April 2009 Archives

30.04.2009 18:20

Food Porn Daily

Food Porn

Years ago there was a popular collaborative blog called "Foodspotting". It featured all kinds of delicious pictures of entrées, main dishes and desserts. Sadly they had to close shop amidst legal troubles over copyright (guess it wasn't that "collaborative"). Anyways, today I went looking for a successor... and got lucky.

I was secretly hoping there would be some kind of ressurrection, not of the site per se but of the idea. Well, what do you know - Food Porn Daily and TasteSpotting continue where Foodspotting left off. That is, providing you with mouth-watering food galleries and recipes. I don't really care about the recipes, but what I do care about is "inspiration".

You see, when I eat my bland lentil stew or pasta variation #533, I'd like to at least *think* of something that tastes good. Like "Italian Eggs with Spinach Marinara over Polenta", "Cinnamon Pan Dulce (Mexican Morning Buns)" or "Slow Roasted Strawberries over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.". Gurgl. Drool. Back to my lentil stew.

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29.04.2009 17:49

An Illustrated Compendium of Monsters

The guys over at somethingawful.com have started a series of satirical reviews of old Dungeons & Dragons books from 1977 and onwards. Their commentary is not always funny, but the illustrations from yesteryear sure are.

Just take a look at the "Owlbear" from the first edition of the Monster Manual. It's a hybrid between - you guessed it - an owl and a bear. And he's a "ravenous eater, aggresive hunter, evil tempered at all times". Next time you play an RPG, you better watch out for those Owl Bears, because they are mean SOBs. Not to forget the Thought Eater and IXITXACHITL, both monsters of such horrible proportions they will redefine your notion of absolute fear.

I don't think it's all crap though. The illustrations may seem cheap, but they're *lovingly* cheap. Like someone was really scared of meeting a Thought Eater in the dark. Or scared they wouldn't get paid for their illustration. Who knows. Check out Monster Manual Part 1 and Part 2, as well as Deities & Demigods, the Tomb of Horrors module and the non-D&D Rifts Core Book for more zany art and tales of the unordinary.

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: books

27.04.2009 18:35

Lunar Lander 3D

One of the first video games, remade in 3D. As a Flash-application with less than 5k of code. If you don't like the shiny new Lunar Lander, Seb Lee-Delisle ported the classical version to Flash as well. Party like its 1971!

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: games

26.04.2009 21:11

Talking about freedom, crumbling empires and Ork attitude

Free Software Foundation Gnu

Memorable events in browsing history, week #16

Facebook wins Zimbabwe election on T&Cs
Remember when Facebook tried to change its terms and conditions to own everything you ever published until, like, forever? Yeah, that was in February. Meanwhile they've held some kind of election over new T&Cs, with a staggering 0.03 per cent of user participation. That's you, the user. Apparently they publicised a call for vote "somewhere", but neither I nor any of my Facebook-friends ("friends") know anything about it. Do you? As one researcher in the article puts it: "It's their assumption of the language of democracy that I really object to."

GeoCities demolished
Ah well, every empire must fall I guess. Remember that stupid Geocities-Bar on top of every crappy page back in the 90's? I do. And I don't miss it. To be fair, Geocities proved to be a quick & dirty way to set up your first "Homepage". Nobody says "Homepage" anymore, do they? In the same way that everyone stopped using GC and moved to Blogspot or Wordpress. We got Blogs now.

Peggle Inside WoW: World Collapses In On Self
As Alec Meer so aptly puts it, that's like "mixing Pringles with Heroin". For those not in the know, Peggle is a pinball-like casual-game, and WoW is well, WoW. World of Warcraft. The most popular MMO on the planet. And now you can access two of the most popular games through one interface. Inside a game. Jesus Christ. Why don't they start marketing one of those tubs from the Matrix? You know, the ones where people spend all their life in, connected to the matrix and providing energy to the machines? Couch Potato-ism will ruin us all.

To be honest, I haven't really spent much time browsing WHATWEKNOWSOFAR. Biella Coleman says this performance group puts "regular academics to shame". She's right most of the time, so I'll just take it for granted. BTW I really like linking to her blog, you should check it out.

Richard Stallman über unfreie Anwender und Distributionen
As you might have guessed by reading the title, this one's in german. Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, talks about teaching people to be free and not using Software as a Service. Quote: "In jeder Diskussion sehe ich, dass die, die Freiheit wichtig halten, in der Minderheit sind. Schauen Sie doch mal die Kommentare auf Slashdot an, welcher Bruchteil der Leute die Freiheit verteidigt und wie viele die praktischen Ziele verteidigen. Die meisten sorgen sich nur um die Technik." Babblefish: Slashdot sucks ass, go read Hackernews.

Blood Bowl Open Beta
You like Orks? You like playing Warhammer-tabletop-games? Then you probably already know about the videogame version of Blood Bowl and its imminent release for Xbox 360 and PC. "Blood Bowl" is a slightly more brutal version of American Football, pitting Orks, Humans, Dwarves and whatnot against each other. The trailer looks really cool, but my PC is too weak and I'm not shelling out 200 € for a new graphics card. Or should I? (Yes.) No.

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25.04.2009 20:24

Remember when we were still like - Reading "The Hills"

Lauren Conrad@The Hills

It's good to know my favourite show of vapid blabla is getting dissected by the scientific community. Nevertheless I admire the power or "magic" of "The Hills", its carefree mix of seemingly mundane dialogue, catchy music and pretty visuals. Call "stars" like Lauren Conrad or Speidi stupid, but you can't deny there's a lot of talent at work to create something as mesmerizing out of... nothing.

A typical scene: Lauren Conrad and friend are walking down a boulevard in LA, it's late afternoon and the pavement is flooded with sunlight. Some kind of happy-sad Indie-Rock-tune is playing in the background, and Lauren talks about washing her car or doing her hair. The camera shows them walking further down the street, their dialogue fades out and all that's left is the music playing. The viewer has a couple of seconds left to admire the Boulevard, then the screen fades to black and the episode is over.

Looking at the Boulevard with the music and that talk of nothingness... I don't know, it's like the TV equivalent to elevator Muzak honed to perfection. One NYT-journalist went so far as to compare the shows aesthetics to Pasolini's films. Well it is a little bit like Pasolini, except the fact that everyone seems to enjoy the nihilism they are trapped in.

The Hills makes this relationship between product, social environment, and intended audience more immanent; it places products directly in a naturalized social environment (The Hills) while cementing an alignment of values between the product and target market (young women) through viewer identification with Lauren.

The Hills then is not simply a lifestyle brand of reality television selling Prada bags alongside Pepsi products to young women aspiring to The Hills lifestyle; at the same time, The Hills represents a branded lifestyle.

The products that populate The Hills featured on seenonmtv.com or in The Virtual Hills are not simply discreet entities articulated to or "placed" in a reality television platform to create "branded content;" they appear as firmly embedded within and already belonging to the generalized,glamorous lifestyle represented by the show.

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: art

23.04.2009 20:26

Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved


I first read about PiHKAL (Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved) in Mondo's Guide to the New Edge, the closest thing I had to a bible in High School. "PiHKAL" itself is part autobiography, part psychedelic cookbook, providing instructions for the synthesis of over 200 psychoactive compounds.

You need a degree in chemistry to master any of the formulas, but that's not what fascinated me about Alexander and Ann Shulgin's book in the first place. It's the idea of creating, experiencing and analysing every psychedelic substance imaginable in a respectful and scientific way. To realize you're dealing with more than a simple recreational device, but a tool to explore the psyche's outmost boundaries.

I liked that. Reconnecting ancient shamanistic rituals with today's scientific practices. Reminds me to talk about a bunch of papers I read about artists and shamanists, will do so another day. Enjoy the links. And don't try this at home.

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: books

22.04.2009 17:37

Hooliganism and Literature

Hooligansim and Literature by Dave Carluccio

Just about as rare as if it had never been published at all, this may be the only extant copy of Dave Carluccio's only book -- typed, photocopied, folded, and stapled by its author in 1980 in an edition of fewer than a hundred, maybe fewer than twenty. The title and the cover image both refer to Aleksei Kruchenykh's Against Hooliganism in Literature (1926), cover by Gustav Klutsis. That work in turn, which has never been translated, is to the best of my knowledge a polemic by the veteran cubo-futurist directed against some rival Soviet avant-garde gang. (Found via Pinakothek)

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: books

21.04.2009 17:53

Apocalipsis y Fotos de Arte

Crimen cover-art

Another batch of sleazy cover-art, courtesy of Robin Bougie's Flickr-Account (both links contain adult material). Unlike last month's collection of Elvifrance-gems, this time it's not France but pulpy Crimen from Spain showing us what "Ladrones de Automoviles" do when Arte y Venganza collide. Couldn't find anything on the net about the publisher's history, so I leave you with this pre-selection to wet your appetite.

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: fortune, art

20.04.2009 19:29

R.I.P., J.G.!

It's been three weeks since I blogged about british writer J.G. Ballard and The Atrocity Exhibition, one of his most daring books. Well today I woke up and what did my RSS-reader tell me? He passed away on Sunday, aged 78.

Diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006, his latest book was to be a collection of dialogues with his oncologist. "Conversations" was due to be published in September by HarperCollins, according to the BBC this has been cancelled following the news of his death.

Maybe I heard the banshee cry, maybe it's pure coincidence that I blogged about him so shortly before his departure. If reality was anyhing like his sci-fi-shorts, it would probably be the former.

J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition
Heavily influenced by Cut-Up-writers like William Burroughs, it's a mesmerizing blend of pop-cultural artefacts, memes and tropes. "Why I want to fuck Ronald Reagan", "The University of Death", "You: Coma: Marylin Monroe"

Entering the Ballardosphere
BALLARDIAN: (adj) 1. of James Graham Ballard (J.G. Ballard; born 1930), the British novelist, or his works. (2) resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard’s novels & stories, esp. dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes & the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments. (Collins English Dictionary)

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: books

19.04.2009 19:18

How long will it last? You better bring me some meat

Memorable events in browsing history, week #15

How long will it last?
New Scientist-illustration depicting the number of years left of various key resources. Assuming global consumption equals global production, we would have about 34 to 46 years left of using zinc. 46 years if the rate of consumption remains steady, 34 years if it increases to half the US consumption rate (yes, half!). Interesting stuff. I didn't know there was a mineral called Germanium. Apparently you use it for infrared optics and semiconductors. At this point I wanted to make a joke about Hitler desperately looking for a chemical element (what's up with that name?), but that graphic is just too depressing. Aw, man.

Why airplane doors can't be opened mid-flight
Yes, why not? Apparently that's a matter of concern to some people, I never gave it much thought. Until now, that is. I like it when someone tells me not to be paranoid about something I didn't know I should be paranoid about in the first place. I mean, what gives? Airplane doors?! Can we please just stick to crazies going postal with guns now and then? It's already more than I can handle.

Morrissey Throws A Diva Tantrum During Music Festival
Apparently those people at Coachella like their Hot Dogs. Hint: Don't eat too close to the stage. FTA: The notoriously temperamental Morrissey was one of the performers on the first day. Midway through his set, the vegetarian said, "I can smell burning flesh and I hope to God it's human," as the smell of barbequed meat from nearby food stands wafted through the air. HAhahaha. Yeah, you better eat some ManBeef-Burgers, or else. But the drama didn't stop there. FTA: A few minutes later, Moz walked off the stage in the middle of Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others. He returned shortly afterward, saying, "The smell of burning animals is making me sick. I just couldn't bear it." But the smell of human flesh makes him what, happy? Hungry for Tofu? We will never find out.

Mighty Morphin' Death Row Ranger
Another story from Perez. This one's about former Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers actor Skylar Deleon getting the death sentence for the killing of two people. Icky stuff. Apparently he took a test cruise with a couple on their yacht, pretending to purchase it. At some point he must've thought it would be a good idea to knock them both out, tie them to an anchor and throw them overboard. Cause that's what he did. The Defense blamed his botched up childhood (being a Power Ranger?), but the jury was having none of it. I can see his final days in prison: Performing his Power Ranger-moves, waiting for that transformation spell. And it just won't come.

Prototype - Opening Cinematic
Nothing in particular, just a CGI-Trailer for a video game. Then again, is it entirely CGI? It looks like they filmed some real-world-scenes and polished them up with Maya or whatever they use these days. In that case, well done. The transition is very fluid and the urban wasteland very "pretty" to look at. Don't expect the gameplay to look anything like this.

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: fortune

18.04.2009 17:57

Knowledge Management with Vim, Part I: Vim

"Knowledge Management with Vim" is a three-part series showing you how to use Vim for managing and manipulating textual information.

I've been using Vim for writing articles, memos, to-do-lists - just about everything - for about one year now. For the uninitiated, Vim is an extended version of Bill Joy's vi, a text editor first published in 1976 (Vim is an acronym for "Vi IMproved"). Explaining why one chooses this over that editor tends to escalate into religious wars, so I'll just briefly summarize why I like code that's older than myself.

First of all, it has no GUI (Graphical User Interface). Yeah, that's an advantage. No stupid icons to decipher, no metaphors that clog my brain, no plastic rodent that needs pushing around. Instead, Vim differentiates between multiple modes, all of which can be accessed via keyboard commands. You want to input text? You enter insert mode (press i). You want to load a file, cut & paste or switch to a different window? You enter normal mode (press Esc or Ctrl+c). If you think that sounds like playing the piano, you're half-right.

Memorizing each and every command can be troublesome at first. Instead of selecting a sentence with your mouse and pressing Ctrl+c (which effectively copies the text to the clipboard in regular GUI-editors), a VIM user would press y+) in normal mode. Copying a paragraph would be accomplished with y+{, copying a line with yy, deleting a line with dd. And so on and so forth. You can browse this graphical cheat sheet based tutorial for a quick introduction to the basic set of operations.

So on the one hand you're creating less cognitive strain by not switching between mouse and keyboard and deciphering metaphors/icons. This, you might argue, is outweighed by having to learn a seemingly never-ending series of arcane commands. In which case you are forgetting one thing: speed. Starting macros & scripts, piping text to external programs, manipulating strings of characters in every way possible - all done near-instantaneously by pressing the appropriate key-combo.

The fact that vi is installed on almost every UNIX-box, makes Vim the first choice for administrators. Sure you can use Ultraedit with this and that plugin, but why bother? Vim features a healthy community of developers and users, providing support and additional features through scripts and plugins. For those that wind up living inside Vim, vimperator and ViEmu will make Firefox and Microsoft Office behave in very similar ways. (The picture above was taken in Berlin, near Görlitzer Bahnhof)

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: technology

16.04.2009 20:22

The Fetish Identity of Superman

Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-creator Joe Shuster

I never understood why no one cared about the blatant homoeroticism in superhero-comics - men in colorful skintight costumes, fighting and wrestling with each other, their muscles bulging, the sweat dripping... You listen to Streisand and like Abba? Pfrrrt. But idolizing men in tights? That's a-okay. Straight as fuck. Couldn't get any more hetero.

Anyway, my theories about the sexual subtext in Marvel/DC-books received a healthy boost this week, when I found out about "Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-creator Joe Shuster" by Craig Yoe. It was released on April First, so for once I'm not talking about books your father or grandfather read (or mother/grandmother). For those going "Haha, April First, Michael so dumb", it's not a joke. You can buy it on Amazon and Amazon is always right.

Rather than showing Batman and Superman chasing the chocy starfish, The Fetish Art... chronicles the forgotten years of Joe Shuster after his legal battle with DC. Not receiving any copyright royalties, Joe tried his luck as an illustrator for pulp comic books like "Nights of Horror". Lois whipping Clark, Clark whipping Lois, torture, murder and Jimmy Olsen smoking a reefer. It's the whole meal. Sure, the characters don't go by these names, but you can't deny the striking similarity between Clark the slave and Clark the nerd, working for the Daily Planet.

Things took a turn for the worse, when a series of real-life murders committed by the "Brooklyn Thrill Killers" were linked to stories found in the pulpy comic books. The government's anti-comics crusade went into full swing and subsequently forbid the publishing of such sordid tales of lust and depravity. But go ahead and read it for yourself, at 17 bucks it's not that expensive, and comes with an introduction by Stan Lee.

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: books, art

15.04.2009 19:45

Don't Look Back Flash Game

"Don't Look Back" is a fun little flash game featuring minimalist graphics and gameplay reminiscent of 8-bit classics like "Pitfall" and "Mission Impossible".

There's no real background-story, except that you have to complete each screen by either avoiding or shooting enemies and overcoming obstacles. Use keyboard arrows for movement and shoot with the space bar.

Sounds easy? Well it gets hard real fast. Two thumbs up for the gloomy soundtrack and the red and black color scheme. Check out distractionware.com for more of Terry Cavanagh's games.

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: games

14.04.2009 21:26

Hey I look like Jesus, can I have your money plz?

I re-read Adam Parfrey's Apocalypse Culture on Sunday, looking for bits and pieces that might have *some* relation to Easter. You could say that the idea behind "The Process: Church of the Final Judgment" has something to do with death and resurrection, but that's not why I chose to talk about them. I chose them because man, that dude looks like Jesus.

And by "dude" I mean Robert de Grimston, charismatic leader of the aforementioned "The Process", a 1960's religious movement somewhere between deep psychotherapy and satanism. With links to Charles Manson. And the Sun-of-Sam-murders. Possibly founded by german neo-nazis as a front to raise money in the states. The rumors just won't stop. After spending the last hour researching their history through almighty Google, I can say a few things about them:
  1. I swear there has to be at least one episode of Columbo with that Jesus-y looking dude. He's super-cool, shagging disciples and Columbo is like totally dorky and doesn't know shit. In the last ten minutes, Columbo solves the murder case and Jesus is like "Uh-oh" and Columbo keeps smiling and chewing on his cigar. The End.
  2. Although Manson contributed "a meditation on death" to the Process newsletter, he wasn't a registered member of any local Chapter. Some of the Church members visited him in prison and confirmed this. Whatever.
  3. There's no evidence that links "The Process" to the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). Rather de Grimston and his partner, Mary Anne Maclean, were unhappy whith Scientology and left to create a movement of their own. Based on the teachings of Alfred Adler, the couple's "Compulsion Analysis" served to heighten one's self-awareness. Apparently they also used something called a "P-Scope", not unlike Scientology's "E-Meter". Guess what? Scientology put them on their Shitlist (aka Scientology's list of Suppressive Persons and Suppressive Groups).
BONUS ROUND: De Grimston published a fun little pamphlet called "SATAN ON WAR". Out of print and with no surviving copies left, you can thank Christ, Satan, Lucifer or Jehovah or whatever that someone decided to publish it on the net. If you like batshit-crazy religious propaganda from the 60's, go ahead and read it. According to disinformation, Genesis P-Orridge used it as a basis for Psychic TV's S.M.I.L.E.

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12.04.2009 13:20

Wake'n'Bake and don't wake up in Dubai

snoop easter jesus lamb

Memorable events in browsing history, week #14

"What the internet was made for", sez the blogosphere. Basically Snoop Dogg does what every other Youtube-Star has done before him: Get stoned, talk some shit in front of his webcam and then publish it to the internet. But hey, it's Snoop. SNOOP. And he's giving Obama a toke!

Using Mathematica to generate Web 2.0 company names
Trouble finding a name for your next social-marketing-experiment? Drop some code in Mathematica and watch your box churn out names like Cashcoup, Feebany and possibly Pownce or digg.

The dark side of Dubai
What are you saying? The richest monarchy in the world isn't fun without any money? Well color me surprised. "Before I came here, I didn't know anything about Dubai law. I assumed if all these big companies come here, it must be pretty like Canada's or any other liberal democracy's." Yeah, just like Canada. Except you get thrown in jail if you can't pay your debt. Amongst other draconian shenanigans. Contains stories from ex-pats who are currently roughing it.

Commodore 64 Original Hardware Laptop
I'll let Lord Byron do the talking:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

Tools for Analysing and Tracking Your Competitors
I just spent five minutes trying to remember why I bookmarked this. Then it hit me: It's because of one comment saying the article is shit! Well ok, not the whole article, just the tidbit about taking traffic guesstimates like Alexa serious: "There was several stats I read 6 months ago that ~75% of Alexa toolbar users are from southeast Asia where toolbar is a big deal but not so much in europe of USA where majority of english speaking online users are." Aha.

A Visit to id Software (1993)
John Romero of Doom-fame ripped a friend's VHS to digital and published it on Vimeo. Watch Mullets play games you've already forgotten about! Listen to unpublished Soundtracks for Commander Keen! Seeing the AI fight incarnations of itself is as eerie and fascinating now as it was back then. - Hey wait what, Romero's wife got deported two months ago? That's interesting, because the same thing is about to happen to Bruce Sterling.

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11.04.2009 13:06

Language Is A Soda From Outer Space

I've been reading Naked Lunch again for the umpteenth time, I guess it's my go-to book when everything else fails. It's become some kind of mantra; after a few pages my thoughts start drifting away, caught somewhere between Burrough's ideas and everything else occupying my mind. The resulting meta-Ping-Pong ensures that I'll read it again and again, skipping paragraphs and re-discovering them at some point later in time.

Thanks to Youtube, you can listen to the man himself talking about his writing technique. The title of this entry stems from Burrough's theory that the word began as a biological virus (Language is a virus from outer space). Changing the throat structure of protohumans, it allowed the host to form complex vocal sounds, propagating itself from tribe to tribe.

To be honest I never took this very seriously, although it served as a good starting point to artists like Laurie Anderson or ethnobotanists like Terence McKenna:

And I felt language rise up in me that was unhooked from English and I began to speak like this:

Eeeoo ded hwauopsy mectoph, mectagin dupwoxin, moi phoi wops eppepepekin gitto phepsy demego doi aga din a doich demoi aga donc heedey obectdee doohueana.

Posted by mm | Permanent link | File under: writing, books, art

09.04.2009 22:46

What's Crunch doing now?

Yeah, what IS Crunch doing now? The talk is of Captain Crunch, or John Draper, the guy who got famous for hacking the US phone system in the 60's. With a whistle. Found in a cereal box (that went by the name of Cap'n Crunch, hence the name).

Two years ago I stumbled upon a feature in the Wall Street Journal, describing his descent into poverty and his inability to fit in with the rest of the working world. The Twilight Years of Cap'n Crunch is a sobering read about Genius without a marketing department. I could use fancy words and talk about his psychological condition, but that's what it basically boils down to. While Wozniak and Jobs went on to become tech-millionaires, Crunch dabbled around in the rave scene, did some web design in return for physical therapy, and started piling up debt.

"After breakfast, Mr. Draper returned to his one-room apartment beside a four-lane expressway. The apartment was in squalor, with open cereal boxes, clothes in trash bags, computers and old newspapers strewn about. Mr. Draper left an angry voice message for a client who hadn't paid for some programming work. He fretted that without the money he would have difficulty covering his electricity bill that month.

"I'm blacklisted, man, a permanent menace to society, I guess," he said. "It's too bad because there are some things I think I could contribute."

It's hard to say if his situation has gotten any better. Both the article, his homepage and Wikipedia list him as an employee of en2go, a Steve-Wozniak-owned company. While the article talks about him "working" for en2go, Wikipedia and the company's page mention him as CTO. Well, good for him. I hope they've given him a pay raise. Then again, being a CTO nowadays could mean just that: Living next to a four-lane expressway in a one-room-apartement, not being able to pay for health care. Ah well, happy times.

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: technology

08.04.2009 18:34

Austrian artist turns eating disorder into comic

borretsch comic

"Blad" (vernicular for "fat") is the debut comic from austrian artist "Borretsch". Writing under a pseudonym, it's a highly personal account of her upbringing in rural upper austria and the onset of her eating disorder.

There's little to no dialogue, with a sole narrator telling the story alongside a collage of symbolic and metaphorical images. The combination of the two is what makes this worth reading. So good it almost seems arbitrary, the myriads of associations evoked by each panel make most other symbolist graphic novels seem like dilettante shit. Check it out. (EDIT: All three parts are available as a free PDF-download.)

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: art

07.04.2009 21:44

Martin Luther King, Gandalf, WTF

Illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien

It's been four days since Gandalf visited Bilbo and told him about the ring, or so my UNIX-calendar-file tells me. Sifting through its entries is a DADA-experience few people - mostly sysadmins - know of.
Let's take a closer look at the memorable events of April 4:

Apr 04  Martin Luther King assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, 1968 
Apr 04  NATO Established, 1949 
Apr 04  Gandalf visits Bilbo 
Apr 04  Ching Ming Festival in Hong Kong
Martin Luther King, Nato, Ching Ming Festival and oh yeah Gandalf. Why someone would put imaginary events from some fictional work inside a public calendar, is beyond me. On second thought, it actually makes sense. Lord of the Rings, NATO - heck, it's all that funky shit happening outside of my computer and network infrastructure. Toss some ring inside the volcano, North Atlantic Treaty - Pfffrt, all the same on some level I guess. I jest, I jest.

I hope this post is not too abstract for people outside the culture of super-smug *nix-Users. Originally I wanted to write about J.R.R. Tolkien's work as an Illustrator. I just realized the premise for this was wrong anyway. You see, I thought the Joy Division cover art for "Unknown Pleasures" was in fact from J.R.R. It is not.

Reason for this being that good ole Jay Arr Arr drew and painted some pretty dark shit himself back in the days. Let's take a look at The Lonely Mountain. I swear I saw that once tattoed on the back of some emo chick. No really. You could slap that illustration on some goth-/black-metal-/emo-album and everybody would go "Ooohh". Well not everybody. Me and Miss Mountain Tattoo for sure. But let's move on.

Cover Art for The Hobbit Mirkwood The Mountain Path Riding into Rivendell Troll's Hill

Repetitive patterns consisting of vibrant lines, rigid geometry - I could swear these are characteristics usually found in schizophrenic art. Mind you, this is only a hunch, I have no empirical evidence for this. Nevertheless, I don't think one can easily dismiss the haunting, oppressive atmosphere generated by these drawings. Take a look at this italian gallery and decide for yourself.

Posted by mm | Permanent link | File under: technology, books, fortune, art

06.04.2009 21:04

8 Bits vs. Spring

IK plus

Between yesterday's dithered picture and me watching Liquid Sky, I feel some strong 8-bit-vibes re-emerging just in time for spring. Because when nature starts to show off its millions of colors, you really want to think back to a time when you were drooling over the 16-color-palette of the C64.

But color (third time) me stupid if that Liquid-Sky-soundtrack doesn't remind one of Neuromancer, the game. I originally thought the limitations of the SID-chip made it sound all garbled and edgy, but apparently that's how they rolled back then (EDIT: Oh ok, DEVO recorded the soundtrack | check out the remix).

Just download and listen to the High Voltage SID Collection to get a feel for the beauty and simplicity that resides in an 8-bit remix of Madonna's "Like a Prayer". Or the soundtrack to "Uridium". Or "Alleykat". Or.. why not just download the VICE Emulator and replay those games on your PC. Yeah, go do that. Because it's 18 degrees outside, no clouds and - hey, start downloading.

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: games, fortune, music, art

05.04.2009 14:34

How to sell, how to go bankrupt, how to shoot stuff

Memorable events in browsing history, week #13

 Military robots and the future of war
TED-talk with lots of robo-porn, short on in-depth information but interesting nonetheless. Features the infamous "Big Dog" from Boston Dynamic's, a US-army commisioned robotic mule. Follow the link to watch it move and most of all, receive an ass-kick - the first time I "felt" sorry for a machine. Yes, its movement patterns are that lifelike.

The Rise and Fall of Thinking Machines Corporation (1995)
OK so this was first published nearly 15 years ago. BUT the behaviour of the persons involved and "the way of the FAIL" seem as timely as ever. They were trying to market supercomputers designed for research in Artificial Intelligence, but bad business decisions and cheap commodity hardware got the better of them.

Listen to your users
Marketing 101 concerning web sites, can be applied to anything.

How to open Sentex keypad-access doors
Jesus Christ people, change your passwords. (***00000099#* if you want to try it out right away)

Google’s User Data Empire
The page refuses to load now (oohhh...), I remember a collection of reasons to hate Google. Again.

Manga Studio Debut 4
A 50-buck-app for creating comics that's used by Dave Gibbons of Watchmen fame? Hmm.

40k Red Orktober Killcroozer
OMFG, the most beautiful spaceship ever. "The greenskins have not mastered the art of space travel because they do not care where they are going, only that they get to kill something when they get there." Ahem.

Posted by mm | Permanent link | File under: fortune

04.04.2009 20:37

"How I helped build the bomb that blew up Wall Street."

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

Michael Osinski wrote the software responsible for managing mortgage bonds in the US. Starting on Wall Street in 1985, he chronicles his rise and the decadence of his peers whilst working for banks like Lehmann and Kidder, Peabody & Co. Anecdotes featuring (literal) pissing contests, $2 millions worth of bonuses and men unable to cope with the power at their hands, make for an excellent article. The story ends with him giving up Wall Street for farming oysters in Suffolk.


Last month, my neighbor, a retired schoolteacher, offered to deliver my oysters into the city. He had lost half his savings, and his pension had been cut by 30 percent. The chain of events from my computer to this guy’s pension is lengthy and intricate. But it’s there, somewhere. Buried like a keel in the sand. If you dive deep enough, you’ll see it. To know that a dozen years of diligent work somehow soured, and instead of benefiting society unhinged it, is humbling.

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: politics

03.04.2009 16:41

Entering the Ballardosphere


BALLARDIAN: (adj) 1. of James Graham Ballard (J.G. Ballard; born 1930), the British novelist, or his works. (2) resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard’s novels & stories, esp. dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes & the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments. (Collins English Dictionary)

Following up on Monday's entry about the Atrocity Exhibition, ballardian.com is the logical next step for everyone keen on learning more about J.G. Ballard and his books. Interviews, Reviews and Features about Art and Landscapes (possibly) inspired by Ballard will help you decipher his "trans-disciplinary mutant word virus" (ballardian.com). To put it differently, it's quite fun. Hey, they even talk about the connection between Lovecraft and Ballard. La Jetée gets mentioned, dammit I finally have to see this movie. A selection of early cover art by some adman, artsy pictures of car accidents, plus "Child of the Diaspora": Sterling on Ballard should get you started.

Posted by mm | Permanent link | File under: books

02.04.2009 17:21

Easy AI with Python

Graffiti in Berlin, near Görlitzer Bahnhof

Sheesh, I wish I knew enough about coding to really make sense of the many examples in "Easy AI with Python". I'm happy about the little I know concerning Bash-scripting and Perl, without this my cut-up-twitter-experiment couldn't even have been dreamt of. But back to AI + Python. I was surprised to learn that all it takes to recreate a Mastermind-like-game is 30 lines of code:

import random
from itertools import izip, imap
digits = 4
fmt = '%0' + str(digits) + 'd'
searchspace = tuple([tuple(map(int,fmt % i)) for i in
def compare(a, b, map=imap, sum=sum, zip=izip, min=min):
    count1 = [0] * 10
    count2 = [0] * 10
    strikes = 0
    for dig1, dig2 in zip(a,b):
        if dig1 == dig2:
            strikes += 1
        count1[dig1] += 1
        count2[dig2] += 1
    balls = sum(map(min, count1, count2)) - strikes
    return (strikes, balls)

def rungame(target, strategy, maxtries=15):
    possibles = list(searchspace)
    for i in xrange(maxtries):
        g = strategy(i, possibles)
        print "Out of %7d possibilities. I'll guess %r" % (len(possibles), g),
        score = compare(g, target)
        print ' ---> ', score
        if score[0] == digits:
            print "That's it. After %d tries, I won." % (i+1,)
        possibles = [n for n in possibles if compare(g, n) == score]
    return i+1

def s_allrand(i, possibles):
    'Simple strategy that randomly chooses one remaining possibility'
    return random.choice(possibles)
hiddencode = (4, 3, 3, 7)
rungame(hiddencode, s_allrand)
Take a look at the slides to learn about simple neural nets, a solution-finder to the Eight queens puzzle, or ways to create Sudoku- and Sliding-Block-style-games. Apparently it's easy to understand and great for teaching Python. I'll give it a try this weekend, I predict lots of FAIL and burning eyes from staring at spaghetti-code. (The picture above was taken in Berlin, near Görlitzer Bahnhof)

Posted by | Permanent link | File under: technology, fortune

01.04.2009 21:04

Honzo, the sentimental simian

honzo, the sentimental simian


In 1952, Austrian big-game hunter and Africa ‘researcher’ Ernst Zwilling (a colonial revisionist and member of the Nazi party) brought a male chimpanzee from Cameroon to Schönbrunn, the Viennese zoo. In his African home, ‘Honzo’ had reportedly been a friendly and amiable animal, but in the zoo he began to show a rather violent temper. Due to his choleric outbreaks, poor Honzo was kept in solitary confinement. The chimpanzee was given beer and cigarettes. He got addicted and died an alcoholic and chain-smoker. After his death, the chimp was taxidermied (see above picture) and put into the Viennese Museum of Natural History. Now people from all over the world stare at him.

This page is dedicated to Honzo: the victim, the choleric, the drug abuser.

Posted by mm | Permanent link | File under: fortune