Review: Quickie Jobsite Broom

As a man, the idea of buying a decent broom filled me with a billowing resentment, a lockjawed defiance at the very notion of replacing pointless labor with quality tools. I liked forcing results from a feeble polyester-fringed stick that would fold like a garden hose if pushed too hard.

When the last one broke, though, I was in a dreadful hurry and ended up grabbing the first one I saw under the false impression it was like $5.97. But it wasn't! It was $19.99. Twenty fucking dollars!

Even as I stormed from the checkout to the car, though, the weight of it in my hands began whispering to me. Seducing me. Talking to me about the dust it would move, the way it might put even the heaviest clods of muck in their place.

Within minutes of deployment on its first job (lawnmower clipping overflow) I was smitten. Something that once took minutes (shoveling my grass dust onto someone else's property) now took a fraction of the time. I immediately rushed to the back of the house to see if it could move the soggy little dunes of mud accreting on the edges of my crappy brick pathway. It did.

Lifting it to glint in the sunlight, I envisaged a science-fictional future wherein, firearms prohibited by the vast and sprawling mechanisms of a progressive world government, the last real men develop elaborate martial arts that turn everyday brooms, like this one, into brutally subversive instruments of self-defense and political self-determination. Read the rest

Line of Beauty: stunning biography of fantasy artist Wendy Pini

Wendy Pini is most famous for Elfquest (above), but her artistic career spans fifty years of pop culture history, from weird lowbrow surrealism to yaoi pastiche. Line of Beauty isn't just a stunning art book covering decades in and beyond epic fantasy, but a powerful yet curiously tentative biography, drawing together threads from a childhood in the Californian sticks to the poisoned promises of Hollywood.

That it's so mysterious and unjudgmental (of her, at least) is most remarkable for the fact it was written by her husband, Richard Pini. His book is a crafty invitation to the worlds implied by her work, a mythos that seems misty and intangible even as its details take shape.

Born 1951, Wendy was a talent from early childhood, and we learn of the tensions and inspirations that flowed through her to emerge as a personal Elfame: adoptive parents whose emotional abuses hover on the margins of trauma; childhood obsessions and contrasts; and encounters with what were then rare oddities in rural America—manga, weird cartoons, the deeper magics of European and Japanese folklore—which she consumed voraciously.

Richard's access to private artwork and private fact far exceeds what a researcher might get to, but flags his story right off as both authorized and intimate. But while uncritical, the narrative stops short of hagiography: there's much evidence of unexpected turns and some evidence of friction in its creation. The focus is on Wendy's deep fascination with Hogarthian serpentine structures and sequential art (hence the title), and her artistic motivation and development. Read the rest

Lady bites fellow diner at nice steakhouse

The New York Daily Post reports an "unprovoked attack" in which one diner chomped down on another at Brooklyn's Peter Luger Steakhouse.

The chomping perp gnawed on the victim's right forearm at the prominent Williamsburg restaurant on Broadway near Driggs Ave. on Sunday at 4:10 p.m. before running off, officials said.

The 50-year-old victim, who does not know her unstable attacker, was treated at the scene.

People talk about Deep State this, Deep State that, but how can they be so all-powerful if they can't even stop news of zombie outbreaks filtering to the press? Read the rest

Andy Serkis reading Trump tweets in the voice of Gollum

The FAKE NEWS media has never been so wrong. Or so DIIRRRRRRTY! Read the rest

Fascist beach closed

Italian police shut down a club that established a "fascist beach" near Venice sporting various totalitarian-themed elements, such as portraits of Mussolini, "anti-democracy" slogans, and a charmingly humorous warning not to go in the gas chambers. Conservatives, outraged at the lack of free speech, have called for the beach to be reopened and for democracy to be destroyed.

The Mussolini theme was clear from the entrance to the privately run Punta Canna resort, where the sign read "Rules: Order, cleanliness and discipline."

As well as fascist slogans, the beach at Chioggia, a short distance south of Venice, broadcast regular messages over speakers from its manager, Gianni Scarpa, a 64 year-old clad in a black bandana.

Before police raided the beach he told La Repubblica newspaper (in Italian) that he was "delighted to have an exemplary clientele", and that he hated filthy people and democracy.

I'm certain "fascist beach" was the setting of at least a dozen Benny Hill skits. Read the rest

Gangnam Style finally dethroned as most-played YouTube video

On YouTube, Gangnam Style's been the most-played video for five years—a little-known testament to the grim reality of popular culture these days. But no longer! It has finally been dethroned, by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's See You Again. Moreover, Despacito, embedded above, seems likely to storm past it in due course.

Here's the top 10.

1) Wiz Khalifa, See You Again (ft Charlie Puth) - 2,895,373,709 2) Psy, Gangnam Style - 2,894,426,475 3) Justin Bieber, Sorry - 2,635,572,161 4) Mark Ronson, Uptown Funk (ft Bruno Mars) - 2,550,545,717 5) Luis Fonsi, Despacito (ft Daddy Yankee) - 2,482,502,747 6) Taylor Swift, Shake It Off - 2,248,761,095 7) Enrique Iglesias, Bailando - 2,232,756,228 8) Maroon 5, Sugar - 2,150,365,635 9) Katy Perry, Roar - 2,129,400,973 10) Taylor Swift, Blank Space - 2,101,607,657

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Blocks modular synth sounds almost as good as it looks

Blocks is a tiny synth system that fits in a laptop bag but looks like a ton of fun, with various modules that click together, weird touch- and pressure-sensitive rubbery keys and pads, and various "control" blocks for looping, recording, sequencing, and MIDI/USB connections to other gear.

Roli Blocks [Amazon]

They also sell a range of keyboard controllers using the same design. Even the two-octave models are awfully expensive; I don't even want to know how much the "grand" model is.

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Amazon Prime day just started but the only thing worth buying so far is this giant bag of penis-shaped candy

Amazon Prime Day kicks off at the hour, heralding what its hype claims is a better set of deals than the traditional November stampedes. I eagerly hit the previews in expectation of interesting tech bargains and whatnot, but the only things I could find worth buying are are these enormous bagfuls of colorful candy cocks.

That said, I can hardly say I'm disappointed. Read the rest

Don't use mounting tape on old plaster walls

I told myself lies about Scotch Indoor Mounting Tape.

It'll mean not having to drill into the unknown, I said. It'll be easier to remove, I said. There'll be no need to fill holes next time we change things up, I said.

Me when we changed things up:

Scotch Indoor Mounting Tape [Amazon] Read the rest

The failure of OK Soda's reverse-psychology ad campaign

OK Soda was a short-lived 1990s soft drink put out by the Coca-Cola company, remarkable for the brilliant postmodern irony of its marketing campaign. Thomas Flight's short documentary tells a fascinating story about its failure.

Can you sell disillusionment? Can you subvert something and achieve the same thing that what you're subverting achieves?

Coca-cola couldn't in 1993. But compare to the successful 2015 LeBron commercial for Sprite, which also sells disillusionment. What, Flight asks, did it do differently?

Flight does point out that OK Soda tasted bad, which might well have been a factor in its quick disappearance.

Conscious postmodernism in advertising usually leads to:

a) Cringe-inducing forced coolness. b) "How do you do, fellow-cynics?" c) the toxic media spillway that ultimately dumped America in a giant tub of Trump. d) The obvious impossibility of marketing piss with metahumor about the awfulness of marketing and of piss.

But sometimes someone gets it right. Read the rest

Weird, spot-on parodies of broken-robot videogame AI

To those unfamiliar with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, it suffices to say that it's the blandest and goofiest of a game series otherwise famed for overcoming the creative limitations of its whitebread genre fantasy setting. So to those unfamiliar with Oblivion, these startlingly accurate parodies of its AI behavior may be bafflingly dorky and esoteric. But to those of us that remember, it's uncanny, right down to the well-nailed impersonations of journeyman voice actors.

NPC eats poisoned fruit:

NPC sitting in a chair in a corridor staring at the wall:

Read the rest

AI paint color names improving, sort of

The AI paint name generator (previously) has refined its preferences. Though still very bad at naming paint colors, there seems to be (to my mind) an emerging personality, one that has beliefs and, perhaps, opinions about its creators.

Pictured at the top of this post, for reference, is the human-named classic Opaque Couché.

Latest experiments reveal AI is still terrible at naming paint colors [Ars Technica] Read the rest

Even with climate accord, Planet Earth is burned; without it, it's cooked

NYMag's David Wallace-Wells breaks it to us ungently: the Paris Climate Accord, torn up by Trump, was already a compromise that likely condemned much of the equatorial belt to crippling heatwaves. Without it, climate change will only be worse.

Even if we meet the Paris goals of two degrees warming, cities like Karachi and Kolkata will become close to uninhabitable, annually encountering deadly heat waves like those that crippled them in 2015. At four degrees, the deadly European heat wave of 2003, which killed as many as 2,000 people a day, will be a normal summer. At six, according to an assessment focused only on effects within the U.S. from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, summer labor of any kind would become impossible in the lower Mississippi Valley, and everybody in the country east of the Rockies would be under more heat stress than anyone, anywhere, in the world today. As Joseph Romm has put it in his authoritative primer Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know, heat stress in New York City would exceed that of present-day Bahrain, one of the planet’s hottest spots, and the temperature in Bahrain “would induce hyperthermia in even sleeping humans.” The high-end IPCC estimate, remember, is two degrees warmer still.
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Don't buy the crappy TruTemp digital thermometer

It's invariably the cheapest on the shelf, but the Taylor/TruTemp 3516 I got at Target fell apart the first time I pushed the button. It's the shabbiest piece of electronic tat I've bought from a major U.S. retailer. Don't buy it! A different brand is only $4 at Amazon, has good reviews, and isn't held together by the clasping pressure of a plastic cap that will obviously expand when pushed.

I even tried gluing it on with superglue. Then it stopped working altogether. Then I threw it in the trash. Read the rest

Study finds that hurricanes with female names kill more because they aren't taken seriously (Old news)

The Washington Post's Jason Samenow reports that "people don’t take hurricanes as seriously if they have a feminine name and the consequences are deadly."

The conclusion is that of a wide-ranging study, Female hurricanes are deadlier than male hurricanes, which found that the death toll nearly triples when a severe hurricane is given a feminine name.

Abstract

Do people judge hurricane risks in the context of gender-based expectations? We use more than six decades of death rates from US hurricanes to show that feminine-named hurricanes cause significantly more deaths than do masculine-named hurricanes. Laboratory experiments indicate that this is because hurricane names lead to gender-based expectations about severity and this, in turn, guides respondents’ preparedness to take protective action. This finding indicates an unfortunate and unintended consequence of the gendered naming of hurricanes, with important implications for policymakers, media practitioners, and the general public concerning hurricane communication and preparedness.

The study was formulated to track individual willingness to seek shelter. In other words, sexism is what's killing them, not the storm. The death toll since 1950: 50 deaths from female storms compared to 23 from male storms.

Meteorologists seem unimpressed: "I am not ready to change the naming system based on one study," the WaPo quotes ones.

UPDATE: Sorry about the oldnews: turns out this is three years old and has been widely contested. Read the rest

Psychic makes cloud square

"My name is T. Chase and I am a cloud shrinker."

"Please excuse the strange sounding voice, it is necessary to speak like a low tone "humming" sound to get the proper brainwaves for cloud psychokinesis."

Question for meteorologists and, of course, engineers: what would the energy requirements be, roughly, to shrink a randomly shaped cloud of volume n to the largest hexadedron it could contain, either by physical movement of the visible condensates or evaporation.

I just have this feeling that anyone who could do this could also, like, boil a kettle in a couple of seconds, instantly powerwash their car, make watermelons explode, etc. Read the rest

French Elevator Channel features a wide variety of elevators

The French Elevator Channel chronicles one man's quest to record illustrative videos of every elevator he has the pleasure to use. Embedded above is the latest at the time of publication, a gated traction elevator at 1715 Av. Santa Fe in Buenos Aires.

"These are very nice elevators!" the videographer reports. "Everything is original, except the buttons."

Popular classics include a visit to a rare Schindler Smart 002 MRL elevator in Vienna and the unmissable ordeal of the "WORST ELEVATOR EVER" (embedded below) as chanced across in Yerevan, Armenia.

Read the rest

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