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…
November 27, 2017
November 24, 2017
[movies] John Wick solidified Keanu Reeves as one of the greatest action stars of all time
… Hard to argue with any of this article from the A.V. Club on John Wick
My favorite scene in the movie isn’t a fight. It’s the part where Viggo, the movie’s lead Russian gangster, has to tell his son just how badly he’d fucked up. Viggo’s boy, Iosef, has broken into the home of a “fucking nobody.” He’s killed the man’s dog, stolen his car, and left him unconscious. Viggo, played by the late Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist, doesn’t mind any of this. He just minds that Iosef did all this to the wrong guy.
Carefully and patiently, Viggo tells Iosef that he and his associates used to call John Wick, that nobody, baba yaga—the bogeyman. And then he continues, “John wasn’t exactly the bogeyman.” Dramatic pause. “He was the one you send to kill the fucking bogeyman.” A moment later, as that sinks in: “I once saw him kill three men in a bar with a pencil. A fucking. Pencil.”
November 23, 2017
[movies] Coppola’s ‘Conversation’ – prophetic snapshot of ’70s S.F.
… a look back at the movie The Conversation
. ‘For all the other actors’ abundant talent, the movie lived or died on Hackman’s performance. Hackman, a sharp dresser and an extrovert, did not easily sink into the role of Harry. “It was a hard part for Gene to play because it demanded such containment,” Murch recalled. “The character is such a tightly wound person, and that is not at all who Gene is. He was operating outside his comfort zone. But now he says it is one of his favorite performances.” Coppola was immediately impressed by [Harrison] Ford, whose role as a henchman for Duvall was initially quite small. “It was clear Harrison was super bright and able to make much more of the character than was there. He knew how to use clothing and props. He was always thinking,” Coppola says in his DVD commentary.’
November 22, 2017
[comics] Why I won’t be buying Doomsday Clock
… Why Lew Stringer Won’t Buy Doomsday Clock.‘Thing is, Watchmen was created as a complete story and achieved that superbly. It’s an intelligent, well structured graphic novel (or fat comic if you prefer) set on an alternate Earth where a godlike being named Dr.Manhattan changed the course of history. (Perhaps you’ve seen the film.The comic is far superior.) In three decades it has never needed a sequel. It certainly was never intended to tie in with the DC Universe and have guest appearances from Superman, Batman, and other members of the Justice League. Yet that’s exactly what DC are doing. It’s like some movie company suddenly deciding that Citizen Kane would be improved with a sequel featuring Ant and Dec.’
November 21, 2017
[comics] Matt Fraction Rereads His Early Comics
… I really enjoyed these notes from Fraction on his early work for Marvel. Below are links to all the articles:
‘The “Mastercard” line is a reference to the very first issue of the ongoing series THE PUNISHER, back in the day, by Mike Baron and Klaus Janson (I think). The line always stuck in my head: “Mastercard, I’m bored. The friendly natives will entertain me.” I didn’t know what it meant then, I don’t know what it means now, but it’s wedged in my head. I can’t remember the names of the parents of my kids’ classmates and I cannot do math to save my life but I remember that one line from one Mike Baron comic from 1987.’
November 20, 2017
[politics] Nixon, Trump, and How a Presidency Ends
… An interesting analysis of why Richard Nixon’s Presidency collapsed and comparisons with Trump. ‘Nixon was genuinely tough, a self-made man who’d climbed out of what may have been the most Dickensian childhood of any American president. He’d served as a Navy officer in the Pacific theater during World War II. He entered the White House at a younger age than Trump — 56, not 70 — hardened by decades of political combat as a savage knife-fighter during the McCarthy witch hunts and the explosive American divisions of the 1960s. Nixon actually knew American history, read books, and, unencumbered by ADD, played the long game in life (his courtship of his wife, Pat) as well as in politics. He was a lawyer who repeatedly (and presciently) advised his staff that the cover-up, not the crime, posed the greater legal threat, a lesson he had learned during his star-making turn on the House Un-American Activities Committee; his prey, the State Department official Alger Hiss, was convicted of perjury, not for being a Soviet spy. Nixon was also a far more strategic liar than Trump, crafting sanctimonious and legalistic falsehoods to paper over wrongdoing rather than spewing self-incriminating lies indiscriminately about everything.’
November 17, 2017
November 16, 2017
[web] What every Browser knows about you
… a webpage which shows all the information a web browser leaks about you.
November 15, 2017
[tv] Remembering Magnum P.I.’s John Hillerman, the World’s Best Phony Englishman
… very sad to hear about the death of John Hillerman
Higgins was set up to be Magnum’s stooge—the short, supercilious prig who Magnum repeatedly outsmarted, and in whose reflection our hero could shine still brighter. But as played by John Hillerman with a genuine sense of dignity and steely righteousness, Higgins was no joke; you loved him because he truly believed in a classical world of order and rules-following, and he wasn’t about to cede all of that tradition to a handsome young firecracker in a Hawaiian shirt. And every so often, Higgins would a deliver a barb that succeeded in cutting Magnum down to size. The smirk from Hillerman that would invariably follow was a thing of beauty and triumph—and a gentle exhortation to those of us suffering through grade school that the golden boys weren’t always going to be the ones who glowed.
Until he died last Thursday at the age of 84 in Houston, I confess that I had no idea that Hillerman—who was born in Denison, majored in journalism at UT Austin, and then retired back to Texas in 1999—wasn’t actually British. That’s one definition of a great performance, when an actor so wholly inhabits a part that viewers assume he must just be playing a variation of himself. (In real life, Hillerman reportedly spoke with a faint Texas drawl—akin to his character Howard Johnson in Blazing Saddles.)
November 14, 2017
[netflix] How Netflix works: the (hugely simplified) complex stuff that happens every time you hit Play
… ‘Netflix works on thousands of devices, and each of them play a different format of video and sound files. Another set of AWS servers take this original film file, and convert it into hundreds of files, each meant to play the entire show or film on a particular type of device and a particular screen size or video quality. One file will work exclusively on the iPad, one on a full HD Android phone, one on a Sony TV that can play 4K video and Dolby sound, one on a Windows computer, and so on. Even more of these files can be made with varying video qualities so that they are easier to load on a poor network connection. This is a process known as transcoding. A special piece of code is also added to these files to lock them with what is called digital rights management or DRM — a technological measure which prevents piracy of films.’
November 13, 2017
[politics]What Facebook Did to American Democracy
… Alexis Madrigal on Facebook’s impact on the 2016 US election.
A few days before the election Silverman and fellow BuzzFeed contributor Lawrence Alexander traced 100 pro–Donald Trump sites to a town of 45,000 in Macedonia. Some teens there realized they could make money off the election, and just like that, became a node in the information network that helped Trump beat Clinton.
Whatever weird thing you imagine might happen, something weirder probably did happen. Reporters tried to keep up, but it was too strange. As Max Read put it in New York Magazine, Facebook is “like a four-dimensional object, we catch slices of it when it passes through the three-dimensional world we recognize.” No one can quite wrap their heads around what this thing has become, or all the things this thing has become.
“Not even President-Pope-Viceroy Zuckerberg himself seemed prepared for the role Facebook has played in global politics this past year,” Read wrote.
And we haven’t even gotten to the Russians.
November 10, 2017
[truecrime] Outside the Manson Pinkberry
… a long, thoughful dive into the world of Manson Family bloggers
… ‘I found the Manson Bloggers so intent on each other that my arrival barely registered. They were talking shop with the eagerness of model-train enthusiasts. I grabbed a beer and tried to follow the rapid-fire discussion about unsolved Northern California murders and Roman Polanski’s sexual preferences. It was tricky—like all subcultures, when the Manson Bloggers feel safe, they speak in a kind of in-group argot, full of nicknames, acronyms, and arcane references. There were hardly any mentions of husbands, wives, children, jobs, any of the infrastructure of daily life. Instead, they gossiped about minor Manson Family characters as if they were mutual friends.’
November 9, 2017
[mac] The Twiggy Mac Lives! The Quest To Resurrect The World’s Oldest Macintosh
… ‘How did this Mac survive? Was this the only one? The owner of the mysterious machine, posting as “mactwiggy” and known publicly only as Jay, said at the time that he bought the system after seeing it advertised online. “The elderly gentleman I purchased it off of is a retired engraver,” Jay wrote on Applefritter’s forums. “The company he worked for was hired to make some award medallions for a ceremony at Apple. It would have been some point in 1983 I personally think, but he really couldn’t recall. They sent over this Mac to use as a model for him to work off of. When the job was done, they tried to make arrangements to send it back. Apparently after several attempts, Apple just told them to keep it.” The seller knew he had a highly collectible computer, but was willing to sell the piece at a less-than-maximum price to avoid dealing with potential buyers. “He was really just happy it was going to someone who knew what it was and would appreciate it,” Jay wrote. It was major find — truly a Mac collector’s dream.’
November 8, 2017
[comics] From Zadie Smith to Ethan Hawke: why we love graphic novels
… Celebrities discuss their favourite comics. Sam Bain: ‘The four artists I’ve followed with the most devotion are Chester Brown, Jaime Hernandez, Daniel Clowes and Joe Matt. Peter Bagge’s Hate was a favourite of mine and Jesse [Armstrong]’s when we started writing sitcoms in the late 90s. The first 12 issues in particular are a perfect sitcom and so much fresher and more contemporary than what was on TV at the time. Joe Matt’s Peepshow was also an influence, unsurprisingly! I had the opportunity to take Joe out for lunch in Los Angeles recently to thank him for his incredible body of work and to encourage him to produce more comics.’
November 7, 2017
[prison] Insane Prisoner Inventions: 24 DIY Prison Tools & Weapons
… a fascinating look at what prisoners build inside prison. Below is picture of a knuckleduster…
November 6, 2017
[life] The laws of stupidity according to economist Carlo M. Cipolla
… The Five Laws of Human Stupidity seems very relevant to our times … ‘Law 3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses. Cipolla called this one the Golden Law of stupidity. A stupid person, according to the economist, is one who causes problems for others without any clear benefit to himself. The uncle unable to stop himself from posting fake news articles to Facebook? Stupid. The customer service representative who keeps you on the phone for an hour, hangs up on you twice, and somehow still manages to screw up your account? Stupid.’
November 3, 2017
[movies] 42 Facts Every “Ghost World” Fan Should Know
… ’18. The studio wanted someone like Russell Crowe or Harrison Ford to play Seymour. 19. They also considered Nathan Lane for the role. 20. But Zwigoff always knew he wanted to cast Steve Buscemi in that role. “I had to call him and threaten to hang myself if he wouldn’t take the part,” he said.’
November 2, 2017
[kubrick] Danny Lloyd – the kid in The Shining: ‘I was promised that tricycle after filming but it never came’
… Whatever happened to the child who played Danny Torrance in the The Shining?
Kubrick and his team protected him from the scary stuff, Lloyd says. In one scene, where Wendy runs screaming through the hotel with Danny in her arms, Duvall carried a lifesize doll. “I specifically remember I was banned from the set for the entire time Scatman Crothers was being axed,” he says laughing. There is something nice and Tom Hanks-y about his measured tone and efforts not to say anything mean or controversial.
I read that he accidentally walked in on Jack Nicholson filming “Here’s Johnny!” (voted the scariest scene movie history a few years ago). Is that true? “Yes, but not the actual ‘Here’s Johnny’ bit. Jack was out in the hallway with the axe. He was having fun and goofing off. I think it was a plastic axe he had. Both my parents were there and we were laughing. That wasn’t scary.”
November 1, 2017
[books] Famous Authors Reply to Your Unsolicited Dick Pic
… Mary Shelley: ‘I behold the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had help create. He takes up the entire screen; and this dick pic, if dick pic it might be called, is fixed on me. The veins throb, and it lurches forward disturbingly, while a single tear weeps from the tip. Your one hand is stretched out, seemingly to grip him, but I avert my eyes and delete the image. I take refuge in my Candy Crush challenges, where I remain during the rest of the night…’
October 31, 2017
[books] Philip Pullman’s swearwords are a useful lesson for children
… Why swearing isn’t bad for children … ‘Children also learn, from a surprisingly early age, that swearing isn’t all negative. Research shows that swearing is linked with all kinds of emotional states, including joy, surprise and fear. By learning to swear, children learn to understand other people’s feelings in a more nuanced way. “Children learn that curse words intensify emotions in a manner that non-curse words cannot achieve,” says Professor Jay. But the biggest advantage, from my perspective as a parent, comes from studies dating back as far as the 1930s, which show that swearing quickly replaces biting, hitting, and screaming as children develop. To which I must say, thank fuck for that.’
October 30, 2017
[life] Man Gets Life In Order For 36 Minutes
… ‘During this period, he did not once concern himself with his finances, his in-laws, or his dental coverage. And as his mind began to wander freely, he neither relived painful humiliations from his past, nor felt any anxiety about his personal shortcomings.’
October 27, 2017
[comics] Untitled Comic Strip by Harvey Pekar and R. Crumb
from American Splendour in 1980 … ‘So much is said in silence….’
October 26, 2017
[tv] It was acceptable in the 80s: why Magnum PI should be spared reboot hell
… ‘Magnum PI, for crying out loud. Is nothing sacred? Sure, on the surface, the original Magnum PI was just one of a glut of post-Vietnam shows about vigilante justice with a charismatic male lead and storylines that wrapped up neatly at the top of the hour. But it was special. Everyone knows it was special. By some absurd alchemy Magnum PI ended up perfectly written, perfectly cast and perfectly soundtracked, managing to be both of its time and utterly timeless. You don’t mess with Magnum PI.’
October 25, 2017
[true-crime] ‘We found who killed your sister.’ 48 years later, a cold case is solved
… a true crime story from Los Angeles … ‘The investigators frequently flipped through those files, looking for the clues that could lead them to Halison’s killer. Last summer, they asked Klann to run the DNA again, hoping improved technology would finally help them identify enough markers to upload the sample in the state’s system. When Klann got the results, he said, he immediately sent Bengtson a text message. “Are you sitting down?” he wrote…’
October 24, 2017
[comics] The Alan Moore 2016 Christmas Interviews – Part IV
… includes Alan’s walking tour of the Boroughs in Northampton and some thoughts on translating his work into other languages … ‘Turn around, and head back down George’s Row and the south flank of All Saints until you have reached the front of the church, the pillared portico where Audrey Vernon’s parents sat all night after her recital of ‘Whispering Grass’. Across the road you will see the mouth of Gold Street, with the jewellers to the left where Ann Timson saw off three sledge-hammer wielding robbers with her handbag a few years ago. I’m sure this incident is available on Youtube, and is always good for an admiring laugh.’
October 20, 2017
[life] Somebody should have advised Niall Horan that naming his debut album
Flicker was a mistake.
October 19, 2017
[web] Ev Williams Wants To Save Media — Again. But Some Writers And Publishers Are Skeptical.
… engrossing long read on Ev Williams latest attempts to change online journalism … ‘At the time of the Napa retreat, the company practiced “holocracy,” a management philosophy that in theory avoids a hierarchical management structure by empowering employees to make business decisions. But it didn’t always work that way at Medium. Former employees said they often had to work backward, unpacking Williams’ vague and shifting mission statements to figure out what, exactly, he wanted them to do. After the company retreat, several sources said, Medium’s 25 or so editorial employees entered into a months-long period of awkwardness: They weren’t laid off outright, but they got signals that the goals of the company were no longer aligned with their presence. “We had this series of work groups where you tried to figure out what your job and the future of publishing was,” one source said. Former employees suspected that Medium was trying to thin out its editorial staff by attrition.’
October 18, 2017
[wikipedia] 19 Wikipedia Pages That’ll Send You Into A Week-Long Wikihole
… a great time wasting list … List of common misconceptions
: ‘This list is basically what it says on the tin: a bunch of facts that you think you know but aren’t really facts at all. For example, I was upset to learn that Thomas Crapper (the guy in the above photo) didn’t actually invent the flushing toilet. He just made them more popular. Also, less surprisingly, Einstein didn’t really fail maths, and when he heard this claim he said “before I was 15 I had mastered differential and integral calculus.” No need to brag, Albert.’
October 17, 2017
[comics] Some Marvel(ous) Covers Of Bill Sienkiewicz
… great gallery with some less well known covers …