middle of its reading. It couldn’t even stay focused on its own entertainment – let alone the difficult ideas that called for serious concentration. That was in the late 420s…’
June 20, 2019
[aircrash] Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Where Is It? … William Langewiesche on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. ‘By the time the airplane dropped from the view of secondary—transponder-enhanced—radar, it is likely, given the implausibility of two pilots acting in concert, that one of them was incapacitated or dead, or had been locked out of the cockpit. Primary-radar records—both military and civilian—later indicated that whoever was flying MH370 must have switched off the autopilot, because the turn the airplane then made to the southwest was so tight that it had to have been flown by hand. Circumstances suggest that whoever was at the controls deliberately depressurized the airplane. At about the same time, much if not all of the electrical system was deliberately shut down. The reasons for that shutdown are not known. But one of its effects was to temporarily sever the satellite link.’
June 19, 2019
[twitter] Cold War Steve: satire is my antidote to a scary world… Profile of the Twitter artist and satirist. ‘Over the years, depression and alcoholism took a hold, and in 2016 he had a “complete breakdown” and attempted suicide. After a period in hospital, he began to make collages on his phone and sharing them on Twitter. “It was a coping mechanism. If I was creating things, I could focus my mind on that rather than crashing anxiety attacks.” Cold War Steve – a series of images of Phil Mitchell/Steve McFadden superimposed into cold war scenes – “definitely helped my recovery”. He has not touched alcohol for more than three years.’
June 18, 2019
[comics] The Bristol Board’s Forgotten Comics Masterpieces … The Bristol Board has a huge list of brilliant over-looked comics. Below, Harvey Kurtzman’s Big If from 1952.

June 17, 2019
[lost] What Lost Treasure Would You Most Like to Find?‘The original high-resolution recordings of the Apollo 11 moonwalk. The footage of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the lunar surface is effectively a kinescope recording—made via a camera pointed at a video screen. NASA’s tapes of the original transmissions were likely erased and reused in the 1980s. Only a few people in July 1969 have ever seen the historic moonwalk in its full resolution.’
June 14, 2019
[tech] What It’s Like to Work on a 30-Year-Old Macintosh … Ian Bogost on the joy of using old Tech. ‘On my modern MacBook Pro, a million things are happening at once. Mail retrieves email, sounding regular dings as it arrives. Dispatches fire off, too, in Messages, in Skype, in Slack. Attention-seeking ads flash in the background of web pages, while nagging reminders of Microsoft Office updates bounce in the dock. News notifications spurt out from the screen’s edge, along with every other manner of notices about what’s happening on and off the machine. Computing is a Times Square of urge and stimulus. By contrast, the Macintosh SE just can’t do much. It boots to a simple file manager, where I face but a few windows and menu options. I can manage files, configure the interface, or run programs. It feels quiet here, despite the whirring noise.’