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March 27, 2019
[tv] Is This Time Alan Partridge’s last Aha!? … Reviewing Alan Partridge’s latest TV series. ‘Thing is, as the Gibbons brothers have noted, by 21st-century standards of discourse, he is frighteningly plausible. When he mutters aloud about his wife being an “awful woman” on air, it reminds of Donald Trump’s “nasty woman” remark during the Presidential debates – there is too much about Trump that is Partridgean, or vice-versa. Similarly, that Piers Morgan now co-hosts a breakfast show has raised the suggestion that Partridge is redundant. Which is unfair on Alan – he is a psychologically complex, not entirely unlikable character whereas Morgan is a flat-out, flat-track tedious boor lacking Alan’s residual moral fibre.’
March 26, 2019
[disaster] Normalization of Deviance … a fascinating look at why disasters happen.

Because here’s the thing: most of the time when there’s a Serious Problem™, it’s not just one event. Disasters aren’t caused by one small event: it’s an avalanche of problems that we survived up until now until they all happen at once.

Like, the Titanic disaster didn’t kill 1,500 people because they had a one-in-a-million chance of hitting an iceberg. Yeah, the iceberg was the linchpin in that disaster, but it’s just the final piece in that jigsaw.

If they hadn’t been going so fast, if the radio operator hadn’t been preoccupied, if the lookout’s binoculars hadn’t been missing, if it hadn’t been a moonless night, if they’d not had rivet problems, if the bulkheads went all the way up, if they had enough lifeboats … It might have been a minor enough incident that you wouldn’t have even heard of it.

Like, in 1907 the SS Kronprinz Wilhelm rammed an iceberg. It was a passenger liner (later a troop transport) and fully loaded would have over a thousand passengers and crew aboard. It survived. It completed its voyage and stayed in service for another 16 years.

You probably haven’t heard of this incident. It’s a single line mention in a wikipedia page. Because they didn’t hit all the failures at once. They rolled the same dice and didn’t come up all 1s.

March 25, 2019
[web] Killed by Google – The Google Graveyard & Cemetery … A list of products shutdown by Google. ‘Google Reader – 2005 – 2013. Killed over 5 years ago, Google Reader was a RSS/Atom feed aggregator. It was over 7 years old.’
March 22, 2019
[comics] Theresa May and Brexit.

March 21, 2019
[morris] Was Thomas Kuhn Evil? … Nice overview of Errol Morris’ big problems with Thomas Kuhn. ‘Morris, who calls his philosophy “investigative realism,” writes, “I feel very strongly that, even though the world is unutterably insane, there is this idea—perhaps a hope—that we can reach outside of the insanity and find truth, find the world, find ourselves.” Kuhn, for all his faults, goaded Morris into writing a brilliant work of investigative realism.’
March 20, 2019
[iphone] The first iPhone prototype: an exclusive look at Apple’s red M68 … A rare look at a prototype of the original iPhone … ‘On this particular development board, there’s even a screen, but the iPhone’s home button (known here as the menu button) is mounted on the board to the left of the display, and the power and volume buttons are on the left-hand side of the board. We got a chance to boot this prototype, and it simply powers up to the Apple logo. Engineers using this particular board would have booted into something similar to a command prompt to test kernel changes.’
March 19, 2019
[alien] Ridley Scott’s Masterpiece ‘Alien’: Nothing Is as Terrifying as the Fear of the Unknown … Interesting collection of digital artefacts from the horror movie Alien including the screenplay. ‘The visuals are fascinating, but they alone would not have resulted in a brilliant horror flick had the pacing been any different. Scott deliberately let the story unfold slowly, gradually, respecting Hitchcock’s regard for the crucial importance of suspense. It is the waiting that’s killing us, it’s the feeling of being isolated and helpless that overwhelms us, it’s the silence and uneventfulness that bring about the feeling of upcoming horror, it’s this patience and restraint that makes the elements of pure terror so damn effective.’
March 18, 2019
[brexit] The simple guide to Brexit … Diamond Geezer’s Brexit outlines. ‘Nationwide chaos’
March 15, 2019
March 14, 2019
[comics] 50 Things Mike Sterling has learned from, or discovered about, comic book retail over the last thirty or so years‘All those foil/die-cut/hologram covers from the ’90s nearly did the industry in, but customers today who weren’t around then for all that nonsense think those fancy covers are great now! I can even sell Turok #1s!’
[brexit] Theresa May planned to defeat herself, then decided not to defeat herself by defeating herself, then lost. To herself … Tom Peck’s Political Sketch of what happened last night in Parliment.

Theresa May has spent the last three years saying “no deal is better than a bad deal”. She’s allocated £4bn of public money to preparing for no deal. And then, on Wednesday evening, she was expected to walk through the division lobbies and vote to rule out no deal.

Mad, obviously. Stark raving mad. But it’s at least within the realm of madness that we’re used to. But what happened was a madness to echo down the ages. Not so much another order of magnitude as another dimension.

The House of Commons was a Benny Hill chase on acid, running through a Salvador Dali painting in a spaceship on its way to infinity.

It was a kind of death-defying, window-shattering, epoch-shaping, never-to-be-surpassed lunacy.

The details are extravagantly complex, and if you can’t face them all, the key bit to remember is that Theresa May planned to defeat herself, then decided not to defeat herself by defeating herself, then lost. To herself.

March 13, 2019
[comics] The Really, Really Missing Alan Moore … Lance Parkin’s listing of Alan Moore’s unstarted and unfinished projects. ‘There are two missing novels. The first is Yuggoth Cultures, a Lovecraft-inspired piece. The second is A Grammar, a psychogeographical work about a path between Northampton and the Welsh border, or a train track between the East Coast and Cardiff, depending which interview you read.’
March 12, 2019
[movies] Why is pop culture obsessed with battles between good and evil? … An interesting look at why modern stories tend to be narratives about Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. ‘It’s no coincidence that good guy/bad guy movies, comic books and games have large, impassioned and volatile fandoms – even the word ‘fandom’ suggests the idea of a nation, or kingdom. What’s more, the moral physics of these stories about superheroes fighting the good fight, or battling to save the world, does not commend genuine empowerment. The one thing the good guys teach us is that people on the other team aren’t like us. In fact, they’re so bad, and the stakes are so high, that we have to forgive every transgression by our own team in order to win.’
March 11, 2019
[comics] A Tank Knows No Mercy-Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko-1960 … A war story with pencils from Jack Kirby and inks by Steve Ditko.

March 8, 2019
[lists] The Best Unusual Articles on Wikipedia … List of amusing time-wasting articles on Wikipedia. Check out Jesus H. Christ, Calculator Spelling and the Cadaver Synod.
March 7, 2019
[life] Mob deep: Russian mafia gravestones … Collection of oddly compelling photo-realistic gravestones of Russian gangsters and family.
March 6, 2019
[winning] ‘I’d get 400 toilet rolls at a time’: how it feels to win a lifetime supply … amusing look at what it’s like to win a life-time supply competition. ‘The toilet rolls started arriving three months later. I was at design school in Orange County and living in a rented room, so my housemates were pretty excited when I got a phone call from UPS saying there was a big order for me to pick up. I pulled up at the depot in my Mini Cooper expecting a large package, and was met by two pallets, piled high with about 20 boxes, containing hundreds of rolls. I couldn’t get it all in the car. I folded the seats down, opened up boxes and shoved packets in every footwell. I was sweating. It was like something out of a movie. This would happen every two or three months; I would receive up to 400 rolls at a time. I’d go to the warehouse, or a haulage truck would pull up outside my house…’
March 5, 2019
[internet] The Internet is Full of Bullshit … a perennially useful animated GIF from Swear Trek.

March 4, 2019
[mind] Why can’t the world’s greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness … A look at the mystery of consciousness from Oliver Burkeman. ‘Common sense may tell us there’s a subjective world of inner experience – but then common sense told us that the sun orbits the Earth, and that the world was flat. Consciousness, according to Dennett’s theory, is like a conjuring trick: the normal functioning of the brain just makes it look as if there is something non-physical going on. To look for a real, substantive thing called consciousness, Dennett argues, is as silly as insisting that characters in novels, such as Sherlock Holmes or Harry Potter, must be made up of a peculiar substance named “fictoplasm”; the idea is absurd and unnecessary, since the characters do not exist to begin with. This is the point at which the debate tends to collapse into incredulous laughter and head-shaking: neither camp can quite believe what the other is saying. To Dennett’s opponents, he is simply denying the existence of something everyone knows for certain: their inner experience of sights, smells, emotions and the rest. (Chalmers has speculated, largely in jest, that Dennett himself might be a zombie.) It’s like asserting that cancer doesn’t exist, then claiming you’ve cured cancer; more than one critic of Dennett’s most famous book, Consciousness Explained, has joked that its title ought to be Consciousness Explained Away.’
March 1, 2019
[life] Man destroys kitchen trying to spread cold butter on toast‘The first spread just kind of broke the butter and tore the toast a bit, then the second went straight through the kitchen counter and fucked the dishwasher. After the third I couldn’t see because of all the dust and masonry. I didn’t give up, because I really fancied some toast…’
February 28, 2019
[comics] Star Wars in 2000AD [Part 1 | Part 2] … Nostalgic look back at the influence of Star Wars on 2000AD. ‘The first mention of the movie appears in the letters page in prog 8 (16 Apr 1977). This would have been my first exposure to the title “Star Wars” — but I don’t remember it. Fun fact: prog 8 was the first issue to print readers’ letters.’

February 27, 2019
[moderation] The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America … this long article about the working lives of Facebook moderators is very dark and worth your time. ‘When I ask about the risks of contractors developing PTSD, a counselor I’ll call Logan tells me about a different psychological phenomenon: “post-traumatic growth,” an effect whereby some trauma victims emerge from the experience feeling stronger than before. The example he gives me is that of Malala Yousafzai, the women’s education activist, who was shot in the head as a teenager by the Taliban. “That’s an extremely traumatic event that she experienced in her life,” Logan says. “It seems like she came back extremely resilient and strong. She won a Nobel Peace Prize… So there are many examples of people that experience difficult times and come back stronger than before.”’
February 26, 2019
[movies] An Oral History of ‘Office Space’ … Amusing look at the making of Mike Judge’s classic office comedy.

Gilbert: I went out and found 20 printers that were all the same, because we’re smashing it, right? I took them all apart myself to make them all weaker, so when they hit them with baseball bats, it would come apart. Every take where we broke one and we got more parts, we kept throwing those broken parts onto the inside of the printer.

Livingston: I just walk around in the background with a baseball bat. I wanted it to be the idea that I was blooding these guys a little bit—this was their initiation into this kind of thing. The two of them, all the stuff they did was hilarious.

Naidu: The idea that it takes on the element of a full-on gangster beatdown was very clear to me. I used what little tae kwon do training I had left over and everything I remember from every gangster movie I had. I’d give it a massive hammer kick. That comes from Master Kim when I was 12. Make sure the leg comes above the head.

February 25, 2019
[comics] Divorced because of comic books … scan of a story from a newspaper in 1949. ‘SALT LAKE CITY — Mrs. Ida Thompson Thursday sued Henry G. Thompson for divorce because he “frequently bought comic books by the dozens and sat around and read them while refusing to help care for our baby.”‘
February 22, 2019
[tv] ‘We’ve had a love-hate relationship’: Steve Coogan on bringing Alan Partridge back to the BBC‘But timing is everything, and the alchemy that sees Partridge back at the BBC on the cusp of such huge national change couldn’t be more perfect. Like King Arthur in Avalon, he waited for his time to come. And come it has. Although the show doesn’t directly reference Brexit, because it’s a train that is moving too fast, and they’re not in the business of political satire, it hints at the current divisions over everything from gender politics to the #MeToo movement and lets Partridge grapple with them. Coogan says Partridge’s lack of a mental gatekeeper is the gift that keeps on giving…’
February 21, 2019
[comics] The UKCAC ’86 Portfolio [Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5 | Page 6 | Page 7 | Page 8 | Page 9 | Page 10 | Page 11 | Page 12] … A great collection of sketches produced at a UK Comic Convention in 1986. Sketches from Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz, Kevin O’Neill and many more…

February 20, 2019
[movies] Office Space at 20: how the comedy spoke to an anxious workplace … Looking back at Mike Judge’s office comedy. ‘The aggressive regular-guy-ness of Livingston empowers anyone sharing his middle-income lot – not well-off enough to enjoy being rich; not poor enough to have the hardship to account for his misery – to access him as a surrogate, making his strike against the coffee-slurping overlords into a slacker wish-fulfillment fantasy. His version of getting unplugged from the matrix comes when a hypnotherapist drops dead in the middle of their session, which leaves Peter in a state of new enlightenment. It means all he must do to change direction is simply decide to do so. He starts coming to work in flannel shirts and jeans, ignoring the memos telling him things he already knows, and eventually skipping out entirely to embrace absenteeism as a philosophy.’
February 19, 2019
[life] Do Animals Have Feelings? … A powerful examination of the consciousness of animals. ‘If one of the wasp’s aquatic ancestors experienced Earth’s first embryonic consciousness, it would have been nothing like our own consciousness. It may have been colorless and barren of sharply defined objects. It may have been episodic, flickering on in some situations and off in others. It may have been a murkily sensed perimeter of binary feelings, a bubble of good and bad experienced by something central and unitary. To those of us who have seen stars shining on the far side of the cosmos, this existence would be claustrophobic to a degree that is scarcely imaginable. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t conscious.’
February 18, 2019
[socialmedia] The Lonely Life of a Yacht Influencer … Profiling the life of a Instagram influencer. ‘Jimenez leveled with me — once upon a time, he had been excited by the idea of partying on a yacht. After all, who wouldn’t be? But now he was basically just a working stiff. He too had a home and a family, with kids he didn’t see as much as he could because his “feet were never on dry land.” He had considerable yacht expertise and knew all the major players in the yacht world, buyers and sellers and their glorious boats. He had been on the 100-foot yachts and the 500-foot yachts, and seen yacht-related activities he assured me exceeded any fantasies, dark or light, that I could ever imagine. Yet all that meant he was now just another yacht worker, someone who punched the clock — or the pearl-faced wristwatch, in his case — the same as the kitchen staff, the bartenders and the yacht’s crew.’
February 15, 2019
[sleep] How to Sleep. .. A doctor advises on how to sleep well. ‘ Could soldiers be trained to function in sustained warfare with very little sleep? The original studies seemed to say yes. But when the military put soldiers in a lab to make certain they stayed awake, performance suffered. Cumulative deficits accrued with each night of suboptimal sleep. The less sleep the soldiers got, the more deficits they suffered the next day. But as with my own residency experience, they couldn’t tell that they had a deficit. “They would insist that they were fine,” said Dinges, “but weren’t performing well at all, and the discrepancy was extreme.” This finding has been replicated many times over the intervening decades, even as many professions continue to encourage and applaud sleep deprivation.’