• A brief history of weaponized balloons

    On June 15, 2021, the BBC reported that Israel had launched another attack into Gaza in retaliation for an assault of incendiary balloons. The headline certainly turned some heads, and seemed particularly bizarre following all of the other recent news about Israel and Palestine. Fire balloons? What?!

    But, as journalist Kelsey Atherton explains in his wonderful newsletter, Wars of Future Past, there is indeed a robust history of balloons being conscripted into warfare:

    There are six deaths recorded in the continental US from the balloons, five children and 26-year-old Elsie Mitchell, who was five months pregnant at the time. The family came across a balloon they'd found in the woods of Oregon, which exploded as they encountered it. It's a tragedy, as civilian deaths in war especially are, but what's remarkable is how their deaths were the only tragedy from the attack.


    What stands out about the incendiary balloons is not just their range but the extremely limited ability to cause harm. It's a marked contrast from the weapons held across Albuquerque, in the National Museum of Nuclear Heritage and History. I had intended to frame this as a sort of symbolic parallel, but reading Karns, I found a direct connection between the incendiary balloons and atomic weaponry.

    "Yet the most tactically success­ful bombing would remain clas­sified for decades," Karns writes.

    As it turns out, a balloon bomb was once used against the power generators of Hanford Engineering Works in Washington. The year was 1945, and the reactor at Hanford Engineering Works was being used to supply plutonium to the Manhattan Project. Six months later, that plutonium would be used in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

    Atherton's history of incendiary balloons is full of bizarre historical factoids like that. Apparently, weaponized balloons aren't such a bad idea after all:

    There's a host of reasons for incendiary balloons to be more effective in 2021 Israel than they were against 1945 United States. An incomplete list: orders of magnitude shorter flight times, no need to rely on the jet stream, decades of trends towards a drier climate, an already arid (and thuse target-rich) region.

    It's worth reading the whole weird history, if for no other reason than so you can join me in now being skeptical about the deadly potential of every balloon you see.

    Incendiary Balloons, Iron Domiciles [Kelsey Atherton / Wars of Future Past]

    Image: D. Sharon Pruitt / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

  • Tour the British landscape with a road trip from Shitterton to Twatt

    This road trip will take you 862 miles all the way through the isle of Britannia.

    Your journey begins in Shitterton, a hamlet in Dorset, England, into Whores Wood and then Bitchfield, before carrying on to Cock Alley in Derbyshire.

    There's a long stretch from there until you reach the aptly-named Dick Place, which is also one of the most expensive streets in Scotland.

    From Dick Place, you'll head off to the Aberdeenshire settlement of Cock Bridge before you finally reach the finish line on the Orkney island of Twatt (not to be confused with the other island of Twatt, which is slightly northeast of Twatt in Shetland).

    And to think, all those foreign towns that English colonists claimed and renamed for the crown — they could have been a lot worse off!

  • Ruins of haunted Scottish village for sale starting at £125,000

    The Old Village of Lawers in Perthshire is for sale for the low, low price of £125,000. That's a steal at 3.31 acres! It comes with other perks as well, according to the sellers:

    An ancient, ruined village, located in stunning Highland scenery on the shores of Loch Tay, with remarkable historical and romantic connections, including, reputedly, its own ghost!

    • Loch Tay frontage
    • Riparian trout fishing rights
    • Area of historic interest with ruined buildings
    • Private beach in area of natural beauty
    • Semi-ancient native woodland
    • Grass paddock with potential planning opportunity

    That ghost, by the way, is the Lady of Lawers, a phantasm so noted that she even has her own Wikipedia page (and some creepy TV specials, as seen in the YouTube rip above). The Lady lived in the late 17th century, and was noted her prophetic visions — the first of which came to her in the Old Village itself:

    It was while [the village church] was being built that the Lady uttered the first of her prophecies. "The ridging stones shall never be placed on the roof of the church."

    This was received with some amusement as the carved capping stones had that day been brought by boat from Kenmore. But in the night a violent storm blew up and the stones were washed into the deep waters of the loch and could not be recovered.

    From then on, the Lady of Lawers was regarded with a new respect and a certain fear. Close to the new church was planted an ash tree besides which she was later buried. "The tree will grow", said the Lady of Lawers, "and when it reaches the height of the gable the church will split asunder."

    The church roof did indeed collapse in 1833, when it was said that the height of the tree reached that of the gable.

    She is also believed to have predicted the railway, in her visions of "fire-coaches," as well as the steam ship, or "a ship driven by smoke," as she put it. That latter prediction may also be one of the three that is yet to come pass, according to Wikipedia:

    There are still three prophesies that remain unfulfilled:

    • "A strange heir will come to Balloch when the Boar's Stone at Fearnan topples over."
    • "A ship driven by smoke will sink in the loch with great loss of life." (indeed, for many years steam ships were used in Loch Tay, but there is no known record of a sinkage with large loss of lives)
    • "The time will come when Ben Lawers will become so cold that it will chill and waste the land for seven miles."

    Sounds like a fun place to live!

    The Old Village of Lawers [Goldcrest Land & Forestry Group]

    The Old Village of Lawers: Ruins 'haunted by seer who predicted invention of trains and steamships' is on the market [Laura Paterson / The Scotsman]

  • A top Exxon lobbyist was secretly recorded bragging about climate denial

    Greenpeace investigative journalism team, Unearthed, has just released a damning video of Keith McCoy, a senior lobbyist for ExxonMobil based in DC, boasting about his climate denial efforts, as well as standing weekly phone calls with various US elected officials.

    Britain's Channel 4 summarizes the tape:

    During the covert recordings, which have been passed to Channel 4 News, Mr McCoy claims:

    • the company secretly fought against legislative action on climate change using third-party organisations
    • he lobbied key senators to remove and/or diminish climate change measures from President Biden's US $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs bill as it proceeds through the legislative process
    • he regards trade bodies like the American Petroleum Institute as "whipping boys" in order to avoid public scrutiny on Capitol Hill


    Mr McCoy said: "Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes. Did we hide our science? Absolutely not. Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that's true. But there's nothing, there's nothing illegal about that.

    "We were looking out for our investments. We were looking out for our shareholders."

    In the recording, Mr. McCoy also talks up his cozy relationships with Congresspeople across the aisle, including Joe Manchin (D-WV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), John Barrasso (R-WY), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Steve Daines (R-MT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ).

    None of this is particularly surprising; the public has known for years now that Exxon's own scientists had figured out the dangerous scopes of their climate change contributions years before the climate conversation had gained momentum, and that the company spent absurd amounts of money funding a disinformation campaign into its own science, misleading investors and the public alike. Exxon maintains that everything they did was technically legal (thanks to lobbyists like McCoy who maintain cozy relationships with lawmakers), and that therefore, the ethics of knowingly poisoning the planet and then lying about it are irrelevant. In that regard, the McCoy tapes are nothing new. But the recording is brazen enough that maybe it'll open up some more peoples' eyes to the true scope of this abhorrent behavior.

    Exxon's response to the tape is that this particular lobbyist had no direct hand in the company's policymaking. Notably, they don't say he's incorrect or wrong.

    Revealed: ExxonMobil's lobbying war on climate change legislation [Alex Johnson / Channel 4]

    Exxon Knew about Climate Change almost 40 years ago [Shannon Hall / Scientific American]

    Exxon Is On Trial, Accused Of Misleading Investors About Risks Of Climate Change [Laura Walmsley / NPR]

  • Fascism and fajitas have the same etymological roots

    I saw this tweet the other day, and it was one of those things that seems jarring and surprising at first, but actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

    For more detail, here's the entry for "fajita" in the Online Etymology Dictionary —

    traditional Tex-Mex dish consisting of strips of meat, chopped vegetables, and cheese wrapped in a tortilla, by 1977, from Mexican Spanish fajita, literally "little strip, little belt," a diminutive of Spanish faja "strip, belt, wrapper," from Latin fascia "band" (see fasces).

    And here's "fascist" —

    1921, from Italian partito nazionale fascista, the anti-communist political movement organized 1919 under Benito Mussolini (1883-1945); from Italian fascio "group, association," literally "bundle," from Latin fasces (see fasces).

    Fasci "groups of men organized for political purposes" had been a feature of Sicily since c. 1895, and the 20c. totalitarian sense probably came directly from this but was influenced by the historical Roman fasces, which became the party symbol. As a noun from 1922 in English, earlier in Italian plural fascisti (1921), and until 1923 in English it often appeared in its Italian form, as an Italian word.

    Which leads us back to "fasces" —

    1590s, from Latin fasces "bundle of rods containing an axe with the blade projecting" (plural of fascis "bundle" of wood, etc.), from Proto-Italic *faski- "bundle," perhaps from PIE *bhasko- "band, bundle" (source also of Middle Irish basc "neckband," Welsh baich "load, burden," perhaps also Old English bæst "inner bark of the linden tree"). Carried before a lictor, a superior Roman magistrate, as a symbol of power over life and limb: the sticks symbolized punishment by whipping, the axe-head execution by beheading. Hence in Latin it also meant, figuratively, "high office, supreme power."

    So there you have it, folks: fajitas are fascism.

    Image: Ray Dehler / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

  • A new investigation shows an Amazon warehouse destroying millions of unsold products each year

    Here's a great Prime Day Deal on Manufactured Scarcity from an Amazon warehouse in Dunfermline, Scotland, as reported by ITV:

    An ex-employee, who asked for anonymity, told us: "From a Friday to a Friday our target was to generally destroy 130,000 items a week. "I used to gasp. There's no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed: Dyson fans, Hoovers, the occasional MacBook and iPad; the other day, 20,000 Covid (face) masks still in their wrappers.

    In one week in April, a leaked document from inside the Dunfermline warehouse showed more than 124,000 items marked 'destroy'. To repeat, that's just for seven days. In contrast, just 28,000 items in the same period were labelled 'donate'. 

    The same manager admitted to us that in some weeks, as many as 200,000 items could be marked 'destroy'.

    As ITV points out, this practice, though wasteful, is hardly illegal; in fact, it's more than likely driven by business needs. Amazon sellers often store their products at Amazon warehouse, which they can be shipped more easily. If something isn't selling, then it's just taking up valuable space that could be better used for other products that people actually want.

    In response to the ITV investigation, Amazon said:

    We are working towards a goal of zero product disposal and our priority is to resell, donate to charitable organisations or recycle any unsold products. No items are sent to landfill in the UK. As a last resort, we will send items to energy recovery, but we're working hard to drive the number of times this happens down to zero.

    Amazon destroying millions of items of unsold stock in one of its UK warehouses every year, ITV News investigation finds [Richard Pallot / ITV]

    Image: ActuaLitté / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

  • A former FBI investigator now hunts down long lost apples. He's found dozens of them.

    NPR has a weirdly fascinating story about an ex-FBI and IRS criminal investigator who has now turned his attention to … apples. In what sounds like a grimdark espionage reboot of Johnny Appleseed starring Nick Cage, Lost Apple Project is the brainchild of David Benscoter and the Whitman Historical Society of Washington State, who seek out rare breeds of apples — most of which are believed to have died out a hundred years ago or more — and aim to revitalize them.

    Benscoter recently found seven types of apples in old orchards in Oregon, Washington and Idaho that were thought to have gone extinct as long as a century ago. 

    They're a mix of red, green and yellow, with names like the Almota, the Ivanhoe, the Eper and the Iowa Flat. Since 2014, Benscoter's organization has discovered 29 lost apple varieties, including the Streaked Pippin, the Sary Sinap and the Nero.


    There were once at least 17,000 named varieties of apples in North America, but only about 4,500 are known to exist today. By the 20th century, farmers stopped growing most apple types because they were less in demand.

    The New York Times wrote about Benscoter's apple adventures back in 2017 as well, really leaning hard into the red delicious noir:

    "It's like a crime scene," Mr. Benscoter, 62, said as he hiked down a slope toward a long-abandoned apple orchard planted in the late 1800s. "You have to establish that the trees existed, and hope that there's a paper trail to follow."


    Often, he said, library archives or county records show what was grown and available, which helps him identify old trees. A woman recently sent him a catalog from 1912 she had found in her attic. It listed more than 140 apple varieties then available in Washington. Documents from county fairs — what apples were offered for judging and won the blue ribbon — have provided another critical piece of evidence.

    Most apple varieties, produced by chance intermingling of pollen from neighboring trees on family farms, cannot be definitively identified by DNA, so the history is important. Plant scientists said old varieties might have something to teach as well about evolution or climate, in looking at the qualities that kept a particular tree going despite the odds.

    When I lived in Ithaca, NY, the town threw an annual Apple Festival that took over the entire downtown, and I knew that there was a bunch of apple cultivar work going at Cornell University. But I never knew that there were people actually digging through historical records for long-dead apples (many of which probably died out because they weren't resilient or desirable). Like I said: weirdly fascinating!

    An Apple Detective Rediscovered 7 Kinds Of Apples Thought To Be Extinct [Dahlia Faheid / NPR]

    Hunting Down the Lost Apples of the Pacific Northwest [Kirk Johnson / The New York Times]

    Image via NeedPix

  • How USA Today beat the heat 10 years ago today

    On July 2, 2011, the print edition of USA Today featured a, erm, handy graphic about the weather that turned to be one of the greatest graphic design failures of all time:

    The image was not featured on USA Today's website, so it's hard to confirm the full story. Huffington Post claimed it was a legit scan of a print graphic, which Snopes confirmed as well (using, uhhh, me as a source). The best primary source I can actually find online comes from the now-defunct New York Observer, which picked it up from the blog of visual journalist Charles Apple.

  • "Britain A Prophecy" Is A New Urban Fantasy in the tradition of 80s/90s Vertigo Books

    DC Comics' Vertigo imprint was a breeding ground for some radical work in the 80s and early 90s, particularly at the hands of British writers like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison; in fact, writer Elizabeth Sandifer has even been chronicling the epic fantasy battle between those two rival magicians in her ongoing prose series Last War in Albion.

    Now Sandifer has teamed up with artist Penn Wiggins to create Britain A Prophecy, a new Vertigo-style dark fantasy comic set in 1980s Britain. With faeries, of course.

    Here's the official synopsis:

    Long ago, a King of Britain made a bargain with the fae: one in ten thousand of his subjects would be switched at birth with faeries, who would enter the mortal realm and guide the Story of Britain to greatness.

    It is the 11th of June, 1987. Margaret Thatcher is about to sweep to a third term as Prime Minister.
    The deal stands to this day.The story begins when Terrence Fitzwilliams, a fae social worker in Manchester, is tasked with tracking down a wayward teenager named Taz, and the two of them find themselves confronting a staggering plot that will shake the country to its core. 

    Sandifer and Wiggins have turned to Patreon to raise money for their endeavor, including a chance to pay their other contributors including a colorist and editor (Bob Proehl, of The Nobody People fame). As Sandifer pointed out in a Twitter thread, it's particularly difficult for trans artists to make the leap into comics (let alone anything else), and they're hoping that Britain a Prophecy could be their big break.

    Britain A Prophecy [Patreon]

  • Danzig, Rollins, and Hall & Oates star in a hilarious gay satire of 90s comic books

    From the publisher of Henry and Glenn Forever:

    Two men.
    Two myths.
    One Legend.

    The greatest love story every told has finally been released in graphic novel form. This epic tome features twenty short stories about the domestic life of "Henry" and "Glenn" and sometimes their neighbors "Daryl" and "John." Digging beneath Glenn's bricks in the front yard, Henry uncovers Glenn's mother. Freshly unearthed, she moves in with him and Henry. Glenn's issues come to the surface as she critiques his art, replaces his wardrobe, scrubs their dungeon, and recalls his childhood. Later, Glenn tries to sell his signature to a UPS driver, takes a punch, and has some daydreaming adventures with a plunger. Henry, "a loud guy with a good work ethic," shows his darker side and indifference to a fan as he drinks black coffee and bonds with Glenn over their distaste for their own bands. These are two men who truly suffer best alone together.

    Among other hijinks, Henry and Glenn go to therapy together, battle an evil cult in the forest, and profess their love for each other, all while dealing with jealousy and other normal relationship problems and trying to figure out if their soft-rocking neighbors are actually Dungeons and Dragons playing Satanists. The saga of Henry and Glenn is a true testament to the power of love to overcome even the biggest, manliest egos of our time.The book collects four serialized comics, the trade paperback, the original 6×6" book, and adds 16 never-before published pages, including new stories, pin up art, and full color covers from the original series.

    Issue #3 is probably my favorite cover though:

    You can check the whole series straight from the publisher, or on Amazon and Comixology.

  • Florida man interrogates his own son in court after killing the rest of his family

    From the Tampa Bay Times:

    Hillsborough sheriff's deputies arrested [Ronnie] Oneal [III] the night of March 18, 2018, after a series of 911 calls brought them to a home on Pike Lake Drive in Riverview. In a neighbor's yard, they found Kenyatta Barron, who had been beaten and shot to death. Inside the Oneal home, they later found 9-year-old Ron'Niveya Oneal, who had been fatally stabbed.

    The house had been set on fire. As smoke billowed, Ronnie Oneal III strolled outside. He endured Taser shocks from deputies as he was subdued and arrested.

    Soon afterward, his then-8-year-old son emerged from the home. The boy had been severely burned, had a collapsed lung and a gaping wound in his belly.

    "My dad shot my mom," he told deputies, according to case records.

    After three years of legal back-and-forth, including some questions about Oneal's mental health and brief periods represented by high-profile public lawyers, Oneal ultimately decided to represent himself in court — or, as he told the judge, he was "ready to die like B.I.G. I was murdered a couple times already before. So I'm cool with being murdered again and coming back like B.I.G." He is claiming self defense under Florida's Stand-Your-Ground-Law

    Witnesses were called in the trial on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 — namely, his son, Ronnie Oneal IV, the sole survivor of that 2018 massacre. As the Washington Post reported from the courthouse:

    After the 11-year-old's harrowing testimony to prosecutors, Oneal himself got up to directly question him about it.

    "Did I hurt you the night of this incident?" Oneal asked the boy, Ronnie Oneal IV.

    "Yes," the child replied. "You stabbed me."

    Oneal's defense rested on the fact that his son did not see him shoot the mother, but only heard the shotgun go off. Oneal claimed that he killed the mother in self-defense after she killed their daughter, and attempted to point out inconsistencies between his son's court testimony and what he told the police in the immediate aftermath of the massacre.

    Oneal was, perhaps unsurprisingly, found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder, although the judge did concede that, "In another lifetime you would have been an excellent lawyer."

    In an interview about the unusual legal proceedings, criminal defense lawyer Kevin Hayslett told 10 Tampa Bay:

    How many times does a father cross-examine his own son and question his truth and veracity? If you were to take a million cases in the jurisprudence system of the United States, it would be less than 0000001 percent. And the chances it would happen in a first-degree double homicide case? Just about never.

    'I love it,' says man facing possible death penalty in Riverview slayings [Dan Sullivan / Tampa Bay Times]

    A boy is the sole survivor of a family massacre. His dad, the suspect, was allowed to question him in court. [Julian Mark / The Washington Post]

  • First successful CRISPR gene-editing directly in the blood of a live patient

    Patrick Doherty was a healthy, active 65-year-old living County Donegal, Ireland when he was diagnosed with transthyretin amyloidosis, the same rare genetic disease that killed his father. When he visited a doctor, he learned of a new experimental treatment for the condition—with an emphasis on the "experimental" side. As NPR reports:

    CRISPR has already been shown to help patients suffering from the devastating blood disorders sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia. And doctors are trying to use it to treat cancer and to restore vision to people blinded by a rare genetic disorder.

    But those experiments involve taking cells out of the body, editing them in the lab, and infusing them back in or injecting CRISPR directly into cells that need fixing.

    The study Doherty volunteered for is the first in which doctors are simply infusing the gene-editor directly into patients and letting it find its own way to the right gene in the right cells. In this case, it's cells in the liver making the destructive protein.


    Doctors infused billions of microscopic structures known as nanoparticles carrying genetic instructions for the CRISPR gene-editor into four patients in London and two in New Zealand. The nanoparticles were absorbed by their livers, where they unleashed armies of CRISPR gene-editors. The CRISPR editor honed in on the target gene in the liver and sliced it, disabling production of the destructive protein.

    CRISP-Cas9 is essentially a set of "instructions" that can target incredibly specific gene pairs in DNA and then insert or remove new, corrective information (in this case, the diseased protein). This is the first example of this kind of gene therapy being injected directly into the bloodstream of a living person. And it worked! Or at least, everything looks good so far, and there's no real reason to expect any unfortunate side effects as long as the proteins hit their target, which they did.

    He Inherited A Devastating Disease. A CRISPR Gene-Editing Breakthrough Stopped It [Rob Stein / NPR]

    Image: National Human Genome Research Institute / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

  • What $335 gets you at the fanciest vegan restaurant in New York

    Eleven Madison Park is an exclusive fine dining establishment overlooking Madison Square Park in Manhattan. The restaurant has received accolades from World's 50 Best, as well as 4 stars from The New York Times and 3 stars from the Michelin Guide.

    And upon its much-anticipated post-pandemic re-opening — the waiting list for a seat is supposedly 15,000 people long — the popular restaurant has switched to a completely plant-based menu,

    Kate Krader of Bloomberg sat down at Eleven Madison Park to experience their new Dining Room Tasting Menu, a seasonal mix of 8-10 courses that costs $335 per person. The way she describes it, her meal was certainly memorable:

    If there is one dish that represents the precision, nuance, and, especially the labor-intensiveness of the new menu, it's the unassuming cucumber course that appears about 1 ½ hours into the meal. It looks like any old fish tartare. But it consists of minutely chopped, compressed cucumbers layered in a gradient with equally tiny bites of sweet, crisp melon over a base of avocado cream—all punctuated  with threads of silky, smoky daikon. Powdered cucumber skin is sprinkled on top. It takes two cooks all day, every day to chop and prep, due to the short shelf life of the fresh cucumber.

    In fact, time is the ingredient on full display throughout the menu, thanks to 35 to 40 hardworking chefs in the kitchen.

    Krader goes on to describe an immaculate, almost immersive performance art experience in fine vegan dining. A typical meal apparently lasts around 4 hours, and that's the way it's meant to be. If you can't afford 4 hours and $335 a person, Eleven Madison Park also offers a 6-course "bar tasting menu" alternative for $175 a pop.

    At least the price includes tax and tip?

    We Ate Eleven Madison Park's $335 Vegan Menu, and Here Is What It's Like [Kate Krader / Bloomberg]

    Image: City Foodsters / Flickr (CC 2.0)

  • Someone made a word processor that plays Sublime every time you type

    Do you love the band Sublime? Does that hip-hop drum loop at the top of "What I Got" get you going in the morning (or should I say, risen' to the streets)? Do you find yourself overwhelmed with creative glee every time Bradley Nowell sings "I can play the gee-tar like a muthafuckin' riot" and then plays a a guitar solo that, while delightfully melodic, is hardly impressive or riotous?

    If so, then Blaine Cook's Sublime Text (not to be confused with… Sublime Text) is for you. Click in the text composition box, and "What I Got" will play automatically — but only as long as you are typing. As long as you're striking keys, it doesn't matter what you're typing (deletion counts, for example). As soon as you stop typing, however, the song stops, too. This may be a blessing, or a curse, depending on your point of view. But it's certainly a challenge. Do you want to hear more Sublime? Or do you just want to keep typing so you get through the song instead of being yanked our of your concentration by the sudden and jarring lack of Sublime?

    The choice is yours.

    Sublime Text

  • KEXP has a great retrospective on G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside Society's Shit)

    They told us we were girls
    How we talk, dress, look, and cry
    They told us we were girls
    So we claimed our female lives
    Now they tell us we aren't girls
    Our femininity doesn't fit
    We're fucking future girls
    Living outside society's shit

    That was the opening salvo from the first EP by G.L.O.S.S., a trans-feminist hardcore band from Olympia, Washington who abruptly exploded onto the scene in early 2015 and then broke up just swiftly a year and a half later. G.L.O.S.S. released two EPs, DEMO and Trans Day of Revenge (which opens with the similarly blistering "Give Violence A Chance"), which combined total about 15 minutes of music. But that was all the band needed to establish their legendary status in the punk world. As this great G.L.O.S.S. retrospective from KEPX explains:

    Packed tightly into five songs, the eight-minute EP was like throwing an M-80 into a glass house with its powerful songs of rejecting validation from the straight boy canon and trendy mutant skinheads; decrying the performance of masculinity; crafting incendiary anthems for transfemmes, genderfluid folks, and outcasts tired of standing in the back of the venue. Spiked baseball bats beating down the structures of repression and the closets the straight white establishment force trans and nonbinary people into. Trans people being the targets of straight male bigotry and oppression. Supported by pummelling instrumentation and Sadie's barbed wire-shredded screams, the G.L.O.S.S. demo was a homicidal rebuke of transphobia and all its disgusting subideals.


    Though G.L.O.S.S. is fundamentally a band conceived by and for queer and trans people, their final work as a band speaks loudly to the physically and sexually abused, the racially oppressed, the people most downtrodden by American society's desire for a monolithic culture. The survivors living with heavy trauma, those showing up to school or work with bruises. The transgender people thrown under the bus by "yuppie gays." Sadie's vocals are clear in front and the instruments are there to support the message, where oftentimes the reverse is what's practiced. Hardcore punk is essentially a sprint to the last punch, and the seven minutes of Trans Day of Revenge is no different; its heart rate spikes to obscene tempos. It's punchy, but the kind of punchy you get when your fists are taped and covered with glass shards.

    It's great read on a very short-lived modern band that nonetheless epitomized that OG punk rock spirit, in a way that none of those original punk bands ever quite could. The article also explores the important socio-political context of what it means to have a band of mostly trans women singing about a violent upheaval against their oppressors — which is a pretty radical thing in and of itself.

    Also those two EPs will totally rock your fucking face off.

    Give Violence a Chance: Five Years of G.L.O.S.S.'s Trans Day of Revenge [Martin Douglas / KEXP]

  • Adorable alien web comic "Strange Planet" being adapted into a new Dan Harmon TV show

    The Hollywood Reporter has announced that Nathan Pyle's popular webcomic Strange Planet is being adapted into a new 10-episode animated series, co-created by Dan Harmon, the man behind Rick & Morty and the seasons of Community that actually count. There's no release date announced yet, but the show will air on Apple TV+ and involve the same animation studio that did Bojack Horseman.

    Pyle began posting his Strange Planet February 2019; with months he had already amassed over a million followers (a crowd which has grown even more substantially since then). You've probably seen them — adorable blue aliens with big round heads, doing incredible mundane human things, and commenting them with just enough distance and a thesaurus touch to make these everyday events seem hilariously bizarre and, well, alien. They're absolutely delightful, and I'm sure Harmon can bring some unique charm to their wholesomeness.

    Dan Harmon, Nathan Pyle Team for 'Strange Planet' Series at Apple [Lesley Goldberg / The Hollywood Reporter]

  • Listen to this great instrumental synth concept album about every teen movie

    Synthwave artist Atomic Ghost just released a brand new LP called Teenage Romance and folks, it is god damn delightful: an instrumental concept album that uses an orgy of synth sounds to recreate the archetypal epic experience of every teen movie ever. Or, as the artist themself explains:

    Teenage Romance tells the story of a kid who's new in town, see's someone they love at first sight, gets into trouble, struggles with a bully, falls in love, faces down challenges, and wins in the end. It's the soundtrack to a film you've never seen, but also all of them.

    Atomic Ghost is either A mild-mannered musician and a child of the 80s who stumbled into an archetypal nuclear reactor incident and now exists purely as a radioactive spirit, haunting synthesizers across the land, or a flesh-and-blood human who also served as a groomsman in my wedding. I remember the first time I listened to an early mix of the album, stepping outside for my daily "commute" around the block and back to my home office. Teenage Romance was the perfect soundtrack to get me focused and in the zone — a meditative experience that let my thoughts wander and then re-collect themself, even as it inspired me to feel like the archetypal protagonist in Every Epic Teen Movie. (In fact, it took me a little longer than anticipated to give mixing feedback to the Atomic Ghost, because I would find myself losing time whenever I listened to the album, utterly entranced by the bleep-bloops of a strangely familiar journey.)

    You can check it Teenage Romance on Bandcamp below, or at Spotify, etc. It is genuinely great.

  • Warren Ellis reportedly returning to comics after dozens of misconduct allegations

    Comic author Warren Ellis and artist Ben Templesmith began publishing the darkly surreal crime comic book Fell through Image Comics in 2005. Over the next three years, they would publish only nine issues, while also winning several Eisner Awards. And then the comic just sort of stopped, with no resolution, and no answers to the mysterious Snowtown symbols or the creepy-ass nun in a Richard Nixon mask. Unfinished storylines are not entirely unheard of with Ellis's creator-owned projects, although in this case there were some valid reasons, including a hard drive crash that destroyed several scripts. The last update came in January of 2011, when Ellis announced that he had completed the script for the next issue of Fell and sent it off to Templesmith.

    Flash forward to July 2020: more than sixty people came forward to share their stories of emotional abuse and manipulation at the hands of Warren Ellis. The group created a website, titled "So Many Of Us," corroborating their experiences and laying out their desires for transformative justice. IMHO, their demands were powerful, attainable, and inspirational — they wanted accountability, reconciliation, and then to move on, explicitly rejecting calls to "cancel" Ellis or his work (indeed, some of his accusers were also his former artistic collaborators, who certainly wouldn't want their own work "cancelled").

    Ellis responded with a statement, saying:

    While I've made many bad choices in my past, and I've said a lot of wrong things, let me be clear, I have never consciously coerced, manipulated, or abused anyone, nor have I ever assaulted anybody. But I was ignorant of where I was operating from at a time I should have been clear and for that I accept 100% responsibility. I have always tried to aid and support women in their lives and careers, but I have hurt many people that I had no intention of hurting. I am culpable. I take responsibility for my mistakes. I will do better and for that, I apologize.

    And then disappeared from the public eye for several months.

    By late December 2020, however, Ellis announced plans to restart his newsletter. The So Many Of Us collective responded by posting an update to their website, saying that, "To the best of our knowledge, he has not contacted any of us since the site's publication in July 2020." The final season of the Ellis-penned Castlevania TV show (which he had finished writing before the revelations came out) was released in Spring 2021, with Ellis's all but absent from any promotional materials, interviews, or reviews.

    As of June 2021, Ellis had not resumed his newsletter. But Fell artist Ben Templesmith announced on his Patreon that he and Ellis would be resuming work on Fell:

    Not for me to speak for Warren, but I agreed to do the book and I'm glad he's going to be doing some comics again. He is after all, one of the most important comics writers of the past few decades. It means a lot to me to finish this thing, finally, so I couldn't say no. I guess we'll let the market speak as to how things go.

    We're pretty much past the old concept of $1.99 comics, sadly, these days, so from what I know this will be a single volume work. And I hope I'm not speaking out of place by saying yes, it'll still be through Image.

    Warren got me some script, so I'm starting on pages now.

    Some commenters expressed their concerns about Ellis on Templesmith's post, to which he replied:

    I just can't subscribe to a permanent social and economic living death for anyone, outside of criminal matters. What's between you all & him is your personal business & I wish you all well in those dealings. Everyone will be free to not buy the book, ignore his further works, ( & mine ) deride them & pass judgment economically. I know some people will never be happy, or healed. I've dealt with abuse & manipulation myself, so I empathize with those affected. I also believe in redemption & that he's capable of making amends, growing from his actions & hopefully becoming an example of change in a community that desperately warrants it.

    Ironically, "I also believe in redemption & that he's capable of making amends, growing from his actions & hopefully becoming an example of change in a community that desperately warrants it" is precisely what the So Many of Us collective demanded, and which none of them have thus far received.

    Although So Many Of Us re-affirmed their desire for reconciliation through transformative justice, neither Ellis, nor Image Comics, have made any public statements about the potential future publication of Fell. I suppose it's entirely possible that Templesmith is working from that script he received a decade ago, but his posts certainly make it sound like an active collaboration.

    Many of my favorite Warren Ellis works have involved powerful men being horrible manipulative bastards. Some of those characters had hearts of gold beneath their cruel veneers; some of them lacked all remorse. I learned a lot about power dynamics, character, and masculinity through his writing. Even after learned about his abusive behaviors, I had hoped that he would demonstrate a capacity for change. But a year on, it seems like he may have been more intimately familiar with his fictional cruelty than I had believed.