Monday Update 8-21-17

Aug. 21st, 2017 08:53 pm[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith: Artwork of the wordsmith typing. (typing)
These are some posts from the later part of last week in case you missed them:
Sunday Yardening
Poem: "To Appreciate Small Victories"
Heroic Action
Poem: "The Bamboo That Bends"
Saturday Yardening
Poem: "As Couples as Possible"
Crowdfunding Creative Jam
Poem: "The Whole of Civilization"
Bust of Lincoln Destroyed (54 comments)
Read "Absent the White Roses" by William Altolft
Poem: "Lycoris"
Read "Under Cover Fashion" by Bairnsidhe
Today's Adventures
Promoting a Better World
Hard Things
Poem: "Tricky Treats"

Today we saw the eclipse in Chester, IL. :D 3q3q3q!!!

The bonus fishbowl last week went well.

Poetry in Microfunding:
"The Inner Transition" belongs to Polychrome Heroics: Berettaflies.  Valor's Widow finds out what Stylet has in his backpack.  "The Higher a Monkey Climbs" belongs to Polychrome Heroics.  Pips gets worried about Jules and drops by for a visit.  "Two Foxes" belongs to Polychrome Heroics: Iron Horses.  Kenzie hears that the Iron Horses are going after the gaybashers, and feels uneasy over his own reactions.

Weather has been warm to hot here.  Currently blooming: dandelions, marigolds, petunias, lantana, million bells, snapdragons, zinnias, firecracker plant, white and red clover, morning glories, spiderwort, echinacea, blackberry lilies, Queen Anne's lace, frost asters, cup plant, black-eyed Susan, torenia, purple aster, rose campion, some yellow thing in the wildflower garden, thistle.  

Posted by Juli Clover

A pair of videos that appear to depict prototype iOS 11 features have been found "deep within the iOS 11 beta image" by developer Guilherme Rambo, who has recently become known for digging deep into iOS code to suss out upcoming features.

According to Rambo, the files were created in May, suggesting they depict iOS 11 iPhone functionality that was scrapped rather than functionality that has not yet been implemented, but there's technically no way to tell.

In the first 13 second video, the Lock screen is demonstrated. The implementation of the Lock screen is similar the current iOS 11 implementation, but there are small changes.

While a swipe downwards pulls down the Lock screen cover and a swipe left opens up the widget view, a swipe right brings up the Control Center. In the current incarnation of iOS 11, a right swipe brings up the camera and not the Control Center.

The second video shows a different implementation of the App Switcher. Instead of double tapping on the Home button, the App Switcher is accessed through a swipe upwards on the Home screen, the gesture used for Control Center. Control Center remains accessible as an app at the right side of the screen, though.

In the current version of iOS 11, an upwards swipe on the Home screen brings up the Control center and not the App Switcher, but the video is reminiscent of the way App Switcher works on an iPad. On the iPad, an upwards swipe on the Home screen brings up the dock, while a longer swipe brings up the App Switcher with access to Control Center.

It's possible Apple originally planned to mimic the iPad App Switcher functionality on the iPhone, but later decided against it for a more familiar set of gestures. It's also possible, though, that the videos offer up a look at how iOS 11 will work once the iPhone 8 is released, since it has no Home button.

If there are any significant changes to the way iOS 11 is used on the upcoming iPhone 8, we'll know soon enough. We're expecting Apple to introduce the new iPhone in September, and if past event dates are any indication, we have just two to three weeks to wait.

Related Roundup: iOS 11

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Posted by languagehat

Michael North does a splendid historical investigation at Guernica of Ezra Pound’s famous slogan; as I said at MetaFilter, where I got the link:

At first I thought smugly “Ha, I’m an old Poundian, I know where he got it,” but it turned out I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did (and I didn’t realize it was Hugh Kenner who called attention to it). And of course fais-le de nouveau means “do it again,” not “make it new,” so, as happened so often with Pound’s slapdash scholarship, an error sheds brilliant light. Here’s a nice bit from the essay:

The most significant fact to emerge from this history, though, is also the most obvious: Make It New was not itself new, nor was it ever meant to be. Given the nature of the novelty implied by the slogan, it is appropriate that it is itself the result of historical recycling. This was a fact that Pound himself always tried to keep in the forefront by using the original Chinese characters and letting his own translation tag along as a perpetual footnote. The complex nature of the new—its debt, even as revolution, to the past, and the way in which new works are often just recombinations of traditional elements—is not just confessed by this practice but insisted on. This is what makes the slogan exemplary of the larger modernist project, that by insisting on the new it brings to the surface all the latent difficulties in what seems such a simple and simplifying concept.

I wrote about a similar phenomenon, also involving Pound and ancient Chinese literature, here.

Today's biography from the Oxford DNB:
Anson, Peter Frederick (1889-1975), monk, writer, and artist

Posted by Juli Clover

Shipping estimates for Apple's AirPods have improved to two to three weeks in many countries around the world, suggesting Apple is one step closer to achieving supply/demand balance for the much-desired earphones.

Since the AirPods launched in December, stock has been in short supply. For many weeks, AirPods shipping estimates were at six weeks, but stock improved enough in early August that shipping estimates dropped to four weeks.

At the new 2 to 3 week estimate, customers can expect to receive AirPods ordered today in early September.

During Apple's third quarter earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said AirPods capacity had been bumped up and that the company was "working very hard" to get AirPods to customers as quickly as possible.

While Apple's own stock has been in flux online, Apple retail stores have occasionally received stock and third-party retailers like Best Buy have been able to offer AirPods with quicker shipping on a regular basis.

Priced at $159, the wire-free AirPods have become a popular accessory largely due to Apple's W1 chip, which significantly improves the Bluetooth connection and facilitates simple and quick transfers between different devices. The AirPods are also equipped with infrared sensors to detect when they're in the ear, and they support touch-based gestures to activate Siri and perform other tasks.

Tag: AirPods

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Brian W. Aldiss (1925-2017)

Aug. 21st, 2017 04:39 pm[personal profile] supergee
supergee: (nebula)
The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts has lost a Permanent Special Guest, and the field as a whole has lost one of its widest-ranging geniuses: universe-spanning imagination (Galaxies like Grains of Sand), Joycean psychedelia (Barefoot in the Head), beautiful decay (The Long Afternoon of Earth), alternatives to humanity (The Malacia Tapestry), world building (Helliconia), history of the field (The Billion Trillion Year Spree), and even a mimetic best seller (The Hand-Reared Boy). My idiosyncratic favorite is The Shape of Further Things, a meditation on diverse topics written around the time of the moon landing.

Posted by Brit Mandelo

The New Voices of Fantasy edited by Peter S. Beagle Jacob Weisman book review

Jacob Weisman notes in his introduction to The New Voices of Fantasy that it is, in some sense, a successor to Peter S. Beagle’s previous anthology The Secret History of Fantasy (2010)—a follow up on the idea of an exploding field of literary fantastic stories appearing over a wide range of publications. This collection focuses specifically on writers who are in the early stages of their careers, with all stories included “published after 2010.” Considering the seven-year range that encompasses, it’s a bit broader than a new-writers collection focusing on folks in their first few years of publication.

However, this also gives Weisman and Beagle a wealth of stories to choose from to represent the tone and caliber of the movement they’re pointing to in fantastic fiction. These are charming stories, often focused on the personal experience of a character, and all are fantastical in scope rather than scientific, though their approaches do have some variation. The New Voices of Fantasy includes stories in modes from the mythic to the horrific, with some traditional approaches mixed in as well.

Several of these stories I’ve reviewed previously in original publication or, in one case, myself been the editor for in original publication. Shared among them is a certain delicacy or lightness of touch: sometimes this comes across in the fragility of the magical elements such as in “Wing” by Amal El-Mohtar, and sometimes it’s in the themes of otherwise direct pieces like “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon. Thematics are a connecting thread in these disparate pieces—frequently concerned with gender, race, and culture, these stories bring in a broader range of perspectives, nations, and approaches to the idea of the fantastic.

Initially, I read without consulting which publications the given stories or writers had come from. As The New Voices of Fantasy mixes liberally between stories published in-genre and stories that come from mainstream literary pastures, it seemed prudent to leave myself in the dark about the origin of the works I was reading. There are interesting slips between the modes, of course, with several writers occupying both “sides” of the field in turns. However, two of the stories from mainstream publications were remarkably similar in their concern with fatherhood from a masculine perspective that was somewhat myopic and ultimately frustrating.

While I enjoyed the general concept of “The Philosophers” by Adam Ehrlich Sachs, the execution was dull and self-involved at best—the sort of story I’ve read in a hundred creative writing classrooms. The use of disability as a fantastic trope also itched at me a bit in a way it’s hard to pin down. “Here Be Dragons” by Chris Tarry was nominated for the Pushcart prize, and certainly has its moments of interest, but in the end I found the piece’s romantic approach to the protagonist to be offputting. There are moments where the text is aware of his failure and his flaws, but those are fundamentally subsumed in favor of his desire to go off and live his glory days again. The flutter of an argument or criticism of the character turns on itself to become a reification of the thing that it initially seemed to be critiquing, and also, I have very little sympathy for this equally self-involved perspective.

Otherwise, however, I found the stories to be engaging, varied, and somehow well-matched despite their differences. Some pieces that stood out which I have not previously discussed are “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” which also is concerned with mothers and fathers but in a much more self-aware and ultimately awful fashion. These characters, monstrous as they are, have responsibility to each other and a sense of consequence and cost for their selfishness, unlike the protagonist of “Here Be Dragons.” I also appreciated “Left the Century to Sit Unmoved” for its lack of closure and its approach to family; it gives the reader the same sensation of jumping into the pond that might disappear a person that the protagonist has—damn skillful.

Max Gladstone’s “A Kiss With Teeth” tackles fatherhood, marriage, and the fantastic as well, with a firm sense of responsibility and consequence—plus, it’s damn funny as a concept: Dracula raising his son with his suburban ex-vampire-hunter wife. “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado is also about families and parenting; moreso, it’s about men’s thoughtless hunger and ownership of women, and ends exactly as awful as you think it will. The point is rather clear.

Truly, issues of parenting and families appear in a large number of these stories, perhaps as a result of the editors’ efforts to include stories that contain a deeply personal element—none of these pieces are shallow action-oriented romps. All, even the silliest of the bunch, are invested primarily in character dynamics in general and often familial attachment in specific. The total result is a collection that leaves the reader with a thoughtful sensation, the idea that these stories have all worked their way in deep but subtly. Nothing here is wrenching; everything here is designed to prod gently at the emotional involvement of the audience.

It’s an interesting choice, and I don’t know that it represents the whole of new fantastic fiction, but it certainly represents a specific and hard to define corner of it. The inclusion of the longest piece, Usman T. Malik’s “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn,” is a fine choice in this vein—it closes the volume, which is not where I’d expect to see the most hefty of the stories included, but it works. Having this engaging, clever, often-breathtaking story as the closing note leaves the reader with a solid echoing sense of the book, one I appreciated thoroughly.

The editors have done a solid job of collecting a range of a specific type of fantastic story that has grown popular in recent years. Though each of these pieces differs, sometimes significantly, from the others, the collection as a whole is remarkably cohesive in terms of affect and intention. I’d recommend it for anyone who has an appreciation for the literary fantastic or stories about families, and especially both.

The New Voices of Fantasy is available now from Tachyon Publications.

Brit Mandelo is a writer, critic, and editor whose primary fields of interest are speculative fiction and queer literature, especially when the two coincide. They have two books out, Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction and We Wuz Pushed: On Joanna Russ and Radical Truth-telling, and in the past have edited for publications like Strange Horizons Magazine. Other work has been featured in magazines such as Stone TellingClarkesworldApex, and Ideomancer.

It eclipsed!

Aug. 21st, 2017 03:58 pm[personal profile] twistedchick
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
We had an 85% eclipse, which means it got a little darker and the birds weren't singing though the insects were -- nothing shuts up a cricket. I have some phone photos of the light coming through the leaves in crescents on the sidewalks. And then it poured rain for ... 10 minutes? And the sun came out again, starting to strengthen. So, not the biggest deal -- but we were out on the front steps with our homemade cereal box viewers and so on, and the neighbors on either side came over and hung out and watched it with us, which was very cool.

Posted by Juli Clover

Google today announced the next-generation version of its Android operating system, which is named Oreo.

Android Oreo includes dozens of new features, ranging from notification improvements to picture-in-picture support to new emoji.

The update introduces an iOS-like feature called Notification Dots (aka app badges), designed to make it easier to see which apps have new content to display. A long tap on an app icon now displays information like the last notification received and app widgets, much like a 3D Touch does on iOS.

Picture-in-picture support allows users to watch video content while using other apps, while a new autofill feature remembers login information to allow for quicker username and password entry.

Support for new Unicode 10 emoji is included, introducing emoji like exploding head, vampire, zombie, hedgehog, giraffe, fortune cookie, and more. Existing Android emojis have also been redesigned to do away with the iconic Android emoji blobs.

Instant Apps, designed to allow developers to create apps that can run instantly, are now enabled by default, and Google has made improvements to the overall speed of the operating system for faster launch times along as well as introduced security improvements.

A full rundown on the new Android Oreo features is available on Google's site for those interested. The update is available today through Google's Android Open Source Project, with Google planning to roll it out to Pixel and Nexus devices in the near future as soon as carrier testing is complete.

Though Pixel and Nexus owners can expect to get access to Android Oreo in the near future, owners of other Android-based smartphones will need to wait much longer, if they get the update at all. The previous version of Android, Android Nougat, is still only installed on 13.5 percent of devices despite the fact that it was released a year ago.

The majority of Android devices continue to run Android 5.0 Lollipop and Android 6.0 Marshmallow, released in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Tag: Android

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Posted by Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer

This is the moment, people! Grab a box of tissues and keep your companion animals close at hand—we’ve reached the chapter with the raid. Nothing good is going to happen here.

This reread has an index, which you can consult if you feel like exploring previous books and chapters. Spoilers are welcome in the comments if they are relevant to the discussion at hand. Comments that question the value and dignity of individuals, or that deny anyone’s right to exist, are emphatically NOT welcome. Please take note.

Mark and Bel Thorne lead the Dendarii into House Bharaputra, and then their plans go horribly wrong. This is, in large part, because they didn’t have a plan. Mark wanted to be the clone who stuck it to House Bharaputra and saved some other clones, and Bel Thorne wanted that too. Neither of them gave sufficient practical thought to the challenges involved. The strategic mastermind that drives the action this week is hidden somewhere in the bowels of Bharaputra’s in-house ops division, which they clearly have because they’re very well-prepared.

I’ve spent a lot of the last month thinking about Mirror Dance, and my conclusion right now is that everyone needs a reason to live. The idea of saving his fellow clones is Mark’s reason. His life has been pretty limited—he hasn’t been able to run across a lot of other potential reasons. In an odd way, he’s taking advice from his mother. Having only been exposed to her genetically, and not grown up in her orbit, Mark has a limited ability to understand the idea that if you desire an outcome you should act in a way that leads to that outcome. This is a pretty crucial issue right now, but I think it’s worth pointing out that it’s not even one of his more intense personal limitations—the kid is twenty and he doesn’t have a name he thinks of as his own. Mark wants to save everyone Jackson’s Whole has ever cloned, so he’s off to save some clones! Cordelia would have urged Mark to plan more thoughtfully.

I’m not sure what Cordelia would say to Bel. I have some ideas about what I would say. Bel has their own reasons for wanting to take down House Bharaputra, dating back to “Labyrinth.” As the raid goes badly wrong (to the tune of several Dendarii lives), Bel will admit that they knew they were dealing with an imposter, and simply hoped that the raid would work out. Mark is an adult now, and he is responsible for his own actions. But Bel knew who Mark was, and chose to allow him to continue the fraud of being Miles until Green Squad took losses. Bel abdicated responsibility as a Dendarii commander because they were excited about an opportunity to pursue personal goals.

I like the idea that Bel, Mark, and some of the Dendarii would go rogue and take on the Jacksonians. That would make sense for both Bel and Mark, and it would offer some interesting insight into what they’re like as strategists. That’s not the story I’m here to read. It seems unfair that Miles could create the Dendarii through deception and Mark and Bel can’t co-opt them for this mission in the same way. Seventeen-year-old Miles was not a lot more skilled than twenty-year-old Mark, and he was certainly not more honest. Miles had Bothari, Elena, Arde, and Baz. I believe Bel is capable of many things, but he’s not loyal to Mark. Mark can’t tell because he has no personal experience with loyalty; He wants a reason to live so badly he’s willing to give up his chance at life to get it. Bel and Mark are like Kevin and Arnold from The Book of Mormon if Arnold was severely depressed. They want to do something incredible (and Bel is willing to take on a sidekick) and make the world a better place through the overwhelming force of their idealism. They fail (at least for now) because they don’t understand the situation on the ground.

Bujold makes sure I’ve noticed the stories I’m not reading by talking about them on the shuttle ride down to Jackson’s Whole; Taura and Mark talk about her life before her rescue. Mark realizes that they’re from the same neighborhood and they have a lot in common. He wonders what it would be like to get to know her as himself, and not just while posing as Miles. I really like this alternate scene, and Mark’s alternate life in this alternate Vorkosiverse. I imagine it would be part of a progression towards an alternate raid. I’ll admit that might all go a little too smoothly, and the next thing would be Mark becoming Naismith while Miles goes back to Barrayar to be Lieutenant Vorkosigan. I’m glad not to have that ending, even though I’m sad to miss that conversation.

Taura points out that House Bharaputra was bad, but not overtly abusive. She talks about undergoing medical tests that hurt, but not because they were supposed to be a form of torture—she describes pain as an unfortunate occasional side-effect of science. She says House Ryoval was worse. Thanks for the foreshadowing, Taura! Of most immediate importance is the treatment of cloned children in House Bharaputra’s care. The Bharaputrans murder children. They abuse those children by grooming them to be complicit with their own coming slaughter. Further abuse can be carried out to order, at the direction of their clients, but most of Bharaputra’s clones are happy with their lives. They aren’t savvy enough to identify the twisted mix of lies and manipulation that helps send them to their deaths, even when they’re aware of their intended purpose. The clones aren’t savvy enough to fight it either.

Mark expects to walk into the clone dormitories, talk the clones into boarding the Dendarii drop-shuttle, and depart in an orderly fashion with the clones sitting cross-legged in rows on the floor. I’m not convinced he’s given a lot of thought to their future after that. He doesn’t have a facility selected to provide therapy and education; he’s planning to take them back to Escobar where they will get help. Mark is at the end of his resources—he’s not going to be funding the Dendarii Therapeutic Group Home for Abused and Exploited Minors, or finding fosterers for sixty teenagers. He would have to leave that for the government of Escobar, if he ever got that far.

The Bharaputrans aren’t running a Dickensian workhouse; they’ve put some careful thought into how to brainwash their victims. The clones are physically well-cared for and treated with emotional sensitivity because treating them kindly makes them easier to handle while they mature. Bharaputra isn’t making anyone suffer in any way that isn’t needed to promote their business plan. This is unfortunate for Mark because it means that the clones are terrified to be rescued. Their resistance is disorganized and inept, but it gives the Bharaputrans enough time to destroy the Dendarii shuttle with Dendarii thermal grenades—against my will, I am impressed by Bharaputran thrift and efficiency.

With the shuttle destroyed and the rescue in shambles, Bel blows Mark’s cover and orders the Dendarii to fall back to the dorms. The chapter ends on a cliffhanger—the Dendarii don’t have any way out, and they don’t have any means of completing their rescue. Everything they do now will be a holding action while they cross their fingers and wait for the real Admiral Naismith to bring the fleet to their rescue. I’d like to say that Miles will rescue them or die trying, but sadly, this is more of an “and” kind of situation.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

Posted by Stubby the Rocket

Discworld Infographic, E.G. Cosh

Look, there are a lot of books in the Discworld universe, and a number of central series and character to keep track of. Whether your a seasoned fan, or just trying to dip your feet into the pool, it can be daunting to have everything sorted in your brain space.

Now, there’s a lovely infographic to help you out.

Put together by data visualisation designer and director Emma Cosh, the infographic not only breaks down the release date of each Discworld novel, it also demonstrates the character and arc overlaps between books. A-like so:

Discworld Infographic, E.G. Cosh

E.G. Cosh

You can head over to tableau for the full graphic, and check out Cosh’s website for more examples of her stellar data design!

Posted by Keith DeCandido

The Defenders season 1 overview review

By the time we get to the end of Marvel’s The Defenders, that word (“defenders”) has never been used. It’s kind of fitting, really, since the original comic book version of the Defenders were a so-called “non-team” featuring a rotating and inconsistent cast, and the team was never really formalized or set.

In that same vein, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage never really become a formal team. Hell, the “team,” such as it is, isn’t really just those four, as Claire Temple, Misty Knight, and especially Colleen Wing are important components of the fight, too.

And that is what makes The Defenders particularly strong, as the characterizations of all its players, big and small, is superb.

If only the plot was stronger…

SPOILERS for The Defenders season 1.

Probably the most impressive feat of this series is that it manages to pick up and tie together so many threads. There’s a serious juggling act going on here, as all of the following storylines get play in The Defenders:

  • Wilson Fisk’s dodgy real-estate consortium, specifically Madame Gao’s role in it, from Daredevil season 1
  • Jessica Jones recovering from her battle against Kilgrave in her show’s first season
  • Luke Cage getting out of prison and trying to continue his role as Harlem’s hero from his show’s first season
  • The Hand, Elektra’s role as the Black Sky, and Stick’s war against them from Daredevil season 2
  • Also from DD season 2, Matt Murdock trying to get away from the double life that is driving him away from those he loves (and got Elektra killed)
  • Danny Rand’s guilt over failing to save K’un Lun in Iron Fist season 1
  • Colleen Wing’s guilt over not realizing that the Hand was evil in that same season
  • Claire Temple’s general role as the glue holding all these folks together in all of the above

Not only that, but some of these are bits that didn’t work particularly well before, but stand out quite well now, starting with the Hand. In DD season 2 and IF season 1 they were a cultish force, kinda, with lots of ninjas, but not really focused. In The Defenders, we finally find out what they are—and also why they seem inconsistent. The Hand are actually five people who rejected the teachings of K’un Lun and rebelled against them, getting their hands on a substance (called, prosaically, “the substance”) that enables them to come back from the dead. The five of them—they’re the fingers of the Hand—include the previously seen Gao and Bakuto (the latter introduced in Iron Fist, and seemingly killed by Wing), as well as Murakami, Sowande, and Alexandra.

The Defenders season 1 overview review Alexandra Sigourney Weaver

Photo: Netflix

The latter is played by Sigourney Weaver, and she is as superb as ever. Alexandra has a grace and meticulousness and calm that comes of living a very long time. Best of all, she doesn’t have an explosive side. That was honestly starting to get repetitive in the Netflix MCU series, as we had Fisk, Kilgrave, Cottonmouth, Mariah, and Harold Meachum, all of whom were generally calm and reasonable but with explosive tempers that could lash out at any moment. So it’s a welcome change to have Alexandra not be like that. She takes everything in stride, from Rand having unexpected help from Murdock, Jones, and Cage to the other four members of the Hand expressing major issues with her plan to a simple annoyance like a record skipping on a scratch. Even when she has her biggest triumph, when Elektra brings Rand to her, thus enabling their plan to go forth, and she bitches out the (surviving) other Hand members, she’s completely calm, and only a little angry.

Of course, that’s followed by her biggest failure, as Elektra kills her. There are two things Alexandra didn’t anticipate. One was Rand having so many skilled allies, including three with super-powers. The other was Elektra’s betrayal. Alexandra was convinced that Elektra was only the Black Sky now, but Elektra’s original personality did come to the fore. However, she still wants access to the substance—which is apparently in a chamber that only the iron fist can open. And appears to be made of bones. Maybe dragon bones?

Removing the substance will destroy the city above, which the Hand has apparently previously done in Pompeii and Chernobyl. It’s not clear how removing dragon bones (or whatever) will destroy a city or why, in a world filled with super-powered beings (including two in this very series) it has to be the iron fist that breaks into the chamber that holds the substance. I mean, Cage or Jones or the Hulk or Spider-Man or anyone with a fancy-ass exoskeleton like Iron Man or the Vulture could do it just as easily.

And this is the overall problem with The Defenders. The threat is vague and undefined—we keep being told the city is in danger, but aside from one earthquake, that danger never really manifests. I don’t expect aliens attacking Grand Central Terminal (Disney doesn’t give them a big enough budget for that), but there should’ve been something a bit more concrete to threaten the city than “we’re digging a hole and taking bones out.”

The Defenders Marvel

It doesn’t help that the show doesn’t have the same feel for New York that the previous series did, particularly Luke Cage and Daredevil. The city in general and the neighborhoods of Harlem and Hell’s Kitchen (however fictionalized those neighborhoods are for the sake of the stories) forms the texture for Murdock and Cage’s stories. Even Jessica Jones and Iron Fist integrated the city into the background, at least. But The Defenders never really feels like it’s taking place in New York the way the others do, and considering how much hype there was about the “battle for New York,” the inability to embrace the location with the same verve that its predecessors managed is a disappointment. (There’s also some geographical hilarity, like putting a seedy bar on 11th Avenue in the 40s, an area that is mostly car dealerships, not bars…)

On top of that, for all that Elektra killing Alexandra was an effective end to episode 6, it also really took the wind out of the sails of the finale. Elektra and Murdock do get to indulge in their banter and self-destructive antics that kept her half of DD season 2 from being a complete disaster, but Elektra has none of Alexandra’s powerful charisma. She’s a tormented mess—that’s what Elektra has always been, both in the comics and onscreen—and she doesn’t have anywhere near the gravitas that is required to lead the Hand.

And while Gao provides pointed commentary to Elektra about how important Alexandra’s resources and relationships cultivated over the centuries are to the Hand’s success and how Elektra can’t just assume those because she killed her, there’s no time to really dig into it, because there’s the big-ass climax. The surviving Hand folk need to get at the substance regardless of who’s in charge—as it is, two of their number are dead (Sowande having been killed by Stick, and seriously, guys, you had to kill the black guy first? nice job of tone-deafness, there…)—so they go along with it.

The Defenders season 1 overview review Colleen Wing

Photo: Netflix

That big-ass climax does work superbly, though. With the notable (and glaring) exception of Iron Fist, the Netflix MCU has done excellent work with action scenes, and that continues here. Finn Jones still doesn’t move like the living weapon, but he’s marginally better than he was in IF; both Mike Colter and Krysten Ritter move with the same casual fighting style that we saw in both Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, Jones as the irresistible force and Cage as the immovable object. And both Charlie Cox and his stunt double remain magnificent. Plus we have the added bonus of Jessica Henwick’s Wing getting another swordfight against Bakuto, and winning somewhat more permanently.

(By the way, there’s a delightful Easter egg early on. We see Rand and Wing in the latter’s dojo, with Rand lying on the floor, using a couple of Wing’s books as a pillow. On top of the pile is the very distinctive cover of Karate-Dō: My Way of Life by Gichin Funakoshi, the father of modern karate, and a book I strongly recommend to anyone who’s interested in martial arts in any form. By putting the book there, the set designers showed more knowledge of martial arts than anyone involved with Iron Fist’s first season…)

But while the plot doesn’t entirely cohere, the characterization truly shines. Murdock, Cage, and Jones were already strong, complex characters before the series started, as are Temple and Wing and Knight, and their arcs all continue along and intersect and take odd detours. Jones and Murdock’s banter is a delight—I particularly like when she uses the info she dug up on him to help interrogate her client’s daughter—and Cage and Rand have three different, brilliantly written and performed conversations over the course of the series that presages a future series pairing up the two of them. (Will I finally, after thirty years, get the Power Man & Iron Fist TV show I’ve been dreaming of?)

The Defenders season 1 overview review Luke Cage Danny Rand Iron Fist

Photo: Netflix

I didn’t list Rand as a strong, complex character above, but Defenders makes that work, too. In Iron Fist, Rand was a whiny, arrogant, twerp that the script kept trying to crowbar into a hero. In The Defenders, Rand is a whiny, arrogant twerp that the script comes right out and acknowledges is a whiny, arrogant twerp. It makes the character a whole lot easier to take, especially given how often the other characters call him on it. (Best line of the whole series belongs to Stick, speaking for the entire audience: “The immortal Iron Fist is still a thundering dumbass.”)

Best of all, the show doesn’t skimp on its supporting characters. Foggy Nelson and Karen Page are trying to move on with their lives while trying to keep Murdock from going back to being Daredevil, though Nelson winds up enabling him. Murdock’s slice of The Defenders is very much an addiction story, with Nelson and Page acting exactly like the friends the addict has alienated with his behavior, and Murdock treats the suit exactly like a hit from his drug of choice. It’s brilliantly written, down to the very end when Murdock is believed to have been buried alongside Elektra and Gao (my money’s on all three, not just Murdock, surviving, though DD is the only one we see at the end). The scene where Cage, Jones, and Rand all arrive at the police precinct to meet up with their loved ones, but Nelson and Page are left standing there watching an empty doorway waiting for Murdock to arrive, which he never does, is brutally effective.

The Defenders season 1 overview review Misty Knight

Photo: Netflix

Wing and Knight get their moments in the sun, too. Wing is frustrated by Rand marginalizing her and then finding new playmates, and she pretty much forces herself on the team in the end, and she’s the one who provides the C-4 that stops the Hand once and for all. She also gets some degree of closure by confronting Bakuto again, and killing him for realsies this time.

As for Knight, she’s torn between her duty as a cop and how much she trusts Cage and Temple. In the end, she risks her job in order to dive into the fray with the rest of them, helping Wing and Temple against the Hand, and losing her arm for her trouble. (So Netflix, she’ll get a bionic arm, right? And then we get a Daughters of the Dragon series with Jessica Henwick and Simone Messick kicking ass every week, right? Right?)

Jones’s sidekicks get less to do, though Trish Walker’s radio show does play a small role in the story, and Malcolm’s almost puppy-like loyalty to Jones is always a delight.

The Defenders season 1 overview review

Photo: Netflix

Cage and Jones have the least connection to the overall plot—the Hand has been Murdock and Rand’s thing—but it’s made up for in other ways. Cage is both the common sense and the conscience of the team; in the end, he’s the one who’s only on board if they can guarantee that no one who isn’t a member of the Hand will get hurt. He’s also the one who actually captures Sowande, and it’s his plan of attack when he, Jones, and Murdock go down the big hole to rescue Rand. Meanwhile Jones—besides providing the best smartassery—is the one who actually does the most to figure out what’s going on, reminding us that, besides being super-strong, super-obnoxious, and a super-drunk, she’s also a damn good private investigator. Tellingly, she’s the only one to reject the team-up Rand practically begs for when the four of them all are thrown together; just as tellingly, she rejoins them when she does legwork and realizes that the people they’re after have been around since at least the 19th century. Jones and Cage also get the rapprochement that Kilgrave’s manipulations kept them from having in JJ season 1. One hopes that they’ll appear in each others’ respective second seasons, as the pair of them have settled into a friendship that will, one suspects, be good for them both.

In the end, Murdock asks Rand to tell the others to protect his city after he’s gone, since he expected to die with Elektra in the end. There’s no indication that they’re going to officially team up, but at the very least, they’re likely to help each other out when needed.

The Defenders season 1 overview review Claire Temple Rosario Dawson

Photo: Netflix

For all that I’ve slagged the plot, The Defenders is still absolutely worth watching. With the notable exceptions of Ramon Rodriguez, who remains pretty and lifeless as Bakuto, and Jones, still the weak link as Iron Fist, the cast is stellar, the characterization is superb, and ultimately, it’s a story about heroes. They all start out reluctant in some way—whether it’s Cage not wanting to take credit, Rand too focused on his guilt, Murdock trying to stay away from the violence, or Jones just wanting to be left alone in her bottle—but they come together in a big way and it’s a joy to see.

Bring on The Punisher

Keith R.A. DeCandido writes “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch” for this site every Tuesday. He has also written about Star Trek, Stargate, Batman, Wonder Woman, Doctor Who, and other Marvel Netflix series. In addition, he’s the author of a metric buttload of fiction, most recently the Marvel “Tales of Asgard” trilogy featuring Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three, three Super City Cops eBook novellas about cops in a city filled with superheroes, the Orphan Black reference book Classified Clone Report, and short stories in Baker Street Irregulars, Aliens: Bug Hunt, Nights of the Living Dead, TV Gods: Summer Programming, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, and Stargate SG-1/Atlantis: Homeworlds.

Posted by Juli Clover

Apple today released the seventh beta of an upcoming tvOS 11 update for the fourth-generation Apple TV, and within the beta, there appear to be assets for "J105a," previously revealed as the code name for an upcoming 4K Apple TV.

Developer Guilherme Rambo, who has made a name for himself delving into the HomePod firmware, shared a screenshot depicting HDR image assets with a file name that includes "J105a."

The "J105a" name was first shared by Bloomberg in February, in a report that suggested Apple was working on a fifth-generation Apple TV capable of streaming Ultra HD 4K video.

That report said Apple could release a new fifth-generation 4K Apple TV as early as this year, and since then, we've seen continued references to the new model, suggesting a release could actually happen in the near future.

Along with the "J105a" assets found in today's tvOS 11 beta, references to the code name were also discovered in the HomePod firmware. That information suggested the device could support Dolby Vision and HDR10 color formats.

In March, evidence of an Apple TV identified as AppleTV 6,2 was found in developer logs with a Cupertino IP, and AppleTV 6,2 does not correspond to an existing Apple TV model. The current fourth-generation Apple TV is known as AppleTV 5,2.

Apple has also started listing select movies as 4K and HDR in iTunes purchase history, leading to speculation that a new Apple TV is imminent.

Aside from Bloomberg's report earlier this year, there has been no concrete confirmation that Apple plans to introduce a new Apple TV soon, but the continued mentions of J105a both in the HomePod firmware and in the tvOS 11 beta suggest we could perhaps see a new Apple TV announced this fall alongside new iPhone models.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Don't Buy)

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Eclipse first, the rest nowhere

Aug. 21st, 2017 02:18 pm[personal profile] sovay
sovay: (Cho Hakkai: intelligence)
The cloud cover comes and goes and we may not be able to see any of the broken rings of leaf-light that I remember so fondly from the annular eclipse of 1994, but through the (carefully purchased from the NASA-recommended manufacturer) glasses I can see that a shadow has already bitten the sun. I am off to see how much more it devours before we drive it away into the swinging dance of planetary bodies again. I am wearing my Miskatonic University T-shirt. It seems appropriate to this brush with the cosmos.

[edit] No leaf-rings, but I saw the crescent sun: through eclipse glasses it looked like a hunter's moon. I didn't expect much effect on the afternoon so far out of the path of totality, but it was strange light to walk around in, slightly thickened, slightly smoked, the wrong angle and the wrong color for plain overcast or sunset. [personal profile] spatch said it was like someone had dropped a filter over the sun and of course someone had: the moon. We walked to the library and back and intermittently looked up at the sky until the crescent began to widen again and then the real overcast thoughtfully rolled in.

Posted by Joe Rossignol

Intel today introduced its eighth-generation Core processor lineup [PDF] coming to notebooks later this year.

The first four eighth-generation processors launching today are U-series chips suitable for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini. They're all 15W chips with four cores and eight threads, paving the way for a quad-core 13-inch MacBook Pro should Apple choose to release one.

The new Core i5 and Core i7 chips have integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620, and support both DDR4-2400 and LPDDR3-2133 RAM.

Given the lack of LPDDR4 support, which allows for up to 32GB RAM, a new 13-inch MacBook Pro with an eighth-generation Core processor would likely remain capped at 16GB of RAM. Apple marketing Phil Schiller explained why last year.

Notebooks using the eighth-generation chips can get up to 10 hours of battery life, consistent with the current 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Intel said eighth-generation processors appropriate for desktops like the iMac will be available in the fall, while processors appropriate for the 12-inch MacBook and 15-inch MacBook Pro are vaguely listed as coming soon.

The eighth-generation Core i5 and Core i7 chips are up to 40 percent faster than the equivalent seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors, according to Intel, based on the benchmark tool SYSmark 2014 SE on Windows 10. That tops Intel's original claim that the chips would be up to 30 percent faster.

The test compared Intel's quad-core Core i7-8550U processor, with a base frequency of 1.8GHz and Turbo Boost up to 4GHz, against its dual-core Core i7-7500U processor with a base frequency of 2.7GHz and Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz.

Intel also boasted that its eighth-generation Core processors are up to twice as fast as its equivalent five-year-old Ivy Bridge chips. It said users can output a 106-second 4K video in as little as three minutes with a new PC, for example, versus up to 45 minutes on an equivalent five-year-old PC.

Notably, the eighth-generation processors announced today are not part of the upcoming Coffee Lake family. Instead, they're part of what's being called Kaby Lake Refresh, an iteration of the seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors used in the latest MacBook, MacBook Pro, and iMac models.

Intel is expected to eventually announce chips based on Coffee Lake's 14nm++ and Cannonlake's 10nm manufacturing processes that join the eighth-generation Core lineup. In other words, a new generation of Core processors no longer immediately correlates to brand new chip architecture.

Intel said the first notebooks with eighth-generation Core processors will be available in September, but it's unclear when Apple will refresh its Mac lineup — probably not soon. For perspective, Intel launched its Kaby Lake processors in January, and the first Macs equipped with the chips were released in June.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro
Tags: Intel, Kaby Lake
Buyer's Guide: MacBook Pro (Buy Now)

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Eclipse was interesting

Aug. 21st, 2017 10:53 am[personal profile] kengr
kengr: (Default)
But not as nice as totality would have been.

Pity we weren't in the zone of totality, but even with what we got there were some interesting effects.

I was in the Albertson's parking lot and looking at the trees and hedge they started looking weirder and weirder. Probably because we were still getting full spectrum light, but it was a lot dimmer than normal.

Colors looked "off" and the the light looked "wrong". I can see why that used to spook people.

I made a point of going out to look because *last* time (1979) it was overcast and you couldn't see anything...


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