Ephemera LXXXIV: FDR’s post-presidency

Overheard: l asked an EOD guy once about the stress of bomb defusing. He shrugged & said “It’s not. I’m either right, or suddenly it’s not my problem any more.”

I try to stick to that perspective.

One day I tried googling the word “woke” with the names of one or two of my favorite TV shows, thinking that it would be a fun hate read, but it turned out to be just depressing and I don’t think I’m going to do that again.

A group of office workers take advantage of the May 1958 sunshine and lounge on the beach in Rhyl, Wales, during their lunch hour


Sandman is not clicking for me. I fear we may not be the target audience.

I was looking forward to seeing Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine, because I have a mad crush on her. I would gladly watch her in anything, even reading the end user license agreement for Microsoft Office.

But after seeing her on Doctor Who, she is typecast in my mind as the wholesome yet saucy girl next door. I’m having difficulty buying her as a foul-mouth lower class antihero.

Liz Cheney

For today, I admire Liz Cheney as a hero.

But I also see a scenario where she makes a Churchillian comeback, gets elected President, and proceeds to enact Trump’s entire agenda. She voted with him more than 90% of the time.

Since 2016, progressives have been warning about the risk of someone coming along who is just like Trump but not an idiot. Liz Cheney may be that person.

Ephemera LXXXIII: World’s largest female mouth gape

How Democrats could win more elections “Do stuff. Make it timely. Tell people about it.” [Cory Doctorow/Boing Boing]

If Democrats want to win more elections, they should try:

Enacting popular policies, preferably ones that materially improve the lives of potential voters;
Making sure those policies take effect before the next election; and
Telling people about them.

As a bonus, they could also publicize when Republicans want to enact policies that:

Aren’t popular; and
Materially worsen the lives of potential voters.”

For example, 80% of all voters — both Democrat and Republican — want to expand Social Security. Republicans have publicly said they want to “sunset” SS. Democrats should be pounding this point hard — but instead the Biden administration has appointed a Social Security boss who hates the program. Because both the Democratic and Republican national leadership serve Wall Street before the American people, and Wall Street doesn’t like Social Security.

Similarly, the Democrats recently passed prescription drug price cuts—but they don’t take effect for years. WTF, Democrats? Don’t wait—do it now!

“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” turns 40 [Ryan Gajewski / The Hollywood Reporter]

Interviews with director Amy Heckerling, co-star Judge Reinhold, and more.

I love this movie—one of my favorites.

Reinhold played high school senior Brad Hamilton. He was 22 at the time, and looked older. Reinhold says, “I’m sitting in the room the last time I read, and [producer Art Linson] says, ‘Look at him. He’s as old as Ed Asner.”

Samantha Ramsdell is the Guinness World Record holder for the largest female mouth gape

Elizabeth Montgomery, 1963

“Excuse me, I need to take this.”

May 1942. “Childersburg, Alabama. Cousa Court housing project for defense workers in boom area around the Dupont Powder Plant. The Smiths share the drudgery of housework, for they both have important war jobs.” Photo by John Collier, Office of War Information.

Ephemera LXXXII: Absolute unit of a snapping turtle

Anthony Bourdain travel tips. “… provoke nerd fury online. Go to a number of foodie websites with discussion boards. Let’s say you’re going to Kuala Lumpur — just post on the Malaysia board that you recently returned and had the best rendang in the universe, and give the name of a place, and all these annoying foodies will bombard you with angry replies about how the place is bullshit, and give you a better place to go.”

Whole Foods CEO looking forward to being called “crazy John” after years of having right-wing opinions “muzzled” [Rob Beschizza / Boing Boing]

Watch Andrew Yang fastidiously avoid believing in anything [Rob Beschizza / Boing Boing]

Watch this time-lapse of a 700-pound pumpkin gaining 49 pounds a day [Mark Frauenfelder / Boing Boing]

Cops suspended after being filmed vandalizing homeowner’s security camera by homeowner’s other security camera [Rob Beschizza / Boing Boing]

This weekend, I watched a hacker jailbreak a John Deere tractor live on stage [Cory Doctorow / Pluralistic]

Last Saturday, I sat in a crowded ballroom at Caesar’s Forum in Las Vegas and watched Sickcodes jailbreak a John Deere tractor’s control unit live, before an audience of cheering Defcon 30 attendees (and, possibly, a few undercover Deere execs, who often attend Sickcodes’s talks).

The presentation was significant because Deere – along with Apple – are the vanguard of the war on repair, a company that has made wild and outlandish claims about the reason that farmers must pay the company hundreds of dollars every time they fix their own tractors, and then wait for days for an authorized technician to come to their farm and type an unlock code.

Deere’s claims have included the astounding statement that the farmers who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on tractors don’t actually own those tractors, because the software that animates them is only licensed, not sold:

They’ve also claimed that locking farmers out of their tractors is for their own good, because otherwise hackers could take over those tractors and endanger the food supply. While it’s true that the John Deere tractor monopoly means that defects in the company’s products could affect farms all around the world, it’s also true that John Deere is very, very bad at information security:

The company’s insistence that they are guardians of farmers and the agricultural sector is a paper-thin cover for monopolistic practices and rent-seeking.

So to recap: the company says it has to block farmers from having the final say over their own tractors because they could create security risks and also threaten Deere’s copyrights (the company even claims that locking down tractors is necessary to preventing music infringement, as though a farmer would spend $600k on a tractor so they could streamrip Spotify tracks).

But in reality, the company itself is a dumpster-fire of information security worst practices, whose unpatched, badly configured, out-of-date tractors are a bonanza of vulnerabilities and unforced errors. What’s more, the company – which claims to be staunch defenders of copyright – use their copyright locks to hide the fact that they are committing serious breaches of software copyright.


A 1989 essay by Bruce Sterling:

In a recent remarkable interview in New Pathways #11, Carter Scholz alludes with pained resignation to the ongoing brain-death of science fiction. In the 60s and 70s, Scholz opines, SF had a chance to become a worthy literature; now that chance has passed. Why? Because other writers have now learned to adapt SF’s best techniques to their own ends.

“And,” says Scholz, “They make us look sick. When I think of the best `speculative fiction’ of the past few years, I sure don’t think of any Hugo or Nebula winners. I think of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and of Don DeLillo’s White Noise, and of Batchelor’s The Birth of the People’s Republic of Antarctica, and of Gaddis’ JR and Carpenter’s Gothic, and of Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K… I have no hope at all that genre science fiction can ever again have any literary significance. But that’s okay, because now there are other people doing our job.”

“Science Fiction” today is a lot like the contemporary Soviet Union; the sprawling possessor of a dream that failed. Science fiction’s official dogma, which almost everybody ignores, is based on attitudes toward science and technology which are bankrupt and increasingly divorced from any kind of reality. “Hard-SF,” the genre’s ideological core, is a joke today; in terms of the social realities of high-tech post-industrialism, it’s about as relevant as hard-Leninism.

Consider the repulsive ghastliness of the SF category’s Lovecraftian inbreeding. People retched in the 60s when De Camp and Carter skinned the corpse of Robert E. Howard for its hide and tallow, but nowadays necrophilia is run on an industrial basis. Shared-world anthologies. Braided meganovels. Role-playing tie-ins. Sharecropping books written by pip-squeaks under the blazoned name of established authors. Sequels of sequels, trilogy sequels of yet-earlier trilogies, themselves cut-and-pasted from yet-earlier trilogies. What’s the common thread here? The belittlement of individual creativity, and the triumph of anonymous product.

Science Fiction–much like that other former Vanguard of Progressive Mankind, the Communist Party–has lost touch with its cultural reasons for being. Instead, SF has become a self-perpetuating commercial power-structure, which happens to be in possession of a traditional national territory: a portion of bookstore rackspace.

Sterling follows with a long list of books he considers “slipstream.” I’ve only read a few of these books. These include “Replay,” by Ken Greenwood; and Anne Rice’s vampire novels. I’m familiar at second hand with a few more: “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood, and “Shoeless Joe,” by W.P. Kinsella, became the movie “Field of Dreams.” I’d categorize all these works as science fiction, fantasy, or magic realism, rather than creating a separate category for them and calling them “slipstream.”

I dug up this essay recently because it was mentioned on a podcast—possibly this one. I remembered that the essay was a big deal 30 years ago, but I never got around to reading it. And now I have.

As for today: I can’t speak to the state of the written genre; I don’t keep up. But Sterling’s dystopian description certainly seems to apply to the mainstream of science fiction movies and TV, with its endless sequels, superheroes, and clones. And yet lots of good stuff also gets made: “For All Mankind,” “Severance,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “The Umbrella Academy,” etc.

Ephemera LXXXI: Goth lasagna

The Train Not Taken. [Addison Del Mastro] Car dependence makes the world smaller.

Superyacht things [jwz]

Golden Girls pop-up restaurant opens in Beverly Hills [Rusty Blazenhoff / Boing Boing] I never clicked with the show, but this looks cute.

Barbara Bain – Space: 1999 (1975)

Modern Comics #99 July 1950

If she needs to wear a Space Helmet, shouldn’t she also wear Space Long Pants?

Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Ephemera LXXX: Harem Queen Glamour-Jamas

Automated hiring systems could be making the worker shortage worse

Harem Queen Glamour-Jamas, 1951 ad

Ooh, oh, ooh, oh – Heart of Glass – Blondie (1979

🔥 Malayan Leaf Frogs

Washington, D.C. “Playground, Madison School baseball, May 20, 1914.” 5×7 inch glass negative, National Photo Company Collection.

Ephemera LXXIX: Nothing will stop the funk

A typhoon named “Pelosi” [Ryan Broderick at Garbage Day]

Taiwanese social media is not taking the visit by Nancy Pelosi, and concomitant threat of annihilation by China, seriously. The island nation is frequently threatened by typhoons, and memes are tracking Pelosi as if she were an oncoming storm.

Taiwan has been threatened with obliteration by China for 80 years. They just don’t think about it anymore.


… one Taiwanese celebrity unexpectedly found herself the target of angry Chinese social media users. Singer Hebe Tien from the girl group S.H.E. was accused of being pro-Taiwan because she shared an Instagram story of her eating pasta.

The Facebook post reads: “Hebe shared a photo on social media of her smiling and eating pasta. Pelosi has Italian ancestry and now Chinese social media users are accusing her of ‘getting carried away,’ ‘narcissism,’ and ‘pro-Taiwanese independence’. She probably never though this would happen from eating pasta.”

Poor Hebe probably never thought sharing a photo of her enjoying her lunch would ignite the fury of so many Chinese social media users, who proceeded to flood her Instagram. But she probably also should have known that pasta is Italian, and Pelosi has Italian ancestry, and therefore, eating pasta ahead of Pelosi’s trip most definitely means that she is pro-Taiwanese independence, right?

Um, I guess? Eating pasta on Instagram -> pro-Italian-food -> Nancy Pelosi is Italian-American -> pro-Taiwanese independence seems like a very long walk. But I’m not Chinese either. I’m an American who grew up in New York, where there were so many Italian-Americans that I don’t even notice Italian-Americanness. And pasta just seems like regular food to me, without any ethnic connotation.

Also: Didn’t Marco Polo introduce pasta to Italy … from China?

Edinburgh Fringe Vs. TikTok’s Algorithm

Garbage Day’s Ryan Broderick is at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, where the marketing is old-school and analog, not algorithmic and social.

Fringe is all about being here, on the ground. It’s like sleep-away camp for adults, basically, or a deranged and boozy boarding school. There’s no algorithm other than word of mouth, plus good old-fashioned PR strategies like paying for fast-talking women to talk you up (fast) to as many journalists and bloggers as they possibly can. (I’ve barely looked at my Twitter feed in days, which is insane, but honestly feels great.)

Then there’s the way that flyering, the analog act of hiring people to hand out bits of cardstock with your face and show information on it to shove forcefully at passersby, still reigns supreme at the Fringe. It seems bizarrely old school, but it kind of just shows the bones of how everything else in the world still actually functions on a more covert level. As Choire Sicha remarked in his review of the Fancy Feast cat-food-for-humans restaurant experience, “People who work in marketing make a lot of money because it actually works.” That’s certainly the case during the Fringe, when thousands of acts are competing for the same diminishing bit of column space. PR is vital. And having to fight for relevance in the deranged Thunderdome that is Edinburgh during the Fringe might not make you a better comedian or performer, but I do get the sense that in any case it’s far less demoralizing than doing endless battle with an impersonal algorithm.

William Gallagher: “I don’t know why I’m uncomfortable admitting any of this, but I am and yet I’m going to tell you anyway. Maybe it would help me if you keep in mind that this was thirty years ago and that like most people working for the BBC, I was less than well off at the time.” Couched in the past

The Right’s New Bogeyman [Kaitlyn Tiffany / The Atlantic] Like antifa, Jane’s Revenge, supposedly a pro-choice terrorist group, is almost entirely imaginary.

Dark Brandon is fandom culture [Max Read] Here in 2022, we’re seeing some of the wealthiest, most powerful, and most successful people in the world behaving on Twitter and other social media like a bunch of fannish trolls on 1996 message boards. “Insofar, and so long as, American politics is treated by politicians, journalists, and news consumers as an entertainment product, consumed and discussed online, it will grow fandoms like any other entertainment product.”

jwz: “Amazon’s propaganda campaign to normalize surveillance is about to hit a higher gear: a new show featuring videos taken from Ring surveillance cameras.”

Your Local Epidemiologist, Katelyn Jetelina, critiques the CDC’s latest Covid guidance, and finds it wanting.

This changes nothing for me and my family. We will continue to ride the waves based on transmission in the community. There are three reasons I do this:

  1. I just don’t want to get sick. (I just don’t have the time with two toddlers running around and a career.)

  2. I don’t want to get long COVID-19. Many of my friends have it, and it is debilitating and absolutely nasty. To me, the risk to adults is still high enough for action.

  3. Protect the most vulnerable around me, like grandparents.

This does not mean that I constantly worry. It also doesn’t mean I make perfect decisions. But it does mean that I integrate pandemic tools in my life to reduce risk. For example, my entire family is up to date on vaccines, including my little ones under 5. I still wear a mask in public indoor spaces. If I forget a mask and the store isn’t busy, I don’t turn around. If it’s Costco on a Saturday, though, I turn around and grab my mask. I still wear a mask at the airport. My toddlers do not wear masks at daycare, but we encourage it if traveling on public transit. If they were older, I would encourage it at schools fully knowing that they would probably take it off with friends. I think that’s okay. I’m going to a wedding this weekend and will not wear a mask, but we are antigen testing. We also continue to take antigen tests before seeing grandparents. My girls absolutely hate it, but it’s nothing a lollipop can’t fix.

As I’ve written before, we are in a very strange phase of the pandemic: somewhere between endemic and a full blown emergency. If you’re confused on what to do, know that we are all confused and just trying to do our best. Give yourself and others grace through this time.

I’m essentially following the same rules as Jetelina. Indeed, I’m a little more cautious than she is. I don’t have grandparents or little kids to worry about.

I got Covid about two weeks ago. It was, as they say, just a bad cold. I was down for about two and a half days, mostly recovered by day 4 — still feeling weak and congested, but well enough to return to work and do about a third of my usual exercise routine. This week, I was 97% recovered, but still congested, sleeping a lot, and still feeling fatigue in late afternoon. Even now, I’m still a little congested.

Julie got Covid about the same time as me. She’s recovering a little slower, but recovering.

But you know what? Saying it was “just a bad cold” is misleading, because being down for 2-3 days with a bad cold sucks. You should do what you can to avoid that!

And Long Covid is Russian roulette. Your chances of getting hit with it increases every time you get reinfected, and it seems like neither vaccines nor previous infections protect you from reinfection.

The People’s CDC is far more harsh than Jetelina: “The federal government is so committed to convincing people that the pandemic is over that they’d rather let thousands of us die or develop long COVID every week than issue meaningful guidance, reinstitute mask mandates, or bring back any form of pandemic financial assistance.”

I get that maybe mandates are a failed strategy, but we need trustworthy authorities telling us what we should be doing. Like: “Y’all can do what you want, but you’re crazy if you eat in a restaurant.” Or, “It’s moderately safe now—go about your life normally but wear a mask in indoor public spaces.”

Brand of the Werewolf by Kenneth Robeson (Bantam, 1965)

Leonard Nimoy, guest starring on William Shatner’s TV show “TJ Hooker,” 1983

Blue Bolt Weird Tales #116_December 1952_L.B. Cole cover art

Frankenstein #3_July_Aug 1946_Dick Briefer cover art

“Kirk is looking like please don’t sing, please don’t sing, please don’t sing.”


Ephemera LXXVIII: Fugitive from a circus

A dark money group is lying about Medicare cuts. Cory Doctorow: A dark money group called the American Prosperity Alliance, with unknown backers, is spreading lies that the Democrats cut $300 billion from Medicare. In reality, the Democrat-backed bill will allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, saving $300 billion without cutting benefits. That’s just a drop in the bucket for pharma price-gouging, but the industry is screaming bloody murder. 


Home computing in the 80s

Here’s the tweet with the video

Archie Comics #28_Sept-Oct 1947_Al Fagaly cover art