A master thief yarn with Friedo Pinto on the cover!
My Wired story on Gerald Blanchard, criminal mastermind, has been syndicated throughout the global Conde Nast empire, from Australia to South Africa to Mexico, and lately in GQ India, where the editors minced no words with the cover line: How a Bill gates lookalike executed the ultimate diamond heist. Couldn't have said it better myself. This reader in Mumbai gave it a thumb's up.
A choice bit of beautifully incisive prose summarizing what's wrong with Hollywood from Mark Harris' must-read essay with the self-explanatory title, "The Day The Movies Died":
Then came Top Gun. The man calling the shots may have been Tony Scott, but the film’s real auteurs were producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, two men who pioneered the “high-concept” blockbuster—films for which the trailer or even the tagline told the story instantly. At their most basic, their movies weren’t movies; they were pure product—stitched-together amalgams of amphetamine action beats, star casting, music videos, and a diamond-hard laminate of technological adrenaline all designed to distract you from their lack of internal coherence, narrative credibility, or recognizable human qualities. They were rails of celluloid cocaine with only one goal: the transient heightening of sensation.
A kindred spirit in Sam Anderson, writer of the masterpiece profile of James Franco in New York magazine (among many other great articles), whose introductory essay for the new new New York Times Magazine last sunday (or maybe the sunday before, come to think of it) was a spot-on ode to the pleasure of marginalia. Rather than the lament the loss of graphic note-taking on the actual page with the rise of e-reading, Anderson decides that the digital technology may in fact elevate the art of marginalia to the great prominence it held in the nineteenth century, when it was a great tradition to write and read other people's notes in books. Not too long ago, Anderson put excerpts of his marginalia from 2010 online, and was surprised by the response. People want to see other people engage with art, and not just in college, when you tried to find copies of The Iliad with the important parts highlighted!
As any historically minded bigfoot researcher knows, however, Teddy the sportsman would never have used a machine gun to bag his quarry. Nor would our founding conversationist have let the forest burn.
By publishing the silliest bit of "reporting" since the hipster paunch: Sexless and the City: Web Warps Libidos of Coked-Up Careerists, a daring cultural immersion at "a few weeks of parties and gatherings" which convinced the writer to declare: Young New Yorkers no longer care about having sex. Hmmm. This is such an outlandish statement that one could safely declare its falsehood with even less evidence than the article (a challenging empirical bar to limbo beneath, to be sure), and not just because basic human biology would likely not be counteracted by the personal ambition and drug habits of a few, mostly anonymously quoted people. But because it is obviously, clearly, incontrovertibly false. And by the way, since when does ambition and cocaine make you not want to have sex? Seems like Manhattan saw entire eras that provided plenty of data disproving said hypothesis.
Or, as Andrea Seigel calls, it CUTEHURT, because, well, it should be obvious:
Says Ronni: "He just wants to hold his parasol and do some squinting!" So true. And he wants to grab things with his hand-like feet at the same time.
And by the way, where is this happening -- in a Radio Shack? Is that a salesman demonstration? If so, The Shack may be back in business because a dandified neotonous slow-motion primate would be a way bigger seller than some ham radio equipment or RC robot dinosaurs.
P.s. If this reminds you of the equally adorable original tickled loris video that hit the scene way back (and also sent to me by cuteaholic, Andrea), with his fetching arms-over-head configuration, which prompted some people to note that the slow loris is not only the sole venmous primate but that its the elbows in particular that carry the poison, and you were wondering if that information is correct, the answer is YES. (Caveat: link contains upsetting information regarding loris treatment in captivity.)
Incredibly, there's mostly real news on the front page of HuffPo, where there is not a bit of Sheen link bait in sight at the moment. I stopped paying attention to Sheen even before Japan reminded everyone that there might be bigger things to worry about. Sheen's Korner jumped the shark for me, and only 10 seconds of that video made me realize that it was all over. But that doesn't mean we can't take a break from the crazy world for a moment to reflect on the lasting poetry left be Sheen. First off, there was his actual book of poems, published in 1990:
And then there's his inadvertent poems, achieved by clever repunctuation of his interviews in what must be the greatest cultural contribution yet by the Daily Beast. Perhaps when Sheen runs out of money and his wrongful termination lawsuit is laughed out of court, he can re-package his poems, old and new, in a special edition two volume set.
Back to the sun. Click on that picture above, for full-size majesty. In case you're too lazy, here's a detail:
Can you believe this picture was taken with this thing by an amateur during a party in the Keys? Dude used a special filter, he says. (His name is Alan Friedman, I guess I should mention.) What's this filter called? Super awesome celestial insanity filter? Something like that. But, you ask: can I get it as an app for my phone and make all my pictures of things-that-I-understand-in-concept-but-really-can't-grasp-in-full turn into instant, visible reality? Probably not. It's a filter that sees only light emitted by hydrogen. Why does hydrogen look so fuzzy? Gas! What are those yawning vortex/solar sarlacc pit maws? Sun spots! Twice the size of the earth. And that little cloud floating above is ejecta from exploding sun spot.
Because it will soon be gone -- the Cap'n is taking the great final plunge to the Davey Jones Locker of breakfast cereals soon. Well, Cap'n, it's time. Quiet your crew, snap a crisp salute, and keep your eye on the horizon as you bravely go down with your delicious, crunchy, sugary ship.
And I never scope TMZ or Perez Hilton or watch E! or read Us Weekly -- and yet this sudden emergence of Charlie Sheen's unrestrained id is absolutely MESMERIZING. For one, I do love poems. I had no idea what Ricky Gervais was talking about at the Golden Globes, but now I'm glad I caught the Sheen train (or wedge, or whatever he wants to call it) and stayed with it until the shocking, transcendent moment, by which I mean Chuck Lorre's nationally televised response, which flashed onscreen after Monday's episode of Mike & Molly:
I understand that I'm under a lot of pressure to respond to certain statements made about me recently. The following are my uncensored thoughts. I hope this will put an end to any further speculation.
I believe that consciousness creates the illusion of individuation, the false feeling of being separate. In other words, I am aware, ergo I am alone. I further believe that this existential misunderstanding is the prime motivating force for the neurotic compulsion to blot out consciousness. This explains the paradox of our culture, which celebrates the ego while simultaneously promoting its evisceration with drugs and alcohol. It also clarifies our deep-seated fear of monolithic, one-minded systems like communism, religious fundamentalism, zombies and invaders from Mars. Each one is a dark echo of an oceanic state of unifying transcendence from which consciousness must, by nature, flee. The Fall from Grace is, in fact, a Sprint from Grace. Or perhaps, more accurately, 'Screw Grace, I am so outta here!'
I think he's on to something! Honestly. Such a philosophical statement, as whimsical as it is surprisingly effective, makes me rethink all the dismissive thoughts I've had about Lorre's vast empire of TV hackery. Maybe I will go back and read my pal Tom Bissell's profile of Lorre in the New Yorker from a few months back. At least Sheen did one thing right: made a mediocrity into an artist, if only for a moment.
We all knew Ghaddafi was an megalomanaical and evil dictator with a flair for fashion. But who knew he could combine all his interests in one stroke of evil genius with the Amazonian Guard, a team of hand-picked, martial arts-trained, marksman virgins in matching berets? So crazy it's true!
Via this great tumblr. But that's just a picture, you say. Doesn't mean it's true. Could be a still from Red Sonia 3. That's what I thought. Until I looked on Wikipedia, and we know that's never wrong. But here are two othersources, and even another picture, of Ghaddafi's angels, trading their fatigues for state visit formals:
And was paid lots of money by them? And by lots, I mean $20 million dollars, as detailed in Aram Roston's excellent investigative piece in Playboy from last year.
It was your typical senseless military procurement hoo-hah, mixed in with some twenty-first century techno-terror paranoia: some guy claims he has a presto-whammo technology that can decipher secret terrorist signals, and various different government entities immediately ask: Where do I sign? Neither the Air Force nor the CIA is apparently able to distinguish a garden variety con man. Makes you trust the analytical powers of the people behind our national defense. Because of course Al Qaeda would use Al-Jazeera news crawls to transmit secret messages -- a sinister plan so obvious, and yet also so devious that only one Dennis Montgomery, itinerant gambler and onetime biomedical technician, could come up with a technology to decipher the code!
You may be smart enough to see through that one, but not the Republican Governor of Nevada. Or a lot of other Republicans, as it turns out. That's not really a surprise I guess, since most Republicans probably think they can personally decipher secret messages from Al Qaeda/Jazeera all on their own. (Psst. That's called actual news!) And as we know, on matters martial, and related spending, Republicans will believe anything.
But you'd figure that maybe the intelligence community would catch on sooner. Apparently, there were some doubters as early as 2003, and yet the Air Force cancelled their contract with Montgomery's firm in May 2009! This is all detailed (and come up again topically) in a New York Times article about the case against Montgomery, which recaps the basic details from Playboy story, with the important value-added lede, noting that the Justice department is trying to keep details out of court so as to avoid embarassment for the many bamboozled parties. But my favorite part is the government's argument for secrecy:
The Justice Department, which in the last few months has gotten protective orders from two federal judges keeping details of the technology out of court, says it is guarding state secrets that would threaten national security if disclosed.
Such juicy recursive irony. So the government's case against a fradulent government contracter for selling a fake technology can't be described because of the sensitive nature of said technology.
Which is why it must be adorably contained beneath three different cloches:
What's in there, housed like a Russian Doll roquefort? Oh, you know, just a cast cyclinder of platinum and iridium, cast in 1889 as the international kilogram prototype. Who knew the kilogram was so tautologically defined as "a unit of mass equal to the mass of the international prototype of the kilogram." Too bad the prototye has inexplicably lost some mass over the past century, which is what this NY Times article touches on in the search for a physical constant standard for the measure.
Intersting enough, but you can't throw out a mystery of missing mass and not even try to explain it. It wasn't chipped off, as there are three separate keys to this thing, each guarded by other keys, which is why the propotype has only been de-domed thrice in history. And yet, it's missing about a grain of sand's worth of mass. “Your guess is as good as mine,” said the expert in the story. HELLO -- we need at least one theory. Two sentences. One sentence even. Otherwise, I might have to open another tab [eye roll] in my browser, do five minutes of research, and find out that maybe the prototype isn't losing mass after all; maybe the whole michegoss is a function of not just the tautological definition but also tautological measurement against copies of itself. In other words, it's all relative, man.
The Zombie Zeitgeist A full scale movement is on the lurch. But why the best zombie movie ever made a video game?
Believer interview with Mark Allen Digital artist and awesome gallerist Mark Allen talks about Tekken Torture Tournament and other projects where people were wired to machines and did strange things in public.
Believer interview with Marjane Satrapi Enlightening Q & A with the Persian cartoonist, memoirist, quick conversationalist in which she declares: “THE WORLD IS NOT ABOUT BATMAN AND ROBIN FIGHTING THE JOKER; THINGS ARE MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT.”
Yeti Researcher Yet another 100-page issue of the world's top academic journal devoted scholarship about the Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasqatch, and other mystery primates worldwide. For researchers and lay audiences alike, the latest YR features a history of Sasquatch sightings in southern California, an update on the wily orang pendek of Sumatra, and a new look into Teddy Roosevelt's obsession with bagging a Bigfoot. As Editor-in-Chief, I promise you won't be disappointed.
Panda PowerPoint! I guess I don't mind being "the entertainment" when it's at Mark Allen's second annual Holiday Fry-B-Que. Presented: preliminary findings from my ongoing research into the most charismatic megafauna of all: Giant Pandas.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Dec 9, 2006 For those who missed it, there will be more. World, Explained is going strong! Money was raised, laughs were had, and for those paying attention, small amounts of useful information about things like the aurora borealis were transmitted. Plus: Michael Cera = lovably funny. And Nick Diamonds' renditions of Dumb Dog and Hanging Tough are still in my head. As is that horribly catchy Fresh Step jam.
Jest Fest at Skylight Books Somehow I wound up hosting the 10th anniversary jubilee for Infinite Jest at Skylight Books. Because who doesn't love a jubilee, right? Despite being delirious with Hepatitis A (that's the mild, non-lethal kind; I'm not at risk for Hep B since I always go the needle share and choose clean-looking prostitutes), I managed to not mis-pronounce anyone's name and make an erudite joke and poke gentle fun at Michael Silverblatt.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | June 10, 2006 Number Three! Last one was sold out so we moved to a slightly larger theater. Andy Richter hosted, and his opening exegesis of CSI: Miami warmed the people up right. Evany Thomas presented her very scientific findings on the Secret Language of Sleep; Starlee Kine bared her neuroses to the world (or at least the 300 people in the audience); Josh Davis showed video of his 135-lb self sumo wrestling a 550-lb opera singer from San Bernardino; and Davy Rothbart closed it out with some Found Magazine magic. Grant Lee Phillips, Sam Shelton and Zooey Deschanel provided the music punctuation! I can still hear their rendition of We Are the Champions.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Feb 11, 2006 The second in our series of precision comedy and fact-based entertainment extravaganzas benefiting 826LA. Patton Oswalt was kind enough to host, and Jon Brion joined in on the piano and guitar as thematic accompaniment. Presenters included: David Rees, Michael Colton, John Hodgman (along with his hirsuit troubadour, Jonathan Coulton), and me. Plus: a fashion show of exciting multi-user garmentry.
Little Gray Book Lecture at Galapagos How to Observe President's Day. Jonathan Coulton's technical wizardry has made this entire show available online. The summary from PRX: Sarah Vowell, John Hodgman and Joshuah Bearman on Presidents' Day, along with a fifteen-piece marching band and a new song about all forty-three presidents. My contribution? Yes, from Yeti Researcher. Again. Actually that was the first one. So I have only five stories!
July 25: TJ to LA -- A Night McSweeney's Readings I was honored to be part of a strange triptych along with Salvador Plascencia and Josh Kun. Sponsored, somehow, by La Ciudad magazine, we all packed into Beyond Baroque with no air conditions. 150 people showed at 7 o'clock on a Friday evening, which we took as a good sign of something. Sal held up and anxiously discussed drawings from his novel, Josh delivered an essay on the Dr. Moreau of Tijuana, and my shtick (again) was Pac Man and metaphysics, this time with fun slides.
October 8th: Skylight Books w/Stephen Elliott Fun times were had by all. Someone in the audience actually mistook me for an expert on the psychology human character. We ate shrimp cocktail and drank cheap wine and laughed at Bush and celebrated the certainty of right besting wrong in American democracy. A lot of good that did.