Harvey Kurtzman is a hero of satire, the guy who convinced Bill Gaines's mother to bankroll a comic book called MAD, then doubled down by turning MAD into a magazine -- only to jump ship five issues later after a bizarre fight with the Gaineses, finding refuge with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner who gave him an unlimited budget to start an all-star, high-quality satire magazine called TRUMP, which lasted for two legendary, prized issues, now collected in a gorgeous hardcover from Dark Horse. Read the rest
At $11, the Proctor Silex K2070YA 1-Liter Electric Kettle was the cheapest model I could find on Amazon that didn’t look like it would result in electrocution or an explosion of boiling water. I’ve spent three months with it. It’s OK.
In fact, it’s showing no sign at all of problems. It boils water fast. The cord is detachable. It automatically shuts off when it boils, or if you try to boil air. The design makes it possible to refill from a faucet or fridge dispenser without opening the lid. You can see from across the room how full it is, too, thanks to its nice big window.
The little “heating in progress” LED light inside the transparent switch is still working after months of use, and there’s no rubbery seal around the lid slowly failing; two problems that soon became annoyances on the $75 Breville this replaced. The only problem, such as it is? The LEX part of the logo has completely and slightly mysteriously disappeared.
Here’s a photo of the heating element after a thousand or so boils:
If you do want to die, though, the $2.17 Lookatool Pocket Boiler is where it’s at. The Ovente looks quite similar to the Proctor Silex model, comes in several cool colors, and is currently the same price, but has a stupid window. Read the rest
Mainstays Single Burner is a portable electric coil hotplate you can buy for $9 at Walmart (and Amazon). It has a 1m two-prong cord, an adjustable power control (temperatures are not marked) and rubber feet.
I tested it with a steel stock pot with 8 quarts of water.
After turning up the heat I watched it for a while. It got the water to about 160 degrees but it was only slowly rising and I doubt it would have gotten to a boil. Touching the steel to observe the element, I felt a strange tingling, rippling sensation in my arm.
“That’s odd,” I thought, lifting the pot up to look at the element. The sensation left me. Part of the element glowed red but mostly it remained dark. I placed the pot back on the element and the moment it touched it that weird tingle shot up my arm again.
“Oh, I’m being electrified,” I said, “because I bought a $9 electric burner from fucking Walmart.” Read the rest
The Logitech MK270 Wireless Keyboard and Mouse set was just twelve dollars and fifty cents!
It's sometimes $16.99 or even a bit more, but that's still pretty damned cheap.
I expected it to be about as bad as the Amazon Basics Keyboard, which is the same price, but wired, and you don't get a mouse. You know those nasty squidgy roll-up rubber portable keyboards? Imagine one of those in a rigid plastic case, and you have the Amazon Basics Keyboard.
This, though, is a perfectly decent full-size rubber-dome keyboard, as good as most of the tat in, say, a Best Buy or Staples. The special keys worked, including a calculator key that actually brings up the system calculator. Fucking witchcraft! Read the rest
This was a Fun movie, and a very funny one, too. Until the end, I wasn't sure if it was a good one. Hell, it is good. The first was well-made and profoundly clever in its use of nostalgia as part of its storytelling soul rather than just appearances, but the sequel has a more perfect magic: emotional honesty.
It's about a team of famous yet bickering mercenaries and their unseemly associates, all outmaneuvering enemies and gravitating toward epic destinies that turn out to be mirages obscuring the smaller truths of family. I suspect this will make older viewers like it more, but younger ones like it less, because they don't sleep with the sort of well-settled emotional tangles that the movie vicariously unravels.
I don't really feel like more should be said, frankly, than that. It's a light show, lacking any suggestion of physical threat or danger, yet it wields its human weaponry so well. Read the rest
It's set almost entirely in a residential tower, a massive brutalist edifice inhabited by thousands of early-1970s Britons eager for a new life. The ultimate product of mid-century urban planning, the concrete building is designed to take care of all its occupants' needs: there's a supermarket, a swimming pool, even a primary school, all tucked away deep within its forty stories.
Robert Laing, an introverted young doctor, moves in hoping to become an anonymous nobody amid this monument to the bland excellence of modern life. But he commits the critical error of making friends, and is slowly consumed by the building's odd psychic character, its microcosmic reflection of the divisions in society at large.
He notices that the lower levels are first to suffer when the power fails; then that the higher echelons enjoy special amenities of their own. And then, when the lights go out, everything goes to hell.
A little awareness of British life in the 1970s helps contextualise details that might otherwise baffle—in particular, skyscraper-happy Americans should know that residential towers there were always a controversial novelty, that garbage collecters were perpetually on strike, and that in British engineering, corners are always cut. But Ballard's sinister geometry of modernity, hiding an emotional suppression ready to explode into violence, is a language universal to all employed westerners.
It's an intriguing, sophisticated and handsome movie made excellent by Wheatley's skill and its cast: Tom Hiddleston as the skeptical middle-class everyman driven to madness by his environment's awful sanity, Jeremy Irons as the tower's vicious yet uncannily humanist architect, Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men, The Handmaid's Tale) as society's hope, and Luke Evans (Bard from The Hobbit) as the agent of chaos. Read the rest
Seedship is a text-only game of interstellar exploration and settlement. You're the sentient AI of a generation ship containing 1000 humans fleeing a doomed Earth, and you must deal with threats in deep space and evaluate target worlds for suitability. There are always tradeoffs: a world with breathable air and charming wildlife may guarantee comfort, but without resources will end in a genteel return to the stone age. A barren world rich in minerals and alien ruins means advancing human technology and culture, but at the cost of being enslaved to whoever owns the water generation plants.
If the aim is to find the best world for mankind, the fun is found subjecting it to the most punishing hell planets the cosmos offers. When I came across this total nightmare, I knew we had found home:
Things didn't work out. Most colonists died and the rest descended to savagery.
I haven't found a perfect world, but the following one got me to 10,000 civilization points, which feels like the threshold for success:
Every compromise matters. Even with such a lush world, its ecological exhaustion (presumably thanks to whatever left the monumental ruins) resulted in a technological collapse described as "bronze-age cosmic enlightenment." If it were an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, we would most certainly be wearing textured earth tones.
Each combination is worth exploring, to find what sort of environments get you to theocracies or into endless war with natives. When I spotted the following world, I immediately thought "cyberpunk corporate dystopia!" and was not disappointed by the results:
Created by SF writer John Ayliff (Twitter, Patreon), it's incredibly addictive, and a great example of Twine's potential for offbeat games where generative elements combine with handwritten storytelling. Read the rest