Ta-Nehisi Coates's "Black Panther and the Crew" is a powerfully relevant superhero story about Black lives, police brutality, and US history

I have been frequently awed by Ta-Nehisi Coates's thoughtful observations on politics and race in America. But I'll be honest: I was somewhat disappointed by his first run of Black Panther comics. It felt, to me, more like a Coates essay accompanied by some action sequences. The ideas were there, and the art by Brian Stelfreeze was spectacular, but it just didn't grip me as a dramatic narrative. (His Captain America, illustrated by Leinil Francis Yu and others, has left me similarly cold.)

Fortunately, Coates is a certified MacArthur genius, and a deft enough writer that he learned on the job with an impressive swiftness. I read the first eighteen issues of Coates and Daniel Acuña's epic Black Panther space opera The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda in just two days, and am eager to devour the rest once it's available (I read most of my comics on Marvel Unlimited).

So to tide myself over, I decided to check out Coates's brief run on Black Panther and the Crew with illustrator Butch Guice. A nod to or revival of Christopher Priest's similarly Panther-inspired 2003 series, The Crew, the comic brings T'Challa to Harlem, in a loose team-up with some other Harlem-affiliated superheroes, including Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and Storm from the X-Men. It's an intergenerational story about Black liberation and revolution, that begins with the death of an elderly Black activist in police custody during a series of ongoing protests against racist police brutality. The conspiracy at the heart of the murder mystery organically weaves in gentrification, astroturfed agitators undermining protests, and algorithmic policing that's never as unbiased as it claims. Read the rest

How to spy on someone using a lightbulb as a remote microphone

This video was made a group of security researchers based at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. The Lamphone, as they call it, is intended as an alternative method of eavesdropping on private conversations without having to compromise a device with malware. In their tests, the researchers were able to accurately monitor audio, including speech and music, from about 80 feet away; they think they could amplify that range with some better hardware, too.

And all it takes is a few simple tools:

Telescope - This piece of equipment is used to focus the field of view on the hanging bulb from a distance. Electro-optical sensor - This sensor is mounted on the telescope and consists of a photodiode (a semiconductor device) that converts light into an electrical current. The current is generated when photons are absorbed in the photodiode. Photodiodes are used in many consumer electronic devices (e.g., smoke detectors, medical devices). Sound recovery system - This system receives an optical signal as input and outputs the recovered acoustic signal. The eavesdropper can implement such a system with dedicated hardware (e.g., using capacitors, resistors, etc.). Alternatively, the attacker can use an ADC to sample the electro-optical sensor and process the data using a sound recovery algorithm running on a laptop.

So basically, a laser; something to point it at (like a light bulb); and something to convert the sound. It works with LEDs as well as incandescent bulbs, too.

Here's how Davey Winder at Forbes describes the process:

Fluctuations in air pressure on the surface of the hanging bulb are created by the sound of conversation, or music, and make a hanging bulb vibrate. 

Read the rest

A children's book recipe for "No-Bake Spice Cookies," inspired by David Lynch's DUNE

36 years after the release of David Lynch's film adaptation of Dune, that famous flop is still finding new ways to surprise me. Like this Dune Activity Book — not to be confused with the Dune Coloring Book, or the Dune Color and Activity Book, all of which were apparently released in a failed attempt to market the film to kids.

Today, I'm particularly fascinated by this recipe for Dune "No-Bake Spice Cookies."

Was melange supposed to taste like cinnamon and coconut? That doesn't strike me as a very exotic, out-of-this-world spice flavor. Was this supposed to tantalize children like a gateway drug to lead them towards the addictions of hallucinogenic-induced space navigation skills and telepathy? And why should the Kwisatz-Haderach need parental assistance to melt the butter in a saucepan? Children must not fear! Fear is the mindkiller!

Perhaps these cookies are the little death that brings total obliteration. Only one way to find out.

(If you want to get a closer look inside these weird childrens' books, check out this post from Coilhouse)

Image via YouTube Read the rest

A powerful portrait series of Black Americans killed by police that uses time as a visual medium

Adrian Brandon is a Seattle-raised and Brooklyn-based visual artist, whose "Stolen" collection was originally displayed at his first public solo show in November 2019 at 263 Bowery in New York. It's stunning visual art project both in its concept, and its execution. I'll allow the artist to explain:

This series is dedicated to the many black people that were robbed of their lives at the hands of the police. In addition to using markers and pencil, I use time as a medium to define how long each portrait is colored in. 1 year of life = 1 minute of color. Tamir Rice was 12 when he was murdered, so I colored his portrait for 12 minutes. As a person of color, I know that my future can be stolen from me if I’m driving with a broken taillight, or playing my music too loud, or reaching for my phone at the wrong time. So for each of these portraits I played with the harsh relationship between time and death. I want the viewer to see how much empty space is left in these lives, stories that will never be told, space that can never be filled. This emptiness represents holes in their families and our community, who will be forever stuck with the question, “who were they becoming?” This series touches on grief and the unknown.

Brandon's pen-and-ink work is phenomenal. But when you see how much — or how little — color art is added to the lives of these people of color, it really drives the point home. Read the rest

"Africa" by Toto performed entirely on electrical zaps from Tesla Coils

There's no way to explain this any better the creator, Franzoli Electronics, explains it in the description:

The main loud music really comes from the tesla coil sparks. They are literally playing the music due to the programmed phase, pulse width and firing frequency! So, there are no speakers, no audio / video special effects. It looks even better in person and sounds almost the same, just without the beat / percussion backing track.

Read the rest

New Adam Schlesinger tribute album features covers by Rachel Bloom, Charly Bliss, Sarah Silverman, Nada Surf, and many many more

Adam Schlesinger has long been a songwriting hero of mine, and I was absolutely heartbroken when I learned that he had passed away from COVID-19 complications in early April. He was someone who genuinely elevated the craft of pop songwriting to an artform, without precious or self-important about it.

Now, friends of Schlesinger from across the spectrum of his work — from rock music to Broadway to movies and TV — have come together to put a 31-song tribute album, covering his whole discography:

Adam Schlesinger was a prodigious and prolific songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. He died on April 1 at the age of 52 as the result of complications from COVID-19. Not only was Schlesinger in multiple beloved bands—including the power-pop-leaning Fountains of Wayne and sophisticated electro-pop act Ivy—but he also collaborated on songs for movie soundtracks and the TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

A wide array of artists touched by Schlesinger's life pay tribute to the many musical projects of which he was a part via the Bandcamp-exclusive benefit compilation, Saving for a Custom Van. The 31-song collection features collaborators, tourmates, friends, and fans putting their own spin on songs spanning his entire career. Saving for a Custom Van, which takes its title from a lyric in Fountains of Wayne's "Utopia Parkway," is co-curated and co-released by Father/Daughter Records and Wax Nine.

One-hundred percent of Saving for a Custom Van proceeds will be donated to MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, which is dedicated to helping music industry and community members affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the rest

Largest known soft-shell reptile egg discovered in Antarctica

A new article from Nature describes the discovery of a 100-million-year-old fossilized reptile egg with a soft, leathery shell that's nearly a foot long. It's the second-largest egg fossil ever discovered (after the egg of the elephant bird, which had a hard shell about five times thicker), and also the first such discovery made on the continent of Antarctica.

As National Geographic summarizes:

The 68-million-year-old egg, called Antarcticoolithus bradyi, is the first fossil egg ever found in Antarctica, only outsized by the eggs of Madagascar’s extinct elephant birdAntarcticoolithus is also one of the few fossil eggs ever found in marine sediment. “For the first egg remnant from Antarctica to be a nearly complete egg that has finely preserved microstructure is kind of insane,” says Julia Clarke of UT Austin.

[…]

Under a microscope, Antarcticoolithus not only lacked the internal structure of hard eggshells, but also the pores of hard-shelled eggs, suggesting the large egg was soft.

At the time the egg was laid, large marine reptiles called mosasaurs lived in the Antarctic waters where the fossil egg was entombed. The bones of a mosasaur were found less than 700 feet from the site, suggesting the egg may have belonged to these 20-foot-long swimming reptiles.

Here's the real kicker though: the scientists didn't find any bones inside of the egg. And while they think it would have belonged to a mosasaur, or some other 20-plus-foot-long swimming reptiles, that wouldn't gel with their current knowledge of those leviathans. From Nature(emphasis added):

The identity of the animal that laid the egg is unknown, but these preserved morphologies are consistent with the skeletal remains of mosasaurs (large marine lepidosaurs) found nearby.

Read the rest

Bourbon time capsule discovered underneath a statue of Jefferson Davis in Kentucky

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear recently ordered a statue of noted American traitor Jefferson Davis to be removed from the state capitol. And as workers took the statue down, they discovered an empty bottle of Glenmore Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and an old newspaper inside the base.

The newspaper was dated October 20, 1936, and the front page makes references to some violent actions at the hand of anti-fascists vigilantes in Spain. According to Fox News, October 20, 1936 was also the same day that the statue was erected, which is very probably true and also rather ridiculous considering that that was more than 70 years after Jefferson Davis led the Confederacy in betraying the United States.

The Kentucky Historic Properties Advisory Commission has voted to move the statue to the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site — though I'm not sure why the leader of a traitorous secession force should continue to have a state park named in his unseemly honor, either.

Maybe if they raze the park, they'll find more bourbon?

In fact, we should probably search for more bourbon beneath every Confederate statue. Who knows what kind of liquid treasure we might find!

Artifacts found inside base of Jefferson Davis statue at state Capitol [Darby Beane / WDRB] Read the rest

A dark fan theory explores the illicit affair between Elmo's mom and his Uncle Jack

The recent Sesame Street seminar on racism has caused quite a stir on the Internet, thanks in large part to a scene in which Elmo's father, Louie, explains why people are protesting police brutality.

Beyond its socio-political importance, many were aghast to learn that Elmo — who is a muppet — also has a biological family.

But Elmo doesn't just have a dad. According to his Muppet wikia entry:

Elmo lives in an apartment on Sesame Street with his mother Mae, his father Louie, and, in some storybooks, a sister named Daisy. He has a pet goldfish named Dorothy.

Other relatives in Elmo's family include his grandma and grandpahis great-grandmother (featured in a 1989 episode) and his great-grandfather (named Selmo); his Uncle JackAunt Jill, and cousin Jesse (featured in When Families Grieve); plus additional cousins Elmer (featured in Kids' Favorite Country Songs), Chester (featured in Here For You), and Mimsy. Additionally, the television special Sesame Street Stays Up Late shows Elmo's "international" cousins — Pepé from Mexico and Elmonosuke from Japan. As seen in The Furchester Hotel, he also has an aunt Funella Furchester, an uncle Furgus Fuzz, and a cousin Phoebe Furchester-Fuzz.

In short, Elmo has a big family. Which means a lot of Muppet sex.

But what if Elmo's dad … isn't actually his dad?

Read the rest

When 8-year-olds redesign famous band tees

Emily aka Angsty X tried to teach her 8-year old how to use Photoshop. She figured that the best way to do this was to introduce her to a few simple manipulation techniques, and let her daughter instruct her on how to change them (it takes a little while to get the hang of that magic wand tool).

They decided to start with band t-shirts, because mom wears a lot of them.  There was one shirt that Emily used to wear more often, but she told her daughter that she didn't like one of the people on it anymore. So her daughter said, "Well, just don't put him on it!"

And thus it began.

Emily's daughter didn't understand why her mom was laughing so hard. Frankly, I don't, either, because Emily's daughter is clearly a genius, as demonstrated by the other shirts that she designed.

Emily decided to turn these into actual t-shirts, which you can find on Teepublic for the time being, with all proceeds going to the Okra Project to support mental health work for black trans men and women; they've already raised around $100! Read the rest

The new trailer for season 2 of DOOM PATROL brings the SeX-Men to HBO Max

The first season of the DC Universe Original Doom Patrol TV series was truly wonderful in all the weirdest ways. Ostensibly about a group of "superheroes" (kind of) who are kind of like a way more fucked up version of the X-Men, the show (like the comic) was less interested in traditional superheroics, and more interested in an avant-garde exploration of the damaged psyches of these strange individuals. Their greatest enemies are the Brotherhood of Dada, who aren't trying to destroy the world but rather prove that everything is meaningless nonsense. Like that time they kidnapped Paris and trapped it in a painting.

The first season begins with a journey down the butthole of a donkey who speaks with its farts, segues into Kaiju sex between a giant rat and a messianic cockroach, passes through a sentient genderqueer street named Danny, and somehow still finds a way to invoke Chumbawamba in a surprisingly touching and emotional way. The show's biggest "villain," as it were, was the US Bureau of Normalcy, determined to make all the freaks and queer people and people with disabilities fit into some idyllic Pleasantville mold.

Needless to say, I could not recommend it more highly, regardless of whether you typically enjoy "superhero"-fare. It's just some gloriously bonkers abstract art about a bunch of damaged people trying to connect with one another.

For Season 2, the show has graduated from DC's proprietary Universe app to HBO Max, beginning June 25. And this season introduces paranormal investigators, the SeX-Men! Read the rest

The Butt Types: a bootyful typographical project for parenthesis in different fonts

Who among us hasn't used a pair of parentheses to draw a butt?

Swedish graphic designer Viktor Hertz has taken this idea one step further with Butt Types, a visual exploration of typographical butt art using 50 different fonts, including:

Adobe Garamond Pro, American Typewriter, Arial, Big Caslon, Bodoni, Calibri, Century Gothic, Comic Sans, Chopin Script, Copperplate, Didot, DIN, Eurostile, Futura, Geneva, Georgia, Helvetica, ITC Benguiat, Joane, Klavika Bold, Lato, Mrs Eaves, Optima, Papyrus, Playfair Display, Steelfish, Times New Roman, Trajan Pro, VAG Rundschrift D and Zapfino.

Butt Types began a year ago as a series of somewhat-viral (or perhaps diarrheal?) Facebook posts; in October of 2019, he tried to launch Kickstart a limited edition Butt Types poster print…but sadly, only got about a third of the way to his funding goal.

I'm a VAG Rundschrift D butt, myself.

Hertz has also experimented with Dick Types and Pussy Types as well, and you can view his full collection of Typornography on Behance.

The Butt Types Poster [Kickstarter]

  Read the rest

A US Air Force Sergeant linked to Boogaloo Bois charged with killing police officer

Republican Senators including Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley have invoked the death of retired St. Louis Police captain David Dorn as proof of some kind of awful epidemic of anti-cop violence coming from the political left. Dorn was working as a security guard at a friend's pawn and jewelry shop when he was tragically shot and killed during a 2:30am robbery that was unrelated to protests against police brutality.

Dorn was a black man, who was deeply beloved in the community; while his death was certainly heartbreaking, it had nothing to do with any "defund the police narrative." Pawn shops and jewelry shops do unfortunately get robbed sometimes, but not because people hate the police; these stores get robbed because there are desperate people out there who saw the risk as worth it for the potentially lucrative target. In most cases, that desperation is caused by poverty, or addiction, or mental health, or some combination of these issues — the exact same issues that most of the "defund the police" crowd believe would benefit from more focused financial resources, which have otherwise been tied up in policing.

But there is no actual evidence of any increase of extreme violence from the political left (not even from "Antifa"). The bulk of political violence — both against civilians, and police officers — continues to come from the far right.

Case-in-point: Steven Carillo, a US Air Force Sergeant connected to the Boogalo movement, is facing 19 felony charges, including the alleged murder of Santa Cruz County Deputy Sgt. Read the rest

Kickstarting Sugar Heist, a delightful card game about stealing candy from babies

Sugar Heist is a fun-looking new card game from YouTube comedian/animator Alex Clark and TV writer Zach Craley (Heroes Reborn, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, and Spider-Man) with a simple goal: trade and steal cards so you can build up a giant stash of candy. "We guarantee that Sugar Heist is THE BEST way to bring together family and friends," the creators write, "so you can betray their trust and steal from them."

Here's the epic origin story behind this wacky game:

 Sugar Heist was inspired by Alex’s best friends, Zach and Kat, having twins. When they were born, Alex looked to his wife, Pam, and said: “It’s finally time for our own baby.”  Alex quickly clarified that he meant a tabletop game and thankfully Pam was still on board.

The four of us play games regularly and have always dreamed of making our own, but we also loved putting it off. It wasn’t until the twins were born that we decided to follow through.

Based on their birth, Alex immediately had an epiphany, "What if it’s a game where you collect candy and use it to lure children into your van."

[…]

Based on these convos we realized our idea was wildly inappropriate. While a game catering to that crowd might be a great way to roundup weirdos, To Catch a Predator-style, we knew we’d prefer to reach a wider audience.

We thought let’s do something “not creepy” — What if stealing candy from babies wasn’t always easy? What if these babies could defend themselves?

Read the rest

Wear your mask in the bathroom so you don't get coronavirus from poop

The New York Times has a new report on the aerosol distribution of toilet flushing:

Scientists have found that in addition to clearing out whatever business you’ve left behind, flushing a toilet can generate a cloud of aerosol droplets that rises nearly three feet. Those droplets may linger in the air long enough to be inhaled by a shared toilet’s next user, or land on surfaces in the bathroom.

This toilet plume isn’t just gross. In simulations, it can carry infectious coronavirus particles that are already present in the surrounding air or recently shed in a person’s stool. The research, published Tuesday in the journal Physics of Fluids, adds to growing evidence that the coronavirus can be passed not only through respiratory droplets, but through virus-laden feces, too.

This is just the latest example of ways that the coronavirus has illuminated just how overwhelming the spread of germs in everyday life can be. I think it's safe to say that most people who were overly concerned about handwashing and air-bound droplets of fecal bacteria were typically written off as "germaphobic." And while we knew, scientifically, that credit card machines and concerts and stability bars on trains were all probably gross, they never seemed to be that big of a problem … until this pandemic started, making us all so hyper-aware of transmission.

It's very possible that all of these things will continue to be safe-ish, as long as you practice the very basic due diligence around your own personal sanitation — but the fact that we just don't know, and are suddenly so attuned to our knowledge gaps, is truly astounding. Read the rest

Noted white nationalist and guy who got punched in the face Richard Spencer is "financially crippled" from lawsuit

Self-proclaimed white nationalist and alleged domestic abuser Richard Spencer has been bogged down in a civil lawsuit for his part in helping to organize the "Unite The Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virgina, which resulted in much calamity, including the tragic death of activist Heather Heyers at the hands of another proud self-proclaimed white nationalist. Spencer is — perhaps, sadly, fittingly — the heir to a cotton farm fortune, and that privilege has helped him to finance his campaign of hate. But increasing legal (and marital) pressures have finally started to milk his racist wallet dry. From Huffington Post:

Richard Spencer’s attorney has asked for the court’s permission to withdraw from representing him in the civil case. The lawyer, John DiNucci, said Spencer owes him a significant amount of money in legal fees and hasn’t been cooperating adequately.

Spencer told U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Hoppe that the lawsuit over the “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 has been “extremely expensive” and a “huge burden” for him.

“This case has been financially crippling for a long time,” said Spencer, who popularized the term “alt-right” to describe a loosely connected fringe movement of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists.

Huffington Post goes on to note that Spencer has also (allegedly) failed to turn over numerous documents for the trial, including thousands of photos and video files.

The trustfund Neo-Nazi baby runs a "nonprofit" called the National Policy Institute, which had previously raised nearly $500,000 in tax-deductible contributions between 2007 and 2012. Read the rest

Ewoks without fur are absolutely terrifying

Warwick Davis made a very brief cameo in The Rise of Skywalker, once again donning the visage of galactic champion Wicket W. Warrick. (Warwick's real-life son played the other Ewok.)

But Lucasfilm creature concept artist Jake Lunt Davies shared a behind-the-scenes process photo of the re-fabricated Wicket costume, before all the fur was added back to that badass indigenous teddy bear … and it is fucking horrifying.

View this post on Instagram

Ewok sans fur. Scary stuff. Fabricating Warwick’s costume in the Creature shop. From BTS extras on TROS Blu-ray #starwars #theriseofskywalker #starwarstheriseofskywalker #ewok #ewoks #bts #fabrication #sleepwell

A post shared by Jake Lunt Davies (@jakeluntdavies) on Jun 11, 2020 at 8:21am PDT

I thought I wanted justice for Ewoks: The Battle For Endor — also known as the greatest Star Wars film ever — being officially removed from the new Star Wars continuity. But now I just want this horrifying sight surgically removed from my memory.

Image: William Tung / Flickr (CC 2.0) Read the rest

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