Kate Beaton’s Night Shift


Holy crap. Kate Beaton’s Night Shift is one of the best things I’ve read in a while. Just sixty or so panels, but it has a sense of ambition (particularly after getting used to the recent - equally delightful - small vignettes from the holidays).

Like all good work, it’ll ripple out to crash into whatever’s going in in your life. You can enjoy the whole thing here.

Curzio Malaparte – Mysterious Like You

Curzio Malaparte is one of the most intriguing figures to emerge from of the chaos of Italy’s involvement in World War Two. He worked as a poet, literary journal editor, filmmaker and novelist, and his literary style can be seen as an important precursor to contemporary magical realism. And he also designed and built the most beautiful house in the world (more on that later).

As a poet, journalist, and literary journal editor, Malaparte played a dangerous double game, both courting and ridiculing the rising Fascist leaders of Europe. A participator in Mussolini’s infamous March on Rome, he was later exiled for speaking out against Italy’s elite, and imprisoned by Mussolini on multiple occasions (partly for the unhealthy habit in 1931 of referring to Adolf Hitler as a woman).

Despite this, Malaparte was invited to cover the war, and most notably the German invasion of Eastern Europe. Malaparte’s father was German, and his mother Italian – influences which enabled Malaparte to both happily dine with the Nazi elite, and critically observe the civilian and battlefield turmoil. The paradoxical recording of this duality (particularly his masterpiece Kaputt) remain amongst the most intriguing documents to have emerged from that terrible conflict.

Kaputt itself is a book very much of two sides. The Italian experience of the war was necessarily ambivalent, and reading the novel can be a frustrating experience of inaction and distance towards the horrors witnessed. A tour of the Warsaw ghetto is contrasted with ghost stories, and other purely fictional passages of lyrical genius. Elsewhere, dead bodies falling from train carriages are described as cooly as the architecture of Stockholm. Most notably, there is little by the way of a traditional narrative.

‘Written as a Fascist, edited as a Communist’ would be too simplistic a description of the novel, as Malaparte’s political opportunism remained constant. But an analysis of its editing process reveals a personal journey of someone who once thought German victory assured, and later witnessed its dramatic collapse first hand. The book remains both a rare perspective from the point of view of the losing Axis powers, and of the emergence of a new postwar reality. The Skin followed Kaputt, itself a fascinating examination of the (almost innocently naive) US forces as they invaded a very complex, shattered Southern Europe.

Paris – and international Communism – became interests after the war, as it was for much of Western Europe’s avant-garde. However, further literary success was elusive for Malaparte. Politically, he continued to maintain consistent individuality. A more notable later interest became film, and Malaparte was awarded the City of Berlin prize for his movie “Forbidden Christ”, at the first ever Berlin Film festival. It could be seen as the closing act of his wartime narrative, a revenge tale against fascist horrors in his homeland.

After literature however, it is perhaps in architecture that Malaparte’s influence has been most widely felt. During a period of internal exile in Italy’s isolated coast, he had the architect Adalberto Libera draw up plans for a house for a particularly spectacular clifftop location in Capri. Dissatisfied, Malaparte redid the design, and had it built by a local stonemason (extreme architectural porn follows).

Malaparte conceived of architecture as an act of self-portraiture or psychoanalysis, and the house is isolated, always outward looking, and blank. The roof becomes a sun deck, it’s views of the Mediterranean a perfect place to observes the trials of an Odysseus.

The interiors have since been restored to their former glory, and can be viewed today. They sit somewhere between a remarkably contemporary looking style, and a record of a peculiar time and place (1940′s Italian Modernism).

The house was notably used by Jean-Luc Godard in his film Le Mepris, with the house acting almost as a major character. The views of the Capri coast were used by Godard as a second ‘screen’, turning the action into a meditation on watching. Passionate desire towards both love and film – and a sense of inevitable dissolution – are both central concerns of the film.

Malaparte’s literary output seems equally contemporary and temporal. His surname – Malaparte – itself is a textural puzzle. First used in 1925, it could be literally translated as “Wrong” or “Evil Side” (a counter to Bonaparte’s “Good Side”). The author’s sense of distance and mutability mirrors both his own country’s wartime experience, and perhaps our own contemporary one.

The Facts Don’t Work

weird psychoogy experiment

Yale Law school professor Dan Kahan has been doing interesting studies into political beliefs. His latest finding? Facts don’t matter. In fact, when arguing with a climate change denier, gun nut, or any other extremist, facts, literally, cannot be seen.

What’s worse, when people are misinformed, giving them facts to correct those errors actually makes them cling to their beliefs more tenaciously. Here’s some of what Brendan Nyhan found, in the same area:

• People who thought WMDs were found in Iraq believed that misinformation even more strongly when they were shown a news story correcting it.

• People who thought George W. Bush banned all stem cell research kept thinking he did that even after they were shown an article saying that only some federally funded stem cell work was stopped.

• People who said the economy was the most important issue to them, and who disapproved of Obama’s economic record, were shown a graph of nonfarm employment over the prior year – a rising line, adding about a million jobs.  They were asked whether the number of people with jobs had gone up, down or stayed about the same.  Many, looking straight at the graph, said down.

• But if, before they were shown the graph, they were asked to write a few sentences about an experience that made them feel good about themselves, a significant number of them changed their minds about the economy.  If you spend a few minutes affirming your self-worth, you’re more likely to say that the number of jobs increased.

It would be something if Reaganesque positive election ads had a greater ability to change folks’ minds than negative. Although, that thought is equally depressing. Read more here.

The Hiroshima Shrug


Foreign Policy has a persuasive article that argues that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic weapons had little effect in the ending of the war in the Pacific. Indeed, it may have perversely helped the Japanese leadership and Emperor to escape blame, and helped their long term interests.

It is troubling to consider, given the questions raised here, that the evidence of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is at the heart of everything we think about nuclear weapons. This event is the bedrock of the case for the importance of nuclear weapons… But what are we to make of all those conclusions if the traditional story of Hiroshima is called into doubt?

Read the full article here.

The New Hollywood


Lovely writing, as much as great analysis, from Lynda Obst, on the New Hollywood. ‘I didn’t take his gloomy talk about piracy seriously. I just went around saying, “The landlord has the blues,” and blithely fell into the future.’

Hollywood is completely broken, via Salon.com

iPhone versus a Canon

This is about a million years old, and back several generations of technology (on both sides). But I still keep refering to it, so here it is – The Guardian’s staff photographer taking her (then new) iPhone 4S, and her workhorse Canon 5D mkii, out and about in London. If nothing else, knowing the strengths of each helps you get the most out of either tool.

iPhone vs a Canon

Quora Wisdom on Jobs

  • Posted on 8th May 2013,


Quora had a few nice responses to the question What’s the craziest thing you ever said (or did) at an interview and still got the job?

When I got out of college I decided I wanted to live somewhere on the east coast, but didn’t really care where.  I’m a web developer, so I built a system to scrape jobs from Craigslist.  Based on keywords in the job listing, the code would construct a cover letter from paragraphs that explained my experience with the associated keyword.  I sent out around 1,500 resumes in 24 hours.

The next day I was swamped with calls and did a bunch of interviews, and one company flew me out for an in person interview the next day.  I ended up getting the job and while I didn’t mention how I sent out my resumes during the job interview, it came up later while I was working there.  After explaining the app, they informed me that had I told them that story, they would have probably hired me on the spot without more interviewing.

And my favorite

I was asked if I could pass a drug test. I politely responded I need 2 weeks to study. I was hired on the spot.

And for bonus points, how to answer “what’s your biggest weakness?”

A:  Cheese dip.  If it’s on the table, I can’t stop eating it.

Read the full list here.

How to Argue with a Holocaust Denier

After making the important point that most Holocaust deniers aren’t all that interested in ‘truth’, Tim O’Neill has given the most persuasive argument possible for the Holocaust’s existence. Namely

No Nazi was ever a Holocaust denier.

This one, simple fact shows that everything the modern deniers try to claim is a post hoc contrivance. From 1945 onwards, thousands of Nazis were captured and hundreds tried for their part in the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity. They tried to pretend they were someone else, they tried to pretend they didn’t know what was happening, they tried to pretend they didn’t have as much to do with it as others, they tried to claim they were just following orders and they tried to justify it as “the kind of thing that happens in war”. But what not one of them ever did was deny it happened.

Even men on trial for their lives, in the full knowledge they would be hanged if convicted, never stood up in the courtroom and shouted “This is all a lie! This is a fabrication! There were no gas chambers and no crematoria! I’m being framed!”

You can read this great piece of work here.

The Seven Rules of Art Punk

Artists can be suckers for essentializing their processes down into instructional lists. If you haven’t seen them already, check out Mark Rothko’s Ingredients of a work of art or Captain Beefheart’s Ten Commandments of Guitar Playing. Also great is the UK’s Wire’s early rules for art punk music.

One great thing about rules is they feel so good to throw away. An example is one of their hits ‘Outdoor Minor’.

Via DM.

The Hacked Video Games of Africa

Video games reporter Joe Keiser looks at the culture of hacked PS2 games in his temporary home of Nairobi, including my favorite – this Kirk Douglas version of Grand Theft Auto.

Just look at it! It’s exquisite. The game itself is as grand as the cover. It is San Andreas, with the load screens replaced by EXTREME closeups of Kirk Douglas—and occasionally his son Michael Douglas, because hey, close enough, right? In the game, the main character appears to be a rough approximation of Kirk Douglas. Oh, and all the missions have been removed, so there’s nothing to do.

More games your friends definitely won’t have at gameological.

Taking Orders from the Slime

Slime has been on earth a lot longer than us – perhaps up to a billion years. Certain types (if you want to be formal, P. Polycephalum) might also be a lot smarter that we thought. Slime can have a sense of time, it can work its way through mazes and – in a recent discovery – it can be used to design efficient railway systems.

The single-celled brainless amoebae did not grow living branches between pieces of food in a random manner; rather, they behaved like a team of human engineers, growing the most efficient networks possible. Just as engineers design railways to get people from one city to another as quickly as possible, given the terrain—only laying down the building materials that are needed—the slime molds hit upon the most economical routes from one morsel to another, conserving energy.

Researchers created a mini petri-dish Japan, with food for all the major cities, and slime-like obstacles where human engineers might find them. In a matter of hours they had recreated something very similar to the complex Japanese railway system.

Andrew Adamatzky of the University of the West of England Bristol and other researchers were so impressed with the protists’ behaviors that they have proposed using slime molds to help plan future roadway construction.

Via Scientific American

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