• Unreleased bodycam video reportedly shows cops lied about black man they killed in his car

    Bodycam video shows that Andrew Brown Jr. didn't drive into or toward deputies who shot him dead, according to a lawyer permitted to see some of the footage. Police and prosecutors had earlier claimed otherwise to justify the man's slaying. Authorities in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, backed by a court ruling, have still not released the footage.

    Chance Lynch, a lawyer who viewed the footage in private with Brown's family, said Brown was sitting in his stationary car with his hands on the wheel when the first of numerous shots was fired. Family members had previously seen about 20 seconds of the video but were shown approximately 18 minutes on Tuesday under a judge's order. The family's lawyers say the footage contradicts statements by the local district attorney, who said in court that deputies didn't start firing until after Brown's vehicle struck them twice. Lynch's description aligns with what another family attorney said after seeing the shorter clip.

    This would expain the usefulness of keeping the footage under wraps as long as possible: it's worse than even the victim's family imagined. We haven't seen it, obviously, but it sounds like officers reached out to touch the vehicle to justify what came next (compare the "stop resisting!" game).

  • What suit would George Washington wear if he were in office now?

    The New York Times reports on George Aquilla Hardy, who created a cannily convincing photo of Geroge Washington as a modern pol. His is not the first effort to go viral, but the first so good that it has people arguing about the appropriateness of sartorial choices instead of pixel-peeping his chops.

    It's unlikely that a man who took so much pride in what he wore would have deigned to be seen in such an unremarkable suit, said Alexis Coe, a political historian and author of "You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George of Washington."

    "He was quite fancy," she said. "I don't think he would look as slick as Mitt Romney, but you would be able to recognize that it was well tailored. If he couldn't wear Prada, he would probably have it custom made."

  • Vice obtained Larry Flynt's "absolutely wild" FBI file

    Irving Alpert, writing for Vice News, writes that they FOIAd the recently-deceased publisher's "absolutely wild" FBI file.

    To the FBI, he was a person of interest. His 322-page FBI file, obtained by VICE News through a Freedom of Information Act request, contains a wild litany of events involving the Hustler honcho—from John DeLorean's cocaine bust and an alleged plot to hire a mercenary to kill Hugh Hefner and Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, to an alleged effort by Flynt to blow himself up in the Supreme Court, as well as threats to Sandra Day O'Connor and President Ronald Reagan. His FBI file focuses mainly on his activities in the 1980s, when his behavior was at its most erratic, but also when many of his important First Amendment battles came to a head. 

    Flynt once described himself as a "smut peddler who cares," but he also said it was his goal to "offend every single person in this world at some point." Despite it all, he knew the law was on his side because, "If the First Amendment will protect a scumbag like me, then it will protect all of you, because I'm the worst." 

  • Review / Floor 13: Deep State

    I wrote long ago about Floor 13, the classic 1991 game of British crisis and cover-up, and was delighted to learn that it's recently received a contemporary re-release in the form of Floor 13: Deep State [Steam], with updated graphics, gameplay and storylines.

    The task at hand is to maintain the British status quo, countering interesting evils with a banal one: you, the director-general of a shady department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. A strategy game centered around information gathering and decision-making, "Floor 13 was considered a bit of a strange path," designer David Eastman writes of the unsettling 1991 original, which shares much narrative DNA with its remake. "Over the years it did develop a cult audience."

    Terror suspects and political troublemakers can be discreetly followed, abducted and interrogated, and their homes searched or ransacked. They can even be disappeared. Media can be fed disinformation about organizations and celebrities which pose a threat to the government or its popularity, and it is by public opinion polls that you are privately judged. What an image of the relationship between a democracy's vanities and vices!

    The game is "document driven", in that play consists of reading reports, considering the clues, and then issuing orders which lead to the generation of more reports.

    Despite the new subtitle, Floor 13: Deep State wisely sticks with the original's 80s'-ish UK setting, lightly updated with contemporary surveillance anachronisms, and it works well as an offkilter period piece, the cool realism of John Le Carre slowly giving way to the wild conspiracy of Dan Brown. Though driven by text, the visual context makes it feel like a drizzly nicotine-stained BBC drama, shot on video way back when. Knowledge of 1980s UK politics goes a long way, to better appreciate Floor 13's ironic scenarios and dark humor.

    After writing the original (and the 1990 hit Conflict: Middle East, a simple but subtly narrative-driven strategy game) Eastman moved into a conventional development career and the idea of a sequel only came about as the 2010s unfolded and political conspiracy and chaos roared back to the fore. Prompted by old friend Geoff Foley and co-developer Shahid Ahmad, he set to work building a team to revisit what Computer Gaming World once condemned as "the most unpleasant espionage game ever made" and which was, by then, a cult classic.

    "By the time the last plots came into the game in 2019 / 2020 the world had fallen off a cliff," Eastman wrote in an email. "I already had Trump in the game, before he became president. There were two virus plots. I introduced Brexit, of course. Obviously there had been some far more serious terrorism than anything in the 90s. I didn't really have to use any fantasy based plots—although I have borrowed from some fiction."

    Adds Eastman: "The plots in the game are usually from two sources, welded together via unlikely circumstances. But in these years fact has made fiction look quite timid."

    In the game, the cases are a clever mix of generative text and handmade detail. You're neither plowing through randomness nor seeing the same faces on every game. Over time, pressure builds to uncover and solve problems, but solving them too crudely or hastily can result in embarassment and exposure for the government—and for you, the ultimate embarassment of being exposed to defenestration.

    The unfolding universe of secrecy and political nastiness, all seen through the bureacratic filter of memos and manila folders, is intriguing. The hidden appeal of the political simulator is in blinding the player. Here is an epistemological thriller, then, focused by the lack of knowledge, the filters bureacracy creates, and its scope of action.

    I struggled to get far into the game, however, because Floor 13: Deep State is also slowed by the repeating animated transitions triggered by one's actions. Reading a file means watching as it is riffled to, opened and lifted into view. Starting a new turn means watching as one arrives at work each morning, gliding past subway posters, ascending to the street and peering up at the inconspicuous yet menacing ministry building. It seems that the same procedure works best for each case, too—systematically apply every safe option, and only then pick from the risky ones—at least until things gets weird.

    It is, to be fair, part of the game's coal-dark humor.

    "This is my attempt at Every Day the Same Dream repetition, to slow people's thinking down. And, it is not popular," Eastman wrote. "However in the recent update, it speeds up immediately after one normal-speed run through."

    Welcome to the imagined reality of isolation and misery at statecraft's darkest inflection point. All aboard!

    Floor 13: Deep State [Steam]

    (more…)
  • Netflix He-Man reboot hews close to original formula

    Given the wild success of its She-Ra reboot, I'm surprised its revival of He-Man sticks so close to the early-80s original (and the brief turn-of-the-century revival). Variety, with the exclusive, makes clear the promise that not much has changed beyond our hero being "a bit glowed up."

    Since the series was announced in 2019, fans have been speculating just what executive producer and showrunner Kevin Smith — writer-director of "Clerks," "Chasing Amy" and "Dogma" — would be doing with the property. As the images make clear, Smith and the team at Powerhouse Animation (also the animation studio behind Netflix's "Castlevania" series) are paying homage not just to the look of the original series, but its storylines as well.

    Hall is right, but on reflection I think he perhaps underestimates the commercial value of that audience and its ability to knock this show. By the time Noelle Stevenson made something new and wonderful from it, She-Ra was but a warm memory for its audience. But He Man, like all the other 80s boy-marketed stuff, is forever alive with its audience's cold grip on everything from their childhoods.

    Another way of putting it: the backlash against the new She-Ra came from old men who never watched it then and would never watch it now. But the backlash against a significantly rebooted He-man would come from old men who never stopped watching it and are the only people who would ever watch it now.

    On which note I realize it has been four years since I last posted CKY ft. Gnarkill's Skeletor vs Beastman.

  • Jeb son George P. Bush tries and fails twice to post the phrase "raining fire"

    George P. Bush, a Texas politician and son of former Florida governor and GOP presidential candidate Jebbity "Jeb" Bush, wanted to get a Twitter dig in on Liz Cheney. His first attempt was a photo of himself in which he was also quoted saying "instead of reigning fire on the President, she should have been reigning fire on Biden…", misspelling the homonymic "raining fire".

    While one may rain fire upon something, one cannot reign fire. The tweet soon disappeared.

    When it reappeared, however, the phrase was corrected not to "raining fire" but changed entirely, to "training fire."

    Though grammatically adequate, it's an entirely different phrase: in the context of a supposed quote, apt work for a party interested in adjusting perceptions of the recent past.

    Texas could do with more trains, that's for sure.

  • Cyberfrunk 2077: what if Frasier was cyberpunk?

    Major Frasier created this powerful tribute to Frasier and Cyberpunk 2077. I hestitate to even attempt a description beyond that, but I did ask what was up with them. The reply follows:

    I make a lot of Frasier-inspired art over on my Instagram @major.frasier — a "leaked" Frasier episode featuring a deepfaked Kelsey Grammer and a talking brain in a jar, a fake ad for a Frasier-themed guided meditation app called "Fralm," etc. — but this was by far my most ambitious effort to date.

    I had been wanting to play around with the Unity game engine for a while. When the Cyberpunk 2077 release fiasco the idea just sort of clicked. 

    Unfortunately I have basically zero experience working with 3D modeling, game development, or any of the requisite skills, so it took a lot of tutorial watching, trial-and-error, and help along the way. I had to bring in a character designer to make the Frasier model, for example, and I got a ton of help with the Frasier apartment set from a great 3d modeler on Fiverr. 

    There was also the great singer I found on Fiverr who I hired to sing the Frasier theme over the instrumental version of the song "Never Fade Away" that was featured in the actual Cyberpunk theatrical trailer. (A lot of people don't even notice it, naturally.) And of course the amazing VO performance by a guy I found on Backstage, which is a sort of Craigslist for actors. So I got a lot of help along the way.

    Some good tips there on how to execute a project beyond one's own skills.

    Major Frasier further admitted to having not played Cyberpunk 2077 and to have only watched "like a season and a half of Frasier, tops." They offered the following parting aphorism:

    A stupid idea gets exponentially funnier the more seriously you take it.

    major.frasier [Instagram]

  • Rough day for Crypto prices

    After Elon Musk turned on Bitcoin, so goes the market. Bitcoin lost about 20% of its value in a few hours before recovering to rest about 12% down, reports CNN Business. Julia Horowitz writes that it's bad news for Crypto in general, with similar falls for Ethereum, Dogecoin and the rest of thm.

    if bitcoin prices have peaked for now, it could spark an exodus of speculators who were trying to make money off the frenzy. "When bitcoin tops out and the bubble bursts, all those glory hunters will move away to another market," Michaël van de Poppe, a crypto analyst and trader based in Amsterdam, told me.While it's hard to time such events, the big unwind could be underway.Ethereum, which has gained popularity alongside the rise of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, is off 14% in the past 24 hours, according to CoinMarketCap. After hitting a record of $4,385 earlier this week, it's now trading around $3,700.

  • Tesla stops accepting bitcoin, citing environmental impact of crypto

    Tesla CEO Elon Musk yesterday announced that the carmaker would no longer accept or trade bitcoin, citing its environmental impact. Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are generated by computers performing mathematical busywork referred to as "mining" and the energy used by this now exceeds that of most countries.

    Tesla began accepting and speculating in bitcoin in February. The u-turn seems to have angered a lot of crypto bros, but I'm sure they'll smooth their meat quickly for Elon!

  • Bodycam footage from cop beaten up by Trump supporters during Capitol riot

    DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone was attacked by Trump supporters during Jan 6's capitol riot. They stripped him of his gear and began tasering him repeatedly, and he suffered a heart attack. CNN obtained the footage from his bodycam. Though indistinct, Fanone's writhing and screaming shows that he is in deep trouble: "We got one!" someone shouts as he goes down.

  • Fantastic trailer for The Green Knight

    Last year's unsettling but understated teaser for the forthcoming movie The Green Knight, starring Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, came and went without much comment as Covid spread and theaters shut. But the new trailer released this week is more "epic fantasy" than "whispering horror" and everyone's excited now. It's got a perfectly Arthurian mix of misty pagan locales, gloomy cinematography and weird camp. Also: a talking fox.

  • University president resigns after plagiarizing speech

    The president of the University of South Carolina resigned Wednesday after it was reported that passages from a weekend commencement speech were plagiarized from another speech by the former head of US Special Operations Command. Bob Caslen admitted lifting lines from Admiral William McRaven and said he was "truly sorry", reports CNN.

    "Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often," McCraven said. "But if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today. And what started here will indeed have changed the world — for the better." Caslen's speech was nearly identical to McCraven's, yet he was not given credit. That wasn't the only blunder made during the ceremony. At one point Caslen congratulated the graduates of the University of California, instead of South Carolina. He tried to recover over the audible gasps from the crowd and said, "Sorry about that, I owe you push ups."

    Get down and give me sixty, Caslen!

  • Wormhole is a file sending site with end-to-end encryption

    Wormhole is a file-sending site with end-to-end encryption: drop the file and off it goes, with a link you can share. It's the work of Stanford lecturer Feross Aboukhadijeh, who wanted to replace Firefox Send (previously at BB), which was shuttered late last year.

     I got tired of Dropbox and Google having all my files in plaintext (to give to the government or for rogue employees to poke through), so I built a simple solution to the problem. … you can keep what you share private and make sure your stuff doesn't stay online forever.

  • Reviled Bush associate to step down after 20-year reign of terror

    Ellen DeGeneres is ending her talk show, reports Variety, after its current contract ends. Ellen's show has been in production since 2003, but in recent years it acquired a reputation for its foul treatment of staff and she for her fawning treatment of George W. Bush.

    DeGeneres' successful run in daytime has been significant sign of the mainstream America's changing attitudes toward LGBT communities. … Recently, however, DeGeneres and the show have come under fire due to allegations of racist behavior and intimidation on the show. In April 2020, Variety reported on the outrage among the show's crew members over pay reduction, a lack of communication and poor treatment by producers after the pandemic shut down production and a non-union tech company was hired to tape the show remotely from DeGeneres' California home.

    Previously: Devastating remix of Ellen's lecture on befriending George W. Bush disappears after copyright takedown

  • Royal Mail testing drone delivery to Britain's outlying islands

    If you live in the Isles of Scilly off Cornwall, drone deliveries are incoming—a test conducted by the Royal Mail into improving the speed of mail service that currently depends on ferries. There's a big drone that uses airstrips, and a smaller one to distribute individual packages around the islands, reports the BBC.

    The UAV was designed to deliver supplies to people in remote locations and is able to fly in poor weather conditions, including fog. It can carry 100kg of mail of all shapes and sizes, which is equivalent to a typical delivery round. The trial will focus on sending PPE and Covid test kits from the mainland, but the drones will also carry other parcels, including online orders from retailers.

    CORRECTION: Isles of Scilly, not Scilly Isles.

  • Republican ousts Liz Cheney, last party leader to resist Trump

    Led by Kevin McCarthy, the GOP today removed Liz Cheney from her position as party conference chair over her criticism of former president Donald Trump. Her ousting confirms Trump's continued domination of the Republican party and the fealty of its remaining leaders.

    "I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law," Representative Liz Cheney said on the eve of a vote to remove her from House Republican leadership.

    The situation has made something of a hero out of Cheney for some outside the party, but even a cursory look at her politics and beliefs offers a quick disabusal of her potential. If this is what leads resistance on the right to Trump, Trump is their king for good.