Monday Music: Warren Zevon — Play it All Night Long

I got told by a friend as I described what I was having for lunch "enjoy your sandwich". With the way that my brain works, I instantly heard, insdie of my skull Bruce Springsteen singing Warren Zevon's My Ride's Here from the Enjoy Every Sandwich tribute album that popped after Zevon's death in 2003. This, in turn led me to a wicked heartache over the fact that there will never be another Warren Zevon tune brought into this world.

Listening to him play Play it All Night, acted as a bit of a balm against that pain. I'm pretty sure that this video would have been snagged by some lucky audience members attending the concert tour where Zevon's Learning to Flinch live album was recorded. His writing's pretty dark, but damned if it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

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My Unfinished Sound Project with David Berman (Hear: "Governors on Sominex", "The Moon", and "My Life at Home During Banking Hours")

Last month was a rough one. I began August grieving the death of a friend, Paul Krassner, which Mark remembered here on Boing Boing, following Paul's death on July 21. I also wrote a piece on PK, which ran on The Comics Journal.

I didn't share the Comics Journal item with many people, but one of those I emailed was the Silver Jews' David Berman. I figured he'd appreciate the politics, strength, and humor of Paul's life. I didn't hear back, which wasn't surprising, yet I'd regret it being the last message I'd send him. Two weeks later news everywhere would announce Berman's suicide.

For a brief moment I was horrified at my last message. I barely knew David, yet it's weird how grief can operate, overwhelming you with regret over help not offered. But what can anyone ever say.

Communicating with David had been a highlight of 2019. I'd spent years living with his music and art. I'd contacted David earlier this year to invite him to a project of mine, Spoken Word with Electronics. I'm now so thankful for the brief moment I felt a friendship developing, no matter how fleeting.

One wall of Harry's Loft, my recording space in Austin TX

I've been quietly working on this spoken word project for a few years. It's meant to be a modern take on Folkways Recordings. I either record a vocal performance from an author in the studio, do a live recording on the phone, or arrange for an emailed audio file. Read the rest

Errol Morris and Bob Odenkirk team up to "capture the absurdity and the desperation" of climate change

Director Errol Morris made a bunch of darkly funny 30-second spots about climate change starring Bob Odenkirk.

From his director's statement:

I have never had any trouble believing in climate change, global warming, or whatever you want to call it. The scientific evidence is overwhelming. Galileo famously replied to Archbishop Piccolomini (or some other Vatican prelate), “And yet it moves.” Today we could just as well say, “And yet it changes.” But what to do about it? Logic rarely convinces anybody of anything. Climate change has become yet another vehicle for political polarization. If Al Gore said the Earth was round there would be political opposition insisting that the Earth was flat. It’s all so preposterous, so contemptible.

I’ve created nineteen thirty-second spots that profile a character I created: Admiral Horatio Horntower. He’s an admiral of a fleet of one and perhaps the last man on Earth. Hopefully it captures the absurdity and the desperation of our current situation. No pie graphs, no PowerPoint—just a blithering idiot played by one of my favorite actors, Bob Odenkirk.

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Cyberpunk 2077 devs give us a peek at character builds and a bit of the old ultra-violence

I don't have a single piece of hardware that'll be able to play Cyberpunk 2077 when it's released. This fact didn't do a single damn thing to stop me from watching this 14-minute preview video, however.

Beyond getting a peek of the incredible environments that the game has to offer, the video, as its title suggests also gives a solid look at two play styles and massive number of character tweaks that will be available to players on launch day. Read the rest

What a guitar sounds like played through 319 pedals

Screenshot of Youtube video of Rob Scallon playing 319 guitar pedals at once

To break a world record, Rob Scallon linked together 319 pedals and played his guitar through them.

What does it sound like? A wall of whooshing, muttering, occasionally howling noise!

In the video, it's pretty interesting watching the guitar techs slowly assemble and debug the massive pedal chain. Once it's ready to go, Scallon plays a finger-tapping song using different combos of pedals, and then at the end engages them all simultaneously. The ensuing wash of sound is mostly just random noise, but coming at that point in the performance it's kind of aesthetically interesting. Read the rest

Bot authors a most-read article at The Next Web

Photo of a toy robot carrying a pencil, by Matthew Hurst

The journalists at The Next Web scripted a bot -- Satoshi Nakaboto -- that crawls around the aether looking for Bitcoin news and tweets, then assembles into a daily news story. There's no cutting-edge AI at hand here -- it's just good-old "rule-based phrases and terms we wrote beforehand," as The Next Web folks note. You can see an archive of the bot's daily stories here.

Nonetheless, it wasn't long before the bot published a story that was the #1 most-read for the site that day, as the editor noted:

Már Másson Maack, a writer for the site, wrote a good essay pondering his own psychological reactions to being outperformed at his job by a few lines of code. As he notes, there's an obvious discomfort at realizing a bot can author a top-viewed story, because of course in a publishing operation, money comes from reader clicks; if a deathless, tireless, un-unionizable bot can deliver those clicks, that's unsettling for all the meatbag authors.

As Másson Maack points out, the traditional response of AI optimists is to argue that this will all be fine. Sure, bots can outperform humans at routine drudge work. But this frees the humans up to do the complex, thoughtful, high-EQ stuff that humans are at the moment uniquely capable of, right?

Fair enough, in theory. Except Másson Maack identifies the bigger problem: Our economy mostly has no idea how to value those supposedly superior "human" skills.

No, today's firms are mostly obsessed with measuring output, which is where bots excel:

The phrase du jour of technologists, ‘tech-minded’ CEOs, and other self-proclaimed thinkfluencers is that AI will actually make ‘work more human.’ The argument being that with the rise of AI, ‘soft skills’ like communication, creativity, teamwork, and problem solving will become the most valuable talents in the future job market.

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After pressure, PayPal takes down Ku Klux Klan donation account

PayPal suspended an account used to raise funds for the Ku Klux Klan Monday. PayPal was criticised for allowing the white supremacist group to accept donations through its service, despite earlier committing to banish "Hate, Violence & Intolerance" in a post that explicitly named the KKK. [via]

"I have tonnes of concerns that PayPal is not able to act quickly and decisively on hate groups," Nandini Jammi, from the internet-based group Sleeping Giants, told BBC News.

"There are some examples of them acting in a fairly timely manner.

"But they're not applying [their anti-hate policy] in a consistent enough manner."

A spokesman for PayPal said: "Due to our legal and data protection obligations, we cannot comment on any specific PayPal customer's account.

PayPal was unresponsive to complaints about this account. The BBC reports that it took public pressure from several groups to get them to suspend it.

Something about this reminds me of YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki's recent declaration of support for "offensive" content followed by an ostentatious headline-grabbing ban on a single far right figure. The result is to revive far-right usage of the platform while appearing to clamp down on it.

There's really no engagement like you get being a far-right provocateur online. It's quick, life-changing money for anyone with a little wherewithal and a lack of shame. Which, ironically, signifies just how behind the times the Klan is with its shabby PayPal donation button. Read the rest

'Deepfake face swap' app ZAO is making people afraid of the future

The 'deepfake-style face swap app' ZAO has climbed to the top of Android and iPhone download charts in recent weeks. As its popularity grew, so have privacy concerns on Chinese social media, and now, beyond.

Here's how it works:

The sudden wide adoption of ZAO is an “intriguing development in a country where mass surveillance and facial recognition technology are prevalent,” writes Jake Newby at radiichina.com.

“Some social media platforms, including WeChat, have now started blocking ZAO videos,” Newby writes in an update to his story on Monday. “WeChat has done this before with popular rival short video apps.”

The app — developed by Momo, the same company behind popular Chinese dating app Tantan — became an overnight sensation after it began circulating on Friday evening. Hashtags related to the app quickly became some of the hottest on microblogging site Weibo, while the app rocketed up the iOS download charts. Chinese social media feeds quickly became filled with ZAO-produced videos from friends and contacts for many users.

The premise of the app is pretty simple: take a selfie and put yourself into your favorite movie or soap opera (chosen from a pre-selected list of clips). Cue users giving themselves starring roles in Leonardo DiCaprio’s filmography or uninvited guest appearances on Game of Thrones.

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Malicious websites that hacked into iPhones over 2-year period targeted Uyghur Muslims in China: Report

A number of malicious websites that were recently reported to have been secretly hacking into iPhones over a two-year period were in fact targeting Uyghur Muslims, Zack Whittaker of TechCrunch reports today. Read the rest

Puppies clean kitten

May your monday be as charming and as thoroughly moistening as this crew of puppies. Read the rest

Leon Sans, a font generated by code

Leon Sans is a generative typeface for the web, meaning that its weight and other characteristics can be animated, colorized, fine-tuned or otherwise messed with on-the-fly using javascript. Check out the demo page.

The Mask Tiling example is nice!

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Tiny gallium nitride laptop chargers are upon us

There's nothing I hate in my bag so much as my laptop charger, a heavy Lenovo-grade brick of black plastic with two thick cables sticking out of each end, invariably forming a coiled knot of nonsense three times larger still. So I ordered this alarmingly small universal charger from RAVpower as soon as I saw that Wirecutter didn't recommend it. It's smaller than an iPad charger, but charges a MacBook Pro or Thinkpad.

The RAVPower also charges the way it should. We ran the RP-PC112 through our standard testing procedures, which include running Total Phase’s USB Power Delivery Analyzer and its Data Center Software. This test tells us the power rates the chargers make available to connected devices, the actual power output observed when they’re connected, and whether any errors occur during charging. The RAVPower passed without issue.

The special sauce in these new power supplies is Gallium Nitride.

USB C Wall Charger, RAVPower 61W PD 3.0 [GaN Tech] Type C Fast Charging Power Delivery Foldable Adapter, Compatible with MacBook Pro/Air, Ipad Pro 2018, iPhone Xs Max/XR/X and More [Amazon] Read the rest

First responders are training to deal with the fallout of a nuclear incident

The Lima National Security Center was home to a bevy of nuclear weapon tests during the Cold War. Today, it’s still being used to fart around with radiation, but in a way that’s actually beneficial to folks like you and I. This five minute video shows how first responders are being trained to deal with nuclear materials being released, due to an accident, terrorist attack or—holy shit, please no—a tactical nuclear weapons strike on an urban population.

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