How F Scott Fitzgerald conjugated the verb "To cocktail"

F Scott Fitzgerald, in a 1928 letter to Blanche Knopf: "As ‘cocktail,’ so I gather, has become a verb, it ought to be conjugated at least once." (via JWZ) Read the rest

In 1943, the chairman of the NY Fed backed Modern Monetary Theory: "Taxes for Revenue Are Obsolete"

Modern Monetary Theory is the latest incarnation of chartalism, the economic theory that holds that government spending -- and a federal jobs guarantee -- doesn't create inflation, so long as the spending is on things that the private sector isn't buying: if a factory can produce ten widgets but is only producing five because that's all the public sector wants to buy, the government can put in an order for five more widgets, putting more workers to work, without driving up the price of widgets. Read the rest

How To: play Vlad Taltos in an RPG

Vlad Taltos is the (anti)hero of Steven Brust's stupendous, longrunning fantasy series (which is nearly complete, a generation after it was begun!); Issue 220 of Dragon magazine (August 1995) included a feature by Ed Stark explaining how to play the human assassin and witch who lives amidst a race of nearly immortal elves, against whom he bears a serious grudge. I just love that there's a stats-sheet for Vlad! The only thing that would make me happier would be the next goddamned book. Read the rest

The new £50 notes will feature Alan Turing (whilst HMG proposes bans on Turing complete computers AND working crypto)

The Bank of England has unveiled its new £50 notes, which had been earmarked to honour a distinguished British scientist, and which will feature Alan Turing, the WWII hero who discovered many of the foundational insights to both modern computing and cryptography, and whose work with the codebreakers of Bletchley Park are widely believed to have shortened WWII by many years and saved millions of lives. Read the rest

Al Jaffee's MAD Life: how a traumatized kid from the shtetl became an American satire icon

Back in 2010, It Books published Mary-Lou Weisman's biography of MAD Magazine icon Al Jaffee: Al Jaffee's Mad Life: A Biography; I missed it then but happened upon Arie Kaplan's 2011 writeup in The Jewish Review of Books this morning and was charmed by the biographical sketch it lays out. Read the rest

David Byrne's Luaka Bop label is releasing a compilation of "secular gospel" from the 1970s, with liner notes by Jonathan Lethem

Since its inception in 1988, David Byrne's Luaka Bop label has been a sure-fire source of some of the best music I've ever heard, from its compilations of Brazilian and Cuban music to bands like Cornershop, Os Mutantes, and Tom Ze. Though Byrne is no longer running the label, it continues to blaze a remarkable musical trail: its next album will be The Time For Peace Is Now, a collection of "secular gospel" rarities from the 1970s, "focusing not on Jesus or God, but instead on ourselves, and how we exist with each other." Read the rest

Celebrate Independence Day with Cordell Jackson, the "Rock n Roll Granny" a psychobilly pioneer who played until she was 81

Cordell Jackson started out playing on her father's radio show in the mid-1930s at the age of 12; she was a talented musician who'd already mastered the guitar, piano, and upright bass; she continued to play and went on to found Moon Records (a play on Memphis's iconic "Sun Records") where she was the first woman sound engineer in the country. Read the rest

Cult of the Dead Cow: the untold story of the hacktivist group that presaged everything great and terrible about the internet

Back in 1984, a lonely, weird kid calling himself Grandmaster Ratte' formed a hacker group in Lubbock, Texas. called the Cult of the Dead Cow, a name inspired by a nearby slaughterhouse. In the decades to come, cDc would become one of the dominant forces on the BBS scene and then the internet -- endlessly inventive, funny and prankish, savvy and clever, and sometimes reckless and foolish -- like punk-rock on a floppy disk. Read the rest

A look back at the sales training for Radio Shack's Model 100, a groundbreaking early laptop

When Radio Shack released the Model 100 in 1983, it was a breakthrough for portable computing: an AA-battery-powered laptop that you could fit in a briefcase, with a built-in modem and an instant-on Microsoft OS that contained the last production code Bill Gates ever wrote himself. Read the rest

Read the source code for every classic Infocom text-adventure game!

Jason Scott has made the source available for every one of Infocom's classic and genre-defining text adventure games (previously) for the Apple ][+ and its successors, posting it to Github under the historicalsource account. Read the rest

Rebooting UUCP to redecentralize the net

UUCP (Unix-to-Unix Copy Protocol) is a venerable, non-hierarchical networking protocol that was used as transport for early email and Usenet message boards; its intrinsic decentralization and its cooperative nature (UUCP hosts store and forward messages for one another) make it a kind of symbol of the early, decentralized robustness that characterized the early net and inspired so much optimism about a fundamentally distributed arrangement of peers rising up to replace the top-down phone companies and other centralized systems. Read the rest

The works of William James Sidis, the "smartest man who ever lived"

Hans Henrik Honnens de Lichtenberg writes, "Here is a fine selection of books by the extraordinary man, William James Sidis. A January morning in 1910 hundreds of students and professors gathered in the great lecture hall at Harvard University. On stage steps up William James Sidis to present his research about the mathematics of the fourth dimension. William was just eleven years old. William James Sidis was a genius and he still has the highest IQ ever recorded, somewhere between 250 and 300." Read the rest

The Hall Typewriter: the world's first 'laptop'

Martin Howard from Antique Typewriter (previously) writes, "In 1881, Thomas Hall, a Brooklyn engineer, invented the first portable typewriter that would enable a person to type with the machine anywhere, even on one’s lap. This was also the first index typewriter, a typewriter with no keyboard that requires one to use a selector. In this case, a black handle is depressed to choose the characters when typing. The Hall, despite its unusual design, proved to be quite successful over the next twenty years." Read the rest

"London Cries": the merchants' patter of 19th Century London

One genre of 19th Cen illustrated pamphlet was the "Cries of London" (previously), which celebrated the market traders' characteristic sales patter, which were catalogued as a kind of urban birdsong. Read the rest

童絵解万国噺: a wonderfully bizarre 19th century Japanese fanfic history of America

Japanese historian Nick Kapur unearthed "Osanaetoki Bankokubanashi" (童絵解万国噺), a wonderfully bizarre illustrated Japanese history of the USA from 1861, filled with fanciful depictions of allegedly great moments in US history, like "George Washington defending his wife 'Carol' from a British official named 'Asura' (same characters as the Buddhist deity)." Read the rest

Who can forget those scenes in Count Zero where they all stand around eating soup?

Back in the 1980s, the giant German sf publisher Heyne tried out an experimental partnership with a soup company Maggi (they're still around), and it was bonkers. Read the rest

Stranger Things Dungeons and Dragons is a real thing

You can pre-order an official Dungeons and Dragons/Stranger Things RPG, packaged like a pre-distressed Red Box Basic D&D box, including a (barely) painted and unpainted demogorgon mini, character sheets, a starter campaign, a rulebook, and a set of polyhedral dice: $25 at Big Bad Toy Store. I've been recreating my perfect RPG shelf in pieces, and this kind of thing skewers me right through the guts. (via Super Punch) Read the rest

More posts