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25 Dec 21:04

E-Books That Read You

by Soulskill


An anonymous reader writes "Internet users have sadly grown used to having their every click and scroll measured by advertisers and content providers seeking to squeeze every last ounce of attention out of them. Now, it seems such data gathering is spreading into your favorite novels as well. The NY Times profiles several companies trying to collect data on how people read ebooks. Quoting: 'Scribd is just beginning to analyze the data from its subscribers. Some general insights: The longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who done it. People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but a chapter of a yoga book is all they need. They speed through romances faster than religious titles, and erotica fastest of all. At Oyster, a top book is What Women Want, promoted as a work that "brings you inside a woman's head so you can learn how to blow her mind." Everyone who starts it finishes it. On the other hand, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s The Cycles of American History blows no minds: fewer than 1 percent of the readers who start it get to the end. Oyster data shows that readers are 25 percent more likely to finish books that are broken up into shorter chapters. That is an inevitable consequence of people reading in short sessions during the day on an iPhone.'"

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25 Dec 20:59

working hard 

working hard 

25 Dec 20:59

Crowdfunding campaign collects money for Blizzard dev with cancer

by Megan Farokhmanesh

InXile Entertainment's John Alvarado is holding a crowdfunding campaign to benefit Ron Nakada, a senior software engineer at Blizzard with Stage 4 colon cancer.

Nakada was diagnosed with cancer six months ago, "early into his first year of marriage." According to the campaign, Nakada's short-term disability insurance recently ended; additionally, the insurance did not cover monthly expenses. Nakada's long-term disability insurance has yet to kick in, and it will provide a smaller benefit than his previous coverage.

"Ron has an urgent need right now to pay accumulated bills (including credit cards he has had to rely on to get by) and a longer term need for assistance while he continues the battle," the campaign reads.

Immediate funds will go to help fulfill Nakada's short-term needs. The campaign has already raised more than $14,000 of its $25,000 goal.

Funding efforts will end in 32 days. You can make a donation or view more about Nakada's story on YouCaring.

25 Dec 20:32

Three families hold the keys to American cable consolidation

by John McDuling

all carriers suck forever

There's a lot more to the cable industry than hard numbers.

The wave of consolidation about to sweep America’s cable industry in 2014 is practically inevitable. The only real question is who ends up buying whom.

At the moment, the highly unpopular Time Warner Cable remains the most likely initial target. There will be much fuss about how such deals will be financed and structured. But ultimately, the outcome of negotiations will come down to the whims of big egos that have dominated the industry for the last six decades.

The chart below from Macquarie Equities analyst Amy Yong illustrates the tangled web of personalities, which in a way reflects the highly unusual structure of the industry (a fragmented group of regional pseudo-monopolies).  As Yong points out, the three companies most likely to emerge with all or part of Time Warner Cable are all controlled by family dynasties, which “could create uncertainty as the quest for kingdom-ship continues,” she says.

The current frontrunner for taking over Time Warner Cable is Charter Communications, which is expected to lob a formal bid early in the New Year. The company is indirectly controlled by Coloradan billionaire John Malone through his Liberty Media investment vehicle. Easily the biggest player in the industry, Comcast is also sniffing around. It has been controlled by the Roberts family since 1963. The final contender for a piece of Time Warner Cable is Cablevision, the upstate New York-based provider controlled by the Dolan family (whose patriarch,  the octogenarian billionaire Chuck Dolan, also founded HBO) since 1973.

As the chart indicates, these families have crossed swords on numerous occasions before, in both friendly and bitter transactions. So expect age-old rivalries to play as big a role in determining what happens in the industry as hard business sense. 

25 Dec 20:31

Christmas Secret


merry fucking christmas

25 Dec 20:30

3 children die in Louisiana mobile home fire -


an annual Louisiana story

3 children die in Louisiana mobile home fire
HOUMA, La. (AP) — A mobile home fire in Louisiana killed three children and injured seven others early on Christmas Day, fire officials said. Two brothers, ages 12 and 11, and their 13-year-old sister died at the Whispering Oaks Trailer Park in Houma, said ...
Mobile home fire kills 3 children in HoumaAlexandria Town Talk

all 103 news articles »
25 Dec 20:29

blvcknvy: Licia Ronzulli, member of the European Parliament,...




Licia Ronzulli, member of the European Parliament, has been taking her daughter Vittoria to the Parliament sessions for two years now.

25 Dec 20:27



where wallace at

25 Dec 20:10

Kevin Garnett cusses out ref, kid tries to earmuff younger brother

by Rodger Sherman

Merry Christmas, KG.

It's well known that Kevin Garnett is one of the most foul-mouthed NBA players when on the court -- whether via actual, legit four-lettering, or via saying horrible things to people.

When Garnett took a moment to give a ref an earful during the Nets' pitiful 95-78 loss to the Bulls Christmas afternoon, one little kid sitting in the first row wanted to shield his even younger little brother from Garnett's language: (Shout-out to Nets blogThe Brooklyn Game for spotting this live) Garnettpottymouth_medium Best part: the "MERRY CHRISTMAS" banner at the bottom right of the screen.


Basketball players, of course, are allowed to say bad words -- bloggers do too, sometimes -- and those lucky enough to sit in the first row of basketball games should not come equipped with fragile sensibilities. But there's nothing more "BROOKLYN NETS GETTING BLOWN OUT ON CHRISTMAS DAY" than Garnett cursing so loudly an innocent little kid needs to have his ears shielded.

25 Dec 20:10

Left 4 Dead 2 FREE until 10AM PST 12/26

by gguillotte



To celebrate the holidays in a special way this year, Left 4 Dead 2 will be free until 10AM PST 12/26. It will be free as in, grab it now, pay no money, and it is yours to keep forever – FOR FREE!
25 Dec 19:52

What management consultants might say to the Pope

by Tim Fernholz

"recasting Christ as a disruptive entrepreneur could be a game-changing opportunity. Initial thought: Christianity as the first social network?"

go fuck yourself straight to canonical hell

Pope Francis leads an audience for Christmas greetings to the Curia in the Clementina hall at the Vatican December 21, 2013.

“In an effort to streamline and modernise its communications structures and bring its accounting practices in line with international standards, the Vatican hired … [t]he global management-consulting firm McKinsey & Company and the Netherlands-based financial and administrative consultation firm KPMG.” Catholic Herald, Dec. 20, 2013

His Holiness, Pope Francis I
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City

January 15, 2014

Your Holiness,

Thank you for selecting McKinsey & Company for your strategic review. While our deep dive into the Catholic Church’s strategy is proceeding apace, here are a few early action items that may be worth your further attention:

Item: Acquisition. Might the church find synergies with the Santa Claus enterprise? Claus already seems to be leveraging your brand equity to publicize his just-in-time gift delivery model, although we are still confused about the prospects of monetization. Amazing supply-chain (though we note with concern the potential impact of recent labor legislation on elf wage costs), and a top candidate for potential M&A activity. Win-win acqui-hire?

Item: Messaging. Your adoption of Twitter and emphasis on the compassionate side of the church is a good example of successful thought leadership. But the church’s message can get lost with so many different spokespeople. Adopting an authoritative text as a guide to the church’s shared values seems necessary. Perhaps a council is in order?

Item: Talent deployment. We’ve noticed an arbitrary separation between the church’s male and female workforce that could lead to inefficiencies and personnel shortages. We recommend reconsidering gender-separated training programs and work assignments, particularly at senior management levels—you don’t want public-relations problem like the one Twitter faced.

Item: Brand identity. There is a great deal of variability in architecture, design, staff uniforms, and customer-service procedures at different church facilities worldwide. This can be off-putting to customers, who feel reassured by a consistent experience. McDonalds and others have shown that it’s entirely possible to achieve a high level of brand consistency within a franchise model. We can help with this.

Item: God’s work. The Vatican Bank has had a very good year, but the money laundering has to go—perhaps to one of these jurisdictions. If that causes a liquidity crunch, we have some outside-the-box ideas for revenue-raisers. Bitcoin has shown how blind faith can exploit gaps between market and intrinsic value, an area in which we note the church already has considerable experience thanks to its relics business. So we are considering possible alternative-currency plays: IndulgeCoins?

Item: Founding story. A strong founding narrative is of increasing importance. We have concerns that the story around Christ’s birth is muddled (parentage?) and doesn’t reflect logistics best practices (lack of hotel reservation forces birth into agricultural facility). Many of the key features of his life story (asceticism, celibacy, etc.) feel out of touch with the aspirations of Millennials today. An update could increase the church’s attractiveness to this demographic— recasting Christ as a disruptive entrepreneur could be a game-changing opportunity. Initial thought: Christianity as the first social network?

Looking forward to strategizing further with you on this.

Sincerely, your humble servant,

John Wycliffe
for McKinsey & Company

25 Dec 19:50

Bieber: 'I'm Officially Retiring'

Justin Bieber handed a bitter Christmas present to millions of Beliebers. Just before midnight on Christmas Eve, the singer tweeted that he was “officially retiring.”
25 Dec 19:50

UPS backlog means missing Christmas gifts; Amazon responds -

by gguillotte
Asked why the company underestimated the volume of air packages it would receive, Black noted that previous severe weather in the Dallas area had already created a backlog. Then came "excess holiday volume" during a compressed time frame, since the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas was shorter than usual this year. ... The Warren family of Heath, Texas, had to go a few days without special medicine their 14-year-old son needs in order to eat. "It was just sitting" at a UPS outlet in Mesquite, where the family finally picked it up, Patrick Warren told CNN affiliate WFAA.
25 Dec 19:49

NBA Christmas 2013 results: Bulls dismantle Nets in 95-78 blowout

by Drew Garrison

the sleeved jerseys are garbage, but they really do bring out the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce Basketball League-ness of the Nets logo in a nice way

The Bulls gave the Nets a lump of coal for Christmas.

The first game of the NBA's Christmas Day schedule featured the Chicago Bulls dominating the Brooklyn Nets in a 95-78 blowout. The Bulls pulled away in the second half, eventually leading to the Brooklyn home crowd booing the Nets throughout the fourth quarter.

Brooklyn struggled on offense, shooting just 35 percent from the field as a team. They scored 15 points in the second quarter, but it was the third quarter where the game got away from the Nets. Mirza Teletovich scored 10 points in the third, but Chicago outscored Brooklyn 36-20 and built a comfortable lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Bulls dismantled the Nets' defense with six players breaking double-digit scoring. Mike Dunleavy scored 13 points starting in place of Luol Deng, who missed the game with Achilles inflammation. Taj Gibson scored a game-high 20 points, putting together a big game off the bench for Chicago including this monstrous putback dunk in the fourth quarter:


Deron Williams scored a team-high 18 points for Brooklyn. Kevin Garnett scored six points in 19 minutes on two-of-seven shooting. Andray Blatche struggled from the field, making just one of his 11 attempts.

More from SB Nation NBA:

Prada's pictures: Phoenix's 2-headed dragon and Drummond's development

Sunday Shootaround: Hello again, Danny Granger

Anti-tanking NBA official suggests eliminating the draft

NBA power rankings: Heat vault to No. 1

The Hook: The Nets can't turn back now | Lopez done for the year

Hornets unveil new logo | GIF: Blake Griffin's insane handle

25 Dec 19:47

Are You A Writer? Want A Free House? Try Detroit

Write-A-House, a Detroit-based literary organization founded in 2012 by novelist Toby Barlow, hopes to energize the literary community in the Motor City by giving writers not just a room of their own, but an entire home.
25 Dec 19:38

I Think We Know What Brand They Like




Submitted by: (via F25 Analogy)

Tagged: funny , logos , nike , tattoos
25 Dec 18:48



where wallace at

25 Dec 18:47

Here Are All The Things That Were Supposed To Save Detroit This Year

There's a week left in 2013. Did any of these work?
25 Dec 18:47

Judge orders man to write 'boys do not hit girls' - Lincoln Journal Star


TW: judicial rape culture

Judge orders man to write 'boys do not hit girls'
Lincoln Journal Star
The Montana judge who said a teen rape victim appeared "older than her chronological age" has sentenced a man convicted of punching his girlfriend to write "Boys do not hit girls" 5,000 times. District Judge G. Todd Baugh also sentenced Pacer Anthony ...

and more »
25 Dec 18:21

Hacker (Activision - various home computers - 1985)

Hacker (Activision - various home computers - 1985)

25 Dec 18:21

"Bring the Big Sack!" - Tomba! 2 (Whoopee Camp - PSX - 1999)

"Bring the Big Sack!" - Tomba! 2 (Whoopee Camp - PSX - 1999)

25 Dec 18:21

Regency Love: A game about 19th century courtship inspired by Baldur's Gate

by Tracey Lien

"[We] thought, hey, why not have a fantasy RPG with all the romance and none of the fighting? So basically, a dating sim — only, not quite, because we wanted to have all the dialogs and conversations from those RPGs we loved, as well as the ability to make an actual difference with your conversation choices."

Tea for Three is an Australian game studio built by three unlikely developers. There's Samantha Lin, a bubbly twenty-something PhD candidate whose thesis is about Shakespeare film adaptations. There's Jenny Tan, an auditor with a background in accounting. And there's Melody Wang, the programmer of the team.

This unlikely trio of developers is the brains behind a game with a theme that, until very recently, was also unlikely material for a video game.

Regency Love is a role-playing game available now for iOS devices set during the Regency era, a period of nine years between 1811 and 1820 when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, the Prince of Wales, ruled as his proxy as Prince Regent. In the world of literature, it is better known as the period when author Jane Austen was most active, producing some of her most famous works like Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. When you think of the world of Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy, that's the Regency period. And it is in this world of tea parties, structured courtships and Colin Firth looking uncomfortable that Tea for Three has stumbled onto something special.

"I still remember the moment when I realized who Imoen was in Baldur's Gate 2."

"[The three of us] were having dinner one day and started fan-girling over Dragon Age 2," Regency Love's writer, Samantha Lin said. "I've always loved the BioWare RPGs, especially Baldur's Gate 2 and Dragon Age: Origins, because of the romance side plots (and fireballs).

"[We] thought, hey, why not have a fantasy RPG with all the romance and none of the fighting? So basically, a dating sim — only, not quite, because we wanted to have all the dialogs and conversations from those RPGs we loved, as well as the ability to make an actual difference with your conversation choices."

The Regency period was fertile ground for their idea. It may have lacked the action-based excitement of of a fantasy setting or a historic war zone, but the excitement could be found elsewhere, in the story and the characters.

"When I think about the action-packed RPGs I love, they all concentrate on telling some kind of story," Lin said. "Yes, there's also quite a bit of action with darkspawns (enemies from Dragon Age), Bhaalspawns (from Baldur's Gate) and so on, but to me, it was always about why I was battling those foes.

"I remember playing World of Warcraft for a solid month and being completely obsessed, but it was always about achieving accomplishment-based goals rather than plot-based ones. I don't remember much of World of Warcraft now, but I still remember the moment when I realized who Imoen was in Baldur's Gate 2."

In Regency Love, Tea for Three uses the historical period to tell original stories about the people of Darlington, a fictional town with people whose interests and concerns — while seemingly trivial to a player from the 21st century — are real and serious to the people of the time. Through the player's interactions and conversations with other characters, the game reveals the values and struggles that a person — particularly a woman — would have experienced. In one conversation early on in the game, the player is lectured by a family friend about the importance for a woman to marry a man who can care for her. The dialog the player can choose from ranges from acceptance to defiance ("What about marrying for love?"). These choices will affect the traits of the player's character and shape the way people view her.

Players will venture to locations like the town center, meet new characters and have conversations with them that will affect future interactions. Regency Love's dialog trees are full of subtleties in language, so the consequences are not always predictable. As per the conversation above, questioning if a woman should marry for love may seem harmless and even reasonable, but the response suggests otherwise. In a later encounter, the player meets a handsome gentleman who tells her it is a pleasure to meet her. The dialog choices remain subtle in their differences ("I daresay I'm the more fortunate of us to have the privilege of being in the presence of such a handsome gentleman as yourself," vs. "I believe the pleasure is entirely mine, Mr. Graham").

...The game reveals the values and struggles that a person — particularly a woman — would have experienced.

The game is a dating sim to an extent. There are currently two male characters who can be romanced. Tea for Three has plans for future updates to the game that will add more romanceable characters, as well as side plots that flesh out the stories for yet-to-be-introduced characters. But the game always comes back to its RPG roots, and the romances are simply part of a bigger, more complex story.

Throughout the game, players will be able to play mini-games like Hangman that contain trivia about the Regency era. Completing these mini-games will earn the player motivation points, which they can then spend on improving their dancing skills, reading, needlework, singing, drawing or riding.

"Although a lot of the character's preoccupations could be thought of as insignificant — I mean, what's a well-darned sock in relation to overthrowing the Roman Republic? — they shed light on certain elements of human existence which, although small and quiet, are not in any way less important or meaningful," Lin said. "A well-darned sock shows resourcefulness, skill, financial awareness and a respect for one's belongings. So we wanted to focus on those types of stories, to allow for a kind of gentle introspection that a Regency era game allows."

Lin told Polygon that one of the challenges the team had was negotiating authenticity and accessibility. Regency era literature tends to use long sentences and complicated syntax which, while suitable for the pages in a book, does not work for a game that has to be playable on a small screen. The game relies heavily on Jenny Tan's art to tell what what isn't said through words. The result is a game that is accessible, even to those who can't make it through a Jane Austen novel, while still feeling distinctly of that period.

"Ultimately, we created Regency Love for everyone who loves a good story," Lin said. "Of course, different people prefer different kinds of stories, and I think our game is for those who like something that's a little playful, charming, slightly quirky and invites quiet contemplation.

"What I want all our players [to get out of Regency Love] is an immersive, interactive experience of the Regency world we've lovingly created, and which, in turn, we hope will be lovingly taken."

25 Dec 18:17

Everyone is is awfully good shape this morning

Everyone is is awfully good shape this morning

25 Dec 18:15

Prime Minister Wiretapped — Vast Corruption Upending Turkey's Government

by Unknown Lamer
cold fjord writes with an update on the political upheaval happening in Turkey "From the article: 'Dawn raids last Tuesday nabbed almost 60 people and implicated three government ministries, the directors of state banks, and some of Turkey's most powerful businessmen in a massive corruption probe spread across three different cases. Three members of Turkey's cabinet resigned on Christmas Day, and one called on Erdogan to follow suit as accusations of kickbacks, smuggling, and abuse of office continue to mount. The scandal has even acquired an international dimension as suspicions that Iran has been using Turkey's banks to shirk sanctions were further bolstered by the arrest of Reza Sarraf, an Iranian businessmen who is accused of bribing the Economic Minister while coordinating transactions from Iran worth $120 billion. The AKP is scrambling to defend itself by claiming the arrests are a result of a dastardly foreign conspiracy ... while police officials have been removed and reshuffled and special prosecutors appointed to a degree that makes Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre look like exemplary justice. The Turkish press continues to eagerly publish the latest colorful details that emerge from the probe, including police reports of $500,000 bribes administered in boxes of chocolate and news that Erdoan himself was being wiretapped as part of the investigation.' Erdogan has been urged to resign, three days ago Turkey banned journalists from entering police stations, and police are using tear gas on protesters."

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25 Dec 17:59

Tree Tombs & Cliffside Coffins: 13 Unique Cemeteries

by Steph

via willowbl00

[ By Steph in Global & Travel & Places. ]

Crazy Cemeteries Main

In America we have a seemingly endless succession of near-identical cemeteries, filled with orderly rows of bland stones that tell us nearly nothing about the people buried underfoot. But in other parts of the world, the final resting places of the dead are far more interesting, exotic, decorative and strange. Some tribes of the Pacific bury their babies in trees, while others hang their coffins from cliffs. Solemn ossuaries deep beneath churches in Austria and Italy hold thousands of hand-painted skulls, and colorful cemeteries in Romania tell dirty jokes about loved ones who have passed on.

Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic

Crazy Cemeteries Sedlec Ossuary 1

Crazy Cemeteries Sedlec Ossuary 2

The skeletons of somewhere between 40,000 and 70,000 people are arranged in dazzling decorative patterns all over the walls and ceiling of the Sedlec Ossuary, a small Roman Catholic Chapel in the Czech Republic. Located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints, this subterranean ossuary attracts over 200,000 visitors per year who gape and gawk at garlands of skulls, a massive chandelier, ceiling patterns and other designs made of human bones.

Cliff-Hanging Coffins, Philippines

Crazy Cemeteries Hanging Coffins

Coffins cling precariously to a cliffside at Sagada, on Luzon Island in the Philippines. Rebar is hammered into the limestone to support the coffins as part of a unique burial ritual; the coffins are typically made of hollowed-out logs. This tradition is thousands of years old, and some of the wooden coffins have begun to decay, providing glimpses of the skulls and other human remains held inside. Some of the coffins are in caves rather than clinging to the cliffs, making them more accessible. Unfortunately, not everyone is respectful of the customs, and there have been problems with tourists taking home bones as souvenirs.

City of the Dead, North Ossetia

Crazy Cemeteries North Ossetia City of the Dead

This looks like the remains of a medieval village, with small dwellings grouped together on a grassy hill. But go knocking on the doors, and you won’t find a living soul. That’s because this is the City of the Dead, an ancient cemetery near the village of Dargavs, Russia where residents have been burying their dead for hundreds of years. Legend has it that in the 18th century, a plague infected many of the townspeople. Those who didn’t have family to build quarantine houses for them and care for them simply went to the cemetery and waited to die.

Tree Graves for Babies, Indonesia

Crazy Cemeteries Baby Tree Graves

The small thatched doors on this tree in Indonesia are, sadly, not entrances to some kind of mythical fairy land. They’re graves for the babies of the Toraja ethnic group. The Torajans have a number of unusual death rituals, including hanging graves from ricky cliffsides like those in the Philippines. They also have a ritual called Ma’Nene, wherein the bodies of the deceased are exhumed, washed, groomed, dressed in new clothes and paraded around the village before being reburied.

Next Page - Click Below to Read More:
Tree Tombs Cliffside Coffins 14 Unique Cemeteries

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We typically see burial places as solemn and sorrowful, but these seven amazing collections of human bones artistically remind us to embrace life every day. Click Here to Read More »»

Amphitheater of the Dead: Hong Kong Hillside Cemeteries

This terraced structure is not the remains of some ancient amphitheater, but a metropolis of the dead that’s just as dense as that of the living city of ... Click Here to Read More »»

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25 Dec 17:58

Salt Mines Converted to Stunning Subterranean Museum

by Steph

via willowbl00

[ By Steph in Global & Travel & Places. ]

Salt Mine Subterranean Museum Romania 1

Between the eerie glowing lights, the otherworldly cavernous spaces and the long strange trip it takes to get there, this subterranean museum feels like it could be located on an alien planet. The Salina Turda Salt Mines of Romania have been converted to the world’s largest salt mining museum, but this is no dry historical tour – there’s weird wooden architecture, a playground and even a ferris wheel.

Salt Mines Subterranean Museum 2

Salt Mine Subterranean Museum Romania 3

All of the LED lights sticking out of those unusual architectural shapes at the center of the museum make it quite a sight from far above, when looking down into the mine plunging 120 meters (393 feet) into the earth. Visitors take elevators to each of the three museum chambers at various depths to see the restored equipment.

Salt Mines Subterranean Museum Romania 4

The sports arena, amphitheater, mini golf course and bowling lanes are reason enough to take a trip to the mine, but the caverns themselves are the main attraction. Uplighting shows off the amazing natural patterns on the excavated walls. There’s even a small subterranean lake with boats for rent.

Salt Mine Subterranean Museum Romania 5

The mines were first excavated in the 17th century and provided a vast wealth of salt for the Romans. The interior is totally free of allergens and almost entirely devoid of bacteria, and maintains a temperature of about 52 degrees with 80% humidity.


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Cappadocia's cave homes have made it famous, but there is another, less well-known attraction there: a weird museum with 16,000 samples of human hair. Click Here to Read More »»

Deserted Industry: 7 Abandoned Factories, Mills and Mines

Our factories and other industrial buildings tend to outlive their primary use. What happens then? These 7 factories, mills and mines were left to crumble. Click Here to Read More »»

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25 Dec 17:50

The New York Review of Bots: @TwoHeadlines: Comedy, Tragedy, Chicago Bears Wes Anderson’s human...


via willowbl00
"What is near-future late-capitalist dystopian fiction but a world where there is no discernible difference between corporations, nations, sports teams, brands, and celebrities?"

The New York Review of Bots: @TwoHeadlines: Comedy, Tragedy, Chicago Bears

  • Wes Anderson’s human rights violations continue with increase in public executions
  • Pentagon proposes USD 10.8 billion arms deal with NBC, UAE
  • 'Elon Musk' returns, with more blood, revenge and a feisty makeover
  • Those cool United States Congress features? Android does that, too
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill is facing a new Islamist insurgency
  • Facebook, world powers report progress in nuclear talks, agree to further meetings

I did not set out to write a bot that writes near-future late-capitalist dystopian microfiction. I set out to write a bot that automates a particular kind of joke. But if we pause to consider the bot’s algorithm, it’s obvious where this tendency toward a very specific fiction genre originates.

The Google News sidebar described in the email thread above is Google’s attempt to parse out the subject of a bunch of related news headlines. For example, if there is a bombing in Iraq and there are a lot of news headlines about it, it will probably generate the subject “Iraq.” This is a very specific choice: it could have equally chosen “bombing” or “terrorism” or “chaos”, but Google’s algorithm tends to favor named entities over abstract concepts. What this means is that the subject of the news, as Google sees it, is almost always a corporation, a sports team, a celebrity, a nation, or a brand.

My algorithm builds its jokes by harvesting these subjects that Google has picked, and swapping them indiscriminately between headlines.

What is near-future late-capitalist dystopian fiction but a world where there is no discernible difference between corporations, nations, sports teams, brands, and celebrities?

So Adam was partly right in our original email thread. @TwoHeadlines is not generating jokes about current events. It is generating jokes about the future: a very specific future dictated by what a Google algorithm believes is important about humans and our affairs.

25 Dec 17:50

Writer Says You Have to Write to Be a Writer; Tumblr Gets Upset

by Paul Constant

the internet

On his Tumblr, popular Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis often responds to fan questions. Many of the questions are about the writing process. Over the weekend, he got a question that kicked off more of a controversy than usual. Here's the question:

what advice do you have for someone that has had writers block for the past 6 or 7 years?

Bendis replied (everything in his response is [sic]) with constructive criticism:

this will sound harsh but you’re probably not a writer.
writer’s writer every day. it’s ok, not everyone is.
but if you consider yourself one, get off your ass and get back to work!! write about why you haven’t been writing . anything. just write.

And Tumblr, being Tumblr, lost its shit over Bendis's answer:

Fuck you people and your bullshit labels. Notice in the question, which you barely addressed before you started liberally applying your condescending nonsense to this person’s life, the words “am I a writer” do not appear. So how about you fling open the stupid gates of your dumb categorizations of people and let writers be people who write as little or as much as they want to or are able, so long as it makes them whole and happy.

Haven’t written in a year because I work 12s (during which I brainstorm) for 14 days shifts, and have two kids. But I can’t keep a schedule of writing up, and my brain is literally too exhausted to think at the end of my work day, and I’m chasing two kids during my two weeks off, have a house to maintain, and am trying to recover from my schedule.

But make no mistake. I don’t write it on paper or in a word processor every day, but I have whole finished stories written in my head.

...This post is ableist as fuck. Some weeks, I’m lucky if I can get myself in the shower at least once. But I’m expected to write EVERY DAY?! Apparently only neurotypicals are allowed to be writers.
Fuck that and fuck you.

The conversation continues for thousands of reposts and likes, with other professional writers standing up for Bendis and with many more Tumblr-ers calling Bendis and his supporters "elitist" and "exclusionary," telling them to check their privilege, and so on. Many of these posts do make a good point, in that they call these writers out for comparing writing to torture, addiction, or mental illness. That kind of hyperbole isn't helping anyone.

There's a lot of rage aimed at Bendis, as though the guy who writes Ultimate Spider-Man is the last word in writing advice. Taking his Tumblr in context, his advice always has to do with being a professional writer. And the truth is that if you want to be a professional writer, you do have to write. A lot. You don't get an award for wanting to write more. Nobody's going to buy the book you've got stored in your head. Every writer I've interviewed about writing has been clear about the fact that they write all the goddamned time, even if it's total garbage that they know will never make it to the printed page. (Of all the writers I've interviewed, only China Miéville made a specific point of saying that he doesn't write every day; he only writes when he's got a story to work on. Although his prodigious output would indicate that he must write pretty often.) You can call yourself a writer and not write. You can call yourself whatever you want. But if you want to write for a living, you have to write a lot.

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25 Dec 14:46

Frank Miller's "Detective Comics" #27 Cover Revealed


surprise! it's a gore-porn catwoman

On the Christmas Eve installment of "DC All Access," DC co-publisher Dan DiDio unveiled Frank Miller's cover for "Detective Comics" #27.
25 Dec 14:44

The 10 Best Marvel Movie Casting Decisions (So Far)

by Andrew Wheeler


The news that Paul Rudd will play Hank Pym in the 2015 Ant-Man movie is the latest piece of inspired casting from Marvel Studios. Rudd will bring charm, humor and an appealing eye-twinkle to what may prove to be Marvel’s most comedic movie under writer Joe Cornish and writer-director Edgar Wright.

Marvel characters have found tremendous success on the big screen, both in Marvel’s own “in-house” movies such as the Avengers line and in those produced by other studios, such as the Wolverine/X-Men films. Bringing an established character to the screen is an unusual challenge because readers have a strong idea of what they want to see, and actors want to bring something new to the role. ComicsAlliance offers its view on the performers who pulled this off best.


Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter

peggy carter

Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011

Captain America's World War II paramour was an American Resistance fighter in the comics and a British agent on the screen, but in both incarnation she was a tough, take-no-bull fighting woman. Hayley Atwell matched grit with glamor and left us wanting to see so much more of her character. (We're keeping our fingers crossed for that Agent Carter TV show.)


Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner

mark ruffalo bruce banner hulk

The Avengers, 2012

Ed Norton was too cold, Eric Bana was too hot; the third movie Banner was just right. Mark Ruffalo brought pathos to one of the toughest superhero characters to put on the screen. Bruce Banner isn't super; he's cursed. Being Bruce is a tense and wearying experience, and Ruffalo's performance brings that across without having to shout about it.

magneto ian mckellen

X-Men, 2000; X2, 2003; X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006

McKellen was in his 60s when he was cast as the X-Men's major nemesis -- an unlikely age to land one's first action movie franchise. Long lauded as one of Britain's leading stage actors, he brought presence and gravitas to the role. As one of the first gay actors to build his movie career after coming out, he also brought resonance. He has some understanding of what it means to endure persecution.

yukio wolverine

The Wolverine, 2013

Don't let Fukushima's extraordinarily youthful face fool you; she's as tough as they come as Yukio, the ebullient ronin(ja) who appoints herself Wolverine's bodyguard. The mutant powers the movie saddled her seemed gratuitous; Fukushima understood that all her character needed to make an impact was the right attitude, and maybe a cool sword.


Chris Evans as The Human Torch/Chris Evans as Captain America

Chris Evans Captain America Human Torch

Fantastic Four, 2005; Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, 2007; Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011; The Avengers, 2012

Evans surprised many with his turn as Captain America -- he always seemed like too much of a goofy pretty-boy to play the stalwart Sentinel of Liberty. Yet he landed it beautifully. It's all the more surprising when he seemed so note-perfect in his previous Marvel role, as the Fantastic Four's goofy pretty-boy, and even that was a surprise, because who knew Evans could be so damn charming? At this point we're prepared to believe Evans could play all the superheroes.


Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man

Andrew Garfield Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man, 2012

Tobey Maguire was a good actor who didn't quite fit the suit; a better Peter Parker than a Spider-Man in director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. His successor, Andrew Garfield, gets both halves of the role right, and brings a geekish glee to the hero in Marc Webb's Amazing Spider-Man series. He's got the right build, the right face, the right touch of vulnerability, and it's obvious that he shares both Spider-Man's exhiliration and Peter Parker's sense of responsibility. We're keeping our fingers crossed that he gets to star in a movie that's equal to his talents.


Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man

Iron Man Robert Downey

Iron Man, 2008; Iron Man 2, 2010; The Avengers, 2012; Iron Man 3, 2013

If any one man can be called the foundationstone of Marvel's cinematic universe, it's Robert Downey, Jr. Before him, Marvel had nothing; its two best-known brands, X-Men and Spider-Man, were off at other studios, and they didn't have a Superman or a Batman. Downey brought credibility to a superhero most of the audience had never heard of and propelled him into the premier league. Downey's performance has even echoed back into the comics to help push the Avengers to new prominence.


Idris Elba, Jaimie Alexander, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth as Asgardians

Thor film cast

Thor, 2011; The Avengers, 2012; Thor: The Dark World, 2013

If we counted them separately, these Thor castmates would dominate this list, so we've counted them all together. Idris Elba brought depth and gravitas to the role of Heimdall; Jaimie Alexander set the standard for tough and vibrant movie superheroines as Sif; Tom Hiddleston turned a thin pantomime villain into one of the most memorable screen characters of the past ten years. And then there's the main dude. Chris Hemsworth's performance doesn't get the credit it deserves. It's not easy to make Thor seem approachable and real, and any actor cast in the role would be cast for his looks before his talent. Hemsworth, it turns out, has both. He found the humanity in the buffoonish alpha male thunder god, and turned people into Thor fans who hadn't given the character a second look since Walt Simonson left the comics.


Hugh Jackman as Wolverine

Wolverine Hugh Jackman

X-Men, 2000; X2, 2003; X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006; X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2009; The Wolverine, 2013

He's too tall. Let's just say that straight out. He may also be too handsome. But in every other respect Jackman is a perfect Wolverine in all his glowering, grimacing, cigar-chewing glory. If Downey made Marvel Studios credible, Jackman made Marvel's screen superheroes credible in the first place, introducing a wider audience to a world of heroes who aren't always clean-shaven and sure of themselves. If screen superheroes are cool today, it's because Jackman's Wolverine made them cool.


J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson

JK Simmons J Jonah Jameson

Spider-Man, 2002; Spider-Man 2, 2004; Spider-Man 3, 2007

To date there hasn't been another performance of a Marvel character on screen that matches JK Simmons as the Daily Bugle editor. The look, the attitude and the line delivery were all perfect. Simmons spoke with the voice you heard in your head when you read the comics; there can be few greater compliments for this kind of page-to-screen transition than that. It's a shame that we lost Simmons when we gained Garfield's Spidey, but if they ever reintroduce Jameson in the rebooted movies we hope Simmons that can return, just as Judi Dench's "M" survived the James Bond reboot. We don't want to hear anyone else scream, "Parker!!!"