• Fifth Republican Senator announces he will quit

    Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Monsanto) has no interest in being creamed by whoever the Trump cult runs against him in 2022's primary and will retire when his term is up. He is the fifth Republican Senator to announce his departure.

    Blunt, 71, has been a mainstay in Washington politics and the Republican establishment for more than two decades. First elected to the House in the 1996 GOP wave, Blunt served as House Republican whip before jumping to the Senate. In announcing his retirement, Blunt joins GOP Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Richard Burr of North Carolina, all of whom opted against seeking reelection in 2022. Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin have yet to reveal their plans.

    It's vanishingly unlikely Blunt's Missouri seat could go to a Democrat, but if his replacement is exceptionally mad things might get interesting.

  • Red Sonja artist Frank Thorne dead at 90

    Frank Thorne, the legendary comic book artist most famed for his work reviving Red Sonja in the 1970s, is dead at 90. Former DC Comics president Paul Levitz writes:

    Bidding farewell to Frank Thorne, an artist who progressively developed his style into a more and more personal expression. I had the pleasure of working with Frank in his later DC days, when he did some magnificent work for the mystery titles, and stepped in to pencil for Jim Aparo on The Spectre, matching his storytelling approach carefully to Jim's.

    But Frank had the best time of his career on Marvel's Red Sonja, who he made both powerful and sexy," he continued. "He was probably the first working mainstream [artist] to revel in [cosplay], becoming the Wizard who acted with Wendy Pini's Sonja at show after show. A man of talent, charm and great wit. Good journey onward, Frank, you will be long remembered.

  • Story behind the Amiga's crude yet legendary Kickstart graphic

    At 11 years old, my new Commodore Amiga blew my mind. But even I could tell that the firmware screen when you turned it on was, quote, "badly drawn". It turns out (as such things often do) that it is in fact an amazing feat of digital art made for an in-development machine long before it had drawing applications, plotted with vectors on graph paper and punched in as 412 bytes of machine code.

    Here's the legendary graphic's creator, Sheryl Knowles:

    We did every single illustration in the manuals, every "show it off" illustration that appeared in magazines or trade shows, and every practical graphic (i.e. the icons and fonts), pixel by pixel, with no tools other than being able to choose a color and place the pixel. No line tools. No fills. No shape tools. Two: We had no way to save our art work. So once designed, it had to go straight to the programmers to be coded in. I used a LOT of graph paper. Or, if it was an illustration, we had to photograph our screens and send that photo to the publisher needing it. Believe me, once Graphicraft was done, our jobs were so very much easier!

  • Game about version control is a real Git

    Bleeptrack and Blinry's Oh My Git! is a game about using Git, the popular version control system that developers use to organize and manage their projects. You can download it free of charge on itch.io for Windows, Linux and MacOS. The game's source is, of course, open and ready for you to check out.

    Oh My Git! is an open source game that introduces players to the popular version control system "Git". It is highly interactive, and aims at building intuition for operations like "merging" or "rebasing" branches. Players are guided through the features of Git step by step – each level tells a little story where the player can use their new-found powers to solve problems or help others.

    Importantly,

    Wait, is this a real Git?

    Yes, Oh My Git! uses real Git repositories for each level. It is important to us that Git beginners have a real-life experience while playing. Also we want to give more experienced Git users all the power they would have when using Git in their productive environment.

  • Burger King tweeting through it after telling women they belong in the kitchen

    In the annals of social media goatfucking, few have pounded it quite as hard as whoever is currently at the helm of Burger King's UK twitter account. After posting "Women belong in the kitchen" they are now tweeting through it, desperately reiterating missing context and insisting that the glib missive was part of an ironic call for empowerment.

    Burger King UK appears much angrier at critics than it is at the sexists delightedly retweeting and praising them, however, and it isn't helping.

    Taken alone, it looks a lot like Schrodinger's Asshole, a provocative message posted by a troll who "decides whether or not they're full of shit by the reactions of those around them." While Burger King UK at least strategically favors women's rights and agency, its investment in these goals is corporate and it's depressingly easy to imagine it changing hats (crowns?) with the wind.

    But even with the best of intentions, the tweet is an obvious mistake. The context that makes it clever (i.e. the tweets following it adding 'If they want to, of course… We're on a mission to change the gender ratio in the restaurant industry') is instantly stripped from it by the design of Twitter itself. This phenomenon is Social Media 101 and it's amazing to see such a big account dive so hard into context collapse.

    Finally, consider Popehat's rule: an ironic goatfucker is still a goatfucker.

  • The worst bed also perhaps the best

    About the first thing I published after moving to the U.S. and finding newsroom work here was a blip about an incredibly tacky bed being sold at a local furniture shop. Twenty years later my career comes full circle with Ultimate (or "Uber") Beds, a modular format sold in various configurations and names by the usual suspects.

    "I have questions for everyone involved in the conception, design, marketing and purchase of this type of bed," writes Christopher Mims on Twitter.

    I assumed it was a vintage horror of some kind but look, reader, look closer: there are USB ports. At least they're the ones with little plastic covers, so you can hose it down afterward.

  • Senate passes $1.9t Covid relief bill

    After a session that saw staff put in 36-hour shifts and U.S. senators voting their way through more than a dozen amendments, the upper chamber today passed President Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill.

    Senators narrowed the eligibility for stimulus checks, trimmed the federal boost to unemployment benefits and removed a provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the wage hike violated the strict rules of reconciliation, which is the procedure Democratic leaders are using to approve the bill in the chamber without any Republican support. The Senate bill contains many of the same measures aimed at assisting Americans in need that were in the legislation approved by the House and the package that Biden unveiled in January. In addition to another round of direct payments, it would provide more assistance for people who are unemployed, hungry or uninsured as well as for those at risk of losing their homes. It also would provide a bigger tax break for parents.

    The most distinctive image of the session was Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat elected after supporting a $15-an-hour minimum wage who yesterday abandoned that promise in showy fashion to side with Republicans and seven other Democrats in killing the proposal.

  • Covid hairdresser styles the dead

    James Riley, a hairdresser in Buxton, England, found a new niche to stay in business during pandemic lockdown: styling the hair of the dead.

    "I never thought I would, but I quite enjoy it," he said. He said the unconventional work had been "rewarding" and become one of the "biggest honours of [his] life … everybody's got a right to look their best, even though that person is deceased."

    Riley supplied the above photo to media and I have questions. A question, really.

  • Tips for buying Soviet cameras

    Ancient Soviet lenses fetch solid prices nowadays, not least because they're fast, low contrast and perfectly short of sharp, giving a no-effort "filmic" look to digital camera footage. The cameras themselves are cult items too, for stills shooters at least, but the get-lucky-on-eBay game is far more fraught with risk. Kosmofoto posted a buyer's guide, with the emphasis solidly on how to find a good 'un: Read this before you buy a Soviet camera.

    This article – and it's a big one, so get a drink handy – is an attempt to dispel some of the myths that have developed around Soviet cameras, especially since the 1990s. It's not trying to pretend that it's only politics got in the way of the USSR's cameras, and that every Zenit and Zorki is a match for a Nikon or a Leica. Some of the horror stories you might have heard about Soviet camera quality are 100% true. But not every Soviet camera is a lemon, and some are capable of taking fantastic images if you take the trouble to learn their strengths and, yes, their weaknesses.

  • The "dumb TV" is almost dead

    As of 2020, writes Nirav Patel, all the fancy TV brands load their sets with tracking, UI advertising and junkware, and short of nerdy shenanigans (such as buying a Raspberry Pi and setting it up as an ad-killing DNS proxy) there's no practical way to get around it. Patel calls for a reversal of fortune— In Defense of Dumb TVs—and finds a few minor brands that still make them.

    Amazingly enough though, we found that none of the major consumer TV brands make basic "dumb" displays anymore.  There are options in the commercial space like NEC's commercial displays, but they cost substantially more than the consumer-focused alternatives.