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I have fond memories of the first time I read issue #10 of Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. I just gotten off the T at Mass Ave in Boston and hopped on the 1 Bus towards Cambridge, where I had a job at MIT. There was one scene in particular that moved me to tears — a shockingly relatable exploration of mental health that was parallel to something I'd been going through myself. Something I'd never seen portrayed in any sort of media before.
I was still crying when I reached the next scene in the book, where a male gynecologist explaining his career path to his girlfriend. Every other panel on the page showed a(n illustrated) close-up of a vaginal examination. I was still crying. I kept reading. Two pages later, the gynecologist's girlfriend explained Dick Pics to him. The visual layout followed a similar pattern, but instead of vaginas, every other panel was occupied by a random dick pic.
And there I was, still riding along Massachusetts Avenues with tears streaming down my face as I looked at cartoonish illustrations of Dick Pics on my iPad.
Humiliating though this may have been, I think it was pretty perfect meta-moment to encapsulate the wonders of the comic book series Sex Criminals, which concluded this week with issue #69. (The previous issue had been #30, but obviously, it had to jump ahead in the timeline, because, ya know, sex jokes.)
When Sex Criminals launched in 2013, writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky had a simple but delightful premise: two lovers meet when they discover that they can freeze time when they orgasm, and they use this ability to rob banks to save a local library. Hilarity ensues. Eventually, there are Sex Police who also freeze time when they come, and of course, greedy corporate conspiracies (what?).
The first 5 or so issues were a huge success, thanks in no small part to their relatably ribald humor. Delightful dick jokes abounded in subtle puns hidden in the backgrounds of every scene—a recurring motif throughout the series. But after that first story arc, the series took a turn: suddenly, it became a deeply humanistic, and deeply personal, exploration of identity, mental health, relationships, trauma, and a wide spectrum of sexuality.
I had a lot of friends who rolled their eyes at the series' seemingly-abrupt shift away from the blitzkrieg of dick jokes that had propelled it in the first place. And look, everyone has a right to their opinion. But I was also the guy still crying over the unprecedented psychological resonance of a god damn comic book called Sex Criminals, while I rode the fucking bus reading pages strewn with dick pics and vagina close-up on my iPad. Even the letters page — appropriately titled "Letter Daddies," featuring "Just The Tips" —moved me to tears more than once with its raw, empathetic conversations about what it means to exist as a human being who possesses both sexuality, and a neurodivergent brain.
That's a tragically rare Venn overlap of subject matter to find in stories. But Sex Criminals tackled it constantly, with hard, passionate lovemaking.
This week's Sex Criminals #69 gives a mostly-wholesome happy ending to that 7-year journey (though only like 32 issues, which is really not that hard to get through). Part-and-parcel to that journey is the personal journeys of the creators — a meta-text that finds its way into the pages of the story, too. Without ever losing touch of that naked empathy, or the Dick Jokes.
I wouldn't recommend starting at #69; it's more of a denouement than anything else. There are 6 trade paperback collections (plus the oversized hardcover versions, appropriately called Big Hard Sex Criminals). You can also buy the individual issues on Comixology, which I might actually recommend over the collections, since they include the hilarious and touching (not that kind of touching) (okay a little bit of that kind of touching) letters pages, which are a wonderful companion to the book.
Using a data set with over four years of web browsing history for a representative panel of nearly 200,000 U.S. adults, we analyzed how individuals' social media usage was associated with changes in the information sources they chose to consume. We find differentiated impacts on news consumption by platform. Increased use of Facebook was associated with increased information source diversity and a shift toward more partisan sites in news consumption; increased use of Reddit with increased diversity and a shift toward more moderate sites; and increased use of Twitter with little to no change in either. Our results demonstrate the value of adopting a nuanced multidimensional view of how social media use may shape information consumption.
The authors explained some of their research and findings more in-depth in a recent op-ed for the Washington Post (the actual paper is paywalled):
Facebook and Reddit shape the news consumption of their conservative users in dramatically different ways. In months when a typical conservative visited Facebook more than usual, they read news that was about 30 percent more conservative than the online news they usually read. In contrast, during months when a typical conservative used Reddit more than usual, they read news that was far less conservative — about 50 percent more moderate than what they typically read.
Why would Facebook lead conservatives to read more polarized news sites and Reddit to more politically moderate ones? The answer may lie in three ways their algorithms differ — namely, how they consider social networks, topical interests and engagement history.
The authors go on to essentially argue that the inherent flaw in Facebook lies in its reliance on social networks — you have to choose to add people you know, presumably in real life, and the people you know in real life are probably going to be people who already agree with you, or otherwise have something in common. "This minimizes the chances of seeing content from people with more diverse, opinion-challenging viewpoints," they explain. (Though I'd argue that, at least within my Facebook Bubble, everyone has some relative or family friend who spouts off radically different political views; unfortunately, in my experience, the links they share are less "opinion-challenging" and more "generic hyperbolic right-wing propaganda.")
By contrast, Reddit unites people by common interests. And while both Reddit and Facebook push you towards popular content, they have different ways of qualifying "popularity." Since Facebook relies on "engagement," rather than a manual upvote/downvote system, the end result is that popular posts tend to be the ones that inspire extreme emotional reactions … which, of course, tend to be polarizing.
In 1964, a British diplomat arrived in the capital [of Poland], then vanished, thwarting the minders ordered to shadow his every movement. He was next seen snooping around a military base along the border of the Soviet Union. Dark-haired and inconspicuous, the suspected agent had all the makings of a discreet operative except for one glaring giveaway.
His name was Bond. James Bond.
The file, since declassified and recently posted on social media, has prompted a debate among Polish historians and the general public over whether the now-deceased Mr. Bond—who was officially an embassy secretary—was a spy. If not, why would a secretary be sneaking up to military bases, before later disappearing from Polish soil? If so, what kind of spy keeps the name James Bond?
By 1964, the fictional James Bond had already been around for at least a decade. As such, some of the experts quoted in the article (which I somehow read, paywall-free, through Apple News) suspect he was a decoy, or a PsyOp — an actual secretary, who happened to have the name James Bond, sent on international missions with the specific intent of fucking with people, thus giving cover for actual secret agents doing actual secret agent things.
Also, he reportedly went by "Jim," not "James." And that's not the only place where their stories diverged:
Unlike 007 who was a product of Britain's elite boarding school system, Jim Bond was the son of a gamekeeper in Devon, a rural corner of southern England.
"He wasn't suave," recalls his brother in-law Keith Tacchi, who rarely heard Mr. Bond discuss his assignment. "Jim was an orders man, he joined the army and he played it by the book," said Mr. Tacchi.
"He used to smoke a pipe, had a fisherman's cap. He was a totally laid-back person. He had one passion in life, which was golf, which he wasn't very good at," said Mr. Tacchi.
Polish spies taking notes on his every movement saw a different man. Mr. Bond was very careful, liked to drink, and showed an interest in women, they wrote in his secret file. His family says he wasn't a womanizer.
Perhaps most sacrilegiously, Jim was reportedly a beer drinker, with little interest in martinis.
Curiously, Krystyna Skarbek, the woman who was believed by some to be the inspiration for "Bond Girls" including Tatiana Romanova and Vesper Lynd, was also from Poland, where these James Bond documents were found. However, she passed away in 1952, "was stabbed to death in the cheap London hotel where she was living by an Irish ship's steward, Dennis Muldowney, who had become obsessed with her," according to The Guardian. So she certainly would not have crossed paths with ol' Flatcap Jim Bond, the swingin' 60s secretary.
Hallelujah the Hills are kind of indie rock institution in Boston, always finding new ways to bring experimental artistry to their post-punk sound.
Case-in-point: over the course of 4 months in quarantine, lead singer Ryan Walsh decided to make a stop-motion music video for their song "The Memory Tree," from the band's recent album I'm You. He handcrafted little ghost puppets and tiny ghost houses and put together a whole elaborate world to tell a whimsical story of spirits and transdimensional discovery, in the style of a classic silent film.
The six-minute short blends the hand-done animation with live action. It's a genuine joy, with the song acting as a perfect as a swelling score to carry along the story of this little ghost seeking out a memory tree across the multiverse.
Walsh also has a great new-ish book about the true story behind Van Morrison's Astral Weeks album, which, as I learned involved some wild true crime capers in the seedy underbelly of late 1960s Boston. (I was also once stopped on the subway by a woman who asked me "Are you writer?" then "Are you a musician, too?" and then told me she had just bought "my" book, which it turned out was actually Walsh's Astral Weeks book.)
Dead and Gone is a new podcast about dead Deadheads. Hosted by True Crime troubadours Payne Lindsey of Up and Vanished and Jake Brennan of Disgraceland, it explores the strange phenomenon of unsolved murders among the Grateful Dead's fanbase.
The first known — or at least, majorly reported — such instance was in 1986, when two travelling Deadheads, 22-year-old Mary Regina Gioia and 18-year-old Gregory Allen Kniffin, were killed on their way back to Rainbow Village, a homeless encampment near Berkeley. A Black man with the incredible name of Ralph International Thomas was charged, convicted, and sentenced to death … but the case was overturned in 2012, shortly before Thomas's death in prison.
Here are a few of the strange examples since, as summed up by The Daily Beast:
Bridget Lee Pendell-Williamson was 23 years old when she vanished while following the Grateful Dead in 1996.
Douglas Simmons was last seen at a Grateful Dead concert in 1990.
Mitchel Fred Weiser and his girlfriend, Bonita Bickwit, went missing while hitchhiking to a Grateful Dead concert in 1993.
In 1995, a man's body was found on the side of a highway by a Grateful Dead concert in Atlanta. His identity is still unknown.
In 2008, a woman's body was discovered by a fisherman underneath a boxspring in Sacramento. Her cause of death and identity is still unknown. The one marker: she was wearing a Grateful Dead jacket.
A murdered woman was found in the woods of Warren County, New Jersey, in 1991. The only identifying feature on her mutilated body was a tiger tattoo on her left leg—the same tiger design on Jerry Garcia's guitar.
Two men were found dead in a ghastly Volkswagen van crash in 1995, but only one of the men could be identified. The only clues to who the second person was: two Grateful Dead tickets in his pocket.
Obviously, the Grateful Dead had nothing to do with these murders, and there's nothing inherent to Deadheadness that makes them susceptible to being murdered. "The real commonality is this sort of vulnerability that exists in a lot of different subsets of people," said self-proclaimed cybersleuth Todd Matthes to the Beast. "The importance of this whole thing is that, by bundling them all together like that and giving them a moniker, it creates this commonality that is noticed. And so people who are part of the Grateful Dead world will see this, and they're likely the people who could help solve it."
It's certainly a series of weird coincidences — and knowing that unique true crime podcasting styles of Brennan and Payne, I'm sure they'll bring a fascinating spin to the way they tell these strange stories.
Dead and Gone launched with 2 episodes on October 15, with new episodes to follow every Thursday for 9 weeks.
Since [September 2016] at least six more sharks have washed up on Mediterranean coasts, each impaled with the same murder weapon, and almost always in the head. In the latest example, an adult 15-foot thresher shark — itself equipped with a whiplike tail capable of stunning blows — washed up in Libya. Inside was a foot of swordfish sword that had broken off near its heart.
Taken together these cases offer what may be preliminary scientific evidence of high-speed, high-stakes underwater duels that had previously been confined to fisherman's tales.
The first rule of Fish Fight Club is: you don't talk about the Fish Fight Club.
The W.I.T.C.H. movement was founded on Halloween in 1968. A group of second-wave feminists—part of the group New York Radical Women—broke away to expand the reach of their protest. W.I.T.C.H. stood for "Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell," and its members wanted to represent more than just the fight for women's rights; they wanted to support the anti-war movement, students' rights, black liberation, and more. The group would be theatrical, with every member wearing a full witch costume and remaining completely anonymous.
Many members of the original W.I.T.C.H. were practicing witches. They believed the connection between women, witchcraft, and politics was indeed very old. In Margot Adler's seminal 1979 book on paganism, Drawing Down the Moon, she writes, "Feminist Witches have stated that Witchcraft is not incompatible with politics, and further that the Craft is a religion historically conceived in rebellion and can therefore be true to its nature only when it continues its ancient fight against oppression."
For their 1969 inaugural event, members of the original group dressed in full witch garb and marched on Wall Street, to protest capitalism and place a hex on the financial district. A few months later, they released white mice at a bridal fair at Madison Square Garden to protest the traditional role of women. Other "covens" sprouted up in Chicago and Washington, D.C., before the group disbanded in 1970.
New W.I.T.C.H. sects began popping up after the election of Donald Trump, most notably in Portland and Boston.
I had seen the Boston W.I.T.C.H.es myself at a few protests (and suspect that I might be socially acquainted with a few of them?). While I enjoyed their commitment to radical theatrics, I didn't realize until recently that they were upholding a specific tradition from the late 60s. If anything, that makes me appreciate them more; I always love learning when new movements aren't so new and radical after all (except when I realize why they were suppressed the first time around).
FoodDive has a new article tracking the campaign donations made by food and beverage conglomerates to different politicians and PACs. They particularly take a look at the differences between 2016 and 2020.
Overall, it's a pretty fascinating microcosm of the money that moves our political machines in America. While most companies are pretty bipartisan with their donations (it certainly makes sense for them to try and stay on everybody's good side):
donations to Democrats fell 30% to $828,300 while those collected by Republicans declined 52% to $876,700 compared to the 2016 election cycle.
You can view all the data, which comes from the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets database, covering FEC filings from between 11/27/17 and 9/21/20. While it certainly doesn't cover the entire food/beverage industry, it does hit on most of the major corporations: Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Keurig Dr Pepper, Kraft Heinz, Molson Coors, Mondelez, PepsiCo, Smithfield Foods, and Tyson Foods. (General Mills was excluded because they didn't have enough specific data for 2016 or 2020.)
Directed by Julien Temple, Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane McGowan is expected to play in select theatres in Ireland and the UK beginning November 20, 2020, and will be available on DVD and VOD starting December 7.
Before he assumed office, Trump assured the public that he would not be involved with the Trump Organization's operations while serving as president, despite maintaining an ownership interest in the company. While there is plenty of evidence that Trump has picked away at the so-called firewall between the presidency and the Trump Organization, it would be remarkable if, as the consulting fees suggest, Trump was paid for services he performed for the company while he was president.
The financial disclosure, which covers 2018, is the only one he has filed since becoming president that reveals income from consulting fees. It was paid to him through an entity called 4T Holdings Two LLC. According to the disclosure, the LLC owns two entities, one of which appears to relate to a plan for the Trump Organization to build a development with Kushner Companies on the Jersey Shore that was scrapped in June 2018. The other is linked to a management deal between the Trump Organization and another hotel brand to develop a hotel in Mississippi. A note in the financial disclosure filed by Ivanka Trump affirms that connection. The Trump Organization abandoned its plans to develop the hotel, the first of its budget "Scion" line, in February 2019.
The New York Times had previously reported that Ivanka Trump had claimed income from consulting fees that curiously matched perfectly with consulting expenses accrued by the Trump Organization. It's not impossible that Donald Trump's consulting income from 2018 was part of a similar scheme to lower the company's tax burden and rig the financial records. Even if that's not the case, there's still something deeply concerning about the President of the United States offering paid consulting services as a side gig, even if it is to an organization that he also owns.
This also makes me think: I consult myself all the time for work I'm doing. Maybe I need to start to a new, separate LLC for consulting, that outsource my usual workload to another LLC, which is also me, and in turn my outsourced me company pays me for consulting services, which I provide to myself. And then I can just write it all off as business expenses, so that I'm not technically making any personal income, and thus, cannot be taxed; meanwhile, both my outsource work LLC and my consulting LLC both fail to turn a profit, because all their income is invested right back into their work, which is me. I think that's how it works, right?
The main reason behind the gay orientation of some men is that they are possessed by female ghosts. It is the female ghost in them that is attracted to other men. Conversely the attraction to females experienced by some lesbians is due to the presence of male ghosts in them. The ghost's consciousness overpowers the person's normal behaviour to produce the homosexual attraction. Spiritual research has shown that the cause for homosexual preferences lie predominantly in the spiritual realm.
• Physical causes (5%): Due to hormonal changes.
• Psychological causes (10%): Having an experience with a person of the same sex as a teenager or young adult that was pleasurable and therefore wanting to experience it again.
Other recent "research" from the SSRF has indicated that coronavirus is similarly caused by negative energies, and the crisis will culminate with World War III. The 2% of climate change caused by man (according to SSRF research) is also related to these spirits.
CashNet posted a weirdly wonderful map of popular local monsters from all around the globe. I have no idea why this was the sort of content that someone felt the need to make for a website about financial planning, but it happened.
To determine which mythical creatures from the long list were the most popular, we ranked them by total search results on Google, using the search terms [Country] + [Mythical Creature].
The results showed that numerous countries share the same mythical creature. In these instances, we added additional details that could help to distinguish them. For example, both England and China have 'dragon' as the most popular creature, but an English dragon has wings and a more lizard-like appearance, whereas a Chinese dragon does not have wings and has a more snake-like appearance.
For the full research behind this project, have a look here.
And here are some of their key findings from said research:
• The most famous mythical creature in the US is the Sasquatch, a hairy, forest-dwelling humanoid.
• The most famous in North America is Cuba's Madre de Aguas, a horned, bullet-proof snake as fat as a palm tree.
• South America's most famous cryptid is La Tunda, a hag with the power to shapeshift into the object of your desire (before sucking your blood).
• Dragons are the most-searched cryptids for a European country (England).
• The Turkish dragon is the most-searched in the Middle East & Central Asia region, with the Egyptian griffin (a lion with the head and wings of an eagle) in second-place.
• The Chinese dragon is the most-searched in the Rest of Asia and Oceania, followed by the cunning, ape-like Orang Pendek (Indonesia).
• The most famous cryptid in Africa is the Namibian Flying Snake.
From a press release that just landed in my inbox:
As you may know, NASA has reported that Asteroid 2018VP1 is headed toward Earth's atmosphere on November 2. Although there's virtually no chance (0.41% to be exact) of it threatening our beloved cookie when it passes by, OREO isn't risking a future without the world's favorite cookie…
Enter the Global OREO Vault. An asteroid-proof facility built in the permafrost of Svalbard, Norway, the Global OREO Vault is keeping OREO cookies, powdered milk (just add snow) and the top-secret OREO cookie recipe safe from the potential asteroid.
The Global OREO Vault was inspired by other "doomsday" seed vaults around the world that protect the seeds of the world in permafrost in case of global disaster. As an added precaution, the OREO packs are wrapped in mylar, which can withstand temperatures from -80 degrees to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and is impervious to chemical reactions, moisture, and air, keeping the cookies fresh and protected for years to come.
In case you were worried about having some sweet liquid to wash it down, OREO has also stocked their bunker with powdered milk — "just add snow!"
If you find yourself in the Arctic with a craving for Oreos — and don't mind contending with Sven, head of security — then you can allegedly find the OREO bunker at 78°08'58.1"N, 16°01'59.7"E.
Personally, I just want to know how much it costs to build a bunker in Svalbard, and how much R&D and invest the company made into this allegedly apocalypse-proof bunker just for the sake of a PR stunt.