What are you doing, Lenny?

(Original tweet here)

Earlier today, I noticed a Lenny Henry tweet on my timeline. I went onto his profile just to see what he was up to and came across the above tweet.

On the surface, it looks like a comedian/writer/actor retweeting another comedian/writer referencing another writer. But you’d have to know little about David Baddiel or Caitlin Moran to take this on face value and not see what’s wrong with it.

Caitlin Moran, when once asked if she addressed the “complete and utter lack of people of colour in girls” in her interview with Girls creator Lena Dunham on Twitter, she replied “Nope. I literally couldn’t give a shit about it.” There’s a more measured critique of the situation by Bim Adewunmi but it caused a shitstorm and many of Moran’s colleagues came out to defend her in the name of white feminism.

In the 90s, David Baddiel did Blackface to portray Jason Lee, a footballer who played for Nottingham Forest at the time. Lee discussed the incident in 2018:

“If I did there’d be no animosity, but I’d ask them if they realised the significance of what they were doing.

“It was, looking back, a form of bullying. I work in equalities now, and it can affect different people in different ways.

“I don’t think people appreciate the possible harm it can cause. Not everyone has the make-up to deal with that, and they shouldn’t have to.

“With me, there was always something – if it wasn’t my hair, it was the colour of my skin or my height, and it made me resilient.

“What did they expect me to do? Give up my career? I was always going to continue and I played until I was 40 – I have to remind people of that.”

To then see the pair in agreement that people cherrypick the historical inaccuracies in period dramas—particularly the Black people in Bridgerton—is peak hypocrisy. Now Moran “gives a shit”!

It’d be nice if they’d become better people after their behaviour but I don’t think they have. And then to see Lenny Henry retweet it just rubbed me up the wrong way.

See also: The gentrification of BLM and the semiotics and myths around All Lives Matter and BLM.

A word on Cultrface in 2021 and beyond

cultrface logo

I started the site in 2015 as an outlet during a time when I was going through some personal issues. I also made a joke to a friend about setting up the site as a showcase for his photography (which I eventually did 5 years later). Now Cultrface is 6 years old this year and over the last 12 months, I’ve been thinking about what I want this place to be and what I want it to represent.

Black Lives Matter and the COVID-19 pandemic have shaped my output both in quality and quantity. I said I wanted to showcase more Black-focused content which I’m achieving slowly but surely. I’ve also ramped up the frequency of posts.

As an SEO, I’m used to writing and working with structured longform content for the purpose of ranking better on Google (there’s more to that but this isn’t the place to discuss it. I’m adding this caveat to appease any colleagues reading). But I didn’t want Cultrface to feel like work; I do this in my spare time and I want to enjoy it. So I write shortform pieces, add quotes where necessary, and leave it at that. I write about things that interest me that you might not find anywhere else or some things you do. I don’t “both sides” anything because that’s not who I am and there are plenty of other outlets that do that kind of thing. I’m mostly a one-person band.

But ultimately, I want Cultrface to be a calm space away from the storm; an escape from doomscrolling. These are my personal takes on the culture around us and while I still try to figure out precisely what *this* is, I’ll keep writing about cool stuff and more Black stuff. For the cultrs.

Steven Richter made Luke's lightsaber in a day

Steven Richter made Luke's lightsaber in a day

I featured Steven Richter’s replica Jumanji board game and his Venom/Eddie Brock sculpture and now we have Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber.

The lightsaber actually took 14 hours to make (according to Steven’s comment on the video) which makes his feat even more remarkable. His materials included a block of wood, tools to shape it, spray paint, and masking tape (light beam not included).

Stream the abridged “making of” video below.

One Day Build - Luke's Lightsaber

Star Wars related: a Star Wars stormtrooper decanter, Cleganebowl with lightsabers, and “KENOBI”, a Star Wars fan film.

The cool doodles of Lei Melendres

Lei Melendres is a freelance illustrator and professional doodle artist from Manila, Philippines. I’ve been a huge fan of his work for a while and I own a silicon ring with one of his designs on it.

I love doodles and Melendres’ work is so imaginative and expansive, with or without colour. He gets a lot of out the space he’s given on his canvasses and I love that too.

Follow him on Instagram and grab one of his colouring books on Amazon.

Related: The Posca pen wizardry of Oskunk, the wonderful art of Upendo, and the plantlife illustrations of Jim Spendlove.

How many countries can you name in 15 minutes?

A part of a globe showing Europe

There are 197 countries in this Sporcle quiz as of 2nd January 2021. How many can you name in 15 minutes?

I could only manage 121 as my mind went blank for a lot of them. I got all but 20 African countries which could have been better but could have been a lot worse. I struggled with Central America/the Caribbean.

It’s strange because you’ll have heard of most of the countries in the list but when you’re asked to recall them all, it’s impossible.

Related: Places I want to visit when it’s safe to do so and, if I do, I might want to read Tom Comitta’s airport novella at the airport.

The 'vantafish' that absorbs nearly all light that hits it

Last year, a Smithsonian marine biologist called Karen Osborn and her colleagues found a unique specimen while hauling deep-sea fish. But when she tried to use strobe lights to take a photo for cataloguing, she could only make out its outline. It was as if the fish was absorbing the light. Except it was.

But wait a second, Osborn figured. “I had tried to take pictures of deep-sea fish before and got nothing but these really horrible pictures, where you can’t see any detail,” she says. “How is it that I can shine two strobe lights at them and all that light just disappears?”

It disappears because the fangtooth, along with 15 other species that Osborn and her colleagues have found so far, camouflage themselves with “ultra-black” skin, the deep-sea version of Vantablack, the famous human-made material that absorbs almost all the light you shine at it. These fish have evolved a different and devilishly clever way of going ultra-black with incredible efficiency: One species the researchers found absorbs 99.956 percent of the light that hits it, making it nearly as black as Vantablack.

99.956% is as good as 100% to the naked eye so “Vantafish” seems like the perfect name.

Colour and fish related: Anish Kapoor banned from colour-changing paint, fish leather, and gefilte fish!

(via Wired; photograph: Karen Osborn/Smithsonian)

The 10 worst movies of 2020 according to Dom Griffin

I like to think January is the last month you can mention any kind of “best/worst of” lists for the preceding year and it’s arguably the best time to do them. You get a few days or weeks to digest everything you’ve consumed and you can give a more level-headed response to it.

Dom Griffin aka The Armchair Auteur is that kind of person and that’s why he uploaded his choice of the 10 worst movies of 2020 to his YouTube channel. In his signature style, Dom gives brief lip service to half the list and tears apart the remaining 5 with a mix of acerbic wit and relatable critique that makes you enjoy the review more than you could ever enjoy the films (which is the point as they all suck).

Here’s the list so you can avoid these movies like the plague. Or COVID-19.

  1. Capone
  2. Antebellum
  3. Songbird
  4. Irresistible
  5. Hillbilly Elegy
  6. Doolittle
  7. Last Days of American Crime
  8. John Henry
  9. Coastal Elites
  10. Lazy Susan

Stream the review below.

The Top Ten WORST Movies of 2020

Film list/critique related: 10 classic German expressionist films and the evolution of Pinhead

Places I want to go when it's safe

A plane wing above clouds in the sky

COVID-19 has ruined a lot of things and while people are still travelling for their own reasons, holidays shouldn’t be one of them. And so I’m staying home until it’s safe to travel for that reason.

But when I can, I hope to visit these 5 cities at some point.

Lisbon, Portugal

I visited Lisbon for the first time in 2017 for my birthday and it was a revelation. I’ve never felt so comfortable in a new city in my life. The food was awesome, the architecture was breathtaking, and it cleansed my soul. I returned in 2018 but I’ve not been back since (I went to Nice to spend time with my parents for my 30th birthday).

It’s my mission to go back as soon as it’s safe and legal to fly.

Nice, France

It helps that my parents live there now but before that, I’d visited with my parents on holiday a few times, and my then-partner in 2015. Another Mediterranean city, it’s gorgeous in the summer, lovely food again, and more great architecture as well as a cool modern art museum featuring works by the likes of Yves Klein.

Leeds, UK

I was born in Bradford but never really spent time in Leeds besides the carnival as a kid. In my adult years, I’ve been a few times and it’s a really nice city. My last visit was last year for a solo Valentine’s vacay and my hotel was kind enough to do this:

Shout out Clayton Hotel. I will be back soon!

Chicago, USA

Last visit: July 2012. I went to see friends and, prior to Lisbon, it was my favourite city in the world. It still holds a place in my heart and I hope once it’s safe in all aspects of the word, I would like to go back and see my friends.

Tokyo, Japan

This is the only city on the list I’ve never visited but it’s on the proverbial bucket list. Besides experiencing the culture, trying the food, and taking lots of photos, I want all the Pokémon things and all the Game Boy things. And some vinyl. I’ll probably need £1000–£2000 spending money and an extra suitcase and I’m not joking.

Related: Photography by Liam Wong in Tokyo and Japan travel tips for first timers

VHS Poster Collection by Xavier Esclusa Trias

Xavier Esclusa Trias is the founder and creative director of Twopots and one of their latest projects is this VHS-inspired poster collection.

I grew up in the 90s and used VHS tapes predominately until the late 00s (although I still have a VCR which I watch tapes on when I can be bothered to plug it in). As a fan of Swiss Style posters as well, this is a combined nostalgic delight. Look at the vibrant colours!

VHS related: The Toronto bar turning itself into a VHS rental store, 5 retro videos from The VHS Vault, and the history of Walt Disney home video.

(via abdz.)

James Baldwin on the American Negro image

james baldwin

I saw this on Instagram (sidenote: follow @retrosoul__ on Instagram for more of the same) and thought it was poignant, given the last 4 years of American politics and what the future holds now President Biden is in office.

“One of these facts is that the American Negro can no longer, nor will he ever again be controlled by white America‘s image of him. This fact has everything to do with the rise of Africa in world affairs. At the time that I was growing up, Negroes in this country were taught to be ashamed of Africa. They were taught it bluntly, as I was for example, by being told that Africa had never contributed ‘anything’ to civilization. Or one was taught the same lesson more obliquely, and even more effectively, by watching nearly naked, dancing, comic-opera, cannibalistic savages in the movies. They were nearly always all bad, sometimes funny, sometimes both. If one of them was good, his goodness was proved by his loyalty to the white man.”

James Baldwin—”A Negro Assays the Negro Mood”, New York Times Magazine (12th March, 1961)

What does the future hold for Black America? Only time, hope, vulnerability, and strength will tell. But it will always be on Black people’s terms.

Related: The world according to James Baldwin, James Baldwin on the meaning of liberty, and love from a Black perspective.

(via Daana Townsend on Instagram)

Souvenir d'un Futur and the forgotten brutalist estates of Paris

Katy Cowan interviewed Laurent Kronental for Creative Boom and discussed his latest photo series, entitled Souvenir d’un Futur.

Tinted with melancholy, his resulting photographic series, Souvenir d’un Futur, exposes these unsung suburban areas but reveals a beauty behind the modernist utopia that had so much promise and wonder. A project that was four years in the making, Laurent combines a mixture of sensitive portraits of older residents along with beautiful architectural photographs that offer pleasing geometric compositions of what feels like a crumbling, ghostly world.

Kronental said he was inspired by his time living in China and that’s where he discovered photography.

“The big cities of this territory stunned me by their gigantic size, their tentacular immoderation, their paradoxes, their metamorphosises, their contrasts and the way the human being lives in this abundant and overpopulated town planning.”

There’s a lot of brutalism in Kronental’s shots interspersed with the people who live in and around the buildings. Old, pale, and grey seems to be the running theme, intentional or otherwise.

French/concrete/photography related: If you like brutalism, check out the Concrete Montreal Map by Blue Crow Media. And what about Arnaud Montagard’s photo series, “The road not taken”?

(Featured image: all rights reserved © Laurent Kronental)

This Is Your Life with Buster Keaton

buster keaton

While looking through YouTube today, the algorithm suggested a video about Buster Keaton. He was an actor I never looked into much but knew him by name and the reverence held by so many.

Further digging led me to this episode of This Is Your Life from 1957 featuring special guests Louise and Harry Keaton (his brother and sister), fellow colleagues Eddie Cline, Donald Crisp, Donald O’Connor, and Red Skelton and his wife Eleanor.

Buster remained straight-faced throughout (not a contractual obligation as once rumoured) and relatively quiet.

Comedy actor related: My obsession with Michael Keaton’s Easter Candy-SNL skit (Michael’s choice of stage name but has no connection to Buster) and was Jim Carrey a douche on the set of Man on The Moon?

This is Your Life: Buster Keaton

The best Marvel gaming experiences online

The universes of DC and Marvel have become a cultural phenomenon’s in recent years, permeating cinema, gaming, pop culture and television.

Avengers: Endgame was one of the biggest movies of 2019, making $2.8bn (£2.1bn) at the box office. Unlike the title suggested, it was far from the actual end, with TV shows featuring the characters of the universe becoming popular and further films planned.

The DC Universe also boasts some blockbuster films, and with characters such as Batman and Superman, it has sustained mainstream popularity for many years. Whichever superhero universe you turn to for your enjoyment, you will find plenty of material to feed your hobby.

Films draw in the big money, TV shows deliver a longer, more involved experience, whilst gaming puts you in control of your favourite superheroes, living their lives through their powers. Gaming is big business – the world’s gamers will spend around $159.3bn (£119.6bn) in 2020, on new releases and digital-only games too, which makes it an obvious industry for Marvel and DC to explore.

Not all games that use the imagery and themes put you in control of the powers, but they do all give a fan some sort of experience they find enjoyable and, in many cases, social.

Marvel fans are certainly well catered for, with a wide range of online experiences available to fans of Iron Man, Hulk and the rest of the roster. We have selected three genres of online Marvel games which you can enjoy online right now and the best titles for each genre.

Mobile simulations

"Marvel Contest of Champions" - NYCC Trailer

Mobile gaming is on the rise, with technology allowing increasingly complex games to be played on the go. One of the best gamers have enjoyed in recent years is Marvel: Contest of Champions, a fighting game in the Street Fighter 2 mould. It boasts a huge array of playable characters, almost 200 across the different tiers and challenges. It is free to play and whilst it is the front-runner in Marvel mobile games, it is by no means alone in putting you in control of your favourite characters.

Slots & alternative genres

⭐️ NEW - Iron Man slot machine, feature

Some mobile experiences do not draw directly from the abilities and experiences of a superhero, rather they use their images to merge with another genre to gives fans an alternative option when gaming.

For instance, Marvel Puzzle Quest uses the characters in the context of a neat puzzle game, whilst Marvel Strike Force is a turn-based role-playing game. Deviating further from the core mechanics of a superhero game, online providers have also used the characters in online slots to open another avenue for Marvel fans.

Leading European gaming platform Tuxslots has several titles that are linked to the Marvel Universe, including Iron Man 3 and Incredible Hulk, which use popular characters in a completely different game genre. With variety for the customer often at the core of a successful provider, having a range of Marvel games is attractive to both parties.

Online console experiences

MARVEL AVENGERS - ONLINE MULTIPLAYER GAMEPLAY (2020)

The last quarter of 2020 saw the next generation of consoles released, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox S Series.

Both take gaming to the next level and it is only fitting that the ultimate Marvel experience is available through the powerful new technology. In the past, the likes of Spider-Man and Hulk had tested consoles capabilities, but the September release Marvel’s Avengers pushes the boundaries with four-play online cooperative play.

Online gaming can mean several things – gaming on the move, gaming for physical rewards and, of course, gaming with friends. Boasting a roster that includes Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow and Captain America, it is perhaps the ultimate online Marvel experience you can enjoy right now.

Marvel related: A Marvel Comics character database on Tableau and Tom Comitta’s parody essay about Marvel and Martin Scorsese.

This is some kind of Star Trek: The Next Generation supercut

some kind of Star Trek: The Next Generation supercut

Gotta love a supercut and this one involves Star Trek: The Next Generation characters saying “some kind of…”, created by YouTuber Ryan’s Edits.

It quickly turns into a nonsensical ramble but it’s oddly endearing, not least because the alternative would be worse, like some kind of technological shower of lexical discharge.

Barely related: A Pizza Hut advert involving Klingons and KENOBI, the Star Wars fan film.

Star Trek: Some Kind of Next Generation Supercut

Aditya Singh lived inside O'Hare Airport for 3 months unnoticed

Aditya Singh

I’ve always wondered how long you could stay in an airport before someone noticed. For Aditya Singh, that was 3 months.

The 36-year-old man from California told officials after landing at O’Hare Airport in Chicago on 19th October, he was so afraid of COVID-19, he didn’t fly back home and stayed in the airport until 16th January. That means he spent Christmas and New Year’s alone at the airport.

And no one noticed.

Mr Singh was later charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport and misdemeanour theft. The judge presiding over the case was surprised he’d gone undetected for so long.

“So if I understand you correctly, you’re telling me that an unauthorized, nonemployee individual was allegedly living within a secure part of the O’Hare airport terminal from Oct. 19, 2020, to Jan. 16, 2021, and was not detected? I want to understand you correctly.”

As of now, he’s still in police custody with a bail set at $1,000.

Related to airports: Tom Comitta’s airport novella could have kept him company

Officials: Man lived inside O’Hare Airport for 3 months before detection

(via Oddity Central)