Vintage Asteroids costume is surprisingly terrifying

Costumes in the early 80's were little more than decorated plastic bags. And before Disney's IP came to dominate Halloween shops, costume makers had to come up with creative ways to let kids embody concepts like an Asteroid or Rubik's Cube. The resulting costumes may have lacked padded muscles, but made up for it with surprisingly disturbing masks:

Someone made the call that it was worth spending resources to make a costume based on the cyclops from Krull:

You can find more costumes from the 70's and 80's here and here.

(Via Attract Mode.) Read the rest

2,500 MS-DOS games enter the Internet Archive

A huge trove of ancient MS-DOS games are now available at the Internet Archive, with in-browser DOSbox emulation and metadata. Read the rest

"Halloween in a Box" tells the story of plastic costumes of yore

My mom always sewed my Halloween costumes when I was a kid, so I never got to wear one of the many licensed ones featured in the recently released documentary, "Halloween in a Box." I'm not really complaining but the plastic-masked ones you'd find at Woolworth did have a real charm to them. In any event, this film follows the history of these costumes and how its manufacturers had to work together to keep trick-or-treating alive after the Tylenol poisonings of the early eighties. Read the rest

A Tangled Weave: when Louis XIV made owning calico cotton a crime

[Michael Skeet – my longtime friend and sometime collaborator -- has just finished his latest novel, A Tangled Weave, which revolves around the weird historical moment when possession of cotton was a serious crime in France. In this essay, occasioned by the publication of A Tangled Weave, Mike gives us some backstory on the odd circumstances that gave rise to a prohibition on Indian cotton, and how they inspired a novel. You can read a sample chapter here. -Cory]

Prohibition just never works. If the U.S. Congress had been a bit more historically literate when contemplating the Volstead Act they wouldn’t even have tried. There was a seventeenth-century example that would have demonstrated the foolishness of trying to ban something people want. Whether the reason for the ban is moral, economic, or whatever. Read the rest

Subtle problem with bayonet design

The bayonet on the MAS-36 rifle seems a straightforward, no-nonsense design. But there's a problem with it: bored soldiers. Read the rest

Tolkien’s Lobelia Sackville-Baggins is probably a misogynist satire of women's rights campaigner Victoria Sackville-West

Lobelia Sackville-Baggins is a Lord of the Rings Hobbit, one of the few, rare female characters in that series, and she's a nasty piece of work: a bitter enemy of Frodo and Bilbo, she is mostly depicted trying to either steal their stuff or buy it at deep discounts from them: she ends her days first imprisoned and starved, and then dead shortly after she's sprung. Read the rest

The Folio Society is releasing a gorgeous edition of Octavia Butler's "Kindred"

Octavia Butler (previously), the brilliant Afrofuturist, McArthur Genius Grant-winning science fiction writer, died far, far too soon, leaving behind a corpus of incredible, voraciously readable novels, and a community of writers who were inspired by her example. Read the rest

New timeline of dino extinction day, 66m years ago

Scientists drilled into the Chixclub crater in the Gulf of Mexico to learn more about the end of the mesozoic era. They learned more than they expected, reports Katherine Kornei in The New York Times.

The first day of the Cenozoic was peppered with cataclysms. When the asteroid struck, it temporarily carved a hole 60 miles across and 20 miles deep. The impact triggered a tsunami moving away from the crater. It also catapulted rock into the upper atmosphere and beyond.

“Almost certainly some of the material would have reached the Moon,” Dr. Gulick said.

The largest pieces of debris rained back down to Earth within minutes, Dr. Gulick and his team say, pelting the scarred landscape with solidifying rock. Smaller particles lingered for longer periods, and glassy blobs known as tektites, formed when falling, molten rock cools, have been found across North America and dated to the Chicxulub impact. Within about 30 minutes, ocean water began to flood back into the crater through a gap in its northeastern rim, the researchers suggest.

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Paleocomputing watch: Tech magazines cover the BBS scene

The wonderful folks at Paleotronic (previously) have rounded up scans of articles from 1980s-era computer magazines that advised new computer users on navigating the burgeoning world of dial-up BBSes. Read the rest

Trailer for new documentary series about Bill Gates

Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates is a new three-part documentary that premieres on September 20. It's directed by Davis Guggenheim who produced An Inconvenient Truth and directed Waiting for Superman.

"When I thought about topics to cover, I knew I didn’t want to make a promotional piece about his work," Guggenheim said. "Instead, I opted to focus on the tougher, more complex problems that nobody wants to think about, like sanitation and nuclear energy. Bill chose to take these issues on, even knowing that he might fail, and I had an instinct that seeing him wrestle with these intractable and frustrating problems would reveal something interesting about him as a person.”

It'll be interesting to see how warts-and-all the documentary really is (or isn't). Read the rest

Old folks born in the 19th century say hello from 1934

A woman born in 1852. A gentleman birthed in 1841. A lovely couple, very much in love since well before the opening of the 20th century. This short film, captured using a early Movietone camera, was lovingly restored restored by Guy Jones. It's an amazing window, not only into 1934 when it was filmed, but into the 1880s.

That said, man, Washington County, Iowa was whiter than a pale of milk in a snowstorm. Read the rest

Time capsule from 1969 opened and (drumroll) nothing was inside!

In Derry, New Hampshire, a time capsule from 1969 was finally opened on its 50th anniversary yet it was completely empty. Read the rest

Anthropodermic bibliopegy: the grotesque history of books bound in human skin

On the Under the Knife show, Dr Lindsey Fitzharris elucidates the weird history of "anthropodermic bibliopegy," the weird practice of binding books in human skin, including the doctor who bound case histories in the skins of his dead patients, and the murderer who asked to have his biography bound in his skin and presented to the lawman who caught him after his execution. Other common ways to procure human skins for the practice included grave-robbing (Andrea wrote about the Burke and Hare editions back in 2016). (Thanks, Allen) Read the rest

Mystery deepens: dead of Skeleton Lake weren't killed by a hailstorm, say scientists

Skeleton Lake is so named for the hundreds of skeletons found there, a spooky tableux high in a Himalayan pass. It was believed that the 500 or so dead were killed by a freak hailstorm, but a new study reportedly rebunks that hypothesis. It's more mysterious than ever.

In a new study published today in Nature Communications, an international team of more than two dozen archaeologists, geneticists, and other specialists dated and analyzed the DNA from the bones of 37 individuals found at Roopkund. They were able to suss out new details about these people, but if anything, their findings make the story of this place even more complex. The team determined that the majority of the deceased indeed died 1,000 or so years ago, but not simultaneously. And a few died much more recently, likely in the early 1800s. Stranger still, the skeletons’ genetic makeup is more typical of Mediterranean heritage than South Asian.

“It may be even more of a mystery than before,” says David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard and one of the senior authors of the new paper. “It was unbelievable, because the type of ancestry we find in about a third of the individuals is so unusual for this part of the world.”

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The world's longest operating webcam is going offline

In 1994, Jeff Schwartz and Dan Wong fired up the San Francisco FogCam. For 25 years, it kept a constant vigil on the San Francisco State University campus, making the FogCam the longest operating webcam in history. (The first webcam, the Trojan Room coffee pot cam, went online in 1991 and shut down in 2001.) At the end of the month, Schwartz and Wong will turn off the FogCam. From SF Gate:

"Our webcam is a throwback to the early days of the Internet when anyone could do anything," Schwartz said.

The webcam will be switched off on August 30, but Schwartz says the website itself will be kept up "for sake of posterity."

Read the rest

Stephen Wolfram recounts the entire history of mathematics in 90 minutes

Stephen Wolfram's podcast features a 90-minute lecture that he delivered at the 2019 Wolfram Summer School (MP3), recapitulating the history of mathematics from prehistory to the present day. Read the rest

The interesting story behind Dorothea Lange's famous "Migrant Mother" photo

In the 1930s photographer Dorothea Lange was hired by the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) to take photos of farm workers affected by the Great Depression. She took this photo of Florence Owens Thompson with her children in 1936 in Nipomo, California and titled it "Migrant Mother."

“I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet," Lange said years later in an interview. "I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction... She and her children had been living on frozen vegetables from the field and wild birds the children caught. The pea crop had frozen; there was no work. Yet they could not move on, for she had just sold the tires from the car to buy food.”

According to Moma, however, "Thompson later contested Lange’s account. When a reporter interviewed her in the 1970s, she insisted that she and Lange did not speak to each other, nor did she sell the tires of her car. Thompson said that Lange had either confused her for another farmer or embellished what she had understood of her situation in order to make a better story."

Image: Dorothea Lange. Public Domain Read the rest

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