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Culture

Pokémon Go’s PvP Trainer Battles are now live

Trainer Battles, the long-awaited PvP mode for Pokémon Go, are now available. Niantic started rolling them out for level 40 players a couple of hours ago, but they quickly became accessible for players as low as level 10 as well, which will be the permanent minimum required level for the mode.

For the most part, you’ll need to be in the same location as your rival in order to battle them, either through your friends list or a QR code-scanning feature. You can remotely battle players with whom you’ve achieved Best or Ultra Friends status, however, as well as practicing against AI-controlled team leaders.

Battling against human players can earn you in-game rewards including the currently much sought-after Sinnoh Stone, which lets you…

Continue reading…

from The Verge – All Posts https://www.theverge.com/2018/12/12/18138838/pokemon-go-trainer-battles-pvp-available

Culture

Pokémon Go’s PvP Trainer Battles are now live

Trainer Battles, the long-awaited PvP mode for Pokémon Go, are now available. Niantic started rolling them out for level 40 players a couple of hours ago, but they quickly became accessible for players as low as level 10 as well, which will be the permanent minimum required level for the mode.

For the most part, you’ll need to be in the same location as your rival in order to battle them, either through your friends list or a QR code-scanning feature. You can remotely battle players with whom you’ve achieved Best or Ultra Friends status, however, as well as practicing against AI-controlled team leaders.

Battling against human players can earn you in-game rewards including the currently much sought-after Sinnoh Stone, which lets you…

Continue reading…

from The Verge – All Posts https://www.theverge.com/2018/12/12/18138838/pokemon-go-trainer-battles-pvp-available

Culture

Impressive robot praised by Russia state television revealed to be a man in a costume


State-owned TV network Russia-24 ran a story about an impressive humanoid robot named Boris that wowed attendees at a youth technology conference. Turns out, Boris the Robot was actually a man inside a commercially-available, high-end robot costume. From The Guardian:


A photograph published by MBKh Media, the news agency founded by the Vladimir Putin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, appeared to show the actor in the robot suit ahead of the forum on Tuesday in Yaroslavl, a city about 150 miles north-east of Moscow.


The organisers of the Proyektoria technology forum, held each year for the “future intellectual leaders of Russia”, did not try to pass off the robot as real, the website reported.


But whether by mistake or design, the state television footage did just that. “It’s entirely possible one of these [students] could dedicate himself to robotics,” an anchor reported. “Especially as at the forum they have the opportunity to look at the most modern robots.”

from Boing Boing https://boingboing.net/2018/12/12/impressive-robot-praised-by-ru.html

Culture

Impressive robot praised by Russia state television revealed to be a man in a costume


State-owned TV network Russia-24 ran a story about an impressive humanoid robot named Boris that wowed attendees at a youth technology conference. Turns out, Boris the Robot was actually a man inside a commercially-available, high-end robot costume. From The Guardian:


A photograph published by MBKh Media, the news agency founded by the Vladimir Putin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, appeared to show the actor in the robot suit ahead of the forum on Tuesday in Yaroslavl, a city about 150 miles north-east of Moscow.


The organisers of the Proyektoria technology forum, held each year for the “future intellectual leaders of Russia”, did not try to pass off the robot as real, the website reported.


But whether by mistake or design, the state television footage did just that. “It’s entirely possible one of these [students] could dedicate himself to robotics,” an anchor reported. “Especially as at the forum they have the opportunity to look at the most modern robots.”

from Boing Boing https://boingboing.net/2018/12/12/impressive-robot-praised-by-ru.html

Culture

Samsung upgrades the Notebook 9 Pen with a new 15-inch option

CES may not be for another few weeks, but Samsung is already getting the ball rolling on new products, starting with an updated version of the Notebook 9 Pen laptop — which now comes in a new, 15-inch size, in addition to the old 13-inch form factor. Previously, only the regular Notebook 9 model offered the larger size, but now it’s coming to the convertible 2-in-1 model, too.

One of the big new features on the updated Notebook 9 Pen is an improved S Pen. Just like its smartphone cousin, the Note 9, the new S Pen for the Notebook 9 Pen now offers improved latency (Samsung says its up to two times faster). Samsung also now offers multiple user replaceable tips for the S Pen, allowing you to customize different drawing styles. (There’s…

Continue reading…

from The Verge – All Posts https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2018/12/12/18138095/samsung-notebook-9-pen-s-update-ces-2019-15-inch-convertible-laptop

Culture

Clash of the corporate titans: Who’s spending what in Europe’s Copyright Directive battle

There’s been a lot of money thrown around to determine the future of the Internet in the EU, but despite the frequent assertion that every opponent of the new Copyright Directive is a paid puppet for Google, the numbers tell a different story: according to the watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), the entertainment industry are the biggest spenders by far, and they have obscured that fact by using dodgy accounting to make it look like Google is buying out the European Parliament.

The fight over the European Copyright in the Single Digital Market Directive has been a long one, but it boiled over last spring, when control over the Directive passed into the hands of the German MEP Axel Voss, who reversed his predecessor’s decision to drop one of the Directive’s most controversial clauses (Article 11, the “link tax” that forced publishers to charge for licenses to include more than a word or two in links to their news stories) and jettisoned the compromise work on the other controversial clause (Article 13, which makes online platforms liable if their users post anything that infringes copyright, even for an instant, which will require expensive black-box algorithmic censorship to accommodate).

Since then, the lobbying and public debate has been fierce. Roughly speaking, there are three sides:

  1. Large corporate rightsholder organisations and collecting societies, often allied with creators’ rights groups, who are largely in favour of Voss’s version of the Directive (though a large group of powerful corporate rightsholders completely hate it;
  2. The tech sector, a mix of smaller EU tech companies that couldn’t afford to comply with Articles 11 and 13, and US “Big Tech” platforms, who largely oppose it (though YouTube isn’t actually that worried, because they’re closer to having a filter than any of their competitors); and

  3. Unaffiliated civil society groups: 70 of the world’s top tech experts (including the “Father of the Internet” and the inventor of the World Wide Web); a diverse coalition of human rights groups, academics, journalists, scientists, and others; legal and economic scholars; leading academics; Europe’s library associations; free press advocates; the UN’s special rapporteur on free expression, and of course, those four million Europeans who signed the Change.org petition against it.

Amazingly, Group 1 — the entertainment lobby — has spent much of this debate insisting that the third group doesn’t exist: that everyone who opposes the directive is directly or indirectly working for the big tech companies. This is the European Copyright version of insisting that everyone who disagrees with you is actually being paid by George Soros to get in your way.

What’s more, Group 1’s contention has been that Google has lavished incredible sums of money and despatched an army of lobbyists to Brussels and Strasbourg to influence the outcome of the debate.

Luckily, there’s no need to argue about this question: we can just refer to the data, which CEO has handily published all in one place.


The picture that emerges from the CEO data is one where the entertainment industry completely dominates the spending and lobbying on the new Directive (unsurprisingly, as they’ve been at it longer and have deeper ties to MEPs, Commissioners and other officials who deal with copyright). Google and its fellows in the tech industry have also spent and lobbied a lot, but the entertainment sector lobbied a whole tonne.

What’s more, the entertainment industry’s own strategic plans turned on creating the false perception that the opposition to the Directive was just Google’s influence campaign writ large (“From the music side, this week’s lobbying is focused around two points: convincing politicians of Article 13’s necessity on one hand, and criticising Google’s lobbying on the other”).

The false narrative about Google’s big spending was bolstered by bad accounting: the UK Music Industry body accused Google of spending €31m on the Copyright Directive. But they arrived at that figure by adding the €6m that Google spent on all of its EU lobbying, on every issue, and adding it to the total budgets of every organisation and coalition that Google belonged to. As is so often the case, an imaginary number multiplied by a very large number produced an even larger number, but that didn’t make it a real number.

Between the entertainment industry’s blitz and the more fumbling lobbying attempts from Big Tech, it’s no wonder that staffers for Green MEP Max Andersson called the Copyright Directive the “most intense lobby effort so far.”

Given the big noise that corporate money was making in the debate, it was hard for civil society voices to be heard. This was worsened by the entertainment industry figures’ insistence that the flood of emails from their constituents was a kind of attack. For instance, an editorial by Volker Reiker (owner of File Defender, a company that “helps clients to receive copyright remuneration for their work”) denounced the letter-writing campaign sponsored by Copyright for Creativity, a coalition of which Google is a member (along with numerous co-equal civil society groups who often oppose Google in regulatory and policy matters). He wrote multiple editorials accusing Google of being civil society’s puppetmaster, which entertainment and publishing industry groups translated and circulated.


While these libels were without merit, there’s some irony here in that the only vocal player in this fight whose financial backing is not disclosed, and whose lobbying activity is not registered: “Netopia,” fronted by Swedish gaming industry lobbyist Per Strömbäck. Despite its extensive activities, Netopia is not registered with the EU’s Transparency Register, and the source of the dark money that paid for things like a €50,000+ campaign by the lobbying firm MSL Brussels is a mystery. Even more ironic: Netopia is the most vocal proponent of conspiracy theories that accuse civil society organisations of being secretly funded by the tech lobby to carry water for it.

The EU is at a crossroads: eurosceptic movements are on the rise, and their stock-in-trade is the accusation that the EU is a tool of corporate money, unresponsive to the needs of Europeans. The EU has not helped itself in this regard: its transparency rules are wildly imperfect, making it difficult to get a full picture of who spent what in this record-setting lobbying cycle.


But Group 3 — the experts, the academics, the civil society groups, the four million Europeans — are the people whom eurosceptics say the EU ignores. It can ill afford to do so this time.

from Boing Boing https://boingboing.net/2018/12/12/clash-of-the-corporate-titans.html

Culture

Bees wearing wireless sensors create a “living Internet of Things platform”

While researchers continue attempts to build practical insect-size flying robots, engineers at the University of Washington have prototyped a backpack for real bees that outfits the insects with sensing, computing, and wireless networking capabilities. From UW News:


“We decided to use bumblebees because they’re large enough to carry a tiny battery that can power our system, and they return to a hive every night where we could wirelessly recharge the batteries,” said co-author Vikram Iyer, a doctoral student in the UW Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering…


Because bees don’t advertise where they are flying and because GPS receivers are too power-hungry to ride on a tiny insect, the team came up with a method that uses no power to localize the bees. The researchers set up multiple antennas that broadcasted signals from a base station across a specific area. A receiver in a bee’s backpack uses the strength of the signal and the angle difference between the bee and the base station to triangulate the insect’s position…


Next the team added a series of small sensors — monitoring temperature, humidity and light intensity — to the backpack. That way, the bees could collect data and log that information along with their location, and eventually compile information about a whole farm…


“Having insects carry these sensor systems could be beneficial for farms because bees can sense things that electronic objects, like drones, cannot,” Gollakota said. “With a drone, you’re just flying around randomly, while a bee is going to be drawn to specific things, like the plants it prefers to pollinate. And on top of learning about the environment, you can also learn a lot about how the bees behave.”


from Boing Boing https://boingboing.net/2018/12/12/bees-wearing-wireless-sensors.html

Culture

Every Booby Trap in ‘Home Alone’, the flipbook (GENIUS)

Check out this incredibly dedicated animated flipbook re-creation of all the booby traps in the 1990 holiday scare-’em film HOME ALONE, starring Macaulay Culkin and Joe Pesci.

It’s a supercut flipbook!

I can’t stop watching it.

This is the creation of IMGURIAN theflippist, and you can see more of their wonderful work at TheFlippist.com.

From The Flippist:

The booby trap scene from Home Alone already feels like a cartoon, so turning it into a flipbook was natural! It especially works great with the amazing sound effects.

This took over a month to draw/color, but has always been one of my favorite movies so I had a lot of fun making it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!

Thanks for watching 🙂


[via]

from Boing Boing https://boingboing.net/2018/12/12/every-booby-trap-in-homealone.html

Culture

Fascinating documentary about minimalist composers Young, Riley, Reich, and Glass


In the first part of the 20th century, classical music was stripped of its majesty and injected with a healthy dose of discord and dissonance by avant-garde pioneers like Arnold Schoenberg, Pierre Boulez, and John Cage. Then in 1950s California and New York, a new form of contemporary classical music emerged: minimalism. “Tones, Drones and Arpeggios” is a terrific two episode BBC Four documentary on American minimalism pioneers La Monte Young, Terry Riley (above), Steve Reich, and Philip Glass who reimagined “classical” music and had a massive and continuing influence on punk, experimental, ambient, and electronic music.


Watch Episode 1 below. More about the documentary here: “Tones, Drones and Arpeggios: The Magic of Minimalism

from Boing Boing https://boingboing.net/2018/12/12/fascinating-documentary-about.html

Culture

Fascinating documentary about minimalist composers Young, Riley, Reich, and Glass


In the first part of the 20th century, classical music was stripped of its majesty and injected with a healthy dose of discord and dissonance by avant-garde pioneers like Arnold Schoenberg, Pierre Boulez, and John Cage. Then in 1950s California and New York, a new form of contemporary classical music emerged: minimalism. “Tones, Drones and Arpeggios” is a terrific two episode BBC Four documentary on American minimalism pioneers La Monte Young, Terry Riley (above), Steve Reich, and Philip Glass who reimagined “classical” music and had a massive and continuing influence on punk, experimental, ambient, and electronic music.


Watch Episode 1 below. More about the documentary here: “Tones, Drones and Arpeggios: The Magic of Minimalism

from Boing Boing https://boingboing.net/2018/12/12/fascinating-documentary-about.html

Culture

Kate Hudson’s stripper pole, money-hungry Duchess Meghan, and Bruce Springsteen’s fear of fans, in this week’s dubious tabloids

Tabloid headlines are from Mars, tabloid stories are from Venus. That’s how far removed are this week’s stories and the headlines that top them.

“Scott Peterson murdered 2 other women!” screams the National Enquirer cover. No he didn’t, says the story inside, despite the spread headline: “Scott Peterson a Serial Killer!” Convicted wife-killer Peterson is nothing more than a possible suspect in two cold case deaths to which he has the most tenuous of connections.

“Jen Garner Recruited by Hollywood Cult!” proclaims the Enquirer. No she wasn’t, says the Enquirer story. Rather than being recruited, actress Garner is simply the subject of an alleged crush by Scientology chief David Miscavige. Garner herself appears unaware of any interest in her by Scientology, but that’s enough for the Enquirer to say: “Friends fear she’s vulnerable to recruiters.” Right.

“Money-hungry Meghan turns back on America!” yells the Globe cover. “Gives up U.S. citizenship to avoid taxes!” No, she hasn’t, says the story inside. The Duchess of Sussex “is still an American citizen,” an IRS source reportedly tells the Enquirer. And if she were to relinquish her U.S. citizenship it wouldn’t be to avoid paying taxes, but to avoid exposing the sources of her income – Prince Harry and the Queen – to unwanted scrutiny by America’s IRS. The Palace tells the Enquirer “there’s no truth” to the story. Indeed.

Cindy Crawford and husband Rande Gerber face a “billion dollar divorce shocker!” reports the Enquirer. No, they don’t. She’s simply been photographed without her wedding ring, for which there could be a hundred rational explanations not involving a marital split. And anyway, the couple aren’t worth anywhere near a billion dollars.
Other tabloid stories perpetuate their traditional tenuous connection with reality.

Singer Diana Ross is “broken down” and “could barely ‘keep on hanging on’” as she was pushed in a wheelchair through New York’s JFK airport recently, says the Enquirer. But literally hours before the photo was taken at JFK, thousands saw her perform at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting, where she was clearly far from broken down. Can’t a girl just take a rest once in a while?

Bruce Springsteen “Lives in Fear of His Fans!” states the Enquirer, above a story claiming that the rocker has built a panic room in his Los Angeles home, “to protect family from kidnappers.” Let’s be clear: kidnappers aren’t fans. They’re businessmen with questionable morals and social issues.

“Kate Hudson’s Stripper Pole Secret!” is revealed by the Enquirer. Except it’s no secret. The actress has discussed exercising with a stripper pole for years, has been photographed on stripper poles before, and recently posted a heavily pregnant Instagram photo of herself standing beside her home stripper pole. Some secret.

T’is the season when a news-starved Globe fills its cover and 11 pages inside with “79 legends we loved and lost in 2018,” avoiding the necessity to come up with anything new. Rather than tributes to the dear departed, it’s a cavalcade of scandal and disdain: Aretha Franklin was a “royal pain,” Austin Powers’ Mini-Me actor Verne Troyer “killed himself with booze,” Burt Reynolds “lost [the] will to live,” Jerry Van Dyke was a “jealous monster,” John McCain was a “ladies man” who was “destroyed by Sarah Palin,” Margot Kidder “put herself out of pain,” and Harry Anderson “hated Night Court ’til the day he died!” All this under the banner: “Thanks For The Memories.” With thanks like that, who needs criticism?

George H.W. Bush receives the tabloid equivalent of a hero’s farewell, with a spread in the Enquirer celebrating “A Life Well Lived!” while the National Examiner dedicates a full page to private love letters between Bush and wife Barbara that “reveal a love that never died.” I’m teary-eyed. Cue Celine Dion singing “My Heart Will Go On.”

Fortunately we have the crack investigative team at Us magazine to tell us that Nicole Kidman wore it best, that Rachel Brosnahan “once burned spaghetti,” that Jessie James Decker carries cash, gum and sunglasses in her Céline tote (revelatory, as always), and that the stars are just like us: they pump their own gas, play sports, and carry their own luggage. Like we’ve never seen that before.

Once again I can’t help wondering how sick and dying tabloid readers must be, judging by the advertisements aimed at them. This week’s offerings include ads for a medical alert panic button, anti-aging cream, a pad to “turn off your brain at night so you can sleep,” a therapeutic cushion to relieve sciatica, and a health supplement to reverse dementia. That’s in addition to editorials on flu shots, weight loss, heart disease, asthma, erectile disfunction, a mystery disease crippling children, how to “walk off 20 pounds in a month,” night blindness, baldness, Alzheimer’s, breast cancer and high cholesterol. Medical opinion is still clearly divided as to whether it’s reading tabloids that makes you sick, or if you have to be sick to want to read the tabloids.

Onwards and downwards . . .

from Boing Boing https://boingboing.net/2018/12/12/kate-hudsons-stripper-pole.html

Culture

Kate Hudson’s stripper pole, money-hungry Duchess Meghan, and Bruce Springsteen’s fear of fans, in this week’s dubious tabloids

Tabloid headlines are from Mars, tabloid stories are from Venus. That’s how far removed are this week’s stories and the headlines that top them.

“Scott Peterson murdered 2 other women!” screams the National Enquirer cover. No he didn’t, says the story inside, despite the spread headline: “Scott Peterson a Serial Killer!” Convicted wife-killer Peterson is nothing more than a possible suspect in two cold case deaths to which he has the most tenuous of connections.

“Jen Garner Recruited by Hollywood Cult!” proclaims the Enquirer. No she wasn’t, says the Enquirer story. Rather than being recruited, actress Garner is simply the subject of an alleged crush by Scientology chief David Miscavige. Garner herself appears unaware of any interest in her by Scientology, but that’s enough for the Enquirer to say: “Friends fear she’s vulnerable to recruiters.” Right.

“Money-hungry Meghan turns back on America!” yells the Globe cover. “Gives up U.S. citizenship to avoid taxes!” No, she hasn’t, says the story inside. The Duchess of Sussex “is still an American citizen,” an IRS source reportedly tells the Enquirer. And if she were to relinquish her U.S. citizenship it wouldn’t be to avoid paying taxes, but to avoid exposing the sources of her income – Prince Harry and the Queen – to unwanted scrutiny by America’s IRS. The Palace tells the Enquirer “there’s no truth” to the story. Indeed.

Cindy Crawford and husband Rande Gerber face a “billion dollar divorce shocker!” reports the Enquirer. No, they don’t. She’s simply been photographed without her wedding ring, for which there could be a hundred rational explanations not involving a marital split. And anyway, the couple aren’t worth anywhere near a billion dollars.
Other tabloid stories perpetuate their traditional tenuous connection with reality.

Singer Diana Ross is “broken down” and “could barely ‘keep on hanging on’” as she was pushed in a wheelchair through New York’s JFK airport recently, says the Enquirer. But literally hours before the photo was taken at JFK, thousands saw her perform at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting, where she was clearly far from broken down. Can’t a girl just take a rest once in a while?

Bruce Springsteen “Lives in Fear of His Fans!” states the Enquirer, above a story claiming that the rocker has built a panic room in his Los Angeles home, “to protect family from kidnappers.” Let’s be clear: kidnappers aren’t fans. They’re businessmen with questionable morals and social issues.

“Kate Hudson’s Stripper Pole Secret!” is revealed by the Enquirer. Except it’s no secret. The actress has discussed exercising with a stripper pole for years, has been photographed on stripper poles before, and recently posted a heavily pregnant Instagram photo of herself standing beside her home stripper pole. Some secret.

T’is the season when a news-starved Globe fills its cover and 11 pages inside with “79 legends we loved and lost in 2018,” avoiding the necessity to come up with anything new. Rather than tributes to the dear departed, it’s a cavalcade of scandal and disdain: Aretha Franklin was a “royal pain,” Austin Powers’ Mini-Me actor Verne Troyer “killed himself with booze,” Burt Reynolds “lost [the] will to live,” Jerry Van Dyke was a “jealous monster,” John McCain was a “ladies man” who was “destroyed by Sarah Palin,” Margot Kidder “put herself out of pain,” and Harry Anderson “hated Night Court ’til the day he died!” All this under the banner: “Thanks For The Memories.” With thanks like that, who needs criticism?

George H.W. Bush receives the tabloid equivalent of a hero’s farewell, with a spread in the Enquirer celebrating “A Life Well Lived!” while the National Examiner dedicates a full page to private love letters between Bush and wife Barbara that “reveal a love that never died.” I’m teary-eyed. Cue Celine Dion singing “My Heart Will Go On.”

Fortunately we have the crack investigative team at Us magazine to tell us that Nicole Kidman wore it best, that Rachel Brosnahan “once burned spaghetti,” that Jessie James Decker carries cash, gum and sunglasses in her Céline tote (revelatory, as always), and that the stars are just like us: they pump their own gas, play sports, and carry their own luggage. Like we’ve never seen that before.

Once again I can’t help wondering how sick and dying tabloid readers must be, judging by the advertisements aimed at them. This week’s offerings include ads for a medical alert panic button, anti-aging cream, a pad to “turn off your brain at night so you can sleep,” a therapeutic cushion to relieve sciatica, and a health supplement to reverse dementia. That’s in addition to editorials on flu shots, weight loss, heart disease, asthma, erectile disfunction, a mystery disease crippling children, how to “walk off 20 pounds in a month,” night blindness, baldness, Alzheimer’s, breast cancer and high cholesterol. Medical opinion is still clearly divided as to whether it’s reading tabloids that makes you sick, or if you have to be sick to want to read the tabloids.

Onwards and downwards . . .

from Boing Boing https://boingboing.net/2018/12/12/kate-hudsons-stripper-pole.html

Culture

Vladimir Putin’s old Stasi ID card discovered

What a wonderful time to be alive.

A photo ID card issued to a young Vladimir Putin has been publicly released by Germany’s BTSU, the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the former East Germany, and subsequently published in the German news outlet Bild.

Here it is. Russia is denying that Putin was ever issued a KGB identification card, which naturally means it’s legit.

From the New York Times:

The German tabloid Bild’s publication of a photo ID card issued to a young Mr. Putin by the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police, pulls back the veil on one part of his tenure in Dresden, causing a ripple of excitement on social media and raising questions about his presence in the former German Democratic Republic.

The Putin ID card was also released on Wednesday by the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the former East Germany. Printed on green passport-style paper, the card bears a black-and-white photo of a young intelligence officer identified as Major Putin, who would have been 33 at the time.

It was issued on the last day of 1985, and has validation stamps for each quarter except one — the last quarter of 1986. The ID also bears what appears to be Mr. Putin’s signature.

The Stasi building was a stone’s throw away from the villa where the K.G.B. had its offices.

[IMAGE: The photo ID card issued to a young Vladimir V. Putin by the Stasi.]

from Boing Boing https://boingboing.net/2018/12/12/putins-stasi-id.html

Culture

Taylor Swift used facial recognition tech at concerts to spy on stalkers

Taylor Swift used facial recognition technology at her live performances so that technicians running the system could then check those face scans against a private database of her stalkers.

The company that provided the scanning and analysis service appears to be this event counterterrorism division of Oak View Group, which has received a fair amount of press.

Part of the reason they’ve been in the press so much: all the deadly attacks at big entertainment events around the world lately.

There is now big demand for serious security at live events the size of a Taylor Swift concert. There have been so many bombings and mass shootings at music concerts over the past year to even remember without Googling. Fear of being killed at a music concert is something people factor in to the decision to buy tickets and go to live events. The demand for security is real.

So is the potential for misuse and abuse of the technology, including by third parties — hackers, foreign enemies, who knows.

Steve Knopper at Rolling Stone:

Taylor Swift fans mesmerized by rehearsal clips on a kiosk at her May 18th Rose Bowl show were unaware of one crucial detail:

A facial-recognition camera inside the display was taking their photos.

The images were being transferred to a Nashville “command post,” where they were cross-referenced with a database of hundreds of the pop star’s known stalkers, according to Mike Downing, chief security officer of Oak View Group, an advisory board for concert venues including Madison Square Garden and the Forum in L.A.

“Everybody who went by would stop and stare at it, and the software would start working,” says Downing, who attended the concert to witness a demo of the system as a guest of the company that manufactures the kiosks. (Swift’s reps did not respond to requests for comment.)

Despite the obvious privacy concerns — for starters, who owns those pictures of concertgoers and how long can they be kept on file? — the use of facial-recognition technology is on the rise at stadiums and arenas, and security is not the only goal.

Read the rest.

from Boing Boing https://boingboing.net/2018/12/12/taylor-swift-facial-recognitio.html

Culture

How Congress missed another chance to hold big tech accountable

From time to time the entire technology press corps gets together on Twitter, spends several hours live-tweeting the same event, and then writes a series of blog posts about how nothing important happened. This event is known as a Congressional hearing, and today we witnessed our final one of the year.

After months of polite deferrals, Sundar Pichai finally went before Congress on Tuesday, and over the course of three and a half hours, said as little as possible. The hearing before the House Judiciary Committee was defined, as had been the Facebook hearings before it, by the widespread befuddlement of our lawmakers.

There was, for example, the question from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) about why a picture of Donald Trump comes up when you…

Continue reading…

from The Verge – All Posts https://www.theverge.com/2018/12/12/18136956/google-hearing-sundar-pichai-congress-bias

Culture

THE BUREAU: Part Seven, “Lockdown in the Building, News of an Active Shooter Near the Cafeteria” — with Mr Quintron’s Circuit-Bent Guitars


Welcome back to The Bureau. This week will be a holiday segment. Above the fold you’ll see this week’s comic and playlist, and you can catch up here on the current story. While the main office building gets covered in gasoline and the intruders pounce upon The Brain, we’re reminded of this time of year and the basic need of giving thanks and appreciations.

Part of this series has been to acknowledge electronic instruments that impact our lives positively. We’ve already highlighted the work of Metasonix and Soma Labs, as well as the RF Nomad and SSL’s Scat Talker, but there are some incredible pieces never made for mass production. Easily one of the most interesting categories of electronics is circuit bending.

When asked about the weirdest thing in the studio, I’m happy to point to an unassuming set of toy guitars. One is a Hot Lixx guitar by TYCO and the other is a generically titled “Electronic Guitar” by Radio Shack. To certain friends with shared interests, the phrase “These are modified guitars by Mr Quintron” is usually all the introduction needed to elicit immediate interest. These are treasured items that I acquired about 15-20 years ago when he put them up for sale. First, let’s meet the guitars without modification.

By themselves, these toys are pretty damn funny and obnoxious. Here’s a TV commercial from TYCO from 1989:

The TYCO Hot Lixx Guitar promises you’ll PLAY IT IN A MINUTE with its computerized buttons. Also includes a whammy bar and pitch wheel.

And here, by glory of the all-providing Internet, is a gentleman performing the Radio Shack Electronic Guitar – Amazingly, Part 1 of a 4 part sequence:

The Radio Shack Electronic Guitar has a pretty nice drum machine built in.

And this, without any need for an introduction, is Mr Quintron

But let’s back up two and a half decades to 1993…

So, in the spirit of holiday appreciations, I want to thank Chicago’s Wicker Park in the mid-1990s. It’s hard to mention something like Quintron’s music and not think back to that era, in particular the No Wave scene of Chicago in 1993-1995 or so. WFMU has a great two part post on No Wave from their blog. The author Fatty Jubbo is a vivid writer, sharing experiences that I consider familiar:

When I moved to Chicago in 1994, I arrived for the last half of a very interesting period of Chicago music. I’m not speaking of the MTV shit-pile of Smashing Pumpkins, Varuca Salt, etc etc, but of the strange avant-weirdness that was brewing around the not-so-gentrified-yet area of Wicker Park (now a derogatory term and a place to avoid if you live around these parts). Bands such as Scissor Girls, Mother Country Death Rattle, Dot Dot Dot, Duotron, Flying Luttenbachers and Math were some of the mysterious names I saw on flyers around town, performing at strange places such as The Milk of Burgundy, The Hub Theater and The Czar Bar. These bands were carving their own identity though continuing a long Chicago tradition of exalting dark humor and the absurd while actively avoiding classification.

Read Part One and Part Two. Mr Jubbo’s WFMU playlists are not to be missed, either. And while there, support the station.

The Milk of Burgundy was Mr Quintron’s club on North Avenue. It was a portal into a different way of thinking. I had just moved to Chicago from Denver, which had its own portals. The Denver ones I frequented are gone and very missed: Muddy’s Cafe, Rock Island, and Ground Zero. These were weirdly psychic places (the real kind, not the foolish stuff I was discussing last week) but places that gave a strong imprint on your mind and direction in life. Moving to Chicago I wanted to find that same thing. This lead me to Earwax Cafe, which has its own bizarre memories, like Jay Lynch, Archer Prewitt, and Dan Clowes at a booth drawing and cracking one another up or the Ear Wax back room, filled with videotapes, comics, and records. Down the street off Damen was the original location for Quimby’s Books.

Rather funny New York Times rave on the Milk of Burgundy in 1994:

The decorating scheme for Milk of Burgundy on West North Avenue could have been dreamed up in 15 minutes; the only formal seating area in the low-ceilinged nightclub is a rumpled queen-size bed.

I moved to Chicago in 1993 to go to school. I chose the city partly because Wax Trax was there. I was a teenager from Denver and my goth/punk/weird head was soaked in Industrial music. Denver had the original Wax Trax record stores (still around) but Chicago had the actual Wax Trax label (dead and/or revived). I found Wicker Park on my first night, because I’d heard that KMFDM were somewhere around there recording their Angst album.

KMFDM seems really silly and creatively conservative now but I absolutely loved it.

Thrill Kill Kult still stands up beautifully well, though, and is why I moved to town.


Mr Quintron and his curious effect on people’s lives.

My first week in town, much of my taste in music would abruptly change. The school booked a local band in its ballroom to welcome new students. One advantage to going to an art school is their occasional bullseye in cracking your head open to something new. They invited the band MATH. I think it’d be another decade before I’d play another Wax Trax album.

MATH was a total shock to my system. It was a three-piece band that seemed like some weird Dada or Futurist group, but serrated and primitive. A great stage with a giant radiola horn. They were beautifully percussive. Charismatic and booming in the middle of the room, enchanting you with strange organ playing, a vibrantly loud woman’s voice paired with two men shouting, and these weird weird wonderful horns, musical saws, noise makers. Just pure art menace. It felt like three snake charmers wrapping around every one in attendance. The man screaming in the band doing an abriged cover of “Old Man Mose” and counting out loud chants was Mr Quintron (though going by another name back then)

When I die, thinking we can revisit our life’s experiences, I’d like one of my first dips back in time to be a reenactment of that evening, so much is my regard for that moment. That this experience was just handed to me at a school-sponsored party my first week in the city is still very odd to comprehend. I was very young and it was a blessing.

Sometimes life can be very kind to you.


MATH’s BASK album was issued in a square paper box, on the fondly remembered and dearly missed BULB RECORDS label

What did MATH sound like?

Thanks again to WFMU, two entire Math albums are downloadable here. And if there was any one song that shows off MATH best, it’s Bill the Conductor — I also love the number song from Rubber Musique.

A hint at the surrealist stage design of a MATH show, from the liner notes to BASK


I can’t find performance video of MATH, but I can give a suggestion of what it felt like. The closest impact to your mental space might be a Crash Worship show, which Quintron also occasionally fronted on vocals:

Of course MATH was only a three piece with no dancers or fire swinging, but same genome.

I would only see MATH live once again, at Chicago’s Empty Bottle. That evening was nuts itself, a friend had a bottle dropper of acid back at his seat/table, and was dripping any quantity into sugar cubes for any takers. Subsequently my memory of the second MATH show was somewhat more prismatic and less specific, but I remember them glowing.

I’d live in Wicker Park until its art culture died out, moving to Logan Square for the remainder of time in the city. In 1999, I moved to Austin.

It was only once I got to Austin that I resumed my interest in MATH and found all the amazing music and inventions Mr Quintron had made since. His move to New Orleans with Miss Pussycat, and the music and art they’d make together was fascinating and life affirming. The Drum Buddy, a four oscillator light bulb-based drum machine that plays patterns based on holes drilled through coffee cans (and operated with a car key) will likely go down in history as one of the most impressive stage instruments of this century:


His recent Weather Warlock is another stunning invention

And of course the current stage shows, talk about mind-cracking:

In 2000, my world sank a bit, depression-wise (we all go through it) and going through Quintron albums and catching up with their characters and self-contained world was a delight, saving me from feeling worse.

Two Other Great Albums: Robot and Tahiti

MC Trachiotomy, a fellow inhabitant of the Rhinestone Records planet, put out two albums at that time: Robot, Alien or Ghost which helped me in depression in a real way. In fact I’ll say it complete cured it (thank you man) and then I met the woman I’d soon marry. His next album With Love From Tahiti would be our courtship record. Trachiotomy’s song “Angel Dust” would be a romantic song for me and my wife, as we fell in love together, laughing to lyrics like “Talking to myself, taking a shower with no water”. I’m forever thankful for that and recommend both Trachiotomy albums for their lyricism, off-the-wall uniqueness, and amazing creativity.

This is some outstanding sampling and performance:


Anyway, this is a long drive around the road to my point, but around 2001 after my life had caught back on its rails, these two circuit bent guitars came up for sale from Quintron and I delightedly acquired them.

The two guitars add a little bit of his uncanny charm and carnival unpredictability into the toys.

Here are two completely unprocessed examples of their sound output.


The guitars really come alive with a little studio processing. Here’s a short demo. The guitars are playing with their output split into audio and into an envelope generator sent into a VCA that’s gating a noise channel.


These guitars in The Bureau

The TYCO Guitar’s whammy bar is the sound of the Cartoon Tip-Toes:

The Radio Shack Guitar is the sound of Pitch-Bent Weather and Clouds:



The TYCO Hot Lixx

The modified TYCO Hot Lixx shows the most visual changes with a series of switches on top that modify the tone of the guitar itself, one is a hard clicking dial that seems to dampen the signal and changes the tone depending on what you dial setting you select, the other switch modifies how the pitch wheel responds and how much voltage seems to apply to the light and touch sensors when you tap them with your fingers. A strobe light sent on the guitar can cause a nice vibratto effect and the whammy bar seems to be especially rubbery when you pull the bar.

The modified TYCO Hot Lixx with two added switches and two touch/light sensors

The Radio Shack “Electronic Guitar”

The Radio Shack guitar is the most exciting of the two. The addition of that large knob on top slows down the bitrate of the guitar, which you can slow to near quanta-level noise grit, or very fast, backwards and forwards causing very odd bit-rate clacking to other weird tones and loops. There are preprogrammed note sequences that are affected by this dial. The onboard drum machine is wicked, too.

The only visible difference on the modified Radio Shack guitar is the very prominent knob. Vast changes in sound and function suggest a lot of components and rewiring below, however


Sound Examples in some Quintron & Miss Pussycat projects

By most evidence, Quintron never recorded much with these, but you can hear the toy guitars being used in Miss Pussycat’s “North Pole Nutrias” right here at the 7 minute, 12 second mark:

I hear it in the introduction of this Flossie and the Unicorns album, as well:


Most importantly, I’m thankful for the world we live in, where if you look for things not common you can find deep meaning and joy.

Happy Holidays from The Bureau – Continued Next Wednesday.

View all Bureau installments

from Boing Boing https://boingboing.net/2018/12/12/the-bureau-part-seven-lock.html