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Pokerbots

from The New York Times

How A.I. Conquered Poker

Good poker players have always known that they need to maintain a balance between bluffing and playing it straight. Now they can do so perfectly.

By Keith Romer

Illustration by Patricia Doria

Last November in the cavernous Amazon Room of Las Vegas’s Rio casino, two dozen men dressed mostly in sweatshirts and baseball caps sat around three well-worn poker tables playing Texas Hold ’em. Occasionally a few passers-by stopped to watch the action, but otherwise the players pushed their chips back and forth in dingy obscurity. Except for the taut, electric stillness with which they held themselves during a hand, there was no outward sign that these were the greatest poker players in the world, nor that they were, as the poker saying goes, “playing for houses,” or at least hefty down payments. This was the first day of a three-day tournament whose official name was the World Series of Poker Super High Roller, though the participants simply called it “the 250K,” after the $250,000 each had put up to enter it.

At one table, a professional player named Seth Davies covertly peeled up the edges of his cards to consider the hand he had just been dealt: the six and seven of diamonds. Over several hours of play, Davies had managed to grow his starting stack of 1.5 million in tournament chips to well over two million, some of which he now slid forward as a raise. A 33-year-old former college baseball player with a trimmed light brown beard, Davies sat upright, intensely following the action as it moved around the table. Two men called his bet before Dan Smith, a fellow pro with a round face, mustache and whimsically worn cowboy hat, put in a hefty reraise. Only Davies called.

[ click to continue reading at NYT ]

Posted on January 21, 2022 by Editor

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Autonomyverse

from City Journal

Enter the Metaverse

Unlike the Internet, the dawning digital environment promises autonomy from the physical world.

by Bruno Maçães

MIGUEL CANDELA/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES
MIGUEL CANDELA/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES

It is no coincidence that the metaverse as a practical project emerged out of the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic. The concept is older, tracing its origins to such science fiction classics as Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, but the last two years have transformed it into an actual business proposition, capable of dictating a name change for Facebook (now Meta) and moving billions of dollars in capital markets.

The great migration to digital during the pandemic showed the enormous advantages of being able to work and live within an artificial, secondary universe. In this universe, the laws of space and time no longer apply, or at least they can be bent, enhancing human powers in ways still to explore: an end to long commutes and the achievement of measurable increases in productivity; the ability to participate in meetings and conferences on different continents and on the same day; and children still able to attend school, even amid the worst public-health emergency in a century.

Unfortunately, the limits of digital experience were no less apparent. A lot gets lost when human interaction takes place on a screen. The results of remote schooling have so far proved mixed, at best. A digital work environment soon revealed itself as considerably more exhausting than the real counterpart. Human beings are built for the kind of immersive interaction that takes place in the physical world, where all five senses get involved. Some of our mental abilities, including memory, suffer markedly when we are reduced to disembodied egos on Zoom. As for entertainment, digital experiences are still so far from the actual fun of going to a restaurant or a music concert that nothing one tried on the Internet during the lockdowns measured up.

[ click to continue reading at City Journal ]

Posted on January 20, 2022 by Editor

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Microsoft Blizzard

from The Observer

Microsoft to Purchase Activision Blizzard for $68.7 Billion

Microsoft says the acquisition will help “provide building blocks for the metaverse.”

By Isabella Simonetti

Activision is currently implicated in a workplace sexual misconduct scandal. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

IGN initially reported that Kotick would remain as Activision Blizzard CEO, but has updated their story to say that Kotick’s future at the company remains unclear.

Microsoft has agreed to buy video game giant Activision Blizzard in an all-cash deal for $68.7 billion, further propelling the company’s expansion into the metaverse. 

Activision is home to some of the world’s most popular video games including the Call of Duty franchise and Candy Crush. For Microsoft, which owns the gaming and console-maker XBox, the deal, if completed, will represent its largest acquisition in history. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news.

[ click to continue reading at The Observer ]

Posted on January 19, 2022 by Editor

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Andre Leon Talley Gone

from TMZ

ANDRE LEON TALLEY DEAD AT 73

Remembering Andre Leon Talley

Fashion icon Andre Leon Talley has died at 73 … TMZ has learned.

A source with direct knowledge tells us Vogue’s former creative director and one-time editor-at-large passed away Tuesday at a hospital in White Plains, NY. It’s currently unclear exactly what he was battling in the hospital.

Talley was instrumental to Vogue’s vision and direction in the ’80s and ’90s, when he worked his way up the magazine ranks to eventually become the news director — which he helmed from ’83 to ’87 — and then ascended to Vogue’s creative director in ’88.

[ click to continue reading at TMZ ]

Posted on January 18, 2022 by Editor

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Crypto Anger

from The New York Times

Crypto Enthusiasts Meet Their Match: Angry Gamers

By Mike Isaac and Kellen Browning

“I just hate that they keep finding ways to nickel-and-dime us in whatever way they can,” said Matt Kee, a gamer, about a game studio’s push into NFTs.
“I just hate that they keep finding ways to nickel-and-dime us in whatever way they can,” said Matt Kee, a gamer, about a game studio’s push into NFTs.Credit…Stacy Kranitz for The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — For years, Christian Lantz has played S.T.A.L.K.E.R., a first-person shooter game set in a post-apocalyptic Ukraine that became a cult hit for its immersive role playing. So when the 18-year-old high schooler heard a sequel was coming this year, he knew he had to buy it.

That was until GSC Game World, the Ukrainian company behind the computer game, announced last month that the new S.T.A.L.K.E.R. would incorporate the crypto-based assets known as nonfungible tokens, or NFTs. In the new game, GSC said, players could buy and sell NFTs of items like clothing for their in-game characters. The company heralded the move as a “transformative step” toward the virtual world known as the metaverse.

Mr. Lantz was incensed. He joined thousands of fans on Twitter and Reddit who raged against NFTs in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.’s sequel. The game maker, they said, was simply looking to squeeze more money out of its players. The backlash was so intense that GSC quickly reversed itself and abandoned its NFT plan.

[ click to continue reading at NYT ]

Posted on January 17, 2022 by Editor

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Surveillanceverse

from The Washington Post

Surveillance will follow us into ‘the metaverse,’ and our bodies could be its new data source

by Tatum Hunter

Erin McDannald joins her colleagues in the office about three days a week by popping on an Oculus headset from Facebook parent company Meta or clicking into a desktop application. She can maneuver through an exact replica of the brick-and-mortar Washington, D.C., office building her company left behind when it switched to remote work.

McDannald is CEO of Environments, an interior-design-turned-software company building so-called immersive work experiences in virtual reality, and it’s testing its own product. Five employees work in the virtual office, each with their own avatar that looks (kind of) like them. The company takes care to make employee avatars resemble their human counterparts only to a point — too lifelike, and they get creepy. Too abstract, and the whole thing starts to feel unprofessional, McDannald said. Employees marking work anniversaries have tiny, celebratory icons above their avatars’ heads, like in the computer game “The Sims.” McDannald can walk over to an employee’s virtual desk and check in at any time. Despite the ramped-up opportunity for managerial oversight, she said no employees have objected.

“I think there will be a merging of our physical and online personas,” she said.

[ click to continue reading at WaPo ]

Posted on January 15, 2022 by Editor

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NFTs Bad

from Nautilus

The Worrisome Rise of NFTs

An astrobiologist says non-fungible tokens do not bode well for our species’s future.

BY CALEB SCHARF

featured_image

Humans are very good at inventing commodities, and we’ve been at it for a long time. See that pebble over there? Well, that’s a better pebble than all these others, and if you give me something in exchange for it, I’ll let you take ownership. It’ll be your pebble, forever. And soon there will be a market in pebbles, a pebble community, pebble exhibitions and auctions filled with pebble speculators, pebble exchanges, and pebble artists.

The deeper, evolutionary reasons why we do this—or why any species commodifies objects or experiences—are not immediately obvious. It could be a trait that supports social interaction and cohesion, helping distribute food and resources more efficiently throughout a population. Or perhaps it supports the signaling of individual fitness or intention that can guide our reproductive strategies. A behavior statistically favored in an intricate web of Darwinian selection, eking out a tiny advantage for the genetic lineage of anyone who plays along.

If bits of data were more like Michelangelo’s marble, the whole notion of NFTs would be irrelevant.

What further complicates this (as with any such trait) is the cost incurred for individuals or a species; the expenditure of resources and energy. The most explicit, and worrisome, example today is the emergence of commodities like cryptocurrencies or Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). In simple terms, just as a cryptocurrency is meant to be infallibly secure and fair, an NFT is a way to assign secure provenance and ownership to a digital asset. That digital asset might be an image, a video, or some hybrid digital experience.

[ click to continue reading at Nautilus ]

Posted on January 14, 2022 by Editor

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Honey Gone

from The LA Times

A street musician spent years building a one-of-a-kind drum kit on wheels. Then, one morning, it was gone

BY KENAN DRAUGHORNE

A drummer performs in a Target parking lot.
Sheriff Drumman performs in the Target parking lot in Inglewood. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

A few minutes before the Los Angeles Rams take on the Seattle Seahawks at the billion-dollar SoFi Stadium on a late December evening, about six football fields away, there’s a party being held in the Target parking lot.

A smattering of people are dancing in the winter air to the percussive sounds of a man pounding away on a gleaming, golden-nectar drum set he affectionately calls “Honey.”

It’s a massive rig: 13 pieces, including three snares, two bass drums (one of which boasts a double kick pedal) and a gargantuan ride cymbal. Behind the kit, his back against the tailgate of a cherry red Ford F-350, sits Sheriff Drumman, flashing a smile that could outshine the sun.

[ click to continue reading at LAT ]

Posted on January 13, 2022 by Editor

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Gameverse

from The New York Times

To Understand the Metaverse, Look to Video Games

Produced by ‘Sway’

Sway - The New York Times

When it comes to the metaverse, Phil Spencer could give Mark Zuckerberg a run for his money. The head of Xbox and executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, Spencer says popular games like Microsoft’s Halo and Minecraft — and competitors like Roblox and Fortnite — are already creating virtual worlds similar to the metaverse. And he says that video games, whose sales have soared during Covid, could offer lessons for the workplaces that have moved online in the pandemic: “We look at these virtual spaces, and some of the things that we’ve learned in video games of people coming together to cooperate together, to achieve tasks.”

[You can listen to this episode of “Sway” on AppleSpotifyGoogle or wherever you get your podcasts.]

[ click to continue reading at The New York Times ]

Posted on January 12, 2022 by Editor

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Andbox CEO – James Frey

from DIGIDAY

by ALEXANDER LEE

James Frey

Prominent New York City esports organization Andbox has hired filmmaker, businessman and controversial writer James Frey as its first CEO. In doing so, the organization hopes to continue its evolution from a competitive gaming team into a wide-ranging entertainment brand.

Andbox is the largest esports organization based in New York, fielding teams in Overwatch, Valorant and Call of Duty in addition to a roster of dedicated content creators. The org was founded by Sterling.VC, a venture fund under the umbrella of former New York Mets parent company Sterling Equities. Since its foundation in 2017, Andbox has mostly focused on its efforts as a competitor in some of the major franchised esports leagues — but over the past year, the company has increasingly borrowed from the entertainment industry playbook to produce its own video and podcast content.

Since joining Andbox in October 2021, Frey has largely worked from the shadows while familiarizing himself with both the company and the esports ecosystem in which it operates. “There’s been a gargantuan learning curve for me,” he said. “I’m not going to come in here and pretend that I’m a know-it-all about esports because I’m not.” With three months of esports-industry experience under his belt, Frey is ready for his debut as the esports organization’s front-facing CEO.

[ click to continue reading at DIGIDAY ]

Posted on January 11, 2022 by Editor

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Moneyverse

from The New Yorker

Money in the Metaverse

In a virtual world full of virtual goods, finance could get weird.

By Anna Wiener

Animation of a quarter
Illustration by Nicholas Konrad / The New Yorker

Years ago, while on vacation in the Northwest, my husband and I rented a room in the home of a middle-aged couple, one of whom had recently retired. The house was old, beautiful, and cozily laden with objects that signalled domestic inertia. It sat on a lush, wild sprawl of farmland that immediately inspired fantasies of leaving San Francisco and our tech jobs, foraging for mushrooms, administering to septic systems, and turning over soil.

One morning over breakfast, conversation shifted to our host’s retirement. He was glad to have more time at home with his wife and their dog. He was baking a lot. He was spending hours playing FarmVille.

“FarmVille?” I asked, half awake, spreading honey over a slice of toast. Through the picture window, we could see mist rising from the evergreens. The dog nosed around in the vegetable beds. FarmVille, our host confirmed pleasantly—it was a game, a farming simulator, played by tens of millions of people on Facebook—before asking if we might be interested in some eggs. We were. The eggs were fresh. The sun was emerging. Our host seemed very happy with his lot.

It is hard to know what anyone else really wants, and I think of this man often. I thought of him most recently while watching Mark Zuckerberg deliver an hour-long presentation on Facebook’s rebrand—it is now called Meta—and its newfound focus on building the “metaverse”: a vast and integrated virtual world. Watching Zuckerberg stroll through a blandly monied virtual set, appointed, as if from a drop-down menu, with books and trinkets and unused-looking sports equipment, I wondered if there were people who wanted this, or would find this vision exciting. Then I reminded myself: FarmVille. I think it is useful, in attempts to forecast the future, to be humble about the enormous mystery of other people’s desires.

In recent months, the metaverse has been described as a kind of online place, combining virtual reality, augmented reality, the Internet, entertainment experiences, gaming, and remote work. The key idea is that, no matter what you’re doing in the metaverse, or where you are, your identities and assets will be multi-platform and transportable: you’ll be the same “you” at work and at leisure. As the concept of the metaverse has snaked into the discourse, predictions about it have seemed mainly to reflect the desires of the corporations that are setting the terms of the conversation. (The term “metaverse” itself, which has its origins in dystopian science fiction, has been aggressively promoted by companies with worlds to sell.) Reading about the metaverse, I’ve often had the uneasy feeling that I am taking something far too seriously—giving credence to the wrong things, internalizing the wrong logic—simply because a small number of world-historically wealthy people have told me to.

[ click to continue reading at The New Yorker ]

Posted on January 6, 2022 by Editor

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BlackBerry Gone

from Bloomberg

Your BlackBerry Dies Today: End of an Era for Iconic Handset

By Vlad Savov

Day Two Of Mobile World Congress 2015
A BlackBerry Classic smartphone.Photographer: Pau Barrena/Bloomberg

BlackBerry devices running the original operating system and services will no longer be supported after Jan. 4, marking the end of an era for the storied device that catapulted work into the mobile era.

Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry Ltd., the company formerly known as Research In Motion whose signature handset in the 1990s came to embody working on the move, said handsets running its in-house software “will no longer be expected to reliably function” after Tuesday, according to its end-of-life page.

[ click to continue reading at Bloomberg ]

Posted on January 5, 2022 by Editor

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Sutton Hoo

from artnet

Archaeologists Say They Have Found the Anglo-Saxon Workshop Where the Treasures of Sutton Hoo Were Forged

Student volunteers assisted in the historic find.

by Sarah Cascone

Volunteers from Suffolk Young Carers excavating the cellar of an Anglo-Saxon hut at Rendlesham. Photo ⒸSuffolk County Council.
Volunteers from Suffolk Young Carers excavating the cellar of an Anglo-Saxon hut at Rendlesham. Photo ⒸSuffolk County Council.

Archaeologists in Rendlesham, Suffolk, have uncovered a seventh-century workshop that may have been home to the craftspeople who made the treasures of nearby Sutton Hoo, widely considered the greatest archaeological find in U.K. history.

Rendlesham is just three miles away from the early medieval cemeteries at Sutton Hoo, and those buried there “probably lived at Rendlesham,” a Suffolk County Council spokesman told the Daily Mail. “There is also evidence of craft working at Rendlesham, so it is possible they may have produced some of the objects discovered in the Sutton Hoo burial grounds.”

Sutton Hoo’s legendary discovery in 1939 was the subject of the 2020 Netflix film The Dig, starring Carey Mulligan as landowner Edith Pretty, who hired archaeologist Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to excavate the mysterious earthen mounds on her property.

[ click to continue reading at artnet ]

Posted on January 4, 2022 by Editor

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Everyverse

from The New York Times

Everybody Into the Metaverse! Virtual Reality Beckons Big Tech.

Tech’s biggest companies are joining game makers and start-ups in pursuit of an immersive digital world that some have been working on for years.

By Cade Metz

Kasia Bojanowska

The metaverse, one of the most buzzy terms of the tech industry, could be many things. It could be a virtual world where imagination is the only limit. Or it could be a less fantastical place for holding business meetings without leaving home.

For the tech titans getting behind this big idea, the metaverse could be something more tangible: the next great way to make piles of money.

After 15 years of riding a boom in mobile computing that has turned tech’s biggest companies into giants worth trillions of dollars, the power brokers of the industry believe that controlling the doors into the metaverse and virtual reality could be the centerpiece of a new business, like smartphones and apps or personal computers and web browsers in the 1990s.

[ click to continue reading at NYT ]

Posted on January 3, 2022 by Editor

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Space Ramen

from The Debrief

RAMEN NOODLES ARE THE PERFECT SPACE FOOD

by CRISTINA GOMEZ

Yakisoba Noodles for Astronauts
Instant flavored noodles, and rice meals for astronauts. Image Credit: Sora / Nissin

Besides being a staple of “College Life” globally, instant noodles in their many varieties are easily one of the most popular and convenient  ‘on-the-run’ meals that get turned to when the hunger kicks in. And now they’re on the menu for those in orbit on the International Space Station. Nissin is producing UFO brand Yakisoba noodles for astronauts, with ‘space ramen’ as a tasty instant meal alternative to be eaten alongside the best view of our planet from space.

Japan ranks as the fifth nation of the highest consumers of instant noodles, and even has August 25 pegged as an annual “Instant Ramen Day.” It’s on that day that it’s encouraged to remember August 25, 1958, as the day that Nissin Foods released the now famous Chicken Ramen, the world’s first instant noodle product that would go on to be a favorite in kitchens, restaurants, cafes, college canteens, and even camping sites, everywhere.

The ‘instant noodles’ meal exploded in popularity and very quickly came with an ever-increasing amount of flavor options. It was cheap to buy, simple to prepare, and was good with practically any flavor variation you could think of. At the time, Japan was growing economically, experiencing a boom in productivity and profitability known as the “high increase economic miracle.” Basically, the cities were swelling with workers coming in from rural areas and in everything from consumer electronics to vehicle sales and exports, Japan was in an explosive phase of economic growth where fast food such as instant noodles would power workers on long shifts with minimum downtime due to eating breaks.

[ click to continue reading at The Debrief ]

Posted on January 2, 2022 by Editor

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Dark Meta

from The New York Times

The Metaverse’s Dark Side: Here Come Harassment and Assaults

As Meta and other companies bet big on an immersive digital world, questions about its harms are rising.


By Sheera Frenkel and Kellen Browning

Credit… Hannah Lock

SAN FRANCISCO — Chanelle Siggens recently strapped on an Oculus Quest virtual reality headset to play her favorite shooter game, Population One. Once she turned on the game, she maneuvered her avatar into a virtual lobby in the immersive digital world and waited for the action to begin.

But as she waited, another player’s avatar approached hers. The stranger then simulated groping and ejaculating onto her avatar, Ms. Siggens said. Shocked, she asked the player, whose avatar appeared male, to stop.

“He shrugged as if to say: ‘I don’t know what to tell you. It’s the metaverse — I’ll do what I want,’” said Ms. Siggens, a 29-year-old Toronto resident. “Then he walked away.”

[ click to continue reading at NYT ]

Posted on December 31, 2021 by Editor

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Madden Gone

from ESPN

NFL Hall of Fame coach, broadcasting icon John Madden dies at 85

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

John Madden, the Hall of Fame coach-turned-broadcaster whose exuberant calls combined with simple explanations provided a weekly soundtrack to NFL games for three decades, died Tuesday morning, the NFL said. He was 85.

The league said he died unexpectedly and did not detail a cause.

Madden gained fame in a decadelong stint as the coach of the renegade Oakland Raiders, making it to seven AFC title games and winning the Super Bowl following the 1976 season. He compiled a 103-32-7 regular-season record, and his .759 winning percentage is the best among NFL coaches with more than 100 games.

“Few individuals meant as much to the growth and popularity of professional football as Coach Madden, whose impact on the game both on and off the field was immeasurable,” the Raiders said in a statement, hours before team owner Mark Davis lit the Al Davis Torch in honor of Madden, the first person to ever light the torch on Oct. 16, 2011.

[ click to continue reading at ESPN ]

Posted on December 29, 2021 by Editor

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E.O. Wilson Gone

from The New York Times

E.O. Wilson, a Pioneer of Evolutionary Biology, Dies at 92

A Harvard professor for 46 years, he was an expert on insects and explored how natural selection and other forces could influence animal behavior. He then applied his research to humans.

By Carl Zimmer

Edward O. Wilson, a biologist and author who conducted pioneering work on biodiversity, insects and human nature — and won two Pulitzer Prizes along the way — died on Sunday in Burlington, Mass. He was 92.

His death was announced on Monday by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.

When Dr. Wilson began his career in evolutionary biology in the 1950s, the study of animals and plants seemed to many scientists like a quaint, obsolete hobby. Molecular biologists were getting their first glimpses of DNA, proteins and other invisible foundations of life. Dr. Wilson made it his life’s work to put evolution on an equal footing.

“How could our seemingly old-fashioned subjects achieve new intellectual rigor and originality compared to molecular biology?” he recalled in 2009. He answered his own question by pioneering new fields of research.

As an expert on insects, Dr. Wilson studied the evolution of behavior, exploring how natural selection and other forces could produce something as extraordinarily complex as an ant colony. He then championed this kind of research as a way of making sense of all behavior — including our own.

[ click to continue reading at NYT ]

Posted on December 28, 2021 by Editor

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Space: 2022

from Axios

Moon, Mars and asteroid missions top 2022 space goals

by Miriam KramerAlison Snyder

Illustration of an astronaut helmet forming the zero in 2022.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Space science next year will be rocketed forward with missions to the Moon, asteroids, Mars and the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope coming online.

Why it matters: The data sent back to Earth from these upcoming missions will help scientists learn more than ever before about objects in the solar system and far beyond it.

What’s happening: Space agencies like NASA, the European Space Agency and Japan’s space agency, JAXA, are all aiming to send probes to various targets around the solar system this year. They include:

Mars: The European Space Agency and Russia are planning to launch their joint ExoMars lander and rover to the surface of the Red Planet in September.

[ click to continue reading at Axios ]

Posted on December 27, 2021 by Editor

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Tutu Gone

from CNN

Desmond Tutu, anti-apartheid leader and voice of justice, dead at 90

By Todd Leopold, Larry Madowo and Jessie Yeung

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Anglican cleric whose good humor, inspiring message and conscientious work for civil and human rights made him a revered leader during the struggle to end apartheid in his native South Africa, has died. He was 90.

In a statement confirming his death on Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his condolences to Tutu’s family and friends, calling him “a patriot without equal.”

“A man of extraordinary intellect, integrity and invincibility against the forces of apartheid, he was also tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice and violence under apartheid, and oppressed and downtrodden people around the world,” Ramaphosa said.

For six decades, Tutu — known affectionately as “the Arch” — was one of the primary voices in exhorting the South African government to end apartheid, the country’s official policy of racial segregation. After apartheid ended in the early ’90s and the long-imprisoned Nelson Mandela became president of the country, Tutu was named chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The Nelson Mandela foundation called Tutu’s loss “immeasurable.”

[ click to continue reading at CNN ]

Posted on December 26, 2021 by Editor

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Merry Krampus

from InsideHook

How Krampus, the German Christmas Demon, Took Over America

He whips naughty children with branches and eats them, and he’s winning our hearts

BY BONNIE STIERNBERG

Krampus
What says “Christmas” more than a visit from a horned goat-demon? Westend61

Here in America, we traditionally think of Christmas as being a sweet, cozy holiday full of niceties: brightly wrapped presents, twinkling lights, a genteel old man in a red suit who appears to give you presents, visions of sugar plums, that sort of thing. Sure, there’s the threat of a lump of coal in a stocking, used to keep naughty children in check, but that’s still pretty tame compared to the horned, anthropomorphic goat demon with an affinity for schnapps who shows up to whip misbehaving children with a bundle of birch branches, toss them into a large sack and — depending on which variation of the legend you subscribe to — either eat them or drag them to hell.

We’re talking, of course, about Krampus, the Christmas villain from German and Austrian folklore who serves as a malevolent foil to Saint Nicholas. As the story goes, every Dec. 5 on a night dubbed Krampusnacht (or “Krampus Night”), St. Nicholas and Krampus go from home to home; St. Nick distributes oranges, dried fruit and chocolate to the good children, while Krampus unleashes his wrath upon the bad ones. Though his exact origins are unclear and believed to date back to pre-Christian Alpine traditions, anthropologists generally believe he’s been terrorizing European children since the 17th Century.

[ click to continue reading at InsideHook ]

Posted on December 24, 2021 by Editor

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Battle In New Canaan

from Patch

Gates Battle of the Bands is Back!

Raising money for Meals on Wheels, New Canaan

by Ms. Tootsie

Live music venue Gates Restaurant will be hosting their third ‘Battle of the Bands’ in January 2022. Hosted by radio presenter Jon Kamal, sponsored by Karl Chevrolet, and produced by Rock Paper Scissors Custom Events, this fierce competition brings in talented bands from all over Fairfield County and beyond.

The expert panel of judges include International best-selling author James Frey and Jon Kamal. The four heats are FREE to the public. To attend the final costs $20 per person, with 50% of every sale being donated to Meals on Wheels, New Canaan. Previous winners include Mind The Gap (2019) and All Night Thing (2020). Space is limited so book your tickets early. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/gates-battle-of-the-bands-final-tickets-80118511625

Gates Restaurant, 10 Forest Street, New Canaan, CT 06840 / www.gatesrestaurant.com

[ click to continue reading at Patch.com ]

Posted on December 19, 2021 by Editor

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Web3

from The Wall Street Journal

Jack Dorsey and the Unlikely Revolutionaries Who Want to Reboot the Internet

Members of the tech elite are banding together to bring the Web back to its idealist origins. They call their vision ‘Web3.’

By Christopher Mims

Former Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey is now into cryptocurrency. PHOTO: COLE BURSTON/BLOOMBERG NEWS

The internet hasn’t turned out the way it was supposed to.

In its earliest incarnation, before some Wall Street Journal readers were born and the rest had fewer automatically renewing digital subscriptions, it was supposed to be distributed, user-controlled and, in a word, democratic.

Then came Big Tech and the attendant centralization, windfall profits, culture wars, misinformation campaigns, Congressional hearings, EU rulings, antitrust battles and techno-nationalism that have characterized the past decade.

What if there was another way?

What if, to take but one example, users of social networks collectively owned them, or at least could vote on how they were run and what kind of speech they allowed? And what if similar questions could be asked of just about any tech company whose primary product is software and services—whether financial, cloud computing, or even entertainment-related?

[ click to continue reading at WSJ ]

Posted on December 18, 2021 by Editor

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Robbie Shakespeare Gone

from Jamaica Observer

Robbie Shakespeare has died

POPULAR bass guitarist Robbie Shakespeare of ‘Riddim Twins’ Sly and Robbie is dead. He passed away earlier Wednesday.

According to sources, Shakespeare was ailing for sometime.

“Robbie’s loss will be severely felt by the industry at home and abroad. My condolences to those he leaves behind,” said Olivia “Babsy” Grange, Minister of Entertainment and Culture, in a release sent to the Jamaica Observer.

Throughout the 1980s, Sly and Robbie worked with some of the biggest and brightest names in pop. Among them, Grace Jones, Joe Cocker, Gwen Guthrie and rapper KRS 1.

Their patented sound ensured mainstream interest in Jamaican music following the death of Bob Marley in 1981. Indeed, they were the driving force behind Black Uhuru, a Waterhouse group marketed by Island Records, the company that helped break Marley’s music internationally.

[ click to continue reading at Jamaica Observer ]

Posted on December 10, 2021 by Editor

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Anything Brooks

from NPR

Mel Brooks says his only regret as a comedian is the jokes he didn’t tell

by Terry Gross

Mel Brooks (shown here in 1984) calls comedy his “delicious refuge” from the world: “I hide in humor and comedy. I love it.” Larry Ellis/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As a child in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Mel Brooks assumed he would grow up to work in Manhattan’s garment district. That’s what most of the kids in his working-class Jewish neighborhood did.

But everything changed when he saw his first Broadway musical — Anything Goes, starring Ethel Merman.

“My hands stung from applauding so much after it was over,” he says. “And I remember going back in Uncle Joe’s cab and I remember saying as he was driving me back home to Williamsburg, ‘Uncle Joe, Uncle Joe! I’m going to do that! … I want to be in show business!’ “

[ click to continue reading at NPR ]

Posted on December 7, 2021 by Editor

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D

from The New York Times

Denzel Washington, Man on Fire

The actor never leans in — he’s all in. And in his latest, “Macbeth,” conjured by Joel Coen, he is as sharp and deadly as a dagger.

By Maureen Dowd

Dana Scruggs for The New York Times

When Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand began rehearsing to play the Macbeths, he asked her how she thought the couple had met.

Oh, she replied blithely, the Macbeths met when they were 15. They were Romeo and Juliet, but they didn’t commit suicide. They just stayed married for 50 years. But they didn’t have any kids and his career stalled, so thinking legacy, they suddenly went gangster and killed their nice, old friend, the king.

“This is one of the only good marriages in Shakespeare,” said Joel Coen, who adapted and directed “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” opening widely on Christmas Day. “They just happen to be plotting a murder.”

James Shapiro, a Shakespeare scholar at Columbia, backed up the director, adding dryly, “But there’s not much competition, is there? The Capulets? Richard II and his nameless Queen? Richard III and the doomed widow, Anne?”

[ click to continue reading at NYT ]

Posted on December 4, 2021 by Editor

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Depressed Shrooms

from The Daily Beast via Yahoo! News

Are Psychedelics the Next Big Treatment for Depression?

by Hannah Thomasy

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

In 2019, the FDA made a groundbreaking decision to approve a form of ketamine as a clinical treatment for patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression, a condition which is estimated to affect nearly three million Americans. The drug, called Spravato, is the first psychedelic drug to be approved for the treatment of mental illness. This approval, along with large-scale clinical trials of LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin (the active component of magic mushrooms), marks a sea-change in the medical community’s perception of psychedelics: Instead of viewing them purely as drugs of abuse, many clinicians are now seeking to repurpose them as therapeutics.

So far, Spravato has been revolutionary for the field of psychiatry as a whole, in part because it seems to act very differently than other available antidepressants. This drug, Yale-New Haven Hospital Chief of Psychiatry John Krystal told The Daily Beast, “has caused us to question most of our prevailing assumptions about the treatment of depression.”

“All prior antidepressants needed weeks to months to produce meaningful clinical improvement, whereas ketamine produces clinical improvement rapidly, sometimes within hours of the first dose,” said Krystal.

[ click to continue reading at Yahoo! News ]

Posted on December 3, 2021 by Editor

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12 Tones Of Christmas

Posted on December 2, 2021 by Editor

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Virgil Abloh Gone

from WWD

Virgil Abloh Dies of Cancer at 41

The designer had privately battled the disease for several years.

By JOELLE DIDERICHLUISA ZARGANIALESSANDRA TURRA

PARIS — Virgil Abloh, the founder of luxury streetwear brand Off-White and artistic director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton, has died from cancer at the age of 41.

One of the most influential designers of his generation, Abloh had been privately battling the disease for several years, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton said in a statement on Sunday. The designer died in hospital in Houston on Sunday, according to sources familiar with the matter. 

“We are all shocked after this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,” Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH, said in the statement.

[ click to continue reading at WWD ]

Posted on November 29, 2021 by Editor

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Primal Bling

from artnet

Archaeologists Just Discovered the World’s Oldest Jewelry: This Set of 150,000-Year-Old Snail-Shell Beads in Morocco

Archaeologists found 33 snail shell beads in Morocco’s Bizmoune Cave.

by Sarah Cascone

The world's earliest known piece of jewellery has been found by archaeologists, who say the 150,000-year-old beads may have been worn as earrings or on a necklace. Photo by Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, courtesy of the University of Arizona.
The world’s earliest known piece of jewellery has been found by archaeologists, who say the 150,000-year-old beads may have been worn as earrings or on a necklace. Photo by Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, courtesy of the University of Arizona.

In a cave in the western Morocco desert, archaeologists have discovered the world’s oldest jewelry: a set of shell beads dated from 142,000 and 150,000 years ago.

Made from half-inch-long sea snail shells, the 33 beads turned up during excavations conducted between 2014 and 2018 near the mouth of Bizmoune Cave, about 10 miles inland from the coastal city of Essaouira.

Surveyors first found the cave in 2004, and initial excavations had been conducted in 2008 and 2009. The team behind the discovery published their findings earlier this fall in the journal Science Advances.

“[The beads] were probably part of the way people expressed their identity with their clothing,” Steven L. Kuhn, a professor of anthropology in the University of Arizona and one of the paper’s authors, said in a statement. “They’re the tip of the iceberg for that kind of human trait. They show that it was present even hundreds of thousands of years ago, and that humans were interested in communicating to bigger groups of people than their immediate friends and family.”

[ click to continue reading at artnet ]

Posted on November 27, 2021 by Editor

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Sondheim Gone

from Variety

Stephen Sondheim, Composer of ‘Follies,’ ‘Sweeney Todd,’ Dies at 91

By Richard Natale

Stephen Sondheim, the dominant voice in American musical theater in the second half of the 20th century and the composer with the most Tony Awards, has died. He was 91. The Broadway icon died Friday, November 26th at his home in Roxbury, Conn. He was 91.

His shows, from the comedic “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” to the ground-breaking “Company” to the operatic “Sweeney Todd” to the experimental “Pacific Overtures,” transformed the Broadway musical stage, influencing and advancing the medium. Sondheim, a protege of Oscar Hammerstein II, slowly moved away from that melodic tradition to incorporate complex and dissonant themes and structures of 20th century classical music into his works.

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Posted on November 26, 2021 by Editor

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Dam Simple

from WIRED

This Dam Simple Trick Is a Big Green Energy Win

Only a small fraction of dams actually produce electricity. Transforming them into hydropower plants might stop new ones from being built.

by MATT REYNOLDS

belo monte dam
PHOTOGRAPH: MAURO PIMENTEL/GETTY IMAGES

IN NOVEMBER 2019 engineers switched on the 18th and final turbine at Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam: the final step in an odyssey of planning and construction that had started almost 50 years earlier. The vast hydroelectric complex—the fourth-largest in the world—completely upended the northern stretch of the Xingu River, one of the Amazon’s major tributaries. The waters held back by the main dam created a reservoir that flooded 260 square miles of lowlands and forests, and displaced more than 20,000 people.

Major hydroelectric dams can have catastrophic consequences—flooding homes and habitats and changing the flow, temperature, and chemistry of rivers for decades. Although few are quite as big as Belo Monte, there are a glut of new hydroelectric dams in the works all over the globe. In 2014 researchers estimated that there are at least 3,700 major hydroelectric dams in planning or under construction globally. Most of these new projects are located in low- and middle-income countries eager to fuel their growing economies with a crucial source of low-carbon power: In 2020, hydroelectric dams generated as much electricity as nuclear and wind power combined. But the race to tap the world’s rivers for renewable energy presents something of an environmental conundrum: Do the benefits outweigh the environmental chaos that dams can wreak?

Some researchers think there’s a smart way out of this dilemma. Rather than building more dams, why don’t we figure out a way to get more out of the ones that already exist? The majority of them aren’t generating electricity at all—they’re used for irrigation, water supply, flood control, or for fishing and boating. If we can figure out a way to put turbines into those dams so they also produce hydropower—a process known as retrofitting—we could unlock a huge renewable energy potential that isn’t being tapped.

[ click to continue reading at WIRED ]

Posted on November 25, 2021 by Editor

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Napolean’s Hat

from The New York Post

NYC media mogul buys rare Napoleon hat for $1.4 million

By Jon Levine

Bryan Goldberg
Bryan Goldberg was insistent to The Post that he scored a bargain with the hat. BDG

This ‘Napoleon’ is looking dynamite in his new $1.4 million hat.

Gotham media mogul Bryan Goldberg added a heady new asset to his empire — Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s rare two-cornered hat — which he plans to wear around town.

“I don’t know if I am going to have a coronation party but I will definitely have friends over when I put on the hat, but no one else is allowed to wear it. Only I am allowed to wear the hat,” Goldberg told The Post.

“I will wear the hat in select red carpet situations and I intend to wear the hat at my wedding. I’ll know I have found the right wife when she lets me wear this hat at our wedding day,” he said.

[ click to continue reading at NYP ]

Posted on November 22, 2021 by Editor

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