September 16, 2017
A neural network learns to create better D&D spells. After an unsuccessful (previously) attempt to get a computer to make new D&D spell names by feeding it 365 spells, computer researcher Janelle Shane fed it a database of all 1300+ spells from 4th edition, with much better results. Things have gone from Glasp to Song of the doom goom.
This one time? At Irish camp? Students in the Irish language immersion summer school Colaiste Lurgan have become YouTube stars for their Irish-language covers of pop hits. Here, as Gaeilge, for your viewing and listening pleasure: An Laisc Is Mó (Blurred Lines); Ar Mo Thaobh (Stay With Me); An tÁdh 'Nocht (Get Lucky); Africa (le Toto); Func Anseo (Uptown Funk); Síoraí Spraoi (Cheerleader); Na Cuimhní (Somebody That I Used To Know); and of course, this summer's blockbuster, Despacito. [more inside]
After years of work, a group of dedicated enthusiasts will finally apply to have the first Dark Sky Reserve in the US. The International Dark-Sky Association has certified only 11 other reserves across the globe, and only one other in the Americas, at Mont-Mégantic national park in Québec. Each Reserve covers at least 700 square kilometers, and light pollution is so imperceptible that it is possible to see the interstellar dust clouds of the Milky Way. As one of the mayors involved said: "It's nice to look up and see something greater than ourselves."
One of the original five elements of hip-hop culture, breaking (also known as breakdancing) never quite attained the ubiquity of rap, but it quietly remains an international phenomenon. If you're curious about the modern state of this art/sport hybrid, you could do worse than to start by watching the winning team showcase at last year's Battle of the Year, the biggest breaking crew tournament in the world. Or, for something a little less traditional, 2015's winner is a beautiful fusion of Spanish and hip-hop culture. Or perhaps you're one for the classics: Ichigeki's winning show from 2005 is often cited as the best showcase in the tournament's history. But if you restrict yourself to watching showcases, you'll be missing most of what makes breaking great. True breaking takes the form of improvisational dance-offs between opponents, each responding to, and one-upping, the other's moves. Last but not least, while breaking is an overwhelmingly male art form, there are also some seriously talented bgirls to keep an eye on. [more inside]
Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione (1837 – 1899) was an Italian aristocrat, a secret agent/courtesan sent to plead the cause of Italian unity with Emperor Napoleon III, and a photographic artist whose association with French photographer Pierre-Louise Pierson from 1856 to 1895 resulted in about 700 portraits of herself (Metropolitan Museum, Réunion des Musées Nationaux), many of them extravagant, excentric, and truly fascinating, such as the famous Game of madness (Scherzo di follia). Those in a hurry can click on Buzzfeed's top 25 Castiglione pictures. Others pictures and explanations can be found below the fold. [more inside]
On August 30th seven current and former faculty members of the University of Rochester's Brain and Cognitive Sciences department, as well as one graduate student, filed an 111-page complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the university for "failing to act appropriately against a faculty member who has engaged in sexual harassment and has created a hostile environment for graduate students, and for retaliating against those of us who filed and pursued a complaint through university procedures." [more inside]
Ross Macdonald is now being published by the The Library of America, an accolade. The main link has an very nice article about him and his Lew Archer novels. And I fully agree that he's a fine writer. However, I want to present some reminiscences about Ross Thomas, equally as good as Macdonald but sadly overlooked. The first link from the LA Review of Books is Are the Fools in Town Still on Our Side?, which is the title of one of his best books about politics and crime and corruption and sleaziness and chicanery with wonderful dialogue and sarcastic humor. [more inside]
Kinji at Cheetah Experience likes meerkats but they don't like him back. However, he gets good scritches anyway. Another meerkat makes a brief appearance (as does a serval and an African wild cat) in this cheetah video from VolunteerSA. [h/t Miss Cellania]
The Secret History of Dune - Islamic theology, mysticism, and the history of the Arab world clearly influenced Dune, but part of Herbert’s genius lay in his willingness to reach for more idiosyncratic sources of inspiration. [more inside]
The Week My Husband Left And My House Was Burgled I Secured A Grant To Begin The Project That Became BRCA1
Actress Amber Tamblyn: I'm Done With Not Being Believed (SLNYT)
Cuphead Reignites the “Game Journalists Should Be Good at Games” Debate by Paul Tamburro [Game Revolution] “A video uploaded by the tech website VentureBeat shows one of its employees struggling to do just that [YouTube] ['Dean's Shameful 26 Minutes Of Gameplay']. Taken from Cuphead's Gamescom 2017 demo, the video sees GamesBeat lead writer Dean Takahashi struggling with just about everything the game throws at him: he experiences difficulty in attempting to jump onto a high platform in the opening tutorial; he routinely bumps into enemies running towards him; he falls down a hole to his death. The resulting footage is hilarious, playing out like a 26-minute slapstick comedy sketch in which poor Cuphead is forced to meet his demise over and over again. But rather than being viewed as a funny half-hour struggle experienced by one writer, the video has instead been used to undermine games journalism as a whole.” [more inside]
Reviews of Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, Moby-Dick, Huckleberry Finn, and Dracula show the sometimes surprising reactions of 19th C. readers to 19th C. literature in English. In a letter from 1888, Nietzsche points toward the sometimes surprising coverage of another source, suggesting that The Main Developments in Literature during the Nineteenth Century by the Danish critic Georg Brandes "is still today the best Kulturbuch in German on this big subject": v. 1; v. 2; v. 3; v. 4; v. 5; v. 6. [more inside]