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March 9, 2016
[comics] From the Bayou to London: A Conversation with Artist John Totleben … interview with the legendary comic artist … ‘I think younger readers probably have already been exposed to those influences in other comics, so when they look at Miracleman it probably doesn’t seem like a bigger deal back in 1988 or whatever. They don’t get the full effect of that. It’s kind of similar to rock music where someone listens to Jimi Hendrix nowadays; they may not get the full effect of the intensity he really got across back then because all those influences have been absorbed into the culture of rock guitar techniques and so on. The full effect just can’t be felt. That’s what’s it’s like with Miracleman. You had to have been there.’
March 8, 2016
[movies] The Mystery of the Maltese Falcon, One of the Most Valuable Movie Prop … What happened to the statuettes used in The Maltese Falcon movie? …

Suddenly here it is, plopped down in the middle of an antique chessboard like a massive rook, a foot-high black statuette of a falcon. The hunched, brooding shoulders are instantly recognizable.

There is a long moment of silence.

“This is the thing dreams are made of,” Risan announces.

I’m not sure what to say. He has told me he actually owns two Falcons. I ask where the other one is. “I leave it downstairs,” Risan replies. “It’s too fucking evil. It has the presence of surrealism. American surrealism. The evocation of evil that it manifests is not normally the kind of thing I like to collect. I like the Warhols, the chessboards. So I leave it in the basement.”

This is a lot to digest. Risan senses my skepticism.

“I know, right?” he says with a smile. “Weird. Weird guy with a lot of art.”

March 7, 2016
[lovecraft] Lovecraftian Oral: Dead Squid Can Have Sex With Your Mouth … LOVECRAFT WAS RIGHT! Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! … ‘Squid corpses, even when cooked, retain their sexual reflexes and have been known to inseminate our mouths. After eating calamari…a South Korean woman reported experiencing “severe pain” and a “pricking foreign-body sensation” in her mouth. From her tongue, inner cheeks, gums, throat, her doctor escised “twelve small, white, spindle-shaped, bug-like organisms.” These were spermatophores, whicih possess seriously tenacious ejaculatory apparati, and a cementlike body, which allows for their attachment to materials like the tongue, inner cheeks, gums…’
March 4, 2016
[hertzog] Werner Hertzog on Ewoks‘And what haunts me, is that in all the faces of all the Ewoks, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature. To me, there is no such thing as a secret world of the Ewoks. And this blank stare speaks only of a half-bored interest in food.’

Hertzog on Ewoks

March 3, 2016
[movies] Ghost in the Shell, over two decades old, remains our most challenging film about technology … a look back at the anime/manga Ghost in the Shell‘Kusanagi also questions what her existence means or even is, and whether she is just a synthetic being created by scientists, with neurological implants aimed at making her more productive. She asks her colleague Batou, “I mean who knows what’s inside our heads. Have you ever seen your own brain?” and examines whether a hyper-connected cyborg could create its own soul all by itself? This scene ultimately poses the final scary question: what is the purpose of being human?’
March 2, 2016
[food] More Realistic Meat Substitute Made From Soy Raised In Brutally Cruel Conditions‘“Our vegetarian entrées and meal starters are the most authentically meat-like available on the market, because we make sure our soybeans are raised in filth-caked, overcrowded growing troughs in a windowless facility where daytime temperatures regularly exceed 120 degrees,” said Greenwood Farms marketing director Michael Latimer, adding that the beans’ rich, savory flavor is enhanced by the unsanitary conditions and the regular spread of disease and infection through the crop. “We also make sure our soybeans are pumped so full of a variety of powerful hormones and antibiotics that their growth is boosted far beyond what the plants are capable of naturally, giving our product the same delectable consistency as meat you find at your local grocery store.” “When you sink your teeth into one of our veggie burgers, you’ll know this is the kind of flavor you can only get from soybeans that have never seen actual sunlight,” he added.’
March 1, 2016
[gaming] The man who made ‘the worst video game in history’ … How Atari’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was made… ‘Warshaw’s stock was high at Atari. The 24-year-old had just finished the video game of Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielberg considered Warshaw a “certifiable genius” and 36 hours earlier Warshaw had been hand-picked for their next collaboration. “It was a day that will live in infamy in my life forever,” says Warshaw. “I was sitting in my office and I get a call from the Atari CEO. He said, ‘Howard, we need the ET video game done. Can you do it?’ “And I said, ‘Absolutely, yes I can!'” Games for the Atari 2600 were distributed on cartridges that took weeks to manufacture. If ET was to be in the shops for Christmas, Warshaw had a tight deadline…’
February 29, 2016
[billboards] Evening Standard Billboard Flashback: February 2006 …

Evening Standard Billboards: February 2006

February 26, 2016
[comics] It’s Stan Lee’s Universe … must-read attempt to sum up Stan Lee’s legacy in comics …

“Stan’s gotten far too much credit,” says veteran comics writer Gerry Conway, who’s known Lee since 1970. “People have said Stan was out for No. 1, and to a very large degree, that’s true. He’s a good guy. He’s just not a great guy.”

“Unfortunately, from day one, Jack was doing part of Stan’s job, and Stan was not doing part of Jack’s job,” says comics historian Mark Evanier, who worked as Kirby’s assistant and has worked on and off with Lee since the 1970s. “When you talk to Stan Lee, when he turns the Stan Lee act off, he’s a very decent human being who is chronically obsessed with himself. He’s very insecure. Those of us who have trouble being angry for some of the things that happened, it’s because we saw the real human being there at times.”

“It’s one of those things where you sit down and you say, ‘You gotta be forgiving of your parents,’” says artist Colleen Doran, who drew Lee’s new memoir. “I don’t know of anyone who knows Stan and doesn’t love him, even if they hate things he’s done.”

February 25, 2016
February 24, 2016
February 23, 2016
[murder] The murderers next door … Engrossing true-crime story about a couple who murdered the wife’s parents for money to buy celebrity memorabilia …

The couple admitted manslaughter, but not double murder. They said 63-year-old Patricia had shot William, 85, during a late-night row. In their version of events, Patricia had then turned on Susan, saying she was having an affair with Christopher, taunting and provoking her into turning the gun on her mother. Susan told the police she’d been sexually abused by her father until she was 11, and that her mother had been complicit. The couple said it was a crime of passion and claimed that Susan had acted alone. She told Christopher only a week after the shooting, they said, when they returned to Mansfield from their home in Dagenham, ate fish and chips, watched the Eurovision song contest, and got up at 2am to bury the decomposing bodies.

“They’d had 15 years to prepare a story that would bring them the least amount of time in prison,” DCI Rob Griffin, who led the case against the couple, tells me. It was his job to prove this was a calculated double murder, motivated by greed and deserving a long stretch in jail. But proving anything in a case this historic is a challenge: there were no phone records, no CCTV, no emails for him to trawl through (“The footprints people tend to leave behind nowadays weren’t there for us”). So Griffin turned to what he calls “old-fashioned detective work”: tracing relatives and neighbours from 1998 to try to piece together what had happened.

February 22, 2016
[magazines] The many, many trials of Judy Finnigan … The strange world of British women’s weekly magazines… ‘The inventiveness of the editors of Bella, Best, Woman and Woman’s Own is hugely impressive, and I am in awe of their ability to create compelling, gripping coverlines each week from perhaps three interesting words in a dull interview or an out-of-context Loose Women soundbite. These headlines are always accompanied by a grainy, blown up paparazzi pic or screen grab of the story’s subject looking either demented, drunk, dying or, if they get very lucky, all three at once.’
February 19, 2016
[trump] The Art Of The Trump Videodrome Deal … Warren Ellis on Donald Trump … ‘It’s all a bit weird for me. It feels just that bit too much like the news out of the US is being generated by a computer that ate books by me and about thirty of my comrades and is spitting out algorithmic stories.’
February 18, 2016
[enhance] Let’s Enhance‘Let’s run this through video enhancement…’

February 17, 2016
[celebrity] 19 Completely Underwhelming Real-Life Celebrity Encounters‘I queued behind Matt Smith from Dr Who in a Tesco Express. He was buying hummus and a kit kat chunky.’
February 16, 2016
[blogging] Can Young House Love Escape the Internet? … A cautionary tale about lifestyle blogging … ‘By 2011, YHL was getting over 5 million monthly page views (with a million unique visitors), and the Petersiks were regularly working a second shift after Clara’s bedtime and throughout weekends and vacations. Family outings had to include something “bloggable,” like a stop at an antique store. Each holiday required fresh seasonal content. The Petersiks were also picking up all those side projects that felt like huge wins, but required a tremendous amount of additional work. They admit the blog made money “a nonissue” in its final years. “For a long time, we thought we were doing okay if we could duplicate our salaries from our old advertising jobs; then it got to the point where we could bring in much more,” says Sherry. “But I kept saying, ‘I don’t want more money, I want more time.’” She’d spend school field trips sneaking onto her phone to respond to comments from the zoo or the aquarium. “I felt like any day where I was being a great blogger, I was being a bad mom and vice versa,” Sherry says. She and John both worried that their marriage was being reduced to “essentially co-workers.”’
February 15, 2016
[movies] Michael Mann Looks Back on His Career … Michael Mann interviewed… ‘Because, though people characterize Heat as a crime thriller, that’s the last thing it is, at least in my mind. It’s a very formally structured drama, and its structure is a character-driven dialectic of Hanna [Al Pacino’s character] and McCauley [Robert De Niro’s character]. Its plot is driven by a crime story and a police story to a certain point, and then it breaks into a kind of chorus. In that chorus, we see slices of these different people’s lives. The fuguelike nature of the narrative is what was so exciting to me. When you’re with McCauley, you are subjectively immersed in his life, and you want what he wants, his expectations, his ambitions — his heart is your heart. You want him to get away. When you’re with Hanna, you want him to intercept McCauley, and you want him to achieve what’s driving him. That the two of them know and like each other while they’re headed for a lethal collision, and that they’re two of the only people who are like each other in the invented universe of this movie, that’s the construction. It’s brutally rigid construction.’
February 14, 2016
[comics] Watchmen Photomanips for Valentines Day‘I thought maybe we could… Um, try some wife-swapping after dinner.’

Watchmen Wife Swapping Valentines

February 12, 2016
[books] Promised You a Miracle: UK 80-82 by Andy Beckett review – how today’s Britain was born in the early 80s … some interesting thoughts on how lucky Margaret Thatcher was in the early 1980s … ‘The readying and departure of the taskforce became in Beckett’s words “an epic, brilliantly manipulative piece of public theatre … that would run, to credulous rave reviews in most of the British media, for the rest of the Falklands conflict, and indeed [for more than a year] right up to the next general election”. Those scenes and the victory that followed did wonders for a prime minister who only a few months before had registered lower approval ratings than any of her predecessors; who, according to John Hoskyns, the head of her policy unit, could be found in the summer of 1981 sitting on a seat at the end of her garden thinking: “It’s all gone wrong. I don’t think it will ever come right. I’m the most unpopular prime minister ever. I will go down as a total disaster.” A year later, even as the taskforce was still heaving and wallowing its way homeward, the Tories were suddenly leading Labour by 20% in the polls and Thatcher was chastising “the waverers and the faint hearts … who thought we could no longer do the great things which we once did”, and announcing that Britain had “found herself again in the South Atlantic and will not look back”. In the election the following year, the Tories won their biggest victory since Harold Macmillan’s in 1959.’
February 11, 2016
[codes] They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside … fascinating story of how the code of a long-forgotten secret society was cracked … ‘There were at least 10 identifiable character clusters that repeated throughout the document. The only way groups of letters would look and act largely the same was if this was a genuine cipher—one he could break. “This is not a hoax; this is not random. I can solve this one,” he told himself. A particular cluster caught his eye: the cipher’s unaccented Roman letters used by English, Spanish, and other European languages. Knight did a separate frequency analysis to see which of those letters appeared most often. The results were typical for a Western language. It suggested that this document might be the most basic of ciphers, in which one letter is swapped for another—a kid’s decoder ring, basically. Maybe, Knight thought, the real code was in the Roman alphabet, and all the funny astronomical signs and accented letters were there just to throw the reader off the scent. Of course, a substitution cipher was only simple if you knew what language it was in.’
February 10, 2016
[comics] The Making of Daniel Clowes … a long, nicely-done profile of Dan Clowes … ‘Clowes quickly gained a reputation as the industry’s angry young man. Friends still talk about “the chip” — that weight on his shoulder from having worked so hard at a medium long associated with kids and misfits. “Oh, you mean the chip?” they’ll ask when questioned about how much he’s changed since those early days. Read enough of his works and you’ll see character after character with some version of the chip, from Enid Coleslaw to Wilson to the time traveler in Patience. “We often talked about Charles Schulz,” Clowes’s friend and fellow artist Richard Sala says. “When he was alive, he was the most famous and successful cartoonist ever, but he was still depressed. He still remembered every slight and every mean thing that anybody had ever said to him. And I think Dan related.”’
February 9, 2016
[comics] ‘Has The Human Centipede Taught Us Nothing?’ Alan Moore Answers Questions About Cinema Purgatorio For Bleeding Cool … a Q&A regarding the new black and white anthology comic Moore is launching on Kickstarter … ‘ I’m aware that a large majority of the current comic book audience are pathologically averse to anthologies, and you can certainly see their point. After all, when has anything memorable in the comic book medium ever emerged from an anthology? Except, obviously, Action Comics. Oh, and Detective Comics. And Sensation Comics and All Star and Adventure Comics. And Will Eisner’s work. And Jack Cole’s. And Mad and the entire E.C. line. And Amazing Adult Fantasy. And Tales of Suspense. And Strange Tales. And Journey into Mystery. And Creepy, and Eerie. And Zap. And the rest of the Undergrounds. And Comics Arcade. And 2000AD. And Warrior. And Viz. And almost all English and European comics. And almost all American comics, even single-character titles, until the 1960s. But other than that, what has the comic book anthology, or the Roman Empire for that matter, ever done for us?’
February 8, 2016
February 5, 2016
[sonic] The Michael Jackson Video Game Conspiracy … Did Michael Jackson write soundtrack music For Sonic 3?… ‘As the 1990s wore on, Sega lost a crucial round of the console wars to a resurgent Nintendo and upstart Sony. Ben Mallison remained a Jackson and Sonic fan. But as he entered his teen years, something about Sonic 3 started to tug at him. There was something weird about that Sonic 3 music, and he couldn’t figure it out. Then one day, it came to him. “Huh,” Ben thought. “That Sonic music sure sounds like Michael Jackson.” “I’ve always been musically inclined and have a knack for noticing stuff like samples or ripoffs in songs,” he says. But he didn’t have any way to share his theory with the world. For that, Ben had to wait for the Internet…’
February 4, 2016
[true_crime] “Not Guilty” Pleasure: Why We Love but Distrust True Crime … Rex Sorgatz on the powerful appeal of True Crime … ‘In the first season of Serial, the foundational story to disassemble is that Adnan Syed murdered his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. That’s the authoritative version, reported by newspapers. What Serial does, through a dozen spellbinding episodes, is slowly dismantle the official story, until eventually you have no idea what happened. At that exact moment — when you say I don’t know! — crime transmutes into true crime. (You can tell the difference between highbrow and lowbrow true crime by the degree to which a narrator professes I don’t know! The greater the narrative self-doubt, the higher the brow.)’ 
February 3, 2016
[work] Boss Wants Friendly, Relaxed Company Culture In Place By Friday‘He wants a relaxed, friendly company culture implemented by the end of the week, sources within the organization confirmed. “I don’t care how you make this a laid-back, fun place to work, just get it done, and get it done fast,” Abelson said during a meeting of the company’s various department heads, which is said to have begun with Abelson harshly reprimanding a client service manager for arriving five minutes late.’
February 2, 2016
[war] How Rogue Techies Armed the Predator, Almost Stopped 9/11, and Accidentally Invented Remote War … a look at how the the Predator Drone was created …

The team found what they were looking for during one of the Predator’s very first split operations missions in early September 2000. Swanson was circling over Tarnak Farms, a walled compound near the Kandahar airport where bin Laden—or UBL as the team called him, referring to the alternative spelling, Usama—was thought to be living. Jeff Guay, an Air Force master sergeant on the team, was controlling the drone’s camera. Sure enough, a man in white, surrounded by an entourage, soon emerged on their screens.

“When UBL walked out of that one building,” Swanson says, “the way he appeared much taller than everybody, the people were deferential around him, the way he was dressed, Jeff and I just looked at each other and it’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s got to be him.’” Swanson assumed a cruise missile would be dispatched in the direction of bin Laden while the Predator loitered overhead to make sure he stayed put. The team had been instructed to continue circling for as long as necessary, even if that meant running out of fuel and crashing.

But for reasons obscure to the team, no strike was ordered. With Swanson gripping his joystick, unable to do anything but stare, America’s final chance to kill Bin Laden before September 11 slipped away.

February 1, 2016
[conspiracy] What Kind of Person Calls a Mass Shooting a Hoax? … an appalling story about how parents of children murdered in a mass shootings get harassed by mass-shooting conspiracy truthers … ‘The conspiracy movement’s personal attacks show no sign of abating. Early this November, a 32-year-old man was arrested for accosting the sisters of Vicki Soto, a slain teacher, at a Newtown charity event; he wanted to ask them whether a family photo of theirs had been photoshopped. For the hoaxers, no private moment has been sacred. At one point, they vigorously picked over the details of Noah’s funeral. Prior to the ceremony, the family opened Noah’s casket for a private viewing, which was reported in the news. It’s not an unusual custom for Jewish families, but hoaxers alleged it was against the laws of the religion, which somehow helped substantiate their claim that Noah wasn’t real.’
January 29, 2016
[toys] Stormtroopers – the world’s biggest army? … a BBC reporter attempts to find out how many Star Wars Action Figures have been sold since 1977 … ‘My first significant breakthrough came from an unlikely source – the Leicestershire County Council Museum Service. The original Star Wars toys were produced under license in the UK by a company called Palitoy. They had a factory in Coalville in Leicestershire, and the museum inherited some of its paper. An internal company newsletter from 1985 revealed it had sold 25 million action figures in the UK alone – more than one toy for every child in the country at the time.’

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