March 1, 2022
[comics] Kevin O’Neill’s ‘Mek Memoirs’ … Scans from an obscure, early Kevin O’Neill robot comic. More details on Kev’s early work here.
February 28, 2022
[podcasts] Death by Conspiracy? … I’ve really been enjoying this BBC podcast’s deep dive into the death from Covid of a UK man drawn into the web of online conspiracies.
February 24, 2022
[web] The adorable love story behind Wikipedia’s ‘high five’ photos … Occasionally the Internet can produce a wonderfully wholesome story. ‘Thanks to an overabundance of time alone with my laptop and a growing pile of responsibilities that I wanted to push off, I found myself fixated on these photos recently. I became increasingly convinced that there was nothing platonic about this high five — I mean, you can feel the chemistry through the screen. Just look at her smile in the first frame! Look at their gazes in the third frame! There’s no way two people so young and so beautiful could exchange such a flirty high five without feeling flutters of the heart. I couldn’t help but wonder what their story was — and what had happened to them. So I launched an investigation…’
February 22, 2022
[movies] Alien in 60 Seconds … A wonderfully condensed and low budget version of Alien. [via Kottke]
February 21, 2022
[cannonball] Is This the End of the Cannonball Run? … How Covid-19 killed the Cannonball Run. ‘The following March, the world shut down, and the nation’s empty highways looked enticing to potential Cannonballers. Bolian said the record was broken 12 times during the early months of the pandemic. “It was just an unimaginable set of circumstances,” he says.’
February 18, 2022
[web] Resurrecting the old Wordle for procrastinators … How to avoid NYT Wordle and carry on using the original version.
February 17, 2022
[radio] Cataloguing BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time using Dewey Decimal Classification … Stuart from Feeling Listless has categorised every episode of In Our Time. ‘Classification is automatically a compromise. You’re applying a numerical label to an object which it wasn’t really designed for, so on some occasions, especially with something like In Our Time which revels in obtuse topics, there isn’t a perfect place for the episode to go. Also I’ve only used the a heading when it pertains to an episode which is why it looks like there are gaps in the sequence. Melvyn and the gang haven’t covered every sub-division in the DDC.’
February 14, 2022
[valentines] AI Generated: Love Hearts and Valentines Day Cards … Some good, some Bizarro World. More love hearts here.
February 11, 2022
[cummings] What Dominic Cummings Gets Wrong … More analysis of Dominic Cummings. ‘Ultimately this is what Cummings gets wrong. Regulation, institutional norms, information transparency, processes, are more important than brilliant people. Because it is only those things that stand in the way of bad actors destroying systems. It is the current absence of these things causing America so many problems because Trump is a really bad actor.’
February 9, 2022
[experts] Why Is It So Hard to Predict the Future? … A look at why experts find predicting the future correctly difficult. ‘The integrators outperformed their colleagues in pretty much every way, but especially trounced them on long-term predictions. Eventually, Tetlock bestowed nicknames (borrowed from the philosopher Isaiah Berlin) on the experts he’d observed: The highly specialized hedgehogs knew “one big thing,” while the integrator foxes knew “many little things.” Hedgehogs are deeply and tightly focused. Some have spent their career studying one problem. Like Ehrlich and Simon, they fashion tidy theories of how the world works based on observations through the single lens of their specialty. Foxes, meanwhile, “draw from an eclectic array of traditions, and accept ambiguity and contradiction,” Tetlock wrote. Where hedgehogs represent narrowness, foxes embody breadth.’
February 8, 2022
[fb] The end of the metaverse hopefully … Some analysis on the future of Facebook/Meta. ‘Basically, Facebook and Instagram is Squid Game, the algorithm is the big piggy bank, and the last three traumatized contestants in tuxedos armed with knives are an out-of-work magician, an antivax chiropractor, and a QAnon mom from Tuscon who runs a drop-shipping pyramid scheme. Which, of course, is not a platform that users will want to use. But it’s all Facebook has to fall back on now that its attempts to “build the metaverse” have been exposed as an absolutely ridiculous bluster.’
February 7, 2022
[tv] The FBI is going crazy-stringboard crazy … Slate takes a look at the Crazy Wall trope often used in TV and movies. ‘Nowadays, some might chalk up the explosion of this trope to prestige television and cinema trying to advance a complicated plotline. This is why journalist Richard Benson in 2015 called our age the “Post-it Procedural.” For example, the Baltimore detectives in The Wire, now almost 20 years old, tried to crack a complicated drug ring using a board to pin up all the photos, press clippings, and index cards with information on the suspects. The board—and the data flowing in from the detectives—became the focal point of the investigation and the show, helping the audience to know who and what was important. If it was on the big board, it mattered.’
February 3, 2022
[comics] Leo Baxendale: Bash Street UnPlugged … A Radio 4 documentary from 1995 about Leo Baxendale the creator of the Bash Street Kids, Minnie the Minx and Sweeney Toddler comic strips.
February 2, 2022
February 1, 2022
[tech] Watch an AI Outplay Tetris … There’s something slightly uncanny about watching this AI coolly and efficiently beat NES Tetris. More details here. ‘Like human players, Cannon’s impressive StackRabbit AI gets better at playing Tetris through repeatedly playing and analyzing the game to develop improved strategies. But unlike human players, StackRabbit has nerves of steel and doesn’t start to panic as the ever-growing stack of tetrominoes approaches the top of the play board, which it pairs with lightning-quick reflexes to play one of the most mesmerizing and impressive rounds of Tetris you’ve probably ever seen.’
January 31, 2022
[comics] “We Get To Do Whatever We Want!”: An Interview with Sean Phillips … Covering Phillips long career. On Vertigo Comics: ‘Looking back I can see Vertigo was something special and changed comics for the better, but I couldn’t see that at the time. When I’m drawing a comic I’m focused on one panel at a time and it’s difficult to see the bigger picture.’
January 28, 2022
[tech] A Computer can never be held accountable… (An IBM Slide from 1977.)
January 27, 2022
[music] The Beach Boys’ 40 greatest songs – ranked! … ‘’Til I Die (1971) – A stunning piece of songwriting – check out the extended alternative mix on 1998’s Endless Harmony – ’Til I Die is the most emotionally desolate song in the Beach Boys’ catalogue: a howl of resigned despair from a man in terrible distress. Its hopelessness is chilling, its sonic richness cosseting: an incredibly potent, unsettling combination.’
January 24, 2022
[lifehacks] 100 Tips for a Better Life … I usually find something helpful in these posts with lists of life hacks. ’23. (~This is not medical advice~). Don’t waste money on multivitamins, they don’t work. Vitamin D supplementation does seem to work, which is important because deficiency is common.’
January 21, 2022
[worzel] Worzel’s Warning … A remarkably dark Jon Pertwee song warning about stranger danger in the 1970s.
January 20, 2022
[comics] ‘I read all 27,000 Marvel comics and had a great time. Here’s what I learnt’ … Douglas Wolk’s tour guide to Marvel Comics. ‘The reading stage went on for longer than I thought it would. It turns out my brain can only handle so much gaudily coloured, hyper-violent soap opera in a single day. The high point may have been wrestling with the thoughtful, exquisitely drawn, yet problematic 1974-1983 title Master of Kung Fu, which introduced the character of Shang-Chi, who recently made it to the big screen. A taut, introspective espionage thriller whose antagonist is Fu Manchu, the series became, over time, both more impressive and – for its racist portrayals – more wince-inducing.’
January 19, 2022
[politics] Has Boris Johnson Resigned Yet? … The only single-serving website you need today. ‘No’
January 18, 2022
[moore] Alan Moore’s Top Five: Mystics and Magicians … ‘Austin Osman Spare: He knew and possibly shagged Aleister Crowley, but regarded Crowley as “an Italian ponce out of work” and utterly rejected Crowley’s lore-bound and formal magical system. Spare was approached sometime in the 1930s by Adolf Hitler with a request that he paint the occult-obsessed fuehrer’s portrait, which he declined, replying “if you, sir, are the superman, then I am proud to remain an ape.” When Spare and his Brixton studio were later bombed during the Blitz, Spare suffered some kind of stroke and was left paralysed down his right side, including his drawing hand, but, being Spare, he simply taught himself to draw with his left hand…’
January 17, 2022
[cummings] Intoxicating, insidery and infuriating: everything I learned about Dominic Cummings from his £10-a-month blog … A deep dive into the world of Dominic Cummings.
What’s so interesting about Cummings is that although he seems to share some of this deep scepticism about democratic politics and politicians – too slow, too trivial, too easily spooked – he cannot fully embrace it. After all, tracking public opinion in a clear-eyed, unsentimental way is what he does, perhaps better than anyone. He is a genius at it. In the end, his blog reminds me of the old Woody Allen joke: “The food here is terrible!” “Yes, and such small portions!” Cummings thinks that British politics is broken, that the two main parties are ready for the knacker’s yard, and that most of the political class couldn’t strategise their way out of a paper bag. And yet he can’t resist trying to play their game. He wants to abolish the Labour party. He also wants to teach it how to win the next election. He’d like to put quantum physicists in charge of the government. He’d also like to see Rishi Sunak boot Boris (and Carrie) out of Downing Street. He wants to burn it down. He also wants to make it better.
January 14, 2022
[games] Creating Lode Runner … How the classic 8-bit platformer game Lode Runner was created. ‘The manner in which James’s system worked made the monsters seem to have intelligence – they’d often pause rather than home in on you. “And what made the game really interesting was they ran all this logic to determine if they were going to make this one move, left or right, but you could then jump off a platform and end up falling halfway down the screen. At that point, all bets were off, because your position changed so quickly,” says James, adding that – as you might have guessed – “a lot of the fun for me was applying the logic to different levels and not necessarily playing the game!”’ [More: Looking back at Lode Runner]
January 12, 2022
[podcasts] Two podcasts series I’ve listened to recently…
January 11, 2022
[books] Infographic of Words Invented or Coined by Shakespeare … Shakespeare invented the word fap? Really?
January 10, 2022
[web] Meet the man who accidentally started an assassin hiring website … Buying a internet domain name can have unexpected consequences. ‘Innes had received a message from a woman named Helen. She was stranded in Canada, had lost her passport, and wanted three family members in the UK murdered for screwing her out of her father’s inheritance. He didn’t respond. But she persisted: sending a second email, which included names, addresses and other corroborating information. Innes felt compelled to act…’
January 7, 2022
[drink] The Heaviest Drinker in the Animal Kingdom … Today I learned it is very hard to get hamsters drunk. ‘Alcohol goes straight from the gut to the liver, which starts breaking down the mind-altering toxin that is ethanol. Hamster livers are “so efficient” at processing ethanol that very little ends up in their blood, says Tom Lawton, a critical-care doctor in Bradford, England. But when the hamsters got injected with ethanol, the substance could bypass the liver and go into their bloodstream and then their brain—hence much wobbling and falling over. Hamsters’ alcohol tolerance is likely an adaptation to their hoarding lifestyle.’
January 5, 2022
[music] Angie Dickinson and Lee Marvin perform Steve Reich’s Clapping Music … brilliantly edited.