Skip to content

Plastic Linky

I loved this edition of Manfeels Park. Hee hee! (Remember that all the dialogue is drawn from real exchanges online, with source link below the comic!)

Via Gareth: the voices of Pinky & the Brain read… Pulp Fiction. (Just one scene!)

(and via Cyrus, a highly entertaining script reading of The Matrix)

Great personal story: I was a Men’s Rights Activist.

Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) has been sharing shooting script pages from Star Wars, and there’s stuff I haven’t heard of before – like how Obi Wan was meant to survive the Death Star! This must have been changed on set!

Insanely huge Lego Star Destroyer

Original Pope of this blog (and upcoming contestant on Mastermind) David Ritchie discovered io9 shamelessly ripping off our “Pantheon of Plastic” idea: which actors played the most characters who got action figures?

And finally, via Pearce, from the NYT, the battle over the Sea Monkey fortune. Even more interesting than it sounds.

Tagged

Remaking ANZAC Day

Every year on April 25, New Zealand (and Australia but I’m talking NZ here) marks ANZAC Day, which commemorates soldiers who fell in wars great and small. Particularly it remembers the horrific slaughter at Gallipoli in World War I, which is often seen as the moment where NZ became a nation.

It is always a contested event: the nationalism and militarism of the day are obvious, and there is a fundamental ambiguity over whether the solemn ceremonies deplore the violence, or strengthen the narrative that it was necessary. But each year, attempts to complicate the mythology of ANZAC day are met with furious resistance by a populace who simply want to remember their relatives from previous generations who died doing their best in a horrid distant war, and to pray that no such horror ever comes again. The talkback radio phones ring hot decrying the insensivity of protesters.

This year, two fresh threads in this critique have emerged that seem fruitful as ways to attack the nationalist and militarist mythmaking around the day but seem to have avoided this fierce backlash.

First, the idea of explicitly expanding ANZAC Day’s commemorations to include the wars within New Zealand (commonly known as the Māori Land Wars). The idea is covered beautifully by Toby Morris’s latest Pencilsword comic strip, “Lest We Forget“.

Second, a set of guerrilla sculptures erected around Wellington showing a soldier receiving Field Punishment Number 1, a brutal punishment meted out to pacifists who refused to fight. Public opinion is generally in agreement now that this is a blemish on our past. Protest group “Peace Action Wellington”, normally being tarred and feathered at this time of year for its protest actions, is this time being written about with something approaching admiration in the daily paper, and the comment section as I write is solidly in favour of the sculptures.

Great work on both accounts. I look forward to these threads being expanded further in years to come.

Tagged ,

Dangerous Linky

Dangerous Treasures: A story of Lovecraftian horror, frantic action, and deepweb forum culture, by the lovely folks at Strange Company. (9 minute short film.)

My friend Kitty is featured in Woman builds herself new career… with Lego

via d3vo, the many forgotten benefits of segmented sleep

Via Alastair, four games that tell great stories, and how they do it

And the Humble Bundle right now has Telltale Games’ back catalogue, including the astonishing Walking Dead Season One as just part of their $1 set!!

And finally, Billy calls this a “really remarkable Wikipedia entry” and I have to agree. Every paragraph in the early going has a wild new idea in it. Then it gets even more densely packed with ingenuity. Read it! Jonathon Keats

Tagged , ,

The problem with men

This has been an unpleasant week; by which I mean I have been reminded many times that for women, every week is an unpleasant week. All this came across my screen.

The dark side of Guardian comments
“New research into our own comment threads provides the first quantitative evidence for what female journalists have long suspected: that articles written by women attract more abuse and dismissive trolling than those written by men, regardless of what the article is about.”

The women abandoned to their online abusers
On the internet, if I ever complain and say; ‘This has happened, I’m sick of it’, people say; ‘You’re on the internet, what do you expect?’
“There’s no support for women at all, from the police or anyone else.”

This horrifying and newly trendy online harasment tactic is ruining careers
“Both 8chan and Kotaku in Action regularly crowdsource research into the histories of private individuals who’ve done little more than post about feminism on social media.”

I will come forward
How a prominent New Zealand music identity conducted a troubling series of relationships with young women, including girls as young as 12.

Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem
“I know that if I speak out against the abuses myself and my friends have suffered as a result of our participation in the “friendly gaming community” I can expect to be silenced with extreme prejudice.”

But at least there was also, in response to that last one:

For good men to see nothing
I have a list of things you can do.

Tagged , ,

Book Thief Linky

Via many people, this fascinating story of some writers who discovered their novels had been copied is a cracking tale in its own right – I’m surprised this hasn’t happened more often to be honest.

A nice little article on the threat posed by oversensitive political correctness in higher education: there isn’t one. (via Hamish C).

1990 Nirvana concert in a tiny goth club. Choice. (via DM)

Alasdair gave the much-maligned Batman vs Superman a five-star review, and it’s a great read. (NB: he also gave it a four-star review.)

A reappraisal of Event Horizon – I saw it in the cinema and I remember really liking it, despite the reliance on jump scares and loud noises. The comments reveal how it continues to divide people – about 50/50 “thank you someone said it” vs. “you are bonkers it sucks”.

Trainwreck fans who’ve been missing gamergate will be delighted to hear there’s a new incredibly dumb online gaming ragefest targeted, in what is surely just one more coincidence in a long line of them, at yet another woman. This one’s about (“about”) game writing, which is something I do and get paid real human dollars for, so I feel I can say with at least some authority that there is no merit whatsoever to the alleged reason for this ragestorm. Maybe I’ll get frustrated enough to blog about it. (NO morgue no)

This 9-year-old crime reporter doesn’t care what anyone says. She rules.

Charts about tea, via Norman C.

I read this on Salon by d3vo suggested it as linky worthy: the end of the gig economy, or, why Uber isn’t transforming everything else after all.

And finally, also via d3vo: a writing app that encourages productivity in an unusual way: if you stop typing, it deletes all your work.

Tagged

The Cul De Sac (television; NZ, 2016)

I am not really keeping up with the pop culture right now but I was surprised to discover on Sunday that I’d just missed the first episode of a new youth-oriented TV series called “The Cul de Sac”. Further surprised that I couldn’t see anyone talking about it – especially since it features KJ Apa in a lead role. The dude is playing Archie Andrews in the new Riverdale series in the US, and this show doesn’t even show up on his IMDB yet!

So, I’m gonna talk about it.

The article I read – a little promo piece in the Sunday Star Times – said the series “follows two major sci-fi tropes and mixes them together with some Kiwi flavouring: a world with no adults meets what sounds like an alien invasion.” (No adults – like another piece of NZ-produced yoof telly, dear old bonkers cheesefest The Tribe!)

This sounded worth a look, especially after namedropping those classic kidult sci-fi shows of the 80s, Under the Mountain and Children of the Dog Star, although it’s obviously scratching that Hunger Games/Divergent sort of itch. I watched the first episode over lunch – if you’re in NZ you can do the same right here. (Probably blocked for other regions, I guess?)

And – it was a good time! It goes like a bloody rocket, as the protagonists find out that all the adults are gone and sinister weather turns into a destructive event that vaporises a whole bunch of teens, while the high school has gone all dystopian authority. It gets points for planting a young woman in the lead role and giving her heaps to do – the opening scene with an unhappy dog is a brilliant piece of understated action – and I was delighted to find rising star Apa playing (with effortless charisma) what would typically be the girlfriend role – taking orders from the main hero, running to report bad news, and even twisting his ankle while running away from stuff.

You do have to give the show a lot of leeway as it races through its setup, though. We see a lot of teens and kids who seem completely happy to just stand around murmuring after this crisis and submit meekly as a few tough kids establish an authoritarian regime when, well, there is a whole adult-free world elsewhere they could go to instead, not to mention whole supermarkets sitting there unlooted. But I’ll run with it because this show obviously wants to get to its main storyline as quickly as possible.

I’ll definitely be coming back for more. Worth a look.

Tagged , ,

Storify: Politics isn’t politics

Tagged , ,

Mind Trick Linky

Mark Hamill does some smooth Jedi moves on over-eager Star Wars fans:

My friend Vivian has released her new EP, “In Between Times”. Listen on Bandcamp, and drop a few bucks if you like what you hear.

New Yorker thinkpiece about how we no longer use facts to justify our beliefs, which, okay, but I’m pretty sure we never did.

And this short vid summarising psychologist Paul Bloom’s take on why empathy is a bad thing is infuriating in its bland dumbness. “We go to war because we are told people are suffering and we need to save them, then it turns out we harm loads more people, THANKS EMPATHY”. Linking to see if I’m motivated enough to read deeper and figure out if this guy has a point or not. But I suspect not.

Both those via the Nextdraft newsletter of interesting things, well worth the subscription.

Actually these might have come from there too – Vanity Fair’s writeup of the senior citizens behind the biggest jewel heist in British history. (There _must_ be a film of this in production already.)

The origin of the Airball chant, basketball’s most humiliating crowd response.

Edward Gorey’s War of the Worlds illustrations.

The AV Club has an overview of the vast store of unaired TV pilots at DailyMotion, including Young MacGyver and Buffy: The Animated Series (which I’d never seen before).

Via Billy: the story of when, in 1906, a young African man was exhibited with the apes in a zoo.

And finally, what do you get when you cross legendary bad movie The Room with legendary good musical Hamilton?

Tagged

Trump, the view from Moon Zealand

For a while now I’ve wondered when exactly we should start taking seriously what is going on in US politics around Donald Trump. How foolish of me. The time is now. Right now.

Let’s be clear: Trump is not going to be President of the United States of America. He has terrified more people than he’s won over, and the demographics in the US have shifted against anyone who cannot appeal across ethnic lines. I don’t know how great this disparity is – it might be scarily close – but barring some late-stage game changer, I can’t see any path to the Oval Office for Trump.

Let’s also be clear, the fact that I had to write the above paragraph is *fucking terrifying*. Because look where we’re at: Donald Trump is quids in to get the Republican nomination and run for President with the banner of the GOP fluttering over his head. This is a man who is holding a series of rallies where the main entertainment is shouting down and ejecting protestors, loudly booing enemies, and cheering wildly at the prospect of building a giant wall between the US and Mexico. A giant wall! This is the act of a carnival barker crossed with a demagogue. There has never been a major candidate so floridly unfit for political authority of any kind, yet somehow he is not only in the contest for a Presidential nomination, he is very likely to win it.

“Somehow” is the loaded word, there, suggesting Trump has popped up out of nowhere like a Jack-in-the-box with orange skin and a combover. He hasn’t, of course. Trump has been on the scene for a long time, and has spoken of running for President for a long time. He was never taken seriously by sensible people, but it turns out he had the measure of the game the whole time. Trump saw the control systems of US politics are fundamentally broken, and someone like him could walk right in through the shattered glass and start kicking levers. And that is exactly what he’s done.

He will fail to get elected. With any luck, he will shrug off the failure like has has so many others and turn his attention to other things, depriving his supporters of an aggrieved leader to whom they might pledge themselves. The Republican party as a whole will be shaken and weakened. It might, in fact, seem like a happy ending. This could even be true, as an ending to the story of Trump’s political gambit. The problem is, this is not an ending at all. The events of 2016 are much better understood as a beginning, because Trump’s toddler-level manhandling of the sparking, smoking US political control panel is tearing the whole machine to pieces.

“Somehow”. There will be books and books written, trying to explain how the US ended up here, but sitting on the distant moon that is NZ, staring through the telescope, the narrative seems to run like this:

After the second world war, times were good in America, at least if you were white and straight and male. Most folks were reading from the same book, if not always the same page, about how the economy should be managed, whether business needed to be reined in to prevent another depression, and how society should look after the less well-off. For some, this was unacceptable. Government intervention in the economy, progressive taxation and the welfare state were the enemy, and starting from a base in the media (Willam F. Buckley’s National Review), a new conservative movement grew, spawning think tanks and an energetic force of College Republicans.

Movement conservatism began in furious opposition to socialism (which it identified with communism), and before long it found this base of paranoia could easily extend to other fearsome boogeymen. The movement cynically co-opted anxiety over the civil rights movement to annex the sympathies of poor white voters in the south, and over growing secularism and immorality to secure the evangelical Christian vote. The racial politics harmonized with Nixon’s southern strategy, and Ronald Reagan came up through the movement’s institutions to become the first movement conservative President. His Presidency interwove the small-government aims of the movement with the paranoid identity politics that energised it. This frame has remained in place to the present day.

This ideology – use paranoia over blacks, gays and commies to drive a free market agenda – was in place just in time for an enormous infrastructural transition. Communications technology had been slowly changing for a century, but deregulation and new technology in the 80s brought about the era of cable news, and in the early 90s, Fox News was created as a propaganda arm for the movement in the same way many newspapers carried water for certain ideological positions. The power of 24 hour news to shape how its audience saw the world was unprecedented, far exceeding anything the newspapers could achieve. Radio developed along the same lines. The internet followed and in short order it developed intense demographic sorting; political battlegrounds were fierce but the majority of political content online was about reinforcing partisan messages for an audience of allies. In the space of a decade, the conservative-inclined found themselves encased in a bubble of TV, radio and internet that presented a unified picture of civilization under assault, increasingly disconnected from anything resembling reality.

This was the culmination of a political project. Political leadership could have countered these developments, and steered the polity back towards a town square of mutual comprehension, but instead it was welcomed and encouraged by those in power. Karl Rove, a Buckley acolyte who had come of age through the College Republicans, positioned himself as the architect of George W. Bush’s ascension, and his contempt for the very idea of real-world conditions came through in the famous quote (attributed to him) about the reality-based community: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.”

It did not take long for the movement’s representatives in power to strike the limits of their disregard for reality. Their Middle East adventures descended into a horrific quagmire, economic policy settings led directly to a series of shocks culminating in an economic collapse that wreaked havoc on the globe, and natural disaster in New Orleans showed the horrific consequences of running down civic infrastructure. As delegates attempted to navigate these checks on their ability to create their own reality, the movement’s popular base reacted in fury. Trained by two decades of media messaging within their bubble, they interpreted this hedging as moral weakness. The rise of Barack Obama – a black man with a middle name associated with Islam – only stoked this fury further. The Tea Party movement came into being, and immediately started influencing elections. The movement conservatives had created an electorate fuelled by paranoia, and now found themselves judged for insufficient purity. Things were by now utterly out of the control of any Rove-style planning committee, with the selection of the comically underqualified Sarah Palin as running mate for the Republican candidate in the 2008 election identifiable as the moment where the party’s elite officially lost their grip on the steering wheel.

The situation has essentially remained unchanged since 2008, although it has worsened, achieving even greater extremes of fearful division within the American polity. The movement conservatives spent decades encasing their supporters in a bubble of identity-based fear. They aimed to exploit these voters for economic ends, but lost control of them, and have no way of reining them in. The bubble is self-sustaining, cynically maintained by publishers and broadcasters who derive revenue from stoking the paranoia ever-higher. It is floating further and further away from ground.

And that brings us to 2016. Trump has come in speaking directly to the fears of those in the bubble, while ignoring entirely the economic policy settings that were initially the point of the exercise. Not only is he uninterested in connecting these voters back to real conditions in the world, he is propelling the bubble ever higher into the stratosphere. The many comparisons between Trump and fascism are appealing precisely because he is using fear as his fuel. And one of the consequences of fear is violence.

If Trump gets the nomination – and it seems unlikely he will fail to do so, now – he will not pivot. He has no other setting to pivot towards. He has no policy to discuss, no insight into social matters, no grasp of foreign policy, and no inclination to ever address these things. He will spend his time on the campaign trail perpetuating the same act he has been perfecting thus far, because it is the only one open to him. He will put on a show, and encourage fear and rage, and do everything short of openly inciting violence against his enemies.

He will lose, thankfully. But when he loses the election, what will follow him? Because, be certain, there are other demagogues eagerly preparing to harness the forces Trump is whipping into a frenzy. And those forces themselves will continue to swirl through the electorate, degrading any possibility of reconciliation between belief and fact, let alone between left and right prescriptions for solving the problems of society. Things seem like they are going to get worse, the kind of worse that reverberates out from the United States and affects everywhere else, because when the USA sneezes the entire rest of the world needs to wipe snot off their faces.

But, sitting here on Moon Zealand spying through my telescope, it seems to me there is hope, because that bubble, while becoming ever more vociferous, ever more divorced from reality, and ever more dangerous, is also becoming smaller. Steadily, slowly, surely smaller. The future is gay marriage. The future is Black Lives Matter. The future is Occupy. The future is interfaith understanding. The future is identity-based paranoia slipping away and a pendulum swing away from the extremes of economic liberalism.

It will take time. I like to talk about a “national conversation” when trying to make sense of events and how a society responds to them. The movement conservative paradigm deliberately disrupted this national conversation, which was already less than evenly-spread. The real world in the USA is heavily demographically sorted, and the communications world even moreso. But change is possible nonetheless. Witness the arc from Reagan Press Secretary cracking jokes when asked about AIDS, through to gay marriage becoming widely accepted. This change was never inevitable but the result of countless moments of work, first by activists, and finally by ordinary people who had come to know gay people as pretty much ordinary too. That’s the national conversation. Homosexuality defies demographic sorting, it can pop up like a glorious rainbow in any family, but even deprived of this benefit other identity barriers will also be ground down over time (if never overcome).

I see hope but that hope cannot be taken for granted. The bubble of fear created by Buckley and Rove and Trump and so many others will wreak havoc if it isn’t fought. Resistance is necessary. The fight has already begun, with massive protests against the hate-filled Trump rallies just a sign of what is ahead.

Those in the USA who have to step out into this bubble of fear: you’re doing the hard work. Respect.

Everyone else, around the world: our job is to watch, and to listen, and to support. For even though we are far away, the world is made of connections between people, and we can contribute to the communications environment around those stepping to the line against Trump.

So be reasonable, be considerate, be thoughtful, be kind. Listen. Celebrate difference. Refuse fear. Give. And go into the world with love.

Tagged

Bestselling Linky

What does it take to be a bestselling author? Three dollars and five minutes.

Yes I’m a sucker for this story: an ode to promposals. Teens making a big deal of asking someone out to prom, partly trying to go viral, partly just for the joy of feels. (Yes of course this is a rose-tinted view of high school life which is still as full of misery as it ever was; that’s the whole point. I heart it.)

Via my aunt Margaret – geek vs. nerd infographic, plotting words associated with geek vs those associated with nerd, across 2.6 million tweets.

Via d3vo, D&D Strength in real-world terms

Also via d3vo, apparently this is a thing: head tingles from gently brushing microphones mounted in ears

I listen to Harmontown and I didn’t know this existed. It even says “episode 2”. It’s basically an episode of Harmontown but it’s filmed and the guest is Ernest Hemingway plucked out of history. Based on this description you will either have already clicked the link, or you can move on with a clear conscience.

David Roberts gives a smart, sympathetic reading on why so many people are voting for Trump.

Hey you guys you know how Obama did a foreign policy thing that was “be like minimally civil to Iran” not “threaten to blow Iran into a smoking crater” and the entire Republican political world went wiiiild? Turns out things are going beautifully. Thanks Obama.

How Robert Louis Stevenson’s reputation was shipwrecked by his inner circle.

Via Allen Varney: “Cyclops is a programming language written in Linear A, a forgotten/undeciphered script used 3500-4500 years ago on the Greek island of Minos.”

And finally, via Jason Morningstar, a 1975 FAA report on the Anthropometry of Stewardesses

Tagged