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September 11, 2017
[comics] Mad #21 Cover … go study all the novelty ads on this cover of Mad from 1955 – a great example of Harvey Kurtzman’s genius … ‘It is one of the most glorious and ludicrous covers in comic book history. Disguised to look like an interior page full of novelty ads, it is so dense with tiny print as to be almost illegible at original printed size.’

WTF is an Aeolipile?

September 7, 2017
[Herzog] Celebrate Werner Herzog’s 75th Birthday with These Peak Herzog Moments‘I don’t see [the jungle] so much erotic. I see it more full of obscenity. It’s just – Nature here is vile and base. I wouldn’t see anything erotical here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and growing and just rotting away. Of course, there’s a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing. They just screech in pain.’
September 6, 2017
[comics] Jack Kirby, the Unknown King… Jeet Heer on Jack Kirby …

Under the pressure of the intense deadlines he was meeting in the 1960s, when he would produce as much art in a year as other cartoonists do in a decade, Kirby’s rugged realism evolved in a surprisingly abstract direction. He became a kind of pulp Picasso. “His forms became geometric and stylized,” reflected novelist Glen David Gold in a 2005 essay. “Every surface, including human skin, gleaned like chrome. Every starscape exploded with mysterious dots and ‘Kirby Krackle.’” That “Kirby Krackle,” unleashed in scenes of energy or chaos, became a signature device, one that Kirby never explained but that, like so many of his quirks, compelled the eye.

Operatic, sprawling, and mythopoetic, the stories Kirby and Lee worked on remade superhero comics into a form of space opera, taking place in a teeming, lively, and imaginatively exciting universe. The new emotional depth of these comics owed much to the romance stories Kirby had worked on in the 1940s and 1950s. Kirby never really abandoned any of the genres of his past, so the superhero comics he created became a meta-genre, combining aspects not just of mystery-man intrigue but also elements from romance, westerns, science fiction, and horror.

September 5, 2017
[apollo] How Verbs and Nouns Got Apollo to the Moon … a look at how the Apollo Guidance Computer worked … ‘An entire mission to the Moon was run by the Apollo guidance computer, from checking the guidance platform alignment and firing the engines. All told, it took about 10,500 keystrokes to get to the Moon and back, and every one of them was entered into the guidance computer’s “display and keyboard” interface, affectionately referred to as the DKSY (pronounced like “diss-key”). There were three on board — two in the command module and one in the lunar module — and all three offered information simply and concisely in numeric coded messages or by a series of warning lights.’
September 4, 2017
[king] ‘It was wonderfully scary’: Tim Curry, Rob Reiner and Kathy Bates on the joy of adapting Stephen King

TIM CURRY: I read It when I got the role and I thought it was wonderfully scary, because clowns are scary. It’s the exaggeration. Pennywise always understood what each character was scared of, and provided it. And I could see what fun it would be to be that scary. They came up with such a great makeup. There’s the classic scene where little Georgie floats his paper boat down the gutter and puts his hand down to try and get it back, and is grabbed by Pennywise, who says: “Down here we float …” The boy playing Georgie [Tony Dakota] yanked his hand away and said, “You’re scaring me!” I said, “I’m sorry, I’m supposed to.”

September 1, 2017
[mogg] Dennis the Menace takes Jacob Rees-Mogg’s dinner money‘Mogg, whose mother gave him a ten-shilling note to purchase tuck and snacks at big Parliament this morning, was accosted by the notorious bully on the way and forced to hand over the money after being threatened with having his ankles viciously bitten by Gnasher. Mogg only recovered after being allowed to spend the remainder of the morning picking daisies in Parliament Square by Nurse instead of going to votes like the rest of class. Jacob and his cohorts Algernon Perkins and Dudley Nightshirt are understood to be front-runners to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister, and being relieved of his dinner money by an anarchic prepubescent may damage his claims to economic credibility.’
August 31, 2017
[games] The Enduring Legacy of Zork … looking back at the impact of the first commercial text adventure‘Vibrant, witty writing set Zork apart. It had no graphics, but lines like “Phosphorescent mosses, fed by a trickle of water from some unseen source above, make [the crystal grotto] glow and sparkle with every color of the rainbow” helped players envision the “Great Underground Empire” they were exploring as they brandished such weapons as glowing “Elvish swords.” “We played with language just like we played with computers,” says Daniels. Wordplay also cropped up in irreverent character names such as “Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive” and “The Wizard of Frobozz.”’
August 30, 2017
[moon] The Moon’s Origin Story Is in Crisis … new science is causing the story of the moon’s creation to be reevaluated … ‘The astronauts chiseled bits of the moon from the boulder. Then, using a rake, Schmitt scraped the powdery surface, lifting a rock later named troctolite 76536 off the regolith and into history. That rock, and its boulder brethren, would go on to tell a story of how the entire moon came to be. In this creation tale, inscribed in countless textbooks and science-museum exhibits over the past four decades, the moon was forged in a calamitous collision between an embryonic Earth and a rocky world the size of Mars. This other world was named Theia, for the Greek goddess who gave birth to Selene, the moon. Theia clobbered Earth so hard and so fast that the worlds both melted. Eventually, leftover debris from Theia cooled and solidified into the silvery companion we have today. But modern measurements of troctolite 76536, and other rocks from the moon and Mars, have cast doubt on this story. In the past five years, a bombardment of studies has exposed a problem: The canonical giant-impact hypothesis rests on assumptions that do not match the evidence. If Theia hit Earth and later formed the moon, the moon should be made of Theia-type material. But the moon does not look like Theia—or like Mars, for that matter. Down to its atoms, it looks almost exactly like Earth.’
August 29, 2017
[movies] Photos from the Blade Runner Model Shop … go look at this amazing gallery of photos taken during the production of Blade Runner

August 25, 2017
[radio] The ghostly radio station that no one claims to run … profiling a ghostly Russian radio numbers station‘In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War. It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues. Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it.’
August 24, 2017
[trump] The President of Blank Sucking Nullity … more Trump analysis … ‘Trump will never get better as a president or a person: it will always and only be about him. History matters only insofar as it brought him to this moment; the roaring and endless present in which he lives matters because it is where he is now; the future is the place in which he will do it all again. Trump’s world ends with him, and a discourse or a politics that is locked into scrutinizing or obsessively #resisting or otherwise chasing him will invariably end up as arid and abstracted and curdled as he is.’
August 23, 2017
[movies] Defending Indiana Jones, Archaeologist … a spirited attempt to save the reputation of the great archaeologist and adventurer … ‘Jones is the last great monster of the treasure-hunting age of archaeology. To judge him by modern standards is to indulge the same comforting temporal parochialism that leads us to dismiss post-Roman Europe as a “Dark Age.” Jones may be a lousy archaeologist as we understand the field today. But is he a lousy archaeologist in context?’
August 22, 2017
[death] In the future, your body won’t be buried… you’ll dissolve … Hayley Campbell looks at an alternative to cremating dead bodies … ‘The machine is mid-cycle. Fisher, grey-haired and tall in light green scrubs, explains what’s happening inside the high-pressure chamber: potassium hydroxide is being mixed with water heated to 150°C. A biochemical reaction is taking place and the flesh is melting off the bones. Over the course of up to four hours, the strong alkaline base causes everything but the skeleton to break down to the original components that built it: sugar, salt, peptides and amino acids; DNA unzips into its nucleobases, cytosine, guanine, adenine, thymine. The body becomes fertiliser and soap, a sterile watery liquid that looks like weak tea. The liquid shoots through a pipe into a holding tank in the opposite corner of the room where it will cool down, be brought down to an acceptable pH for the water treatment plant, and be released down the drain. Fisher says I can step outside if it all gets too much, but it’s not actually that terrible. The human body, liquefied, smells like steamed clams.’
August 21, 2017
[comics] The Secret World of Colorists and Letterers … a look into the underappreciated arts of lettering and colouring in comics … ‘Though they rarely get the acclaim of superstar artists and writers, colorists and letterers are the secret sauce behind most comic-book storytelling. Colorists are the cinematographers of graphic narrative, laying hues over art to control mood and style; letterers are the sound designers, crafting fonts, effects, and speech balloons to bring noise to a silent medium. Both often operate behind the scenes. But as comics gain more mainstream attention, many in both fields are pushing for greater recognition of their contributions. In comics, it’s a truism that the best coloring and lettering is the sort you don’t notice. The goal of both disciplines is to meld so harmoniously with the underlying pencil art that they nearly disappear. Yet both are deeply intertwined with the more playful side of cartooning. The result is a delicate balancing act between fundamental principles and individual experimentation.’
August 18, 2017
[comics] BATTLE Cover Selection 1975 to 1979 … Great cover gallery of Battle comics including art from Joe Colquhoun, Carlos Ezquerra and Mick McMahon …

August 17, 2017
[movies] A Guide to Properly Hating Old Movies … A useful essay template for hating old Movies … ‘There are films you read about your entire life, and then there are films like [CLASSIC MOVIE TITLE]. I’m not quite sure how I avoided seeing [CLASSIC MOVIE TITLE] for so long. Maybe I had always been subconsciously turned off by the film’s negative approach to [SOCIAL ISSUE]; why waste your time on a half-baked attempt at representation when modern movies like [MODERN MOVIE] are better worth our consideration?’
August 16, 2017
[tv] When good TV goes bad: how The Wire lost its spark … another jump-the-shark analysis … ‘Maybe it’s the sheer momentum of The Wire’s character-writing that led it to drop the ball with its favourite son: Jimmy McNulty. Of course we came to know and love him as the incorrigible loose cannon of Baltimore homicide. But it’s not just his partner Bunk Moreland who had to cock an eyebrow at his antics in season five: McNulty, outraged by the slashing of police funding, decides to fabricate evidence that a serial killer is stalking Baltimore’s homeless. Hmm. The seven episodes of the season – in which the whole of Baltimore is reeled into his fantasy – are the worst of The Wire’s run. Tied with the mechanics of the fakery – red ribbons around the victims’ wrists, heavy-breathing phone calls to the local rag – any tension in the storyline is stillborn. The Wire briefly becomes The McNulty Show. And a self-parodic McNulty at that, with some of Dominic West’s heaviest mugging; the series was teetering on the edge of the trap over-extended TV shows often fall into, indulging crowd-pleasing characters.’
August 15, 2017
[tv] Noel Edmonds: TV’s emperor of folly … a look at Noel Edmonds new game show‘In Cheap Cheap Cheap, Edmonds plays the owner of a dilapidated general store. Sometimes the shop’s manager wobbles into view to drop a leaden one-liner. Sometimes the tenant of the upstairs flat pops down to blurt something in a mangled fake-European accent – she calls Edmonds her “rent boy” very early on – or a shop assistant will take a selfie, or a deliveryman will sort of wander around a bit. This is the set of the gameshow. There is no studio audience, and Edmonds doesn’t say hello or goodbye. It’s like this collection of weirdos have been trapped in this empty and possibly extra-dimensional shop for all eternity. It’s like Edmonds, having grown terrified by the horrors of the real world, has built his very own Red Room for sanctuary. Watching Cheap Cheap Cheap is like watching a weird piece of existential Lithuanian amateur community theatre. It’s like watching QVC, if QVC was beamed in from an irradiated wasteland four billion years in the future.’
August 14, 2017
[true-crime] How “Making a Murderer” Went Wrong… a sobering critique of True Crime Documentaries … ‘Yet the most obvious thing to say about true-crime documentaries is something that, surprisingly often, goes unsaid: they turn people’s private tragedies into public entertainment. If you have lost someone to violent crime, you know that, other than the loss itself, few things are as painful and galling as the daily media coverage, and the license it gives to strangers to weigh in on what happened. That experience is difficult enough when the coverage is local, and unimaginable when a major media production turns your story into a national pastime. “Sorry, I won’t be answering any questions because . . . TO ME ITS REAL LIFE,” the younger brother of Hae Min Lee, the murder victim in “Serial,” wrote on Reddit in 2014.’
August 11, 2017
[war] Winners and Losers of the Recent Nuclear Holocaust‘Sure, the verdict may not be in just yet. But when the radioactive dust settles, we could be looking at a game-changing moment for a young presidency…’
August 10, 2017
[funny] “I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives…”

August 9, 2017
[moore] Alan Moore Interviewed by Greg Wilson & Kermit Leveridge … a wide-ranging discussion on counterculture … ‘Back in 1976, something like that, I was down visiting my late friend and mentor Steve Moore on the top of Shooter’s Hill and Steve, who was much more connected with the London fantasy and comics scene than I was, he’d got this new trilogy of books that he’d come across that I might be interested in, which was ‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’ by Wilson and Shea. I devoured them and I was absolutely blown away; I thought, “This is great!” All of these frankly ridiculous, paranoid conspiracy stories that are so popular amongst the right and the left wing – that it’s making it all, instead of being a debilitating illness, which is the way people like David Icke have tended to make this field of inquiry – they made it into this brilliant intellectual game and made it really enlightening. It was almost like an Anarchist primer – an Occult/Anarchist primer!’
August 8, 2017
[art] What The KLF Burning A Million Quid Means In 2017‘All artworks cost a certain amount of money to make – and clearly, this one cost more than most. They then generate profit – whether financial or reputational – for a closed loop of people. However, by burning their money, Drummond and Cauty were effectively sharing it. According to the standard process of retail transaction, the money was ours as customers, before becoming theirs as successful artists. But suddenly, via the pair’s remarkable act of communion; their uncompromising rejection of the arbitrary values with which the market codifies and reduces art, we all had a stake. By sacrificing that million, they effectively gave it to everyone from that day forward, who despaired at money’s monstrous, bullying power. And in the process, they created an infinite, galvanising resource; something from which we could all draw strength when we felt the need. It’s a gesture that will only lose its power when the social and economic conditions which made it such a transgressive, aberrant act disappear too. Viewed from that perspective, not only was the burning a mythical act, it was also an extremely generous and even rather moving one.’
August 7, 2017
[space] The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe … a wonderful profile of the team managing the Voyager Probes on their long journey into interstellar space … ‘Even though they simulate every patch with software, there is plenty of room for human error. Far more often, hardware fails for no evident reason. In 1998, Voyager 2 reacted to a command by going silent. For 64 hours straight, the flight team studied the specific instruction — consisting of 18 bits, or 1s and 0s — that preceded the blackout. Bits have been known to ‘‘flip’’ to the opposite value, changing the instruction the same way that swapping a single letter turns ‘‘cat’’ into ‘‘cut.’’ The question was: What instruction had they accidentally given and how could they undo it? At last, modeling the outcome of each possible bit, they discovered one that turned off the exciter, which generates the spacecraft’s radio signal; when they turned it back on, the transmissions resumed.’
July 27, 2017
[trump] Steve Bannon Is Back in Trump’s Good Graces … More on the rise, fall and rise again of Steve Bannon‘Bannon became a vital figure in Trump’s orbit during the early days of his political rise. The two met late in 2010, when David Bossie, the veteran conservative activist, brought Bannon along on a trip to Trump Tower to offer advice about how Trump might prepare for a presidential run. Like Trump, Bannon was a businessman and born deal-maker. With experience on Wall Street and in Hollywood, he was nothing if not high energy, a mile-a-minute talker with a volcanic temper who rarely slept and possessed a media metabolism to rival Trump’s own. And Bannon, too, had a healthy self-regard. On his office wall hung an oil painting of Bannon dressed as Napoleon in his study at the Tuileries, done in the style of Jacques-Louis David’s famous neoclassical painting — a gift from Nigel Farage.’
July 26, 2017
[moore] “I did it thirty-five minutes ago.”

July 24, 2017
[games] How Checkers Was Solved … the fascinating story of the greatest Checkers player in the world and how Checkers was beaten by computers …

Marion Tinsley—math professor, minister, and the best checkers player in the world—sat across a game board from a computer, dying.

Tinsley had been the world’s best for 40 years, a time during which he’d lost a handful of games to humans, but never a match. It’s possible no single person had ever dominated a competitive pursuit the way Tinsley dominated checkers. But this was a different sort of competition, the Man-Machine World Championship.

His opponent was Chinook, a checkers-playing program programmed by Jonathan Schaeffer, a round, frizzy-haired professor from the University of Alberta, who operated the machine. Through obsessive work, Chinook had become very good. It hadn’t lost a game in its last 125—and since they’d come close to defeating Tinsley in 1992, Schaeffer’s team had spent thousands of hours perfecting his machine.

The night before the match, Tinsley dreamt that God spoke to him and said, “I like Jonathan, too,” which had led him to believe that he might have lost exclusive divine backing…’

July 21, 2017
[ios] The Life, Death, and Legacy of iPhone Jailbreaking… interesting history of iPhone Jailbreaking‘For a while, the hackers spread freedom. And they gave people across the world the chance to mod their iPhone to enhance its capabilities. “There was just so much fun stuff you could do—everyone jailbroke. iPhone OS 2 people still jailbroke because people wanted themes, people wanted copy-paste,” Freeman, who is now 35, says. “There was so much basic low hanging fruit of what everyone expects a computer or phone to have that was easy to really make all those killer things.” Ten years after the iPhone hit the sleek tables of Apple Stores worldwide, and the first-ever jailbreak, that Wild West is gone. There’s now a professionalized, multi-million dollar industry of iPhone security research. It’s a world where jailbreaking itself—at least jailbreaking as we’ve come to know it—might be over…’
July 20, 2017
[comics] Art: Wally Wood’s Sound Effects…. and much more … a terrific gallery of Wally Wood art…

July 19, 2017
[politics] Dominic Cummings: the ‘career psychopath’ who thinks David Davis is ‘as thick as mince’ … Pass Notes on Dominic Cummings‘Appearance: A hard-boiled egg with the haunted eyes of a man who has seen Michael Gove without his mask.’