Olivia and her friends weren't wrong when they thought she'd become suddenly famous. Her audience just wasn't human.
November 26th, 2013
Shantal Roddam (@Allieqtzm) was a typical example of one of her new followers. Shantal was a "Friendly beer fan" from Butte. She was following:
@ESPN, the world's leading sports brand;
@MarsPhoenix, a long-dead robot on Mars;
@ReutersScience, the news organization;
@KingJames, Lebron James, the NBA star;
@AlexisMadrigal, your faithful correspondent;
and Olivia, a high school student in San Diego.
By 8:25pm, Olivia could announce, "I have hit 3,000 everyone 3,000 porn stars."
Alexis Madrigal's article trying to answer the question Why Did 9,000 Porny Spambots Descend on This San Diego High Schooler? serves as both an introduction for non-techies to the world of Twitter spambots and a reminder of the extent to which the language and practices of social media would be unintelligible to an average reader from twenty years ago.
It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.
November 25th, 2013
November 23rd, 2013
November 22nd, 2013
Benjamin Rosenbaum has posted a sharp, blackly amusing short story about how Facebook's users and software developers would react to a zombie plague breaking out, called Feature Development for Social Networking.
Nice work, even though you just know this story isn't destined to end well for any of the characters.
November 20th, 2013
The Hollywood Reporter has posted a copy of Aningaaq, a short film that serves as a companion piece to the scene in Gravity in which Sandra Bullock's character attempts to contact ground control but can only raise a man who doesn't speak any English and has no clue of what she's trying to say. It's rather good.
[Via The Dissolve]
November 17th, 2013
I'm secretly quite pleased that this animated GIF doesn't have sound.
November 17th, 2013
15 Sorting Algorithms in 6 Minutes. Be sure to turn the sound up – it's half the fun of watching how each algorithm works.
November 16th, 2013
Cue Carl Sagan, reading from Pale Blue Dot.
November 15th, 2013
An image of a Doctor Who-inspired take on the Bayeaux Tapestry. Marvelous.
November 14th, 2013
Here's the thing. I'd call myself a Doctor Who fan, but I'm really just a lightweight. I watched the show growing up, starting with the tail end of the Patrick Troughton era and then watching right through the Pertwee and Tom Baker years and then bailing out when Tristan Farnon took on the role. I barely saw any of Six and Seven's episodes and didn't feel the loss. I watched the TV movie and disliked almost everything about it: the Doctor being half-human, the Master being nothing whatsoever like Roger Delgado, you name it.
I was intrigued at the prospect of the show returning, and deeply relieved that Christopher Eccleston was terrific and the show was confidently moving forward, even if some of the modern trappings irk me a bit.1 I've been happy to follow the show since: when it's good, it's very good indeed, and as the poor stories are mostly just a single episode long I'm willing to let the odd duff one go because I know a better one will be along shortly and in the meantime there'll be a nice character bit from Matt Smith or Rory will step up and do something remarkable or Donna will turn out to be the most important person in the entire universe.
Outside of the TV episodes, I've never been inclined to follow the tie-ins, beyond having read a few of the early novelisations back during that first spell watching the show, and I've never been tempted to look back into the seasons and Doctors I missed out on. As I say, a bit of a lightweight fan.
I say all this to explain why I shouldn't really be all that excited at The Night of the Doctor: A Mini Episode.
And yet, I am. Not as excited as Stu, for whom Eight is "his" Doctor, but still weirdly thrilled. Realising what I was watching immediately planted a huge grin on my face that still hasn't quite faded.
Seeing the producers pull something like this out of the bag makes me think that Moffat and co. might just blow all our socks off with the 50th anniversary story.2
- The whole idea that the default Companion is a young, attractive female who might well end up snogging the Doctor. The notion that the Doctor is famous. The sonic screwdriver being so much more capable, and being wielded like it's a magic wand. John Simm playing The Master when they should have kept Derek Jacobi around to be a properly scary contrast to David Tennant's Doctor. The need to tie every season into an arc story. Not show-stoppers, by any means. ↩
- I know this almost certainly won't come to pass given the actor's misgivings about returning to the role, but wouldn't it be great if the appearance of the War Doctor in the special ended with his regenerating and Nine getting up just in time to go off to London and meet up with Rose. ↩
November 12th, 2013
Nope, actually it's still horrible. With every new image that came into view as I scrolled down the page in that gallery, I burst out laughing, flinched or whimpered "Please, no more!"
Simultaneously, in some cases.
November 11th, 2013
This video of a Piper Super Cub landing on a windy mountain top is marvelous.
Even when you know what's about to happen, you're watching the film and thinking "OK, in a minute he's going to bank sharply and the runway will swing into the camera's field of vision and this'll be relatively straightforward." Then the pilot banks sharply and puts the aeroplane down on a rough piece of land clinging to the side of the mountain. One where he's going uphill!
After which he goes out, takes a few pictures, observes that it's really cold, and takes off with just as little fuss. Great stuff.
November 10th, 2013
Beauty of Mathematics speaks for itself, preferably in full-screen mode:
For the record, I can't begin to vouch for the mathematical formulae in the left hand pane bearing any relationship to the phenomena shown in the middle and right hand panes of the video. But it's really pretty, which is way more important than accuracy any day.1
- Isn't it? ↩
November 10th, 2013
I'm probably the last filmgoer over the age of 30 in the western world to have heard about this particular example, but I still think it's worth sharing. It turns out that Stanley Kubrick was something of a stickler for detail when it came to preparing for one of the pivotal scenes in The Shining:
Never one to stint on artistic integrity and veracity, Kubrick used no shortcuts for the relatively simple scene. As artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin discovered during recent research in the Kubrick archives in London, instead of having the sentence typed on only the few sheets seen by viewers, the director asked his secretary Margaret Warrington to type it on each one of the 500-odd sheets in the stack. What's more, he also had Warrington type up an equivalent number of manuscript pages in four languages – French, German, Italian, Spanish – for foreign releases of the film. For these, he used idiomatic phrases with vaguely similar meanings:
Un "Tiens" vaut mieux que deux "Tu l'auras."
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen.
Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
Il mattino ha l'oro in bocca.
The early bird gets the worm.
No por mucho madrugar amanece mas temprano.
Even if you rise early, dawn will not come any sooner.
To be fair, I can see Kubrick's point. What if Shelley Duvall had improvised during the scene, really nailing her character and the moment when Wendy Torrance found out what her husband had been up to in a barnstorming take that absolutely, positively had to make it into the final cut … only for the cool, cruel eye of the camera to reveal that Jack Torrance had only been obsessively typing for five sheets?
All of a sudden, he's not a weak man who has succumbed to madness in the middle of a long, cold winter of isolation but merely a writer undertaking a few minutes of loosening-up exercises at the keyboard before getting to work on his novel.
[Via The Millions]
Coming to you via Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_9) AppleWebKit/537.71 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/7.0 Safari/537.71
November 9th, 2013
This history of the browser user-agent string evokes times past, when life on the World Wide Web was simpler, yet user-agent strings got more and more complicated.
The pity of it is that my favourite web browser1 ever never got popular enough for anyone else to want to pretend to be it.
[Via The Tao Of Mac]
- I do wish Omni Group had kept actively developing OmniWeb. You can still download it, but they stopped doing anything with it beyond maintenance releases years ago. Even so, if they'd ever fixed some weird shortcomings in the program's Applescript support I'd probably still be using it as my main web browser to this day. ↩
November 9th, 2013
Guest-posting at Alyssa Rosenberg's blog, Max Gladstone wants us to Meet The Real Loki:
Let's talk Loki. Norse myths are some of the world's craziest, and while the good folks at Marvel have given us two solid cinematic Lokis so far, and look set to deliver a third, there's a lot of Loki that never makes it on screen.
You see, Loki's a weird character in the Norse pantheon. He's not evil always, or for its own sake – this is something Marvel's first Thor movie got right. He is, however, tricksy. And vengeful. And too smart for his own good. In Norse myths, Loki's as likely to take up the role of "only Norse god who can think his way out of a paper bag" as he is to present as "archenemy of Thor and all that is holy."
With that out of the way, here is one of my personal favorite Loki tales. Feel free to imagine the Triple-H of Hiddleston, Hemsworth, and Hopkins in the central roles below if that tickles your fancy.
Okay, so. Back at the beginning of time, the gods wanted a fortress. But no one wants to build a fortress themselves! The gods remain stymied until a nameless workman wanders into Valhalla and gives Odin an offer: "I'm really good at building fortresses, and in fact I'll build one for you – if you pay me with the sun, the moon, and Freia, goddess of beauty."
This being the beginning of time, Odin hadn't heard this particular scam before. [...]
Given the way Loki resolves the problem in this legend, I don't think we are going to see Tom Hiddleston acting it out in Thor 3, but I'd be delighted to be wrong about that.
November 5th, 2013
Usually one begins a thank-letter by some graceless comparison, by saying, I have never been given such a very scarlet muffler, or, This is the largest horse I have ever been sent for Christmas. But your matchbox is a nonpareil, for never in my life have I been given a matchbox. Stamps, yes, drawing-pins, yes, balls of string, yes, yes, menacingly too often; but never a matchbox. Now that it has happened I ask myself why it has never happened before. They are such charming things, neat as wrens, and what a deal of ingenuity and human artfulness has gone into their construction; for if they were like the ordinary box with a lid they would not be one half so convenient. This one though is especially neat, charming, and ingenious, and the tray slides in and out as though Chippendale had made it.
But what I like best of all about my matchbox is that it is an empty one. [...]
November 4th, 2013
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) November 4, 2013
November 3rd, 2013
Professor Ruediger Frank's review of a North Korean tablet computer (NB: PDF file) is almost as long as a John Siracusa Mac OS X review, but for very different reasons. Specifically, Professor Frank's survey of the enormous amount of DPRK-approved educational literature/propaganda that is loaded onto every machine.
Utility is obviously in the eye of the beholder. I find it unlikely that somebody without a certain interest in North Korea would ever purchase a Samjiyon. For non-Korean speakers, the main treasures of this tablet will remain hidden, except perhaps the dictionary.
For experts and those who want to join this illustrious group, the Samjiyon can easily develop into one of their major research tools. The DPRK-specific dictionaries and the encyclopedia are tremendously useful as reference works. It does not take much imagination to see all the future Ph.D. theses written about the North Korean educational system based just on the textbooks available on a single Samjiyon (don't forget to give credit to the one who provided you with this idea).
[Via ongoing by Tim Bray]