January 12, 2017
[politics] BBC’s Adam Curtis: How Propaganda Turned Russian Politics Into Theater
… This, from Adam Curtis seems pertinent somehow …
So much of the news this year has been hopeless, depressing, and above all, confusing. To which the only response is to say, “oh dear.” What this film is going to suggest is that that defeatist response has become a central part of a new system of political control. And to understand how this is happening, you have to look to Russia, to a man called Vladislav Surkov, who is a hero of our time.
Surkov is one of President Putin’s advisers, and has helped him maintain his power for 15 years, but he has done it in a very new way.
He came originally from the avant-garde art world, and those who have studied his career, say that what Surkov has done, is to import ideas from conceptual art into the very heart of politics.
His aim is to undermine peoples’ perceptions of the world, so they never know what is really happening.
Surkov turned Russian politics into a bewildering, constantly changing piece of theater. He sponsored all kinds of groups, from neo-Nazi skinheads to liberal human rights groups. He even backed parties that were opposed to President Putin.
But the key thing was, that Surkov then let it be known that this was what he was doing, which meant that no one was sure what was real or fake. As one journalist put it: “It is a strategy of power that keeps any opposition constantly confused.”
January 11, 2017
January 10, 2017
[people] Was 2016 especially dangerous for celebrities? An empirical analysis.
… ‘2016’s P200s were: Fidel Castro, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Johan Cruyff, Bhumibol Adulyadej, Leonard Cohen, Antonin Scalia, Elie Wiesel, Nancy Reagan, John Glenn, Carrie Fisher, Chyna, Harper Lee, Kimbo Slice, Ernst Nolte, Rob Ford, Pierre Boulez, Alan Rickman, Shimon Peres, Christina Grimmie, Terry Wogan, Abbas Kiarostami, and Merle Haggard.’
January 9, 2017
[weird] The movie that doesn’t exist and the Redditors who think it does
… Do you remember a movie from early Nineties called Shazaam? …
It wasn’t until last year that things took a dramatic turn.
On 11 August 2015, the popular gonzo news site VICE published a story about a conspiracy theory surrounding the children’s storybook characters the Berenstain Bears. The theory went like this: many people remember that the bears’ name was spelt “Berenstein” – with an “e” – but pictures and old copies proved it was always spelt with an “a”. The fact that so many people had the same false memory was seen as concrete proof of the supernatural.
“Berenstein” truthers believe in something called the “Mandela Effect”: a theory that a large group of people with the same false memory used to live in a parallel universe (the name comes from those who fervently believe that Nelson Mandela died while in prison). VICE’s article about the theory was shared widely, leading thousands of people to r/MandelaEffect, a subreddit for those with false memories to share their experiences.
January 6, 2017
[docu] The 16 Best Documentaries of 2016
… ‘Not many movies have been accused of throwing national elections, intentionally or otherwise. And while the sentiment that Weiner is somehow at fault for the presidential result is a bit ridiculous. It’s a testament to the incredibly strange year that directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg have had. In January it was an epilogue. In August it became a second act. By November, it had become a prop in a much grander narrative. Yet what is most impressive about Weiner is the way that its treatment of the nuts and bolts of politics only gets more compelling. From the constant thrum of media distraction to the choreographed avoidance of already-made mistakes, it is a film in constant motion. And the scene of Weiner yelling at the unseen head of Lawrence O’Donnell will go down as one of American political cinema’s most resonant images.’
January 5, 2017
[ai] Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People
… some critical analysis by Maciej Cegłowski on the recent hype about the risks Artificial Inteilligence, the Singularity and Simulated Realities … ‘Every base reality can contain a vast number of nested simulations, and a simple counting argument tells us we’re much more likely to live in a simulated world than the real one. But if you believe this, you believe in magic. Because if we’re in a simulation, we know nothing about the rules in the level above. We don’t even know if math works the same way—maybe in the simulating world 2+2=5, or maybe 2+2=👹. A simulated world gives us no information about the world it’s running in. In a simulation, people could easily rise from the dead, if the sysadmin just kept the right backups. And if we can communicate with one of the admins, then we basically have a hotline to God. This is a powerful solvent for sanity. When you start getting deep into simulation world, you begin to go nuts.’
January 4, 2017
[moon] The Dark Side of the Moon
… go read this powerful profile of Buzz Aldrin …
You smile at him, your face opening the way every single face in the entire world opens when it encounters him. Because he is: Buzz Aldrin. And we are: mankind.
He takes note of your smile, and just as quickly looks past you. It’s the same way with everybody. It’s your pregnant anticipation: I can’t wait to hear the amazing synthesis of moon wisdom you are about to bestow upon me.
He has no idea what to do with that. None. He’s turning 85 this month. He went to the moon when he was 39. Mankind has been coming at him with your same smile ever since. What do you expect him to do with that?
January 3, 2017
[tv] Love Boat Insanity
… a fantasy wish list of guest stars for the TV series The Love Boat
December 31, 2016
[movies] The Poseidon Adventure Is Still One of the Most Insane Disaster Movies Ever Made
… Gizmodo remembers The Poseidon Adventure
… ‘Then there’s Gene Hackman, who had won his first Oscar a year prior, for 1971’s The French Connection. Here, he channels some of that Popeye Doyle snarl into his portrayal of Rev. Frank Scott, a take-action man of God who favors turtlenecks rather than clerical collars.Why would a newly minted Best Actor sign on for a ridiculous action movie? What other movie would let him use a giant fake Christmas tree as an escape ladder, engage in multiple screaming matches with Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine), dramatically curse God, and ultimately sacrifice himself to save a group of passengers who otherwise would’ve been literally dead in the water?’
December 30, 2016
 216 Good Things Which Happened in 2016
… a cheering end-of-year collection compiled by Feeling Listless
… ‘200. Accidentally stumbling upon New Broadcasting House during a Christmas shopping trip to London and being able to lean against the TARDIS whilst coincidentally wearing an Eighth Doctor t-shirt.’
December 29, 2016
December 28, 2016
[space] The Wold Newton Meteorite
… the history behind a meteorite that crashed into Yorkshire in 1759 and later fell into fiction … ‘In addition to almost killing a farm labourer and kickstarting the modern scientific study of meteorites, the “EXTRAORDINARY STONE” which fell to Earth two centuries ago was also the catalyst for some of the most inventive and influential crossover fiction of the twentieth century. If you’re are a fan of Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula novels, Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or even Bryan Talbot’s Grandville, or Showtime’s Penny Dreadful then you have the Wold Newton Meteorite to thank. All these worlds filled with characters from different novels, films, and TV series owe a huge debt (acknowledged by both Newman and Moore, I might add) to the writing of Philip Jose Farmer…’
December 23, 2016
[games] Lode Runner Web Game
… take a break and have a play with this old classic platform game from 1983
which has been ported to the Web. [via Metafilter
December 22, 2016
 Which Philosophy Can Best Explain 2016?
… Vice attempts to understand 2016 … ‘We’re thrust into the world described in Machiavelli’s The Prince, where what really matters is the geopolitical power-plays of great men and the polities they lead. Certainly this would help explain the disparity, in the context of both Brexit and Trump’s victory, between what the polls claimed and the actual results. Perhaps we’re not just awful racists after all: perhaps this is merely part of some grand plot by Russia to undermine NATO and the EU so that they can annex the Baltics. In the now-immortal words of a mind far deeper and greater than I: “Guys. It’s time for some game theory…”’
December 21, 2016
December 19, 2016
[moore] The 21st Century Hasn’t Started Yet: An Interview With Alan Moore
… a recent interview in full from the Irish Times … ‘So, with the film work, I am trying to have that same sense of inventive fun in the film medium, and with the case of Jerusalem, trying to bring that to the novel. Yes, I have said that one of the great beauties of comics is that anyone with a pencil and paper can make a comic strip, however, I’d have to say that while that is still true, unadorned English prose seems to be more miraculous still, in that there are no pictures. 26 characters and a peppering of punctuation, and from that you can do anything, you can describe anything in the conceivable universe.’
December 16, 2016
[horror] ‘Creepypasta’ is how the internet learns our fears
… fascinating look at how the internet crowd sources horror stories
… ‘Effective horror, after all, has little or nothing to do with gore or body-counts. ‘Atmosphere is the all-important thing,’ wrote Lovecraft, ‘for the final criterion of authenticity is not the dovetailing of a plot but the creation of a given sensation.’ This is the only test of weird fiction that matters: can the work excite, at its least mundane point, a particular emotional response, ‘a profound sense of dread, and of contact with unknown spheres and powers’? Creepypasta represents a kind of industrialised refinement of this art. It is a networked effort to deliver dread in as efficient a way as possible, with the minimum of extraneous matter. Like pornography, it is single-minded in its pursuit of a particular response.’
December 15, 2016
[comics] Remembering Frank Miller’s Ronin [Intro
| Part 1
| Part 2
| Part 3
| Part 4
| Part 5
| Part 6
] … a long, detailed look at Frank Miller’s first attempt to breakout from the confines of mainstream comics …
‘Though it didn’t sell well when first released, Ronin has never been out of print and has continued to gain accolades from fans and pros alike. It’s now seen in its rightful light: as an audacious, bold attempt by a young creator to step outside of his comfort zone. Many praise Miller’s daring and smart storytelling, while also praising his “fusion” art style. The love story at the center of the book also merits attention for its wonderful sweetness and intriguingly kind approach to the couple.’
December 14, 2016
[docu] Is the Art World Responsible for Trump? Filmmaker Adam Curtis on Why Self-Expression Is Tearing Society Apart
… another interview with BBC documentary maker Adam Curtis
… ‘I believe you can be clever whilst also being very clear and imaginative for ordinary people. You can do it by being funny sometimes, by using music that people like, and by writing very simply and very clearly. But you can’t make ordinary people out to be chumps—I come from a working class community, and I know they’re really clever. They may feel completely isolated and fed up and pissed off, but they’re not stupid. They’re angry, and they were given a giant, big button that said “Fuck off” on it, and they pressed it. And I think the same thing happened in the Midwest, in your country. They didn’t believe Trump’s stories, they were just given this button—and they pressed it.’
December 13, 2016
[crime] JonBenét Ramsey: the brutal child murder that still haunts America
… ‘Parent-blaming is all-too-common these days, and usually the point is to make other parents feel better about their own parenting skills. But in cases such as that of JonBenét, something else is going on. By demonising parents who have suffered a terrible trauma, the rest of us can reassure ourselves that they are different from us: those parents are flawed, even evil, and we are good and therefore our child will never go missing – in Kos, in Praia de Luz, from our house in the middle of the night – like theirs did. The rush to blame JonBenét’s parents can also be partly put down to the public needing to reassure themselves that, contrary to what the Ramseys said, killers don’t break into houses and murder children where they should be most safe. That only happens when the parents themselves are killers. And yet.’
December 12, 2016
[people] Lessons from My Father
… Powerful piece of writing from Joe McGinniss, Jr. on the downfall of his father
… ‘The subject of his book “Fatal Vision,” the convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald, upset that the book portrayed him as guilty of the crime, sued my father for fraud. The contract for the book granted my father the freedom to tell the story as he saw fit, but the jury deadlocked anyway, and a mistrial was declared; the case was settled out of court a few years later. A few years after that, a famous piece in The New Yorker, “The Journalist and the Murderer,” by Janet Malcolm, took the case as emblematic of the moral compromises made by writers. Few in the publishing world came to my father’s defense. His reputation was in tatters, and he wondered aloud whether he’d ever write another book. If he’d ever crawl out of the dark black pit of depression. If he’d see fifty-five, sixty? His freezer was filled with bottles of gin and vodka. He’d pour drinks and stir them with an index finger, suck it dry. Have a bottle of wine at dinner, a second. Then he’d call. If I answered, it was to listen, and I knew before he completed his first sentence.’
December 9, 2016
[trump] Donald Trump named NewsThump’s “Resource of the Year”
… … ‘We’re looking forward to writing even more wonderful bits of copying and pasting of whatever lunacy he’ll come up with when he’s actually President, assuming he doesn’t get shot, imprisoned or simply become bored of the idea of being president in the meantime. I really hope he doesn’t get shot. He’s essentially paying to do up my conservatory at this point. I have a conservatory, you know. All of us liberal elites do.’
December 8, 2016
December 7, 2016
[mystery] The Unsolvable Mysteries of the Voynich Manuscript
… decoding the hidden meaning of a famous coded medieval manuscript
… ‘Readers will probably never stop forming communities based on the manuscript’s secrets. Humans are fond of weaving narratives like doilies around gaping holes, so that the holes won’t scare them. And objects from premodern history—like medieval manuscripts—are the perfect canvas on which to project our worries about the difficult and the frightening and the arcane, because these objects come from a time outside culture as we conceive of it. This single, original manuscript encourages us to sit with the concept of truth and to remember that there are ineluctable mysteries at the bottom of things whose meanings we will never know.’
December 6, 2016
[politics] What Theresa May’s Christmas plans tell us about her faith
… brief examination of Theresa May’s religious faith from The Guardian … ‘There are two times a year when politicians talk about faith – Christmas and Easter. No one would listen at any other time.”’
December 5, 2016
[tube] Mapped: Fictional Stations On The London Underground
… impressive list of fake tube stations from Londonist
… ‘Hobbs End featured in the cult horror film Quartermass and the Pit. It was a new station on the Central line that became the nexus for some spooky goings-on (‘hob’ being an old word for the devil)’
December 2, 2016
December 1, 2016
[music] Looking for the Beach Boys
… Ben Ratliff analyses the Beach Boys… ‘The narrators of Beach Boys songs used their time as they liked: amusement parks, surfing, drag racing, dating, sitting in their rooms. Listeners through the mid-Sixties —I wasn’t there—must have responded to the way ordinary leisure and ordinary kicks could be enshrined by a cool, modern, prosperity-minded sentimentality. (Something similar had happened with bossa nova in Brazil, four years before the Beach Boys made their first records.) After that, listeners may have seen the paradox inside the Beach Boys’ music as a whole: the drive to be a man, to know the score, to win in small-stakes battles—the animating force of “Shut Down” and “I Get Around”—versus the drive to retreat and regress or live in a world of one’s own invention, which is the drift of Pet Sounds and SMiLE.’
November 30, 2016
[trump] The unholy power of that Farage-Trump buddy photo
… Jonathan Jones on the meaning of the Donald and Nigel lift photo … ‘The sheer freakishness of the image enhances its grip on us, for we can’t stop staring at this monstrously matey exchange of bonhomie in a lift lined with gold. Trump’s almost beatific post-electoral grin is matched by The Nigel’s starstruck guffaw. They’re high rollers headed for the penthouse, where the casino has provided them with entertainment for the night – or whatever other cinematic image comes to mind. To me, this is somewhere between a Martin Scorsese film and a scene from the heyday of the Third Reich. Hermann Goring would have loved that gold elevator. But if this year has taught us anything, it is that you can’t assume your revulsion is universally shared. Maybe to many this is a gleeful, and even joyous, picture of two buddies having a well-earned celebration.’
November 29, 2016
[tech] Secrets of
the Little Blue Box
… the text of Ron Rosenbaum’s fascinating 1971 article from Esquire magazine of his investigation into early phone phreaking … ‘People like Gilbertson and Alexander Graham Bell are always talking about ripping off the phone company and screwing Ma Bell. But if they were shown a single button and told that by pushing it they could turn the entire circuitry of A.T.&T. into molten puddles, they probably wouldn’t push it. The disgruntled-inventor phone phreak needs the phone system the way the lapsed Catholic needs the Church, the way Satan needs a God, the way The Midnight Skulker needed, more than anything else, response.’