In the December 9, 2019 issue of The New Yorker, Joshua Rothman profiles one of the most influential authors in recent decades, William Gibson.
Gibson doesn’t have a name for his method; he knows only that it isn’t about prediction. It proceeds, instead, from a deep engagement with the present. When Gibson was starting to write, in the late nineteen-seventies, he watched kids playing games in video arcades and noticed how they ducked and twisted, as though they were on the other side of the screen. The Sony Walkman had just been introduced, so he bought one; he lived in Vancouver, and when he explored the city at night, listening to Joy Division, he felt as though the music were being transmitted directly into his brain, where it could merge with his perceptions of skyscrapers and slums. His wife, Deborah, was a graduate student in linguistics who taught E.S.L. He listened to her young Japanese students talk about Vancouver as though it were a backwater; Tokyo must really be something, he thought. He remembered a weeping ambulance driver in a bar, saying, “She flatlined.” On a legal pad, Gibson tried inventing words to describe the space behind the screen; he crossed out “infospace” and “dataspace” before coming up with “cyberspace.” He didn’t know what it might be, but it sounded cool, like something a person might explore even though it was dangerous.
(Image: William Gibson by Frédéric Poirot , CC-BY) Read the rest
Princen Alice created a "password generator" that glues random Welsh-sounding words into a craggy landscape of letters. It's probably not very good, since it's three or four dictionary words and a number plus the fallacious ethnocentric belief that unpronouceability to English speakers reflects randomness, but what a delightful mess! Read the rest
Does cooking a Impossible Burger on the same surface used to cook normal burgers "contaminate" them with meat by-products? Is Burger King doing this? A vegan diner makes these claims in a lawsuit filed Monday against the fast-food chain. Reuters:
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The lawsuit filed in Miami federal court seeks damages for all U.S. purchasers of the Impossible Whopper, and an injunction requiring Burger King to “plainly disclose” that Impossible Whoppers and regular burgers are cooked on the same grills. [Burger King] describes the Impossible Burger as “100% Whopper, 0% Beef,” and adds that “for guests looking for a meat-free option, a non-broiler method of preparation is available upon request.”
Mariners rely on GPS to avoid collisions, but increasingly they're finding GPS cannot be relied on near the Port of Shanghai:
In fact, something far more dangerous was happening, and the Manukai’s captain was unaware of it. Although the American ship’s GPS signals initially seemed to have just been jammed, both it and its neighbor had also been spoofed—their true position and speed replaced by false coordinates broadcast from the ground.
Analysts noticed that the attacks had actually started the previous summer, increasing as the months rolled on. The most intense interference was recorded on the very day in July that the Manukai’s captain reported difficulties, when a total of nearly 300 vessels had their locations spoofed.
The spoofing could be China testing a new electronic weapon. Or it could be sand pirates trying to sneak through the area:
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Chinese builders call it “soft gold.” Sand dredged from Yangtze River, which has the ideal consistency and composition for cement, helped fuel Shanghai’s construction boom in the 1980s and 1990s. By the turn of the millennium, reckless sand extraction had undermined bridges, trashed ecosystems, and caused long stretches of the riverbank to collapse. In 2000, Chinese authorities banned sand mining on the Yangtze completely.
The trade continued illicitly, however, expanding to include the illegal dredging of sand and gravel from the Yangtze estuary and the open seas near Shanghai. By day, such ships look innocuous. By night, they lower pipes to the riverbed to suck up thousands of tons of sand in a single session.
C4D4U's SOFTBODY TETRIS V16 is (as the name implies), the latest in a series of "softbody" simulations of Tetris, in which the tetronimoes are rubbery, jelly-like solids that glisten as they wobble into place. It's an incredibly soothing thing to watch (C4D4U calls them "ASMR for my eyes") and part of a wider genre of softbody sims. JWZ argues that this "becomes intolerable" upon the "realization that completed rows don't liquify" but if that's your thing, you need SOFTBODY TETRIS V9.
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This kind man assisted a beaver with a heavy burden. Read the rest
The Supreme Court today issued an administrative stay that blocks a subpoena from House Democrats for Donald Trump's tax returns. Read the rest
A federal court ruled today that an atheist gentleman from Kentucky should be permitted to get a personalized license plate from the state with the phrase “IM GOD” on it. The man is committed to his cause -- this only took three years of legal fighting. Read the rest
10-week-old puppy Narwhal has tail-like appendage growing from forehead
Derya Akkaynak is an oceanographer, engineer, and underwater photographer who has created software called Sea-Thru that removes the haze and blue-green colorcast of underwater photos. The results are remarkable - the colors are brilliant and the images are sharp. Read the rest
Staff at Mac's Mission, an animal rescue center in Missouri, named him Narwhal. The healthy 10-week-old pup has an extra tail, smack in the middle of his forehead.
Rochelle Steffen, who runs Mac's Mission, named after a pit-bull terrier she rescued seven and a half years ago, told BBC News Narwhal "is in no pain and plays for hours". ... And X-rays had showed his secondary tail, about a third the size of his actual tail, was not connected to anything and served no purpose other than to make him the "coolest puppy ever".
Narwhal will not be made available for adoption until he's grown up some, to confirm the secondary tail is healthy. Read the rest
Two then-employees of Twitter used their position to provide the Saudi government with information about its critics on the platform, say prosecutors, who have charged them with espionage. The men rifled through "thousands of private accounts seeking personal information" of use to the kingdom's security forces, reports NPR.
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Ahmad Abouammo, a U.S. citizen, was a media partnerships manager at Twitter who was not authorized to access Twitter users' private information. He allegedly did exactly that for which he received payments of up to $300,000 from a Saudi source identified in the complaint only as "Foreign Official-1." Abouammo also received a Hublot watch with a value of about $20,000. Abouammo is charged with acting as a foreign agent and falsifying records to obstruct a federal investigation. ...
Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi citizen worked at Twitter beginning in August 2013 as a "site reliability engineer." Between May 21, 2015, and November 18, 2015, Alzabarah, without authorization, accessed "the Twitter data of over 6,000 Twitter users, including at least 33 usernames for which Saudi Arabian law enforcement had submitted emergency disclosure requests to Twitter," the complaint said. Among the accounts he accessed were those belonging to well-known critics of the Saudi government.
Frank Avruch, the first man to play Bozo the Clown, died [in 2018] in Boston at the age of 89, reports Syracuse.com. He played the role of happy red-haired merrymaker from 1959 to 1970, and starred in the nationally-syndicated television show in the 1960s.
Check out Avruch's wild Bozo hair and outfit in the video above. Pennywise would grovel before this Bozo's feet! Read the rest
James Dean died in a car crash in 1955, but that isn't stopping the actor from starring in an upcoming Vietnam War era movie called Finding Jack.
From The Hollywood Reporter:
"We searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extreme complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean," said [the film's director, Anton] Ernst ... "We feel very honored that his family supports us and will take every precaution to ensure that his legacy as one of the most epic film stars to date is kept firmly intact. The family views this as his fourth movie, a movie he never got to make. We do not intend to let his fans down."
While Finding Jack will be live action, The Hollywood Reporter understands that Dean’s performance will be constructed via "full body" CGI using actual footage and photos. Another actor will voice him.
Image: By In-house publicity still - Warner Bros. publicity still for for the film Rebel Without a Cause, Public Domain, Link Read the rest
Cutting through the vertical bollards in Trump's "virtually impenetrable" wall takes mere minutes, using a $100 reciprocating saw and "extreme metal cutting" blades that sell for $10-15; once cut, the length of the bollards provides leverage to wall-cutters so they can be easily bent to allow a person to pass through them, and afterwards, the bollards can be replaced and cemented with easy-to-cut putty that border patrol officers often mistake for official repair welds (these welds are only slightly harder to cut through than the putty).
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Seven Stories press just released this gorgeous boxed set of Octavia E. Butler's Parable novels. It's available today and would make a great gift for any reader.
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This boxed set pairs the bestselling Nebula-prize nominee, Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, which together tell the near-future odyssey of Lauren Olamina, a "hyper-empathic" young woman who is twice as feeling in a world that has become doubly dehumanized. In Sower, set in California in 2024, small walled communities protect from hordes of desperate scavengers and roaming bands of "Paints," people addicted to a drug that activates an orgasmic desire to burn, rape, and murder. It is into this landscape that Lauren begins her journey, traveling on foot along the dangerous coastal highways, moving north into the unknown. The book has an introduction by feminist, journalist, activist, and author Gloria Steinem.
Parable of the Talents celebrates the classic Butlerian themes of alienation and transcendence, violence and spirituality, slavery and freedom, separation and community, to astonishing effect, in the shockingly familiar, broken world of 2032. It is told in the voice of Lauren Olamina's daughter –– from whom she has been separated for most of the girl's life –– with selections from Lauren's journal. Against a background of a war-torn continent, and with a far-right religious crusader in the office of the U.S. presidency, this is a book about a society whose very fabric has been torn asunder, and where the basic physical and emotional needs of people seem almost impossible to meet.
One Page Dungeon is a website that procedurally generates a new role-playing dungeon every time you press Enter (or refresh the page).
[via Clive Thompson] Read the rest