Five Things #47

“Nearly six years before the first issue of the evergreen and still-wildly-popular Judge Dredd Megazine — a series celebrating its 30th anniversary this month — Dredd’s then-publisher IPC Magazines tried its hand at a Judge Dredd spin-off with the straight-forward name Judge Dredd Fortnightly”. Chloe Maveal looks back at The Megazine that never was.

Germain Lussier asks why isn’t Close Encounters considered Steven Spielberg’s ultimate masterpiece? Because it kind of is. It’s been far too long since I last watched this, which is something I really should rectify.

In 2018 a down-on-his-luck headbanger fabricated a persona, faked a tour, and promoted himself as a hard-rock saviour. David Kushner reports on The Great Heavy Metal Hoax.

With momentum finally starting to build towards an eventual coalition, Maïthé Chini explains the basics of Belgium’s government formation.

Denzil goes cycling around Hainaut Province and enjoys lunch at the brewery Abbaye des Rocs.

Five Things #46

In 1976, a researcher concluded “The era of applying the label ‘dyslexic’ is rapidly drawing to a close. The label has served its function in drawing attention to children who have great difficulty in mastering the arts of reading, writing and spelling but its continued use invokes emotions which often prevent rational discussion and scientific investigation.” And so it continues. Sirin Kale on the battle over dyslexia.

“In short, there’s no reason to think that the EU is minded to punish the UK in this way, even if it was it couldn’t, even if it could the UK has no need to break international law to respond to it, and even if it did need to the IMB doesn’t provide the means.” Chris Grey on blockades, mythical and metaphorical.

I remember seeing, and enjoying, Reign of Fire in the cinema when it was released. This, apparently, puts me in something of a minority. Maria Lews talks to the makers of the film as they reflect on the film 18 years after the bizarre blockbuster bomb became a cult film.

“Covid-19 sent the worldwide comic industry into free-fall in March when its monopoly distributor, Diamond, shut down all operations.” Jez Walters looks at how legendary weekly British comic, 2000 AD, survived Covid-19 and thrived.

Jules Johnston goes on an urban safari in the ugliest city in the world.

Five Things #45

There’s a new instalment of the on-going Alien franchise in the works and much discussion as to how it will connect to the previous films. Simon Brew argues that it may be time to stop linking everything up.

If you use computers to grade essays, you create opportunities to hack the system. Monica Chin reports on the students who figured out their tests were graded by AI — and the easy way to cheat.

“Just because you can make your guitar sound like a video arcade doesn’t mean you should.” Mike Edison argues that true musical virtuosos are minimalists who put roll before rock.

Following the most recent Brexit shenanigans, Chris Grey chronicles Britain’s descent into political insanity .

Funk’s House of Geekery looks back at The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Five Things #44

Tom Hayes notes that a “No-Deal” Brexit looms ever closer and considers some of the consequences. It should be noted that Brexit has already happened and this about whether the UK government decides to sign a trade deal or crash the economy.

Chris Grey goes back to school to remind us that, for all the drama surrounding Brexit (in the UK, the EU lost interest long ago), the same themes come up over and over again, the main one being that Brexiters will never be satisfied because their fantasies will never become reality.

“If the financial crisis taught us that we had become too efficient with our transactions, what of the COVID-19 pandemic?” Barry Schwartz argues that efficiency is dangerous and slowing down makes life better.

Chris Dillow on Marxist Tories argues that the activities of the current government suggest they have a very dark opinion of capitalism.

Nick Tyrone argues that the big problem with cancel culture is that it fails spectacularly at achieving the objectives of its proponants.

Five Things #43

For Want of Human Parts by Casey Lucas is a remarkably effective story about a monster that isn’t.

Jon Worth notes that UK politics is not normal. When you are outside of the UK and looking in, it’s painfully apparent just how dysfunctional British politics has become.

On a related note, Chris Grey considers the political psychology beneath the Brexit talks.

Charlie Stross on dead plots, the SF futures rendered obsolete by time.

Denzil takes a walk around the megaliths of Wéris.

Five Things #42

The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto by Annalee Newitz is a tale or robot revolutionaries that poses the question of whether freedom can ever be imposed.

If you want to understand why America is faring so badly in the fight against Covid, it helps to understand deeper public attitudes toward health, and how they differ around the world. Catherine Kim explains what a Korean teenage fashion trend reveals about the culture of mask-wearing.

The electorate is split into separate information bubbles. But unconventional messengers, appeals to patriotism, and even jokes can reach voters who don’t want to listen. Anne Applebaum on how to respond when the facts just aren’t getting through.

Matt Jarvis talks to Magic: The Gathering and Keyforge creator Richard Garfield about 35 years of making the games he wants to play.

Chris Dillow considers empirical vs fantasy politics.

Five Things #41

The Ransom of Miss Coraline Connelly by Alix E. Harrow is a fun short story about parenting.

The best (but still imperfect) way of preventing Facebook from tracking everything you do online is to delete Facebook. If you can’t do that, then check out Matt Burgess’ advice on how to stop Facebook from tracking everything you do (sort of).

“Western stars who have managed to break China and Hong Kong successfully are a rare breed. In fact there’s probably only one person who has found success as a major action star in China, as well as in the west.” Tom Jolliffe takes a look at the career of Cynthia Rothrock: The First Lady of International Action.

A quarter of a century ago today, the MP3 was born. Eamonn Forde argues that this, not the invention of vinyl, was the most revolutionary format in musical history. The MP3 at 25: How a digital file dynamited the music industry.

Steve Peers reminds us that at least some of those advocating the hardest of Brexits have the lowest amount of integrity. Tory Brexiters turn against the deal they helped secure.

Five Things #40

Once More Unto the Breach (But Don’t Worry, the Inflatable Swords Are Latex-Free) by Tina Connolly is a genuinely funny story about the endless challenge of parenting.

“Sometimes, when we all act on our preferences, we end up collectively worse off. Wearing masks is the flipside of this: by acting against our preference and wearing them, we might end up collectively better off by having fewer infections and escaping lockdowns.” Chris Dillow considers maskphobia.

“Some critics want you to think Ed Wood’s film is the worst ever made. But there are actually plenty of things to admire about the schlock classic.” Kieran Fisher considers the everlasting power of Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Alan Parker died last week. Tom Jolliffe celebrates the career of one of Britain’s greatest directors.

Dan Nosowitz asked leading entomologists: “What’s The Smartest Bug In The World?

Five Things #39

68:Hazard:Cold by Janelle C. Shane is a first encounter story, set on a cryogenic exoplanet and starring an escaped housekeeping robot. There’s also beeping.

“If a tie-in between an Anglo-Australian mining conglomerate with a history of scandals and a secretive Nestlé-owned coffee company doesn’t calm the doubters, what will?” Ed Cumming looks into how Nespresso’s coffee revolution got ground down.

Will Koehrsen has some lessons on How to Lie with Statistics and the importance of data (and statistical) literacy.

Scarfolk Council looks back at the infamous Class 3 school illustration.

Denzil visits the Erps-Kwerps Vijvers.

Five Things #38

Single Malt Spacecraft by Marie Vibbert is a superb tale of time dilation and the economic opportunities and social effects of near-light-speed travel. It even comes with a recommended whisky pairing. What more could you want?

It’s often been noted that it is pretty much impossible for a Hollywood blockbuster to make a loss. It’s also almost impossible for any of these films to make a profit. Karl Smallwood explores the dark art of how Hollywood studios manage to officially lose money on movies that make a billion dollars.

“Being able to speculate on possible future outcomes is part of what makes us human… While engagement with the present is integral, so too is our ability to imagine different futures—both the kind to strive toward, and cautionary tales we hope to avoid.” Lindsay Ellis on how science fiction makes sense of the present.

Kira Allmann visits the remote British village that built one of the fastest internet networks in the UK.

Itsabrewtifulworld explores Dionysian Aarschot.