Christo Gone

from The Guardian

Christo, artist who wrapped the Reichstag, dies aged 84

Bulgarian creator of large-scale public artworks worked in collaboration with wife Jeanne-Claude

by Alex Needham

Christo unveiling his first UK outdoor work, a 20 metres high installation on Serpentine Lake in London, in 2018. Photograph: Tim P Whitby/Getty Images

The artist Christo, known for wrapping buildings including Berlin’s Reichstag, and also swathing areas of coast and entire islands in fabric, has died aged 84. The news was confirmed on his official Facebook page, which said that he died of natural causes at his home in New York.

Born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff in Bulgaria, Christo studied in Sofia and then defected to the west in 1957, stowing away on a train from Prague to Vienna. Two years later he met Frenchwoman Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon, who would become his artistic partner and wife until her death in 2009.

[ click to continue reading at The Guardian ]

Earth Splitting?

from Science Alert

The Mysterious Anomaly Weakening Earth’s Magnetic Field Seems to Be Splitting 

by PETER DOCKRILL

(Division of Geomagnetism, DTU Space)

New satellite data from the European Space Agency (ESA) reveal that the mysterious anomaly weakening Earth’s magnetic field continues to evolve, with the most recent observations showing we could soon be dealing with more than one of these strange phenomena.

The South Atlantic Anomaly is a vast expanse of reduced magnetic intensity in Earth’s magnetic field, extending all the way from South America to southwest Africa.

Since our planet’s magnetic field acts as a kind of shield – protecting Earth from solar winds and cosmic radiation, in addition to determining the location of the magnetic poles – any reduction in its strength is an important event we need to monitor closely, as these changes could ultimately have significant implications for our planet.

[ click to continue reading at Science Alert ]

THE WRETCHED @ the Drive-in

from Entertainment Weekly

How low-budget horror movie The Wretched became America’s No. 1 film

The supernatural shocker expanded to 45 drive-ins this weekend.

By Clark Collis

The Wretched
IFC MIDNIGHT

At the start of the year, the biggest movies set to be released in May looked like Fast & Furious 9Spiral: From the Book of SawBlack WidowScoob, and Artemis Fowl. Instead, the coronavirus outbreak prompted studios to either postpone the movies’ premieres or announce that they would debut on a streaming service. The most successful new film, according to Box Office Mojo, has been a supernatural indie-horror movie called The Wretched, which has dominated the website’s daily chart since it was released on May 1. As of Thursday, The Wretched  — about a teenager who discovers that a malevolent witch is living next door to his father — had been the No. 1 film in America for three weeks.

“It’s actually been a complete shock and kind of insane,” says the Detroit-raised Brett Pierce, who directed the film with his brother Drew. “We were a little movie from Michigan. We always aimed for the moon, but with an independent film you think, Yeah, we’ll come out in a few theaters, and we’ll play for like a week, and maybe ten people will see it. Most people are going to see it when we land on a streaming service at some point. Each week it just kept on getting bigger, it was one of those things where you just don’t believe it as it’s happening. We’re going to be a Jeopardy question one day, because we’re going to be the lowest-grossing most successful film.”

[ click to continue reading at EW ]

Accelerating AI

from The Wall Street Journal

What History Tells Us About the Accelerating AI Revolution

By Irving Wladawsky-Berger

3d rendering robot learning or machine learning with education hud interface
3d rendering robot learning or machine learning with education hud interface PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

A few weeks before our lives were turned upside down by Covid-19, I read Technology at Work v4.0, the fourth report in the Technology at Work Series developed by Citigroup in collaboration with Oxford University.  The report includes an excellent chapter on What History Tells Us About the Coming AI Revolution by Oxford professor Carl Benedikt Frey based on his 2019 book The Technology Trap.

Recent AI advances have “sparked much excitement…  yet despite this, most ordinary people don’t feel particularly optimistic about the future,” wrote Mr. Frey.  For example, a 2017 Pew Research survey found that three quarters of Americans expressed serious concerns about AI and automation, and just over a third believe that their children will be better off financially than they were.

But, in fact, serious concerns about the impact of technology are part of a historical pattern.  “Many of the trends we see today, such as the disappearance of middle-income jobs, stagnant wages and growing inequality were also features of the Industrial Revolution,” he writes.

“We are at the brink of a technological revolution that promises not just to fundamentally alter the structure of our economy, but also to reshape the social fabric more broadly. History tells us anxiety tends to accompany rapid technological change, especially when technology takes the form of capital which threatens people’s jobs.” 

As the Covid-19 pandemic looks to likely accelerate the rate and pace of technological change, what can we learn from the Industrial Revolution that can help us better face our emerging AI revolution?  Let me summarize some of Mr. Frey’s key points. 

[ click to continue reading at WSJ ]

Nurse Nearly-nude

from The New York Post

‘Hot’ nurse disciplined for wearing bra and panties under see-through PPE gown

By Hannah Sparks

a nurse with only underwear beneath her clear hospital gown
A nurse at a hospital in Tula, Russia, wore nothing but underwear beneath a see-through protective suit, gloves and goggles while working in a COVID-19 ward. Tulskie Novosti

This naughty nurse is going viral.

A nurse in Russia was suspended from the hospital where she worked in Tula, 100 miles south of Moscow, after she arrived at her shift in the all-male coronavirus patient wing with no clothing save for her skivvies under her transparent personal protective equipment.

The unidentified staffer told her managers at Tula Regional Clinical Hospital that she was “too hot” to wear clothing underneath the head-to-toe vinyl gown, which protected her from contracting COVID-19. The incident was first reported by a local news outlet, the Tula Pressa newspaper.

While there were reportedly “no complaints” from her patients, hospital chiefs punished the nearly nude nurse for “non-compliance with the requirements for medical clothing.” The nurse claimed she did not realize that her underwear was showing through the PPE.

[ click to continue reading at NYP ]

The Other Plague

from NPR

They’re Back: Millions Of Cicadas Expected To Emerge This Year 

by Jason Slotkin

In parts of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, cicadas will climb out of the ground for their once-in-17-year mating cycle. Scientists have dubbed this grouping brood IX. Stephen Jaffe/AFP via Getty Images

As summer nears, 2020 has another trick up its sleeve. This time, it’s cicadas. A lot of cicadas. 

In parts of southwestern Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia, it’s nearly time for a brood of the insects to emerge for their once-in-17-year mating season. As many as 1.5 million cicadas could emerge per acre. And did we mention the bugs are known for their distinct — and overwhelming — chirping?

“Communities and farms with large numbers of cicadas emerging at once may have a substantial noise issue,” predicts Eric Day of Virginia Tech’s department of entomology. He tells Virginia Tech Daily, “Hopefully, any annoyance at the disturbance is tempered by just how infrequent — and amazing — this event is.”

[ click to continue reading at NPR ]

Space Viruses

from Bloomberg via Yahoo! News

NASA Should Beware of Viruses From Outer Space

by Adam Minter

NASA Should Beware of Viruses From Outer Space

(Bloomberg Opinion) — This summer, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will launch a rover designed to collect samples of the Martian surface and store them until they can eventually be brought back to Earth. When they arrive, according to a former NASA scientist, they’ll be “quarantined and treated as though they are the Ebola virus until proven safe.”His statement caused a minor media sensation, and understandably so. In the midst of one pandemic, Americans aren’t ready for another imported from outer space. But ready or not, the U.S. and other spacefaring nations need to start updating planetary-protection measures for a new era of spaceflight.In the years ahead, NASA’s Mars initiatives will likely be emulated by other countries. Ambitious private space companies are eager to follow with their own robots (and perhaps, eventually, humans). Clearer safety guidelines are essential both for protecting Earth and for ensuring that a wary public is comfortable with humanity’s next steps into the solar system.

[ click to continue reading at Yahoo! ]

And now from the bright side…

from StudyFinds

Silver Lining: 2 In 5 Adults Have ‘Changed For The Better’ Thanks To Lockdown

by Jacob Roshgadol

LONDON — Many people have been using their extra time during the coronavirus lockdown wisely and have adopted new habits to keep themselves busy. In fact, a recent survey of 2,000 British adults reveals that 43% of people feel they’ve “changed their ways for the better” as a result of all the time inside these past few months.

Researchers sought to learn how habits and daily lives have changed as a result of the lockdown. Nearly half of those surveyed expect to keep up these new hobbies, skills, and daily habits they’ve taken on after the lockdown restrictions are lifted. Learning new computer skills, creating podcasts, participating in online fitness classes and going for long walks are some of the new activities people have turned to as a new means to occupy their time.

[ click to continue reading at StudyFinds ]

How THE SHINING Was A True Nightmare

from The Independent

‘Making The Shining was hell’: How tormented stars, Kubrick’s temper and box-office disaster led to an immortal horror

Stephen King hated it, but even set fires, bullying accusations, Shelley Duvall’s misery and Razzie nominations couldn’t stop ‘The Shining’. As it turns 40, Geoffrey Macnab speaks to Kubrick’s trusted assistant, and tells the gruelling true story of the production

Shelley Duvall’s Wendy Torrance struggles to keep a lid on her husband’s swelling mania (Warner Bros)

Jack Nicholson must have needed a lot of toothpaste. When he was starring in Stanley Kubrick’s horror movie The Shining (1980), he felt it a matter of common courtesy to brush his teeth before any new scene. Working on a Kubrick film was, he thought, “gruelling enough” anyway for the crew and his fellow actors without having him breathe over them through “a face full of lamb cutlets”. In her BBC documentary Making the Shining, Vivian Kubrick, the director’s daughter, shows Nicholson bent over the basin, rinsing his mouth. The moment the ritual was complete, he very politely walked back on set, picked up his axe and started trying to hack his co-star Shelley Duvall into pieces all over again with that demented grin on his face. There was take after take after take – and his breath was as fresh at the end of the day at the beginning.

Nicholson was playing Jack Torrance, a troubled writer and recovering alcoholic who takes his wife Wendy (Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to the Overlook Hotel in the Rockies. Jack is planning to spend the winter as caretaker, working on a book, but he’s an angry, combustible figure anyway and the solitude brings out the devil in him. Little Danny has psychic powers. Through “the shining”, he can sense the evil and violence lurking within the hotel – and inside his own dad, too.

This Shining, which turns 40 tomorrow, is one of Kubrick’s greatest films. This was a director who never took shortcuts and who approached every film he made with a manic zeal to match that of Jack Torrance with his axe. Radiating a slow-burning fury, the movie turns up the intensity from frame to frame, with Nicholson’s performance increasingly deranged. The fast-moving camera work, strident music and intricate but absurdist plotting induce a sense of mounting hysteria in audiences who’ve regularly voted this the scariest movie ever made.

[ click to continue reading at The Independent ]

Sam Taylor-Johnson on ‘The Film That Lit My Fuse”

from DEADLINE

The Film That Lit My Fuse: Sam Taylor-Johnson

By Jake Kanter

The Film That Lit My Fuse is a Deadline video series that aims to provide an antidote to grim headlines about industry uncertainty by swinging the conversation back to the creative ambitions, formative influences and inspirations of some of today’s great screen artists.

Every installment we pose the same five questions, and answering those questions this week is Sam Taylor-Johnson, the BAFTA-nominated British director behind John Lennon biopic Nowhere BoyFifty Shades of Grey, and most recently A Million Little Pieces, on which she collaborated with her husband Aaron Taylor-Johnson. She is currently attached to direct a Paramount Television Studios adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Pulitzer Prize–winning novel Middlesex, while she is also poised to announce her latest feature at the reimagined Cannes digital film festival.

[ click to continue reading at DEADLINE ]

VC-20 Virus Hits

from The Verge

A pizzeria owner made money buying his own $24 pizzas from DoorDash for $16

This is your brain on venture capital

By Bijan Stephen

Photo: DoorDash

There are many things that don’t make sense about global capitalism that I enjoy anyway — the clearly inadvisable, venture-backed monstrosities like dockless scooters and ride-sharing that, in the before times, changed how I interacted with the places I went. The thing that doesn’t compute for me is how these companies continue to burn through a reality-warping amount of other people’s cash in a way that upends the basic economics of things like taxi service and food delivery and fail, intentionally, to turn a profit. 

Yesterday, Ranjan Roy, a content strategist and writer, wrote about the latter in his newsletter The Margins; one of his friends who owns a few pizza restaurants suddenly got an influx of customers complaining about delivery when the restaurants didn’t offer delivery. “He realized that a delivery option had mysteriously appeared on their company’s Google Listing. The delivery option was created by Doordash,” Roy wrote.

Apparently, this is one way that DoorDash does customer acquisition — by bullying restaurants. But what’s funnier about Roy’s friend’s problem (and it was a real problem because of Yelp reviews and angry customers) is that DoorDash priced the pizzas incorrectly. “A pizza that he charged $24 for was listed as $16 by Doordash,” emphasis Roy’s. And then: “My third thought: Cue the Wall Street trader in me…..ARBITRAGE!!!!” 

And so the story unfolds. “If someone could pay Doordash $16 a pizza, and Doordash would pay his restaurant $24 a pizza, then he should clearly just order pizzas himself via Doordash, all day long. You’d net a clean $8 profit per pizza [insert nerdy economics joke about there is such a thing as a free lunch],” wrote Roy. They order 10 pizzas this way, and it worked! The money was free, a seamless transfer from SoftBank’s deep venture capital-lined pockets to Roy’s friend’s business bank account. Eventually, in another series of what Roy hilariously calls “trades,” they just ordered pizza dough through DoorDash for $75 in pure profit.

[ click to continue reading at The Verge ]

“Of course I’m Meg”

from The New York Times

In a New Collection of Old Stories, Madeleine L’Engle Is Back

By Heidi Pitlor

According to Madeleine L’Engle, who died in 2007, “You have to write the book that wants to be written.”Credit…Sigrid Estrada

In “A Wrinkle in Time,” an adolescent girl’s fury is nothing to be renounced — instead, it’s ammunition to be stockpiled in the battle against evil.

“‘Stay angry, little Meg,’ Mrs Whatsit whispered. ‘You will need all your anger now.’” Mrs Whatsit’s words are radical, written as they were decades before the Riot Grrrl and Girl Power movements and their celebration of female wrath. Meg Murry helped pave the way for Hermione Granger, Katniss Everdeen and Beatrice Prior. With some heavy-duty extrapolation, one might say that Murry’s spirit can also be found in the environmental activist Greta Thunberg (mocked by the president of the United States for being “very angry”), Parkland’s gun control advocate Emma González (called an unimpressive “skinhead lesbian” by one Republican candidate) and countless other young women who have harnessed their outrage into political movements against powerful forces.

When asked, Madeleine L’Engle once admitted, “Of course I’m Meg.” For years, L’Engle fought a culture that scorned girls’ emotions and intelligence. She also faced off against a myopic publishing industry. “A Wrinkle in Time” — a book of speculative fantasy woven through with physics, metaphysics and theology — was rejected by 26 publishers before it found a home. Editors questioned whether the audience would be adults or children. The story was not what people expected from middle-grade fiction; perhaps most galling, the book was not just one thing at all. Meg — and maybe Madeleine — could be angry, but also impatient, loyal, insecure, determined, underachieving. Of course a girl — a person — is never just one thing either.

[ click to continue reading at NYT ]

BRIGHT SHINY MORNING for Harry and Meghan

from The Financial Times

Letter: A book on the City of Angels fit for a prince

From Lyndon Heal, Madrid, Spain

While I wouldn’t challenge Janan Ganesh’s assertion (FT Weekend, April 25) that ‘the seminal book about 20th century LA by a London professor (Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, by Reyner Banham), might I suggest Prince Harry read James Frey’s Bright Shiny Morning as another perfect introduction to the diversity of life in LA.

Lyndon Heal 
Madrid, Spain

[ click to read at FT ]

Banksy’s Superhero Nurse

from artnet

Banksy Just Made a Surprisingly Earnest Painting of a Superhero Nurse and Donated It to a British Hospital as a Morale Booster

The work will remain on view at the Southampton General Hospital until this fall, when it will go to auction.

by Caroline Goldstein

Banksy's painting for the Southampton General Hospital called game changer (2020).
Banksy’s painting for the Southampton General Hospital called game changer (2020).

Banksy has donated a painting to England’s Southampton General Hospital in an effort to raise the spirits of medical professionals working on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

The painting, an uncharacteristic medium for the elusive street artist, shows a young boy playing with a superhero doll dressed as a nurse, complete with a mask and apron bearing the Red Cross symbol, and a cape fluttering behind her. Next to the child, a wastebasket holds castoffs, including Spider–Man and Batman figurines—outdated versions of superheroes in our new pandemic-stricken world.

The artist left a note with the special delivery, titled game changer, that read: “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if its only black and white.”

The hospital, which is the largest in the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust system, hosts coronavirus researchers, including those who are starting vaccine trials.

[ click to continue reading at artnet ]

Corona Quads

from CBS Dallas

Born Into A Pandemic: Mother, Father Bring Identical Quadruplets Home

Hudson, Harrison, Henry and Hardy were born at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on March 15, just one day before the mandatory stay-at-home and social distancing regulations began in Dallas County. (credit: Texas Health Resources)

A North Texas mother and father are celebrating a rare blessing, growing their family by four during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hudson, Harrison, Henry and Hardy were born at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on March 15, just one day before the mandatory stay-at-home and social distancing regulations began in Dallas County.

“This situation is so incredibly rare that there are only about 72 documented cases of spontaneous, identical quadruplets ever,” said Lauren Murray, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas.

[ click to continue reading at CBS Dallas ]

The Green Comet Coming

from The Daily Mail

Green-tinged Comet Swan with an 11 million-mile-long tail flies past Earth on its way to the Sun – and you don’t need a telescope to see it

By RYAN MORRISON

The space rock, discovered in April by astronomer Michael Mattiazzo from Australia, has already passed the Earth but is getting brighter as it approaches the Sun

The green-tinged ball of ice and dust visits the inner part of the solar system once every 11,597 years and has a long blue tail stretching 10 million miles behind it.

Currently moving from the southern to the northern skies, it is just faintly visible to the naked eye, but current estimates suggest that, by the end of May, it could be significantly brighter – if it survives that long. 

The more material ejected from the comet as it warms up on its way towards the sun, the more sunlight it reflects and the more visible it becomes. 

Comets are fragile and often break apart as they approach the Sun – this happened to Comet ATLAS last month after it was also predicted to become very bright.

[ click to continue reading at The Daily Mail ]

VALLEY GIRL Fer Shur

from The New York Times

When ‘Valley Girl’ (and Nicolas Cage) Shook Up Hollywood

With no money or clout, what started as a cheap exploitation film managed to, like, totally click with a generation — and produce an unconventional superstar.

By Ashley Spencer

Four shots of nude breasts. That’s what the producers of “Valley Girl” demanded of their potential director, Martha Coolidge. If she wanted the gig — overseeing what was set to be a low-budget, exploitative high-school romp that could lure teen boys like “Porky’s” did — she’d need to make sure the requisite skin appeared onscreen.

Coolidge agreed and quickly found a loophole: “They didn’t say how long the shots had to be. Not smart of them.”

The nudity appears in the 1983 film for mere seconds, presented frankly and lacking any titillation. In fact, Coolidge transformed “Valley Girl” from its superficial beginnings into a teen classic full of heart and a trippin’-dicular new wave soundtrack. The movie is making a comeback of sorts — it was recently made available for digital download for the first time, and on May 8, a musical remake arrives on-demand starring Jessica Rothe, Josh Whitehouse and the controversial YouTube star Logan Paul.

The films’ roots go back to Southern California’s valley girl culture, which became a national phenomenon in the early 1980s thanks to the recurring “Saturday Night Live” character Sherry and the hit song “Valley Girl,” by Frank Zappa and his daughter, Moon Unit. The tune scorned the ditzy middle-class teens who spoke in uptalk and spent their free time at the mall.

Eager to capitalize on the fad, the indie production company Atlantic Entertainment Group greenlit the original movie, batting away Zappa’s trademark-infringement suit. The budget was just $350,000. To compare, fellow 1983 coming-of-age comedy “Risky Business” cost $6.2 million. Coolidge took a mere $5,000 directing fee and many of the crew members were volunteers.

“I borrowed money from my mother to eat,” Coolidge said. “But I was making a real movie and that was what was important.”

[ click to continue reading at NYT ]

Zoom ZOOM Yeah!

from The New Yorker

Come On and Zoom-Zoom

By David Kamp

The transition from in-office meetings to at-home video conferencing has occasioned lots of memes and social-media posts about “my idea of a Zoom meeting,” usually accompanied by a grainy video or photo of haphazardly barbered nineteen-seventies children romping around in striped rugby shirts. Among older members of Generation X, it’s hard to hear the word “zoom” without associating it with “Zoom,” one of the most memorable and radically experimental television programs of its era. Like the teleconferencing service, the original “Zoom” was screen-based and interactive, and it quickly evolved into a national obsession. But, unlike Zoom the online platform, “Zoom” was mostly the province of kids, primarily those in the tween cohort.

[ click to continue reading at TNY ]

Four Horsemen Afoot

from The Express

‘Four Horsemen are ACTIVE’ Bible scholars claim Book of Revelation seals broken

BIBLE scholars have sensationally claimed the end of the world could be upon us as they believe the Four Horsemen, who bring about death, war, famine and disease before the return of Jesus Christ in the holy book, have all been released.

By CALLUM HOARE

The Four Horsemen bring destruction to a quarter of the world
The Four Horsemen bring destruction to a quarter of the world (Image: GETTY)

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse appear in the Book of Revelation, where they are named as a punishment of God, but some believe they are an analogy of real-life events to come in the future. Revelation 6 tells of a scroll in God’s right hand that is secured with seven seals, which, when opened, summons four beings that ride out on white, black, red and pale horses to bring about death, war, famine and plague. It states: “They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.”

In 2005, Bible scholar Fred Dattolo published an article in ‘The Trumpet’ where he claimed “the galloping hoofbeats of the four horses are getting ever louder and closer,” stating that a future pandemic was all that was needed to set free the final Horseman, who would spread a disease to a quarter of the world.

He said: “The four horsemen are depicted in the Book of Revelation Chapter 6 as the first four of seven seals.

“These seals are benchmarks of end-time events leading up to and including the return of Jesus Christ.

[ click to continue reading at The Express ]