15.4. 2014


New Banksy? Mural near GCHQ depicts agents listening in on phone box

The guerrilla graffiti artist Banksy is believed to be behind an artwork which has appeared on the side of a house in Cheltenham. More photos

Photograph: Jules Annan/Barcroft Media

(Source: theguardian.com, via theatlantic)

14.4. 2014


A secret package arrived at CIA headquarters in January 1958. Inside were two rolls of film from British intelligence — pictures of the pages of a Russian-language novel titled “Doctor Zhivago.”

The book, by poet Boris Pasternak, had been banned from publication in the Soviet Union. The British were suggesting that the CIA get copies of the novel behind the Iron Curtain. The idea immediately gained traction in Washington.

“This book has great propaganda value,” a CIA memo to all branch chiefs of the agency’s Soviet Russia Division stated, “not only for its intrinsic message and thought-provoking nature, but also for the circumstances of its publication: we have the opportunity to make Soviet citizens wonder what is wrong with their government, when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country in his own language for his own people to read.”

The memo is one of more than 130 newly declassified CIA documents that detail the agency’s secret involvement in the printing of “Doctor Zhivago” — an audacious plan that helped deliver the book into the hands of Soviet citizens who later passed it friend to friend, allowing it to circulate in Moscow and other cities in the Eastern Bloc.

The book’s publication and, later, the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Pasternak triggered one of the great cultural storms of the Cold War.

During Cold War, CIA used ‘Doctor Zhivago’ as a tool to undermine Soviet Union - The Washington Post

14.4. 2014

(Source: brucesterling)

8.4. 2014


A Dragon Teapot by Johnson Tsang

(via wilwheaton)

8.4. 2014


For Shame: The Giant Poster That Shows Drone Pilots the People They’re Bombing

A new project, initiated by a collective of artists from around the world including the French JR, has tried to reach the people pulling the trigger in America’s drone wars—the drone operators themselves.

It’s called “Not A Bug Splat,” and its gets its name from the term drone operators use for a successful “kill,” because—in the pixelated grayscale of the drone camera—ending a human life looks like squashing a bug.

Read more. [Image: Not a Bug Splat]

2.4. 2014
2.4. 2014
28.3. 2014

Welcome, everyone, to ThinkUp.


Today, for the first time, ThinkUp is open to the world. You can just sign up and become a member. We hope you’ll do so!

In the months and years that we’ve been working on ThinkUp, the biggest question that’s come up is a simple one: What is ThinkUp? How we answer that…

27.3. 2014
27.3. 2014


A technical glitch causes the Hubble Space Telescope, which ordinarily captures magnificently crisp scientific imagery of the cosmos, to lose balance and create this inadvertent piece of modern art.

It is suspected that in this case, Hubble had locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in this remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. 

27.3. 2014


Chemists Decree: Don’t Pee in the Pool

Here’s the thing. One-piece bathing suits, when wet, are very annoying to take off. And when you’re swimming three hours a day, as I did for practice on my high school swim team, climbing out of the pool, taking it off, and putting it back on every time you have to use the bathroom starts to feel burdensome. So maybe you just… go…somewhere in between the one millionth and one millionth and first lap you’ve swum that day.

Urine is sterile, and chlorine is sterilizing, right? This is the justification we offered ourselves, to counter our shame. Plus, decorated Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte do it.

Turns out that was a pretty bad idea, for more reasons than just the ick factor. A new study published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science & Technology, looked at the chemistry of what happens when urine meets chlorine, and it isn’t pretty.

Read more. [Image: Matt Dunham/AP]

24.3. 2014


What a beautiful parrot, no? Look at all those colors, those beautiful feathers, that elegant tail (bear with me, I am not a parrot aficionado, I am just trying to get you into the mood. Here have some birdseed).

And then, after you have admired it, look closer, closer (not that close!—Aladdin joke!), stare at the picture until you realize that this isn’t a parrot at all: it’s a woman meticulously made up to look like a bird.

The above photo is the work of artist and former body painting champion Johannes Stoetter who spent four weeks planning this shoot, five hours setting it up, four hours painting the model, and another hour trying to find the pose that most resembled that of a real parrot.

The result is beautiful and almost infuriating in its execution. If you didn’t know that this was a work of art you might just dismiss it as really nice photograph of a beautiful bird. And according to Stoetter that’s exactly what has already happened.

Stoetter told The Daily Mail: Your Mind Will Be Blown When You Realize This Isn’t a Parrot

17.3. 2014


In 1991, in the midst of his run on Sandman — now considered one of the most innovative comic-book series of all time — Neil Gaiman got a phone call from Bob Pfeifer, an executive at Epic Records in Los Angeles.

"We have an artist who wants to make a concept record," Pfeiffer said. "And the artist was wondering if you had a concept." The artist: Alice Cooper. Which piqued Gaiman’s interest because, as he now recalls, "Alice Cooper was a comics character.

When I was a kid 15 years earlier than that, I had read Marvel Premiere #50, Alice Cooper: Tales From the Inside, and I also loved [1975 album] Welcome to My Nightmare. My cousins were the Alice Cooper fans; I was the David Bowie, Lou Reed fan.

But they had made me watch “Teenage Lament ‘74” on Top of the Pops.” Gaiman let Epic book him a flight out to Phoenix, and a room at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel; Cooper showed up, and the two quickly started tossing around ideas for what became The Last Temptation, Cooper’s 1994 album.

"We talked about Ray Bradbury, Dario Argento, zombie movies, how to make a thing," Gaiman remembers; the comics superstar found himself in the unusual position of ghostwriting lyrics and punching up some of Cooper’s songs, including the album’s lead single, "Lost in America," a heavily sarcastic take on "Summertime Blues" — ain’t got no job, ain’t got no girl, ain’t got no gun.

The two kept in touch, and in 1993, when the project was nearing completion, Cooper’s people started asking Gaiman if he would turn the album into a comic, a request he initially denied: “For me, the fun of it was creating a concept for a concept album. And then Marvel Music came to us.”

Marvel Music’s Strange, Brief, and Totally Doomed Rock-Comics Revolution | SPIN

17.3. 2014

Small-Batch Writing

I’ve entered a phase of novel-writing which partly resembles novel-writing and partly resembles something else—something furtive, like low-level espionage, or a secret drug addiction.

For the past two months or so I was writing full time, flat-out, or as flat-out as you can get in this age of modern distractions like Twitter and Kingdom Rush and babies-who-for-some-reason-don’t-feed-themselves. Now I’m back at work.

But when you’ve got enough momentum going with a novel, and you’ve got a bunch of deadlines for that novel that you’ve agreed to, in writing, you can’t just stop. So you don’t stop.
Instead you go dark.

For example: in the mornings I work from home for an hour or two before I go into the office. Not because there’s any particular reason for me to do that, except that by the time I hit the subway rush hour is over, which means I can probably get a seat, and if I get a seat I can crack open my MacBook Air and steal 20-25 minutes of writing time.

I’m always on the lookout for little gaps like that in my schedule: anytime I can get a block of 10 minutes or more, I take it. I write in waiting rooms. I write in cars while other people are driving (this is very boring for them, but I do it anyway). I write while pasta is boiling.
Sometimes when I’m taking care of my kids they fall asleep, or lose consciousness for other reasons. The second they do I’m at my keyboard. Ninja writer strikes! Then I go back to changing diapers.

It’s not ideal. It’s tough to keep your concentration, with your time chopped up like that. But on the plus side you tend to come at your writing from new angles, freshly, the way you would somebody else’s book. And there’s plenty of time for your subconscious to process things and toss out ideas while you’re distracted by other things. I get my best ideas 10 minutes after I’ve stopped writing and gone on to something else.

And since you’re writing in the spaces in between work, your brain automatically categorizes writing time as play. Which is as it should be.

But it means leading a bit of a double life. I don’t always feel great about it. I don’t know who said, ‘books are written with time stolen from other people’ (Paolo Bacigalupi? Anyway I heard it from him), but it’s true. I’m engaging in petty time-thievery, all day, every day.
If nothing else, it motivates you. What you’re writing had damn well better be worth it.

Lev Grossman


(via kadrey)

I totally do this.

(via wilwheaton)

(via wilwheaton)

14.3. 2014

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