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30 November 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.’
29 November 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.’
28 November 2016
[trump] It can happen here: But has it? The 1933 scenario is no longer hypothetical … Salon on President Trump and What Happens Next … ‘The whole scenario remains deeply ludicrous, although it long ago stopped being funny. It more closely resembles a plot twist in an Alan Moore graphic novel than anything any of us expected to see in the real world: A reality TV star and real estate salesman with the demeanor and intellect of a petulant child has been elected president with a minority of the vote, thanks to a flukey electoral system, a severely divided and demoralized electorate, a beleaguered and overconfident opponent and a concatenation of other circumstances too strange for fiction.’
25 November 2016
[fascism] Umberto Eco’s List of the 14 Common Features of Fascism‘The obsession with a plot. “The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.”’
24 November 2016
[web] Archiving a Website for Ten Thousand Years … on the longevity of time-capsules and archiving websites … ‘A time capsule is bottled optimism. It makes material the belief that human beings will survive long enough to retrieve and decode artifacts of the distant past. In 1938, during the planning stages of the Crypt of Civilization, Jacobs dedicated the vault’s massive steel door. His remarks exhibited an expansive vision: “Today we can place articles in the crypt and nothing can keep them from being readable a million years from now.” By 1940, Jacobs’s tone had changed, stifled by the rise of fascism and America’s entry into a global war. At the ceremony to seal the vault, he made a very different statement: “The world is now engaged in burying our civilization forever, and here in this crypt we leave it to you.” His speech was recorded and placed in the vault before it was sealed.’
23 November 2016
[documentaries] From Weiner to Making A Murderer: this is the golden age of documentaries … an look at recent documentaries worth watching … ‘In the last decade, all that’s been turned on its head, as a handful of factors have conspired to render non-fiction film-making the liveliest pocket of the cinematic coat. For one thing, the films themselves – singular creations such as The Arbor, Citizenfour and Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop – have fought tooth and nail to expand not just their audiences but their horizons. They’ve rejected the insipid library music and staid talking heads of yesteryear and instead borrowed from the rainbow of stylistic devices available to dramatic film-makers. Technology has also levelled the cinematic playing field. As more and more films have left the cinema and arrived in our homes, or on our phones, documentaries have been spared the Sisyphean task of competing with the latest Marvel Studios megalith for each potential ticket sale. Instead, fiction and non-fiction are now thrown together on low-cost subscription services that draw no distinction between the two.’
22 November 2016
[crime] Framed – She was the PTA mom everyone knew. Who would want to harm her? … an engrossing long-read about a suburban middle-class Mum and Dad’s attempt to destroy another parent at the school their child attended …

“I want you to use that big brain of yours, mouth closed, listen,” Brannon told him. “At some point during this conversation you’re going to have to make a big-boy decision, and that’s gonna be on you.”

In the age of computers and technology and cell phones, Brannon said, “Big Brother’s always watching. We’re absolutely not the smartest guys in the shed, OK? But we can follow the dots from one to the next to the next.”

They knew, he said, that Easter’s phone had been pinging in the middle of the night near Peters’ apartment. And if there was DNA on the drugs in Peters’ car, they would find it.

Brannon said, “I would hope and pray for your sake that there’s a big light going off, big bells going off. Knowing what I just told you, is there anything that you would like to add to your statement to me, whether retracting or adding anything to your statement?”

“I would like to get a lawyer.”

“That’s the big-boy answer.”

21 November 2016
[politics] Bruce Sterling’s Notes on the 2016 US Election‘This is the Pandora’s Box of twenty-first-century politics, these rumor politics of modern power players organized for disruption, wherein the lines of play are drawn far outside the twentieth century’s staid political parties and its Fourth Estate of journalism. And, since it helps campaigners to seize power fast and cheap, it’s bound to get more like this, rather than less. Silicon Valley would call this a disruptive hack, since it undercuts debates, ground games, TV ads, and other expensive, tedious camp.’
18 November 2016
[cthulhu] Look, All I’m Saying Is Let’s At Least Give Nyarlathotep A Chance‘But the die has been cast, and we’ve gotta roll with what we’ve been given. Like it or not, Nyarlathotep — God of a Thousand Forms, Stalker Among the Stars — is our Commander-in-Chief now. And you know what, Jerry? Color me curious. I know a lot of really heated rhetoric and seemingly reckless policy proposals have been bandied about over the past few months — that bit about “delighting in this dust speck you call Earth’s senseless suffering” still bugs me — but hey, the least we can do is see how He adjusts to His new responsibilities.’
17 November 2016
[memes] The Origin of the Internet’s Most Famous Dumpster Fire … the orgins of a popular meme during the US election … ‘The world’s most famous dumpster fire came from this YouTube video, which identifies the fire as being located behind the official home of The Oscars: the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. “Engine 27 makes quick work of a large dumpster fire,” the video caption says. So what exactly happened on this fateful day in 2012?’
16 November 2016
[comics] “You know, honey… …we never talk…”

"You know, honey... ...we never talk..."

15 November 2016
[movies] Nicolas Cage’s 50 Best Movies, Ranked By Greatness‘Bringing out the Dead: Martin Scorcese directs Cage in a film written by Paul Schrader. Yes, it’s really good.’
14 November 2016
[comics] Midlands metaphysics … The Financial Times reviews Alan Moore’s Jerusalem … ‘Unquestionably Jerusalem is Moore’s most ambitious statement yet — his War and Peace, his Ulysses. The prose scintillates throughout, a traffic jam of hooting dialect and vernacular trundling nose-to-tail with pantechnicons of pop culture allusion. Exploring a single town’s psychogeography with a passionate forensic intensity, Moore makes the parochial universal, the mundane sublime and the temporal never-ending.’
10 November 2016
[comics] 95-year-old Mad cartoonist Al Jaffee: ‘The world is full of bloviators’‘I noticed that what was becoming popular – and it might have been the Playboy magazine started it – but even household magazines like Life magazine and National Geographic started to have these elaborate full-color fold-outs, and it immediately clicked in my mind that if they’re doing all of these sumptuous fold-outs, Mad ought to do a cheap, black-and-white fold-in. I walked into the editor and I said to him, “Al, you’re not going to buy this because it would mutilate the magazine but I just thought I’d show it to you for the fun of it.” He grabbed it and ran in to the publisher’s office, came bouncing back in about five minutes, and said: “Bill loves the idea. Do it, and if it mutilates the magazine, the kid’ll buy a second one for his collection.” Ever the money man.’
9 November 2016
[life] Current Status…

8 November 2016
[aircrash] What Happened to Eastern Airlines Flight 980 … fascinating aircrash cold case – about a 1985 crash into a Bolivian mountain … ‘We see an astonishing number of contraband crocodile and snakeskins, which were probably being smuggled to Miami to be made into black-market goods like shoes and handbags. Dan gets on the radio to tell us that he found a roll of magnetic tape. “This is either from one of the black boxes,” he says, “or it has a great 1985 movie on it.” Isaac and Dan also both find a few chunks of orange metal, which is exciting because—despite the name—flight recorders are painted international orange to help investigators locate them. But the pieces seem too trashed to have come from supposedly indestructible boxes…’
7 November 2016
[funny] WWJB?… Who Would Jesus Block?

Who Would Jesus Block?

4 November 2016
[curtis] HyperNormalisation … go watch this long, new, iPlayer documentary from Adam Curtis … ‘Our world is strange and often fake and corrupt. But we think it’s normal because we can’t see anything else. HyperNormalisation – the story of how we got here.’
2 November 2016
[tect] The Oral History Of The Poop Emoji (Or, How Google Brought Poop To America) … the story of how the 💩 emoji came to be on your mobile phone … ‘I wrote the code and sent it to one of my colleagues who I had told before. I said, “I’m sneaking an animated poop into Gchat. I want you to review it. The title of the review is going be something really boring so no one will want to look at it.” The poop was submitted. I decided to wait until it went live all across the world before telling my manager. I watched and waited for it to reach 100%, praying that I didn’t break Gmail. If I broke Gmail for animated poop, people would be super mad. There were no problems!’
1 November 2016
[moore] A Working Class Mythology: Alan Moore's Jerusalem Reviewed‘Actually, I think there’s every chance that for future generations Moore will be remembered primarily as the author of Jerusalem; as a genuine working-class genius and world-class writer who just happened to get his start in comics because there were no other avenues open to him.’
31 October 2016
[space] How NASA Fights to Keep Dying Spacecraft Alive … a look at how the working lives of space probes end … ‘Maybe there’s another way of looking at the “deaths” of NASA’s deep space probes. After all, even after we lose contact with all five, they will still be speeding away from the solar system toward distant stars. In the vacuum of space, there’s nothing to corrode or degrade the spacecraft other than the occasional stray particle, meaning there’s every possibility that these probes will still be out there somewhere millions of years from now. By then, it’s entirely possible that the last humans in existence will be the couple carved onto the Pioneer plaque, those photographed for Voyager’s Golden Record, and Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh, an ounce of whose ashes are aboard New Horizons.’
28 October 2016
[books] In ‘Hitler,’ an Ascent From ‘Dunderhead’ to Demagogue … Nicely done book review on the rise of Donald Trump Adolf Hitler … ‘Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a “bottomless mendacity” that would later be magnified by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology (radio, gramophone records, film) to spread his message. A former finance minister wrote that Hitler “was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth” and editors of one edition of “Mein Kampf” described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.”’
27 October 2016
[comics] 13 Essential Horror Comics‘How does one combine classic crime noir, period drama, and Lovecraftian terror into an ongoing comic that not only scares, it fascinates? Read Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Fatale to find out. For years, Brubaker and Phillips crafted some of the greatest crime fiction in comics with their seminal Criminal, but in Fatale, the creative duo proved they can do high octane horror with the same panache they did cops and robbers.’
26 October 2016
[comics] Remembering Jack Chick: how the Christian cartoonist changed comics … The Evangelical Christian cartoonist Jack Chick died on Sunday …

Many underground and alternative comic artists admired him. In an interview last year, the cartoonist Daniel Clowes said that, as far as he was concerned, Chick deserved a place in the comics pantheon. “As a comics aficionado you don’t really think of those as being part of the official canon of effective comics,” he said. “And one day I sort of changed my mind on that. I thought, ‘These are really compelling and interesting and I’d rather read these than pretty much anything else published in 1985.’”

The revelation came after a Chick tracts bender, Clowes said: “[O]ne day I made a long trek out to a Christian bookstore in Queens where they had a rack where they sold them, and I bought every single one, which totaled I think $3. I think they were each 10 cents. And I went home and read them all in one sitting, and it was maybe the most devastating comics-reading experience I’ve ever had. I really felt like he’d almost won me over by the end. There’s really something to be said for that.”

21 October 2016
[trump] ‘I think he’s a very dangerous man for the next three or four weeks’ … An “emergency meeting” of Trumpologists discuss Trump’s final weeks in the US Election … ‘The parallels between the period of time leading up to his downfall in 1990 and the campaign now are striking. And what he did last night in standing up in this moment of crisis and being a victim — he thought of himself as a victim in the downfall of 1990 and playing the victim card and being as angry at others as he was in the ’90s in the way in which he dealt with the bankers. It was very strikingly similar to that period of time. But when you’ve dealt with the bankers in 1990, you could figure out a way where both of you came out with something and lost something. But in this case, there’s going to be a winner and a loser. And so there’s some similarities, but ultimately, he’s going to be a loser. He managed to survive in almost an unbelievable way when his empire collapsed, but managed to survive with the aid of the bankers. But this time, it’s going to be a straight-out loss on the biggest stage he’s ever been on, and how he handles that — I don’t think we’ve got any precedent for that.’
20 October 2016
[moore] Alan Moore’s Script for Batman: The Killing Joke … posted complete on Tumblr … ‘WELL, I’VE CHECKED THE LANDING GEAR, FASTENED MY SEATBELT, SWALLOWED MY CIGAR IN A SINGLE GULP AND GROUND MY SCOTCH AND SODA OUT IN THE ASTRAY PROVIDED, SO I SUPPOSE WE’RE ALL SET FOR TAKE OFF. BEFORE WE GO SCREECHING OFF INTO THOSE ANGRY CREATIVE SKIES FROM WHICH WE MAY BOTH WELL RETURN AS BLACKENED CINDERS, I SUPPOSE A FEW PRELIMINARY NOTES ARE IN ORDER, SO SIT BACK WHILE I RUN THROUGH THEM WITH ACCOMPANYING HAND MOVEMENTS FROM OUT CHARMING STEWARDESS IN THE CENTRE AISLE.’
19 October 2016
[wikileaks] Want to know WikiLeaks’ endgame? Julian Assange told you a decade ago‘In “Conspiracy as Governance,” which Assange posted to his blog in December 2006, the leader of then-new WikiLeaks describes what he considered to be the most effective way to attack a conspiracy—including, as he puts it, that particular form of conspiracy known as a political party. “Consider what would happen if one of these parties gave up their mobile phones, fax and email correspondence—let alone the computer systems which manage their [subscribers], donors, budgets, polling, call centres and direct mail campaigns. They would immediately fall into an organisational stupor and lose to the other.” And how to induce that “organisational stupor?” Foment the fear that any correspondence could leak at any time.’
17 October 2016
[games] How to Win at Monopoly and Lose All Your Friends … interesting analysis of how play Monopoly effectively … ‘Because Monopoly is one of the best-selling games of all time, most of us learned to play it as children. As such, most of us know the basics of going through a turn, such as rolling, moving, buying and improving properties, collecting rent and so on. However, few people know all the rules (more on this later) or how to form a cohesive strategy. This results in games were people more or less roll the dice and go through the motions until somebody wins. Because of the way the game is designed, this inevitably results in one person acquiring a majority of the assets on the board, and beginning the slow, painful, friendship-destroying process of grinding the other players out of the game, turn by turn. This is why Monopoly starts as a fun exciting romp, only to turn into a bitter cesspool of despair…’
14 October 2016
[tv] Charlie Brooker: ‘The more horrible an idea, the funnier I find it’ … Charlie Brooker on the various subjects covered in the new series of Black Mirror‘I’ve scaled back my involvement with Twitter; it’s too easy to get dragged into an argument. It’s also completely futile. Is it helpful for trolls, is it cathartic? Does it prevent them from going out on a shooting rampage? It’s tricky. One person’s troll is another person trying to make a point. They’re trying to get you to listen to an argument. I don’t make sweeping statements on social media, mainly because I can’t be fucking arsed with the argument that follows.’
13 October 2016
[docu] Hypernormalisation: Adam Curtis on chatbots, AI and Colonel Gaddafi … Adam Curtis interviewed by Andrew Orlowski about his new documentary

Rather than deal with something complicated, Western powers found that Gadaffi who had until then been isolated and ignored by the Arab world, fitted the bill of a cartoon villain.

“Gadaffi illustrates, like a flash of lightening on a dark night, just how corrupt, how hypocritical, and how empty of values our middles class elites have become,” Curtis told us. “It was quite shocking to me. It’s just rubbish that he had WMDs. There were no biological weapons and he’d got a a centrifuge but none of his people knew how to put it together – it was in boxes.”

But after being demonised in the 1980s and 1990s, Gadaffi finds himself rehabilitated.

“After the Gulf War all these people go out and make him into a modern thinker: David Frost, Anthony Giddens, even Lionel Ritchie went out there, and said Gadaffi was good. Then, after they Arabs Spring he was a villain again, so they just dropped him.”

“I was thinking of making a sort of comedy…