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Comcast has outbid 21st Century Fox for Sky

Comcast has won an auction to acquire UK telecommunications company Sky, bidding $38.8 billion to overtake Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox after a lengthy bidding war this summer. Comcast’s win paves the way for it to acquire Sky and its 23 million European subscribers and entertainment assets. Sky’s shareholders will now need to approve the deal.

Over the course of this year, Comcast and Fox have been locked a titanic battle over their futures, one that will define the nature of the industry as a whole. Last summer, Disney CEO Bob Iger spoke with Murdoch about an acquisition of Fox, and Comcast had made its own overtures. The two made several bids this spring, but after Disney later upped its offer, Comcast dropped its plans to…

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Lawrence’s “Living Room” makes retro soul new again

Lawrence was a revelation when I discovered the band two years ago. My musical sensibility’s been stuck on funk and soul since the ‘70s and Lawrence takes that sound and reinvents it. It’s absolutely infectious.

Plus, I’m a dad whose kids are just a bit younger than the band members. So, halfway through that set when one lead singer pointed to other and said, “My name’s Gracie, and this is my brother Clyde, and we’re Lawrence,” my heart melted. Gracie was 19 at the time.

After the show, my buddy and I bought their CD (“Breakfast”), got their social media information, and for the past two years, we’ve missed barely any of the NYC-based band’s many local shows. Every friend I’ve introduced them to has become instantly hooked, and our group has grown to about ten rotating members.

The band’s fans are an enthusiastic and growing mass of twenty-somethings, so our #DadsForLawrence contingent mostly hangs out in the back of each show. A young guy at the show a couple of weeks ago, puzzled by our presence, asked me, “So, are you guys… relatives of the band?”


Lawrence and is led by the lead singer-songwriter combo Clyde and Gracie Lawrence, and the band is mostly friends Clyde gathered while studying music in college. Lawrence’s music is just incredibly fun, with that retro soul vibe, but infused with a modern pop sound.

From their first full album, “Breakfast” (2016):

“Do You Wanna Do Nothing With Me?”

Did I mention they’re prodigies? Clyde wrote this beautiful song when he was in high school (it’s on Clyde’s EP, “Homesick,” from 2013).

“So Damn Fast”

It may be oversimplifying it, but it seems to me that it’s Clyde who brings the retro feel, and Gracie is the one who contributes the more modern pop sensibility. That’s probably because of the difference in their voices. Gracie has a voice made for current pop, capable of vocal pyrotechnics that can drive a crowd into a frenzy. I’ve seen it happen dozens of times. Clyde has a slightly raspy, almost impossibly charismatic ‘70s soul/classic rock voice.

Melding their voices and songwriting sensibilities may seem impossible, but it works like magic, probably because as siblings they’ve been playing music together their whole lives.

It’s a testament to their synergy that some of my favorite moments in their songs are when one takes a small part in the other’s lead-vocals song. Check out the energy when Gracie takes a part in “Superficial.”


And I always find it touching when Clyde comes in to sing the bridge (is that the right term?) on “Misty Morning.”

“Misty Morning”

I’ve had a blast being a Lawrence-head (?) the last couple of years. Look, if your favorite band is U2, you might see them from the top row of an arena when they’re in town once every five years or so. But if you’re lucky enough that your favorite band is an up-and-comer like Lawrence, based in your own city, you might find yourself coming home from a $20 show in the same subway car as the lead singer and sax player, offering to help them carry equipment and asking about lyrics.

I have spoken to them a few times, especially Clyde, and they are absolutely unaffected and genuine. They just seem excited about the music they’re making with their buddies and the effect it’s having. They fill venues with adoring fans, but will invite their little brother on stage or give a shout out to their grandparents.

It’s also been fun watching their popularity gain momentum at an alarming rate. When I started going to their shows, they played small rooms or opened for other bands. But as the months went by, their headlining shows got bigger and bigger, and the crowds more and more enthusiastic and knowledgeable. They quickly sold out the huge Brooklyn Steel for their show in May, easily their biggest NYC headlining venue to date, and they instantly sold out for last week’s three NYC shows.

Those three shows introduced their new album, “Living Room,” which only continues their amazing run of writing and creating fantastic music, and their climb up the popular music ladder. Lawrence announced that “Living Room” went to #3 on the iTunes R&B and Soul Chart.

I’m obsessed with “More,” an absolutely rousing song that sounds like the modern R&B-Gospel music I’ve been listening to (my two recent musical discoveries meet!). And “The Heartburn Song” evokes one of my all-time favorites, and not coincidentally theirs, Stevie Wonder. I love the song and the video for “Probably Up”…

“Probably Up”

… and also “Make a Move,” the video for which the Clyde and Gracie directed themselves. A friend accurately noted that the video is made by Gracie’s acting ability (Oh, yeah, she’s also an actress).

“Make a Move”

In one of those shows last week, the album had been out for only a few hours, and the video for “Make a Move” only a couple of days. Yet when they started the song, the crowd instantly sang along with Gracie. I saw her whisper to Clyde, “This is crazy.”

They are touring North America and Europe in support of “Living Room” right now, and I can’t recommend going to see them enough, if you can still get tickets. The energy of their shows is amazing. I’ve focused on Clyde and Gracie, but the rest of band is so great: both in musicianship and in creating a fun, party atmosphere.

Here is information on the tour, and here are links where you their albums “Breakfast” and “Living Room” can be purchased.

One more! Lawrence’s cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Come On Over.” Members of #DadsForLawrence are probably their only fans who heard their version first.

Come on Over

from Boing Boing

Destroyer is a guilt-ridden detective story made by one incredible director

Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our brief breakdown-style reviews of festival films, VR previews, and other special event releases. This review comes from the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

Tackling the leap from directing low-budget indies to tentpole features is no easy feat, and Hollywood has a history of being particularly unforgiving when the filmmakers are women. Case in point: director Karyn Kusama, who burst onto the filmmaking scene in 2000 with her debut feature, Girlfight. Five years later, she took on the feature-film adaptation of Aeon Flux, but the movie ended in disaster. After a studio regime change, Paramount Pictures balked at Kusama’s original vision, taking the movie away from her in order to hack it into the…

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from The Verge – All Posts

Anonymous stock-market manipulators behind $20B+ of “mispricing” can be tracked by their writing styles

In a new Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper, Columbia Law prof Joshua Mitts uses “stylometry” (previously) to track how market manipulators who publish false information about companies in order to profit from options are able to flush their old identities when they become notorious for misinformation and reboot them under new handles.

Stylometry is a field of text analysis that seeks to identify authors by stylistic quirks, including word-choices, punctuation habits, and subtler cues like sentence-length and structure.

Mitts studied 2,000 “attacks” published on the finance site Seeking Alpha, showing that the scammers involved were shedding old identities when their financial analysis proved to be incorrect — and also showing that someone (maybe the scammers, maybe the Seeking Alpha editors, maybe someone else) — was making a killing by buying options before the publication of erroneous data.

Mitts uses stylometry to identify when multiple consecutive pseudonyms seem to belong to the same anonymous author, but he doesn’t actually attempt to unmask the author, though the same stylometry techniques could produce evidence, if not proof, of the scammers’ identities.

Pseudonymous attacks on public companies are followed by stock price declines and sharp reversals. I find these patterns are likely driven by manipulative stock options trading by pseudonymous authors. Among 1,720 pseudonymous attacks on mid- and large-cap firms from 2010-2017, I identify over $20.1 billion of mispricing. Reputation theory suggests these reversals persist because pseudonymity allows manipulators to switch identities without accountability. Using stylometric analysis, I show that pseudonymous authors exploit the perception that they are trustworthy, only to switch identities after losing credibility with the market.

Short and Distort [Joshua Mitts/Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper No. 592]

(via Marginal Revolution)

from Boing Boing

OLIVE: a system for emulating old OSes on old processors that saves old data from extinction

Olive (“Open Library of Images for Virtualized Execution”) is an experimental service from Carnegie Mellon University that stores images of old processors, as well as the old operating systems that ran on top of them, along with software packages for those old OSes; this allows users access old data from obsolete systems inside simulations of the computers that originally ran that data, using the original operating systems and applications.

This is a very powerful model for maintaining access to old data formats; while modern apps are often capable of parsing old data formats, they have well-understood shortcomings. For example, buggy versions of old apps may have been able to understand the corrupt files they created, but newer programs may only parse the old data if it was written to “spec.” Attempts to overcome this with “bug-compatibility” and “quirks modes” are imperfect substitutes for actually running the old code, bugs and all.

it’s also a powerful rebuttal to the lazy idea that digitized data is inherently less stable than, say, print records. We often hear about how obsolete file-formats, media and computers are causing “digital decay” of our old data, but the story is much more complicated than that.

Old storage media is definitely unstable. Magnetic and optical media literally rots, delaminating and decaying. I/O devices like tape drives and disk drives go out of production, break down, get scrapped, and can be next to impossible to find, creating races against the clock to find a device to read out old media before it decays beyond use.

But once that data is on a modern hard-drive, the whole story changes. Mass storage gets vastly cheaper with every year (the rate at which mass storage is improving puts the rate of progress in computer performance and network bandwidth in the shade). Data stored on your PC or in a data-center is relatively easy to preserve: the next system you buy will have much more storage than the system it replaces — we’ve really reached the end of the era of “offline storage” of data that can’t be accessible at all times (the exception being some very large-scale scientific experiments that generate petabytes or even exabytes on every run).

Live storage is very robust. Not only do moderd drives self-monitor, automatically moving data from unreliable sectors to reliable ones, but redundant, self-healing arrays have gotten faster and more reliable — and with storage being so cheap, backups have gotten more robust and commonplace than ever.

It’s true that printed records don’t usually require special equipment to read back, and high-quality paper is stable for hundreds or even thousands of years. But paper burns, it can’t be (readily) encrypted, it’s hard to back up (especially hard is maintaining concurrent, offsite paper backups that are geographically isolated from wars, natural disasters, etc). Live data can be cheaply instantaneously mirrored on servers all over the world, in an encrypted state that allows you to maintain the privacy and integrity of the data, even when the entity hosting a backup copy can’t be trusted. Cheap paper and cheap ink rots just as fast (or faster) as cheap optical and magnetic media — but paper doesn’t automatically sense when it is starting to fade or crumble and rewrite its contents onto pages that are in better shape.

The thing paper has that data has historically lacked is an execution environment. With visible light and a flat surface, you can read documents from the age of the Enlightenment. But until recently, reading files generated for the Apollo missions or even the Apple ][+ was a tricky business.

That’s why emulation is so important: emulation does for file formats what mass online storage did for storage media, hitching it to the screaming price/performance curve of computing, doing away with the delicate and imperfect business of figuring out how to parse formats designed by dead people for computers that don’t exist any more.

As exciting as Olive is, it’s not perfect. The operating systems and applications needed to parse old data are tangled in copyright thickets. Though the code involved has no commercial value (most code exhausts its commercial life in years, or at most, decades) software attracts the same copyright that literary works enjoy: 90 years for works “created” by corporations, life plus 70 years for works created by “natural humans.” These terms mean that Olive risks enormous copyright damages if it is widely offered, so it is only available to small group of insiders.

There’s no easy way to break through this thicket. There is no reasonable economic rationale for software copyright terms in the 100-year range. As a Microsoft VP for Software once candidly admitted, Microsoft would pay its programmers to make exactly the same amount of code if software’s copyright term was 10 years as if it was 100 years.

In the meantime, there are plenty of living, breathing copyright proprietors (and scientists, academics, and everyday users) whose data (and games, and art) is stuck inside proprietary file formats that can only be accessed if the copyright thicket can be cleared — if they can convince the absentee inheritors of the assets of long-defunct corporations (or the managers of thriving businesses who have more urgent issues than the licensing of 30-year-old OSes) to help them.

What else can Olive do? Maybe you’re wondering what tools businesses were using shortly after Intel introduced the Pentium processor. Olive can help with that, too. Just fire up Microsoft Office 4.3 from 1994 (which thankfully predates the annoying automated office assistant “Clippy”).

Perhaps you just want to spend a nostalgic evening playing Doom for DOS—or trying to understand what made such first-person shooter games so popular in the early 1990s. Or maybe you need to redo your 1997 taxes and can’t find the disk for that year’s version of TurboTax in your attic. Have no fear: Olive has you covered.

On the more serious side, Olive includes Chaste 3.1. The name of this software is short for Cancer, Heart and Soft Tissue Environment. It’s a simulation package developed at the University of Oxford for computationally demanding problems in biology and physiology. Version 3.1 of Chaste was tied to a research paper published in March 2013. Within two years of publication, though, the source code for Chaste 3.1 no longer compiled on new Linux releases. That’s emblematic of the challenge to scientific reproducibility Olive was designed to address.

Carnegie Mellon is Saving Old Software from Oblivion [Mahadev Satyanarayanan/IEEE Spectrum]

(via /.)

from Boing Boing

A draft executive order targets social media companies for anti-trust violations

A draft executive order from the White House surfaced last night that would direct federal authorities to “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws.” However, White House officials say that the document hasn’t gone through any sort of formal policymaking process.

Bloomberg obtained a copy of the draft executive order, noting that it directs antitrust officials and other federal agencies see if any “online platform” has violated antitrust laws. The publication notes that the document didn’t specifically name companies that have attracted Trump’s ire, but it’s not hard to imagine that Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter wouldn’t be a subject of such an order.

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You can now watch Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic The Room in its entirety on YouTube

Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 movie The Room is often proclaimed to be the worst films ever made. If you’ve ever been curious about just how bad the film is, now’s your chance: Wiseau just posted the entire film up on YouTube.

The film follows a love triangle between Johnny (Wiseau), Mark (Greg Sestero), and Lisa (Juliette Danielle), along with a bunch of unrelated and unresolved bizarre subplots. It was panned by critics, but since its release it’s become a cult favorite, and was the focus of James Franco’s biopic The Disaster Artist, which earned an Academy Award last year. The film regularly pops up in theaters for midnight screenings.

The film hasn’t been available to stream or download from places like iTunes or Amazon (there have been…

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This little known government agency is responsible for bringing the remains of missing or captured U.S. soldiers home to rest

Founded after the Joint P.O.W./M.I.A. Accounting Command and the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office were folded into a single agency, the Defense P.O.W./M.I.A. Accounting Agency (D.P.A.A.) is an incredibly important part of the United States military. They’re responsible for the locating and identification of the remains of soldiers who were deemed to be Missing in Action or who died as prisoners of war.

Sometimes, the task of identifying and repatriating remains can be conducted with immediacy. In other cases, the realities of war–that a body can be torn asunder, rendering it near unidentifiable–or discovering the remains of skeletal remains of a soldier decades after they died, can slow this process down. In such cases, forensic experts are brought in to assist in identifying the dead.

This past August, the North Korean government allowed the U.S. military to repatriate 55 coffins full of the mixed skeletal remains of American soldiers who died in the Korean War between 1950 and 1953. That nothing’s left of these soldiers but bones would make identifying them difficult enough. When the bones are mixed in with one another? That’s a puzzle that few people are qualified to deal with. Dr. Paul Emanovsky is one of those few. He’s a forensic anthropologist that’s worked to bring closure to the lives of the loved ones of missing military personnel since 2002. If you’re interested in a fascinating, morbid read, the New York Times recently published an interview with Dr. Emanovsky, where he talks about his work and the recovery projects that the D.P.A.A. are currently involved in.

From The New York Times:

When we make an identification, we tell the families that it’s more likely that additional portions of their loved one will be found. They decide whether they want to wait for the additional portions before they take the remains for their final disposition. They can say, “We don’t want to know anything more about that” and ask that we give them what we can already identify now for burial.

It’s grisly, gripping stuff.

Image via Twitter

from Boing Boing