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Immutantable Time.


The second trailer for Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past is now online, starring both the original and First Class crew of mutants.

Hrm…I could still see this one going either way. Next to the Dark Phoenix saga, Days of Future Past is probably the quintessential X-Men tale, but this seems overstuffed, and screenwriter Simon Kinberg’s work on X3 does not inspire confidence.

A-Hole With a Heart of Gold.

“Jim was fortunate enough to earn his living doing what he loved. He was a professional actor. His unions were always there for him, and he will remain forever grateful for the benefits he gained as a result of the union struggle…He was a lucky man in every way.”

Character actor James Rebhorn, well-known for playing doctors, lawyers, and other sinister/officious/aggravated bureaucratic types, 1948-2014.

A Boy and His Dog.

Fortunately, Charlie Brown and Snoopy seem to be themselves in the first teaser for Steve Martino’s Peanuts, executive produced by Paul Feig of Freaks and Geeks and Bridesmaids. “[T]here’s a big effort to preserve Schulz’s ‘sweet optimism’…’Snoopy will not be rapping, no one will be twerking, we’re in good hands.’

Arkham Aquarium.

“Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. I must be a creature. I must be a creature of the night…I shall become a shark.” Iconic Batman villains reconceived as cartoon sharks, by artist Jeff Victor. Mr. Freeze’s goldfish is a nice touch.

Kill Me Again.

“Imagine Zelda and Link et al. being brutally, graphically murdered, over and over, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Now you’ve basically got it: The Souls games are like 50-hour playable Red Weddings in which you are the victim. These are, to put it mildly, games in which you die…The jokesters at From Software, the Tokyo company that makes Dark Souls, have put in the new game’s central hub an obelisk on which is written a constantly updating count of the global number of deaths. As of last Wednesday night, the count was 4.3 million. The game came out on Tuesday.”

At Buzzfeed, Joseph Bernstein sings the praises of the highly deadly Dark Souls games. “Basically, the Souls formula is to put a very difficult boss at a very far distance from a checkpoint with many difficult enemies in between who come back to life every time you save or die. It’s devious.” He spends entirely too much of the piece fretting about gaming’s respectability, and I think he oversells the uniqueness of the Dark Souls franchise, but still worth a read nonetheless.

Stretch Marks from the Dawn of Time.

“Primordial gravitational waves remain one of the outstanding untested hypotheses of inflation, the most popular model that explains the incredible uniformity of the CMB. According to inflationary theory, the Universe expanded very rapidly in the first fraction of a second, filling the cosmos with gravitational ripples. While inflation so far seems to explain a lot about the Universe, we have no direct evidence for it.”

Until now? With help from the South Pole’s BICEP2 observatory, astrophysicists announce they have detected the first possible direct evidence of cosmic inflation after the Big Bang, in the form of “distortions in the cosmic microwave background light…Those distortions take the form of twisting of the light’s polarization created by gravitational disturbances from inflation.” “‘This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but instead we found a crowbar,’ said co-leader Clem Pryke.”

Update: 5 Sigma, R of 0.2. WHAT? Also another good explanation here: “Punchline: other than finding life on other planets or directly detecting dark matter, I can’t think of any other plausible near-term astrophysical discovery more important than this one for improving our understanding of the universe.”

Ryan’s Slaughter.

“[Y]ou can’t help noticing the deep historic irony that finds a Tea Party favorite and descendant of famine Irish using the same language that English Tories used to justify indifference to an epic tragedy…Ryan boasts of the Gaelic half of his ancestry…But with a head still stuffed with college-boy mush from Ayn Rand, he apparently never did any reading about the times that prompted his ancestors to sail away from the suffering sod.

In the NYT, historian Timothy Egan notes Paul Ryan’s rhetorical debt to those who helped perpetrate the Great Hunger in Ireland. “You never hear Ryan make character judgments about generations of wealthy who live off their inheritance, or farmers who get paid not to grow anything…Dependency is all one-way. ‘The whole British argument in the famine was that the poor are poor because of a character defect,’ said Christine Kinealy, a professor of Irish studies and director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. ‘It’s a dangerous, meanspirited and tired argument.’”

Just One More Thing.

“No dour, cocaine-addled super-brain is he; no arch and upwardly mobile cocktail-swiller, no Belgian. He is as American as American can be in the best possible sense. There is — unlike almost every other detective in the canon, from Marlowe onward — a moral lightness and an untroubled heart at the core of him, an innate goodness that resonates outward and either puts people at ease or deeply unsettles them, as their own consciences dictate.”

By way of Cryptonaut-in-Exile and LinkMachineGo, why Columbo should be the American Doctor Who. “[D]o not allow yourself to believe for even one second that there are not deeply classist, capitalist reasons Sherlock abounds in this day and age of ours, while Columbo does not. Sherlock is more often than not nowadays played as relatively young and good-looking, self-aggrandizing and mercurial and aristocratic, a troubled genius too good for the idiotic plebes that surround him; Columbo is blue-collar and humble.”

Almost Feeding Time.

“‘It’s a bit like the moment before a penalty shot in soccer,’ said astrophysicist Stefan Gillessen…Everyone knows a shot is about to be taken, but nobody knows outcome will be. ‘This is the most tense moment when one player is trying to shoot against someone on the other side’…No matter the outcome, ‘it will be absolutely stunning to see the physics at work.’”

With an array of telescopes, astronomers are watching a gas cloud waft dangerously close to the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy “this month” (Of course, it already happened ages ago, and we’re just now being apprised of it.)

“The gas cloud…could either continue on its current orbit and slingshot around the black hole or it could run into surrounding gas and dust, which will make it lose speed and start sliding down toward the black hole. The first scenario could give scientists insight into the evolution of galaxies and better understand the history of our Milky Way’s own black hole. In the second case, they might get to watch the black hole consume a sizable dinner.” Say hi to Maximillian for me.

Zen Master Comes Full Circle.

“Basketball contains larger truths for Jackson, and the triangle is the key to unlocking those truths. Any team that hires him should be prepared to install it and commit to it. Anthony is a beautiful scorer, an underrated passer/cutter, and a viciously dangerous catch-and-shoot player. He has the all-around skill set for the triangle, with its cuts, dribble handoffs, and instant reads. He can fit into the Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant pinch post role, directing the offense and making reads from the spot at which those guys made their scoring careers. The rest of the roster is an awkward triangle fit.”

With Phil Jackson apparently on the verge of returning to NYC, Grantland‘s Zach Lowe breaks down how his hire as Team President could impact the Knickerbockers. “[T]he Knicks clear the Bargnani, Chandler, and Amar’e Stoudemire contracts off their books in the summer of 2015 and hungrily look to replenish. And this is where Jackson’s great value might lie — as a Pat Riley–style free-agency magnet.”

Even riding a five-game winning streak, this season looks lost, especially given that we don’t have a first-round pick. So I can’t really imagine Jackson having much of a short-term impact, especially since he’ll be spending most of his time in LA. Still, I guess it can’t hurt to have him on the payroll, and there’s something very Zen about finishing the journey where you started.

Celtic Red (or Green for Gene.)

“I had never met Debs…[but] ever since he came there he is considered a man that is actually a saint or a Jesus Christ because when the night comes and the work is over, he goes into the yard where all the men, the criminals, come around him, and for each one he has a word to tell them. For each he has word to awaken in them a human spirit, the feeling that has been lost for years and years… I am sure it is actually a crime to keep a man of that type behind iron bars.”

Also in recent NBA news and by way of a grad school friend: Larry Bird may be the “Basketball Jesus,” but he wasn’t the first Christ figure from the Hoosier State: Former Celts Bill Walton and Larry Bird visit the Eugene Debs Museum. “Walton and the Birds spent a full hour and a half visiting all three floors of this great museum. This was not a step in, step out visit for them.”

Tell Us Something Pretty.


“Even though the show was cancelled in 2006 after just three seasons, it lingers at the forefront of fans’ minds. Any devotee of Milch’s drama will tell you that once you’ve responded to its magic, it’ll sink roots into your imagination and flower there.”

“You cannot f**k the future, sir. The future f**ks you.” Ten years after its premiere and seven years after the hoopleheads of HBO wrought its untimely demise, Matt Zoller Seitz pays homage to Deadwood, the original bookend to The Wire: Whereas The Wire dramatizes the interminable decay of a city’s municipal institutions, Deadwood showed why they were needed in the first place, especially when a Great Man of means and no small ambition, like George Randolph Hearst, comes a-knockin’.

Of course, Deadwood also remains one of the most highly quotable television hour-longs around. The one I tend to use most these days: “And you, Mr. Wolcott, I find you the most severe disappointment of all.” “Often to myself as well.”

I Checked Out Early.

As far as Wes Anderson films go, I really enjoyed Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom, and was indifferent-to-irritated by Bottle Rocket, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Darjeeling Limited. Count Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel among the latter bunch, sadly.

You know the drill by this point. This is yet another of Anderson’s precious dollhouse-and-train-set movies, a Tintin comic brought to life, with all of the usual twee affectations and tics we have come to expect. (If you thought Wes Anderson movies were too white before, this flick is so white it has a ski chase.) And for whatever reason, this time the wall-to-wall bric-a-brac aesthetic just did not connect for me.

Part of the problem, I think, is that Hotel is bereft of what is usually one of the sharpest arrows in Anderson’s quiver: There are no artfully placed pop songs anywhere in this movie, which, now I think on it, is one of the ways his films in the past have been best able to escape their elaborate artifice to establish real emotion or human connection.

But the other, bigger issue here is tone [mild spoilers to follow]: The Grand Budapest Hotel felt to me like it’s heedlessly skating along the surface of tragedy. Even notwithstanding a dead cat joke which put me in a foul temper (too soon), there are stabs at black humor here — chopped off fingers, a decapitation, prison shivvings — which jar with the movie’s antic frivolity, and suggest black humor really isn’t Anderson’s forte. He’s fine at creating one particular, immediately identifiable as “Andersonian” tone, but apparently not so great at modulating it.

Along those lines, not that you can’t or shouldn’t make a comedy about the horrors of World War II, but I found something off-putting about, say, the cutesy alternate-universe Gestapo banners (“ZZ”) fluttering all through the hotel while our heroes are engaged in their latest madcap Keystone Kops chase. I’ve been short of sleep this week, so it may just be that I wasn’t in the mood for it. Still, for me, The Grand Budapest Hotel didn’t take.

The Oceans Below.

“The discovery indicates that more water can be found throughout the transition zone — the portion of the Earth’s mantle where the diamond originated. One percent might not seem like a lot but, according to Pearson, ‘when you realize how much ringwoodite there is, the transition zone could hold as much water as all the Earth’s oceans put together.’”

They dug too greedily and too deep…In a small Brazilian diamond, scientists find some potential evidence of vast reservoirs of water deep below the Earth’s surface (otherwise known as R’lyeh, where dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.) The Abyss pic above notwithstanding, “geologist Hans Keppler told Agence France-Presse that scientists should be cautious in concluding so much from such a small sample, and adds that it is likely the water is trapped in molecular form in certain rocks.” (Via High/LowIndustrial.)

Feingold Follows Fossey.

“Feingold has undertaken a dizzying round of talks in at least eight different African capitals, cajoling leaders face to face, negotiating with skittish rebels late into the night and strategizing with fellow diplomats, all in a very uphill effort to stop a long-running conflict in a region littered with failed peace deals. ‘Without a doubt,’ he said over coffee a few hours after the gorilla trek, ‘this is one of the favorite things I’ve ever done in my life.’

Stuart Reid checks in with former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold at his current job as John Kerry’s special envoy to the Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “‘I really wanted him here at the State Department because I saw him operate on the Foreign Relations Committee,’ Kerry told me. ‘He was the Senate’s expert, bar none, on Africa. He knows the region and the players.’”

Fake It to Make It.

“‘I told myself I’d stay here until 8:30, and I already killed about 15 minutes avoiding conversation by circling repeatedly around the table of hors d’oeuvres to appear occupied, and another cumulative half hour pretending to text friends, so I just need to make it a few more minutes,’ the tense man told reporters.”

Report: Only 20 Minutes Until Introverted Man Gets To Leave Party. “At press time, sources reported that Brewer’s plans for withdrawal were dangerously imperiled by a partygoer’s insistence that the whole group hit up a nearby bar.”

A Wagonful of Crooks.

“Attorneys, forensic accountants and consumer advocates have long suspected that banks were systematically creating improper documents to prove ownership of loans. Foreclosure defense lawyers use the term ‘ta-da’ endorsement to describe situations in which they say a document appears, as if by magic, in the bank’s possession as needed in a foreclosure case…The manual…appears to provide step-by-step instructions for a Wells Fargo Home Mortgage ‘Default Docs Team’ and foreclosure attorneys if a blank endorsement is in a file and the attorney wants that note executed.”

In another example of banksters taking notes on a criminal f**king conspiracy, the NY Post get their hands on Wells Fargo’s How-To-Manual for ginning up fraudulent foreclosure documents. “Foreclosure experts called these procedures shocking. ‘It’s an explosive document,’ said forensic accountant Jay Patterson.” Hey, can somebody go to jail now?

Update: Nope, doesn’t look like it. “Four years after President Obama promised to crack down on mortgage fraud, his administration has quietly made the crime its lowest priority and has closed hundreds of cases after little or no investigation, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog said on Thursday.”

Mr. Toad’s Cantankerous Contraption.

“For her Steam in the Willows illustrations, Brennan takes as her inspiration the industrial era in which Grahame was writing, but chooses to celebrate artisanal technology in lieu of mass production.”

Lauren Davis of io9 offers some glimpses of artist Krista Brennan’s forthcoming steampunk rendering of The Wind in the Willows. Makes sense. Mr. Toad is as steampunk as it gets this side of Jules Verne.

Silent, but Active.

“Like many Argentines, Bergoglio ‘remained silent in the face of atrocity,’ but he was determined to thwart the death squads when he could, said Larraquy, who runs investigations for the Argentine newspaper Clarin. ‘He used back channels, did not complain in public and, meanwhile, he was saving people who sought refuge in the Colegio.’”

AP’s Debora Rey delves into the quiet heroism of Pope Francis during Argentina’s Dirty War. “Critics have argued that Bergoglio’s public silence in the face of that repression made him complicit, too…But the chilling accounts of survivors who credit Bergoglio with saving their lives are hard to deny. They say he conspired right under the soldiers’ noses at the theological seminary he directed, providing refuge and safe passage to dozens of priests, seminarians and political dissidents marked for elimination by the 1976-1983 military regime.”

After the Hitler youth of “God’s Rottweiler”, I presumed the worst when I’d originally heard of the new Pope’s silence during the Dirty War. Having come to think much more of him over his first year as head of the Church, I’m glad to read this.

The Fault in Our Stars.

“As the Sun follows the swirling motion of the Galaxy’s arms, circling around the galactic center, it also moves up and down, periodically crossing the plane that cuts the Galaxy into a top and a bottom half like the two bread slices in a sandwich. The authors suggest that as the Sun oscillates up and down, it crosses a denser layer of dark matter — like the ham in the middle — causing a gravitational push and pull that disturbs comets in the Oort cloud.”

By way of Dangerous Meta, did Dark Matter kill the dinosaurs? Extremely speculative here, but food for thought. “The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, which launched last year, will map the gravitational field of the Galaxy and could rule out or confirm the presence of this darker disk.”

The Hopeless, Hungry Side of Town.


“In 1968, legendary badass Johnny Cash reportedly visited Nickajack Cave in his native Tennessee, with the intention of killing himself. Instead, he had something of a spiritual experience in that cave…This macabre personal narrative is visually represented in a new music video for the once and always Man In Black, one which begins by taking viewers right into the maw of that cave, and ends with our exit.”

“I’m no slave to whistle, clock, or bell, not weak-eyed prisoner of Wall Street. Let me be easy on the man that’s down. Let me be square and generous with all. And guide me on the long, dim, trail ahead that stretches upward toward the Great Divide.” Via Fast Company‘s Joe Berkowitz, John Hillcoat of The Proposition and The Road has fashioned an evocative posthumous video for Johnny Cash’s “She Used to Love Me a Lot.” The lines above, which begin this clip, are from Badger Clark’s “A Cowboy’s Prayer.

Not in Houston Anymore.

“The artist Scott Listfield has a fixation for astronauts, painting them over 130 times since the early 90s. You’ll typically find them gazing in blank-eyed wonder at pop icons like Optimus Prime, Mario’s coins twinkling behind a cloud, and the Queen in Aliens…Perhaps there’s a statement in this, something about the decline of the Space Age and the cult of culture. Maybe he just likes painting astronauts.”

I feel like I may have blogged this at some point in the past, but couldn’t readily find it. At any rate, and Killscreen points the way to Scott Listfield’s AstronautDinosaur, where NASA’s finest find themselves on all manner of adventures.

My God It’s Full of Stars.

“I’ve seen the Big Dipper thousands of times, perused it by eye, with binoculars, and through a telescope. And yet, even in a wide-field picture like this, there are still treasures to be found there. Just because something is familiar doesn’t necessarily mean you truly know it.”

Bad Astronomer Phil Plait offers up a very high-resolution image of the Big Dipper by astrophotographer Rogelio Bernal Andreo. (Best to see it enlarged.) “Andreo’s photo shows remarkable detail. Of course there are thousands of stars, but I was able to see dozens of galaxies as well. A few of them are quite famous, like the huge and beautiful M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy.”

Hues of History.

/r/ColorizedHistory is dedicated to high quality colorizations of historical black and white images, and discussions of a historical nature.” Reddit’s endlessly browsable History in Color, with some choice selections collected here.

“In those years, photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook a photographic survey of the Russian Empire with the support of Tsar Nicholas II. He used a specialized camera to capture three black and white images in fairly quick succession, using red, green and blue filters, allowing them to later be recombined and projected with filtered lanterns to show near true color images.” Along related lines, and making the rounds again because of the Ukraine situation, “real” color photos of Russia from 1909 to 1912.

Dames, Drives, Doubles, Dollheads.

In the trailer bin, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Jaime King, and Powers Boothe return to old haunts in the trailer for Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, now also with Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Dennis Haysbert, Stacy Keach, Ray Liotta and Jeremy Piven. I quite enjoyed the first one back in 2005, but it’s been awhile, and Miller’s only gotten crazier in the duration. We’ll see.

He wore a mask for all of one film — For his next trick, he (apparently) never gets out of the car: Tom Hardy goes for a portentous drive in the atmospheric trailer for Stephen Knight’s Locke, also with Tom Holland, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott (a.k.a. Sherlock‘s Moriarty), Ruth Wilson (Luther‘s Alice), Ben Daniels, and Alice Lowe. Yeah, ok.

In another moody one-man show of sorts, Jake Gyllenhaal has a bit of a doppelganger problem in this look at Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, also with Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, and Isabella Rossellini. Let’s just hope it doesn’t fly off the rails in the final act like Villeneuve and Gyllenhaal’s Prisoners.

And finally, tear off your own head: it’s a doll revolution: Domnhall Gleeson tries to grok his bandmate Michael Fassbender’s penchant for papier mache in the quirky trailer for Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank, also with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy, Carla Aza and Francois Civil. But will Fassbender go the full Dredd?

Lithwick: “Guilt By Association.”

“Once upon a time in America this was called advocating for justice. But in today’s America, it’s deemed a miscarriage of justice…[A]s of today, you are as guilty as your guiltiest client, and your representation of that client — especially if it is both zealous and successful — is now disqualifying as well. Cop-killers deserve no lawyers and their lawyers deserve no role in government service. It’s not hard to imagine the scorching Fox News headlines, under the new standards set forth by the Judiciary Committee today: ‘John Adams Frees Vicious Patriot-Killer in Boston Massacre.’ ‘John Roberts Unsuccessfully Defends Serial Killer in Florida!‘ ‘Anarchist-Loving Felix Frankfurter Advocates for Sacco and Vanzetti!’ Clarence Darrow! Lover of Killers, Monkeys, and Commies; Disgrace to Legal Profession!.’”

Dahlia Lithwick weighs in on the Dedo Adegbile travesty in the Senate today, wherein, for patently ridiculous reasons, seven spineless Dems helped Republicans spike Adegbile’s nomination for DOJ’s civil rights division. As the NYT’s Jonathan Weisman succinctly put it, “Some have called Mr. Adegbile a ‘cop-killer advocate.’ Another word for that might be ‘lawyer.’”

At Canaan’s Edge.

“‘Eric Overmyer and I have taken on a project that was already in HBO’s development stable,’ he wrote. ‘We have agreed to go into a room with Taylor Branch and others and see what can be done for a six-hour miniseries.’”

The Baltimore Sun reports that David Simon is working on a MLK mini-series for HBO, “based on the celebrated book trilogy by Pulitzer Prize-winner Taylor Branch…But as per Blown Deadline’s development projects, this is behind another miniseries project for HBO that is closer to production and that we hope to be announcing shortly.”

Rdng is Fndmtl.



“[W]hat Spritz does differently (and brilliantly) is manipulate the format of the words to more appropriately line them up with the eye’s natural motion of reading. The ‘Optimal Recognition Point’ (ORP) is slightly left of the center of each word, and is the precise point at which our brain deciphers each jumble of letters. The unique aspect of Spritz is that it identifies the ORP of each word, makes that letter red and presents all of the ORPs at the same space on the screen. In this way, our eyes don’t move at all as we see the words, and we can therefore process information instantaneously rather than spend time decoding each word.”

Whoa…I’ve read about kung-fu. An intriguing new app aims to turn everyone into speed readers. “Spritz is about to go public with Samsung’s new line of wearable technology.”

Fools and Their Money.

“What Nigerian scams are to your grandfather, Bitcoin exchanges are to the 20-30 semi-tech-savvy libertarian demographic. Even if the Bitcoin protocol were perfect, and it isn’t, our computing infrastructure is not up to the task of handling high-value transactions…While the underlying cryptocurrency is quite interesting and the wallet software is fairly good, the [Bitcoin] exchanges are based on layers upon layers of bad software, run by shady characters.”

Making the rounds today: Cornell professor Emin Gün Sirer gives his take on Bitcoin and what happened with Mt. Gox, the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, where over $400 million recently disappeared. “Human history is full of people who were entrusted with valuables, who then absconded with them…Chances are that this is a simple case of theft, involving at least one insider.”

Also note the conclusion: “If one must pick a cryptocurrency, the lowly dogecoin, of all things, is doing everything right. It’s based on economic principles that provide the right incentives for a healthy economy. The community does not take itself seriously. Most importantly, no one pretends that Doge is an investment vehicle, a slayer of Wall Street, or the next Segway. No one would be stupid enough to store their life savings in Dogecoins. And people freely share the shiba goodness by tipping others with Doge. So, young people who are excited about cryptocurrencies and want to get involved: Dogecoin is where the action is at. Much community. So wow.”

Put the Needle on the Record.

“What can I say? God bless Elliott Smith. We had been talking to him during the course of that film, and he was really struggling. I just feel lucky. Once again, I think it’s Wes’s ability to work with music in a sequence. It’s just so powerful and so touching and so sad and so beautiful.”

Vulture talks about the music choices in twelve iconic Anderson scenes with longtime Wes Anderson collaborator and music supervisor Randall Poster, including Richie’s bad day, above, also channeled by sad Kermit, below.

Incantation

"A barking dog is often more useful than a sleeping lion." -- Washington Irving

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