This service makes a digital voice that sounds like you from a small audio sample

Descript's Lyrebird is a premium service that "allows you to replace recorded words and phrases with synthesized speech that's tonally blended with the surrounding audio." The interactive samples on the website are amazing -- I can't tell the difference between the original voices and the synthetic voices. This could be useful for podcast editing, but also for deepfakes (or maybe not -- see update below).

Update 10/16/19 3:21pm PT: A spokesperson for Descript emailed me with some clarifications:

- Lyrebird AI is now a part of Descript -- and their voice double product is available in private beta as part of Descript's podcast editing software.

- The feature is called Overdub -- and a voice double to be used in overdub can only be made of your own voice, which is important for us to emphasize, as we take potential misuse seriously.

German bank robber staged a 5-day fillibuster with his legally guaranteed right to a post-sentencing "final word"

German law allows convicted criminals to deliver a "final word" ("Schlusswort") in court after their sentencing; this right is typically waived or used to deliver a few words of apology and remorse, but when a Hamburg court sentenced 71-year-old bank robber Michael Jauernik to 12 years in jail, he used his "final word" to speak for five solid days. (more…)

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg threatens to run for Democratic nomination if Biden drops

Elizabeth Warren overtook Joe Biden in one nationwide poll and the billionaires are already taking his pulse. Michael Bloomberg (~$50bn net worth) today makes clear his intentions if Biden slips away and the left-leaning Warren seems likely to prevail: Bloomberg keeps talking to allies about running for president.

Mike Bloomberg has indicated to associates in recent weeks that Joe Biden’s recent struggles are making him rethink his decision to stay out of the 2020 Democratic primary, according to people familiar with the discussions

“Bloomberg is in if Biden is out,” says one source. Biden has not indicated any desire to drop out any time soon.

Bloomberg could be in for a showdown with Elizabeth Warren, whether he runs or not, as he has been one of her biggest critics on the Democratic side.

Pete Buttigieg has done better than expected in recent polls and is, if anything, even more Billionaire-friendly than Biden. And there's that old sawhorse about liberals favoring the farthest-right over even the nearest-left. But Bloomberg doesn't have political affiliations, only vehicles. He served three terms as New York's mayor as a Republican and finally as an Independent. His interest in the Democratic primary is simple: he thinks it'd be a cheap ticket to the White House if Biden were gone.

Here are five scams visitors to Prague should know about

Honest Guide is a YouTube channel for people interested in visiting Prague. It's got tips and cautions that are great to know about in advance of going there. I wish there were similar YouTube channels for other places.

In its latest episode, Honest Guide describes five common scams that tourists should watch out for. The most interesting one is not so much a scam, but a sucker bet. Some guy has built a structure with a horizontal bar, sort of like a pull-up bar. He sets it up in the middle of Wenceslas Square and has a sign that tells people that if they can hang from it for two minutes, they make 5 times the money they paid for. But no one can do it because the bar spins, making it impossible to hang from.

The host also recorded a recent encounter with a scammer who drove up to him in a Mercerdes while he was sitting on a sidewalk bench. The scammer explained that he had lost his wallet and needed to buy gas. He gave the host his "valuable" ring as collateral, but the host started recording the scammer. The scammer threatened to call the cops, and when the host encouraged him to do so, the scammer quickly drove away.

(One of the many reasons I like Japan is that in the 8 times I've been there, no one has ever tried to cheat me.)

Politico: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg held secret meetings with conservative pundits and politicians

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted "secretive talks" and off-the-record dinners with conservative figures in recent months, reports Politico's Daniel Lippman. Among the delights were discussions of "free speech and partnerships" with nationalist Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key Trump ally.

As part of the series, Zuckerberg met earlier this year with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who insinuated that Facebook had become a monopoly during a congressional hearing last year; Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has fingered Zuckerberg as contributing to “the death of free speech in America”; and conservative radio talk host Hugh Hewitt, who has cautioned against a DOJ enforcement action but has called for a “new regulatory regime” to minimize “big tech bias” against conservatives.

It puts into context his (and now Facebook's) recent attacks on Democratic presidential front-runner Elizabeth Warren. Conservative threats to Facebook are part of an effort to co-opt its influence over users and other media. But progressives will follow through on regulation or breaking up its monopoly. Zuckerberg's supplication to conservative politicians and media will, therefore, evolve into urgent support as the next election approaches.

How to tell the difference between accents

If you don't live in England, it might be hard to tell the difference between a northern and southern English accent. If you don't live in the United States you might not know how to distinguish between a northern and southern English accent?  In this Wired video, language coach Erik Singer explains how to recognize accents that sound similar to untrained ears.

<em>Image: YouTube</em>

Orban humiliated: Hungary's crypto-fascist Fidesz party suffers string of municipal election defeats

Viktor Orban and his far-right, xenophobic, conspiratorial Fidesz party have led Hungary through a string of catastrophes, from its handling of Middle Eastern migrants to its ouster of the internationally famous Central European University to the passage of a slave labor bill that allowed employers to require hundreds of hours of mandatory overtime that needn't be paid for for years to the creation of a parallel system of partisan "administrative courts" to investigate government corruption and electoral fraud. (more…)

Man pranks his friends and family at his own funeral

Shay Bradley from Ireland died October 8, but at his funeral he came back to life. "Hello? Hello?" he said as his coffin was being lowered. "Let me out, it's fucking dark in here!" He goes on, knocking from within the coffin, and then serenading his friends and family. Apparently, Bradley had always loved pranks, and pulled this last one on the day of his funeral.

According to Mashable:

Bradley's daughter, Andrea Bradley, posted the video to Facebook...Kiernan said that Bradley was concerned about scaring the younger ones, so his grandchildren and his wife were in on the joke. "Everyone else was shocked when [they] first heard it," said Kiernan.

"Everyone else thought it was real and you could hear 'is that Shay is that Shay' but gradually as things went on people [realized] he had prerecorded and everyone (apart from the priest and woman beside him) were in hysterics," Kiernan told Mashable. "It was beautiful to hear his voice and it just made me happy as that was him, so funny and always making others laugh, he’s such a bright character, he would be loving this right now"

How Bradley died and the details in planning the prank weren't disclosed.

A highly scientific fictional approach to ranking musical artists using math

The Internet is always finding arbitrary new ways to compile ranked lists of musicians and their songs. Sure, the content mill demands it, as seen on Pitchfork, AV Club, Ranker, and so many other sites that have built their reputations on such systems. But it's our fault, too— we, the music-loving audience that we are, so eager to compare our preferences to others. No list is ever quite right; even our own personal Definitive Musical Rankings may change over time. Perhaps that's why we consuming new music lists every year, in hopes of finding that one true objective arbiter of our sonic truth.

That search ends today. Because David Steffen has finally found the answer, in his delightful new piece of epistemological fiction about the Horowitz Method, a metrics-based approach to ranking musical groups:

But what mathematical measure? If we were talking about comparing one song with another, it might be easier, for the music itself is inherently mathematical–meter, tempo, time, number of notes, pitches. But a single musical group could have any number of songs, and the number could grow every day—what particular songs would one use to judge a group? Their newest? The whole body of their work? And some bands release songs so regularly that any conclusion drawn would have to be re-examined very frequently. And that’s not even to speak about what particular measure to use which, we know from personal experience, becomes a dispute of its own.

No, if we are going to compare musical groups and expect a somewhat stable outcome, we must not compare their songs, we must compare traits of the group themselves. The genre? The style? Again, too subjective, one could argue that a group is one or another or maybe both or something entirely new. We need to focus in on something entirely indisputable.

The band name.

Of course, not every musical group or artist has a number in their name, and that's where things start to get tricky. If only the fictional scientist behind the Horowitz Method had assistance from his dear beloved Angela, then perhaps he could have found a way to quantify all those non-numeric band names, too. But alas.

Even then, Third Eye Blind would still be objectively better than One Direction.

Arcade Game Typography: beautiful book of pixel fonts

Arcade Game Typography [Amazon] is a forthcoming book by Toshi Omagari that "definitively surveys" the pixelated fonts of arcade games from the 1970s to the 1990s. It's full of gorgeous-looking full-color spreads, with grids, offering both a beautiful item and a formal tour of a distinctive artform.

Arcade Game Typography presents readers with a fascinating new world of typography: the pixel typeface. Video game designers of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s faced color and resolution limitations that stimulated incredible creativity. With each letter having to exist in a small pixel grid, artists began to use clever techniques to create elegant character sets within a tiny canvas. This book presents typefaces on a dynamic and decorative grid, taking reference from high-end type specimens while adding a suitably playful twist. Arcade Game Typography recreates that visual aesthetic, fizzing with life and color.

Featuring pixel typefaces carefully selected from the first decades of arcade video games, Arcade Game Typography presents a completist survey of a previously undocumented outsider typography movement, accompanied by insightful commentary from author Toshi Omagari, a Monotype typeface designer himself. Gathering an eclectic range of typography, from hit games such as Super Sprint, Marble Madness, and Space Harrier to countless lesser-known gems, Arcade Game Typography is a vivid nostalgia trip for gamers, designers, and illustrators alike.
300 color illustrations

United: woman in Marvel "Black Panther" hat is a threat to passengers, but man in "Rope. Tree. Journalist" shirt is just sharing his opinion

Not long ago, United demanded a black passenger remove her official Marvel "Black Panther" hat because it made someone uncomfortable. This weekend, United refused to even challenge a white passenger wearing a "Rope. Tree. Journalist" shirt, no matter who it made uncomfortable.

Jessica Sidman on Twitter:

My brother is on a @united flight from LA to Boston and saw this guy boarding with a shirt that reads “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.”

He told the flight attendant and she asked what he wanted her to do.

He told her he didn’t want one passenger threatening to kill other passengers.

He told her @United should do the right thing. She went to talk to the captain.

Then security pulled my brother off the plane. He talked to a security official.

The security guy said they couldn’t do anything just because it was offensive.

My brother said it wasn’t offensive, it was THREATENING.

They offered to put my brother on another flight. They didnt say anything to the guy with the shirt.

Then, in a statement to Forbes,

Sidman’s brother said he chose to bring the matter to United’s attention because, “I did not think one passenger should be allowed to threaten other passengers (be it on a shirt, on a sign or verbally) and that United should do the right thing.

“I didn’t want this to be about United appeasing me, a single customer,” he wrote.” I wanted the airline I flew not to sanction the threatening of murder of any group.”

One arguable defense is that the shirt is rhetorical hyperbole, airlines shouldn't apply security theater to attire, and that neither man should be removed from their flights. This would at least be consistent. But the fact is they constantly police passengers' appearance and the inconsistency here—United's staff making an exception to policy for a racist, fascist message that they don't personally feel threatened by—would occur even if the policies were reasonable.

Proof-of-concept supply-chain poisoning: tiny, undetectable hardware alterations could compromise corporate IT

A little over a year ago, Bloomberg stunned the world with a report that claimed that Chinese intelligence services had figured out how to put undetectable, rice-grain-sized hardware implants into servers headed for the biggest US cloud and enterprise IT firms, and that when some of the victims discovered this fact, they quietly ripped out whole data-centers and replaced all their servers. (more…)

Texas cop shoots black woman dead in her own home, through her window

A black woman was shot dead by a white police officer early Saturday in her own home. The officer, responding to a call from a neighbor concerned about an open door, opened fire only four seconds after seeing Atatiana Jefferson, 28 through a window. He approached the house, spotted her in the dwelling she shared with an 8-year-old nephew, shrieked instructions at her, then shot and killed her.

The clip shows police searching the perimeter of the residential property, before noticing a figure at the window. After demanding the person put their hands up, an officer then fired a shot through the glass.

The Fort Worth Police Department said in a statement that the officer, who is a white man, had "perceived a threat" when he drew his weapon.

He has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, officials added.

The undeniable fact that this is a problem of training will mask another undeniable fact: that this is another blatantly lawless execution of an innocent person in their own home by cops. Fort Worth police are already circulating crudely-edited screengrabs that appear to show there was a gun in the house--an unwielded gun posed as a rationale for killing an unarmed woman on the spot after the officer's bizarre and bungled attempt to stealthily enter her house exploded into hysterically-screamed instructions and gunfire.

To call the cops on a dark-skinned person (or anyone else they can claim to be scared by as an prelude to eager and murderous escalation, such as mentally ill people) is a death sentence.

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