We watched the entirety of the first season of “Succession.” It’s a great show, and we enjoyed it, I guess. But I think we’ll take a break a few weeks before diving in to season 2. It’s intense.

We’re currently watching “Succession,” “The Old Man,” “Grantchester,” and “Sandman.” That is a dark lineup of entertainment. Even “Grantchester,” the least heavy of the bunch, has at least one murder per episode, plus alcoholism, thwarted love, PTSD, and closeted homosexuality.

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.