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March 25, 2016
[books] Swansea Oxfam charity shop asks women not to return used Fifty Shades of Grey‘An Oxfam bookshop in Swansea is inundated with so many copies of the erotic novel – ‘literally hundreds’ – that they’ve started begging women to stop bringing them in. The shop now has so many copies of the book, they’ve built a fort out of them.’
March 24, 2016
March 23, 2016
[moore] What Next For Providence? … Where is Alan Moore heading with Providence? … ‘Issues #5 and #6 are almost a two part story, where Black visits a city which is a major nexus of Lovecraft’s work, and intersects with several different stories, and many characters who act towards Black in an openly malevolent manner. I predict that #11 and #12 will be set in Providence, RI, and will feature Black’s inevitable doom after similarly intersecting with multiple stories and characters. “The Haunter of the Dark” has to appear. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward seems extremely likely’
March 22, 2016
[books] Some Kind Of Abstraction: Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho 25 Years On … Another look at American Psycho‘We’re a world away from the wry, toothless, plot-driven 80s satires of Tom Wolfe or Martin Amis here. In American Psycho we’re shown a tiny social circle in its antiseptic habitat. Not much of note happens outside of Bateman’s uncorroborated excesses. But refracted through his inner world, and thanks to Ellis’ gift for, well, writing, the tour we take is tense, energetic and – surprisingly, given what we’re shown – emotionally resonant.’
March 21, 2016
[kubrick] There’s Something About Stanley: Kubrick’s Strange Science Of Obsession … the search for meaning in Stanley Kubrick’s films… ‘What if the most meaningful clue is not in anything that the Kubraphiles are proposing, but in the fact that they are looking, and what if Kubrick intended this to happen? Allowing that it was more than just the deluded bid for immortality of a cosmically inflated ego, what might the end game be here? As I suspect every good Zen master will tell you, the nature of such a many-layered puzzle is that it’s not the answer but the experience of finding it that leads to understanding.’
March 18, 2016
[people] When Benny Hill met Anthony Burgess… Craig Brown remembers the odd meeting between the writer and comedian … ‘The two men met for the first time shortly after the review appeared. I was lucky enough to be present at this bizarre meeting. Both of them were remarkably like they were on television. Hill arrived first, as perky as can be, apparently over the moon at having been driven by a female taxi driver (“Oooh, I said, you can take me anywhere, my love!”). Burgess – histrionic, loquacious, with deep voice and furrowed brow, putting the emphasis on unexpected words – behaved just like a slightly hammy actor playing the part of Anthony Burgess. The two of them were full of mutual admiration, but never quite found common ground. All in all, it followed a similar pattern to T S Eliot’s meeting with Groucho Marx: the author wanted to show off his knowledge of comedians, while the comedian wanted to show off his knowledge of authors. By the end of the dinner it seemed to me unlikely they would ever meet again, and, as far as I know, they did not.’ [thanks Phil]
March 17, 2016
[billboards] Evening Standard Billboard Flashback: March 2006 … Sex, death, terror, leopards and free goody bags – another average month in London…

Evening Standard Billboards: March 2006

March 16, 2016
[crime] Why did two parents murder their adopted child? … a long, disturbing true-crime story from Spain … ‘Immediately after his arrest, Basterra was put in a police cell next to his wife, separated by a flimsy partition through which they could speak – and be secretly recorded on video. The police amassed hours of tape but at no point in the recorded conversations was there any admission of guilt or any other evidence to use against Basterra and Porto (a court would also later declare the recordings inadmissible). “Look what trouble your overheated imagination has got us into,” was one of several enigmatic phrases used by Porto.’
March 15, 2016
[books] American Psycho Author Bret Easton Ellis Tells Us Where Patrick Bateman Would Be Today‘There was the possibility to hide during Patrick’s ’80s reign that there simply isn’t now; we live in a fully exhibitionistic culture. Because he wasn’t a character to me as much as an emblem, an idea, I would probably approach him the same way now and address his greatest fear: Would anyone be paying any attention to him? One of the things that upsets Patrick is that, because of a kind of corporate lifestyle conformity, no one can really tell the other people apart (and what difference does it make, the novel asks). People are so lost in their narcissism that they are unable to distinguish one individual from another (this is why Patrick gets away with his crimes), which ties into how few things have really changed in American life since the late ’80s; they’ve just become more exaggerated and accepted. The idea of Patrick’s obsession with himself, with his likes and dislikes and his detailing—curating—everything he owns, wears, eats, and watches, has certainly reached a new apotheosis.’
March 14, 2016
[tv] Columblr … tumblr for The Just One More Thing podcast about Columbo. ‘In “An Exercise in Fatality,” gymnasium chain magnate Milo Janus’ (Robert Conrad) business double-dealings are about to be exposed by a disgruntled franchisee! What’s his wisest course of action? Why, cancel the fellow’s contract with a metal pipe to the throat and make it look like a tragic gym accident! As Columbo tries to put it all together, you’ll be plunged into a world of vitamins, sweaty dudes, X-rated Italian horror films, soulless bureaucracy, and Jim Rockford’s ladyfriend in a bikini…’
March 10, 2016
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