What does ‘wheedler’ mean? According to Dictionary.com, a wheedler is someone who ‘attempts to influence others by using smooth, flattering, or beguiling words or actions’. Well, you can rest assured that I am NOT going to wheedle any of the visitors to this blog, although, I must say you are all extremely good-looking and intelligent.
I started this site to highlight some of my favorite music, but I have extended it to include my thoughts on life, stupidity, football (the English type) and anything else of interest to educated, interesting people like your good selves. (See how I wheedled there?)
At the top of my site is a young Grace Slick, of Jefferson Airplane.
It’s no secret that if there’s a popular app or feature Facebook can’t buy, the company simply creates its own version. First it was Snapchat. Now, it’s TikTok.
In an attempt to steal the crown of best viral content generator, Instagram added a new feature called Reels, TechCrunch reports. The video tool allows users to create short 15-second clips, with music and all, that can be uploaded to their Stories.
News of the feature comes almost a month after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, expressed censorship concerns over TikTok during a speech at Georgetown University. It also comes only a little over a year after the tech giant dropped Lasso, Facebook’s first attempt at creating a TikTok clone. But rather than having to download an entirely separate app, the company plugged a similar tool into Instagram — an app you probably already spend hours a day scrolling through anyways.
Based on the demo video, the feature looks simple to use. Swipe to the right on the Instagram app and you’ll find Reels nestled among Boomerang and Super-Zoom modes within Stories. You can either record your short clip in silence (if that’s your thing) or choose a song from Instagram’s music library. Additionally, you can also pull audio from other public Reels.
Reel’s editing tools aren’t as extensive as TikTok’s … yet. You can adjust the speed of your video, add captions, and overlay scenes for smoother transitions. When you’re done, you can upload your masterpiece to Stories, Close Friends, add it to your Highlights, or send it to someone via a Direct Message. In an effort to encourage viral hits, public Reels have the chance to land on the Top Reels section in the Explore tab.
“Instagram Stories has always been a home for expression and we believe this new format has huge potential to enable more creativity for people,” Robby Stein, director of product at Instagram, told Mashable.
But don’t get too excited. While available on Android and iOS, Instagram confirmed Reels is only being tested in Brazil for now, with plans to incorporate user feedback to improve the feature over time.
It takes a talented and ambitious couple to successfully pull off Beyoncé and Jay-Z Halloween costumes.
Many have tried and many have failed over the years, but as Halloween 2019 approaches, two people finally did the musical power couple justice: Ciara and Russell Wilson.
On Wednesday, Ciara revealed the extremely on-point Halloween costumes on Twitter. The two dressed as Bey and Jay, but really went the extra mile by imitating the outfits and iconic Mona Lisa scene from the couple’s joint “Apeshit” music video, which was filmed in the Louvre.
For reference here’s the full music video, and a GIF of the Bey and Jay moment that Ciara and her hubby used for inspiration. They absolutely nailed it.
Ciara and Russell Wilson’s outfits bear uncanny resemblances to the Carter couple’s clothes, but they did make one change Bey and Jay’s scene. Can you spot it? Instead of the Mona Lisa Ciara and her hubby posed under a framed photo of Barack and Michelle Obama.
In case the fashion and video wasn’t flawless enough, Ciara also channeled her inner Beyoncé and shared three dramatic solo shots of herself that have real Bey Instagram Energy.
Great Halloween costumes apparently run in the family this year, because on Tuesday Ciara gave Twitter and Instagram followers a glimpse at her kids’ costumes. They dressed as “The Jacksons,” and their costumes are equally brilliant.
Though Beyoncé has yet to reveal her family’s Halloween getups this year, she’s known for slaying the costume game as well, and will definitely be impressed by Ciara’s efforts.
By being able to recognize word sequences, Search is also able to understand the context of words in the query. For instance, it’s now better at understand queries wherein prepositions like “for” and “to” matter a lot to their meaning. In the past, when you search for “brazil traveler to USA need a visa,” you’ll see results that cater to Americans looking to travel to Brazil at the top of the pile. With BERT implemented, the first results you get are now links to information on how to get a US visa as a Brazilian.
Here’s another example: pre-BERT Google returns generic results on how get a prescription filled when you type in something like “Can you get medicine for someone pharmacy.” Now, Search prioritizes results with instructions on how to prescription filled for someone else, which is what you’d mean with a query like that.
At a press event announcing the big Search update, BuzzFeed News says Google VP of Search Pandu Nayak also gave this query as an example: “How old was Taylor Swift when Kanye went on stage?” Before BERT, Google would’ve returned a video of Kanye’s infamous award-crashing rant at the MTV Video Music Awards. Now, the first result is a snippet of a BBC article with Swift’s age — it’s even highlighted to make sure you see it.
Despite the massive update, Google admits that Search is still far from perfect. If you ask it “what state is south of Nebraska,” Google will still surface results for a community called “South Nebraska” instead of for Kansas even with BERT. Nayak wrote in his announcement post that “language understanding remains an ongoing challenge, and it keeps [the team] motivated to continue to improve Search.” For now, BERT will only be applied to English-language searches made in the US, but Google plans to expand its reach to more regions and languages over time.
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So far, 130,000 references have been linked to 50,000 digitized books that are hosted by the Archive. To see an example of the new digital referencing in action, you can head to the Wikipedia page for Martin Luther King, Jr. If you look at the reference for Adam Fairclough’s book To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference & Martin Luther King Jr at the bottom of the page, you’ll see it’s a clickable link. Clicking takes you to the Internet Archive’s digital version of the book, open to the page from which the reference was taken.
When you open a digital book hosted by the Archive, you can see a few pages of preview to check the reference information. If you want to read more, you can borrow a digital copy of the book through the Controlled Digital Lending program.
The linking of references to digital books is done both by users and by robots, and has been performed in the English, Greek and Arabic versions of Wikipedia. The Internet Archive says it intends to continue working with Wikipedia communities to scan more books and link them to references. This isn’t the first time the two sites have worked together, as the group previously helped fix 9 million broken links on the encyclopedia using its Wayback Machine archive.
“Together we can achieve Universal Access to All Knowledge,” said Mark Graham, Director of the Wayback Machine project. “One linked book, paper, web page, news article, music file, video and image at a time.”
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Anna Meredith has written music for orchestras and choirs. But her latest venture is an album with her band.
LONDON — In a cramped, down-at-the-heels rehearsal room, the composer Anna Meredith was frowning at her laptop. In front of her were an electronic keyboard, a sound mixer bristling with knobs, two drums and a toy xylophone. A clarinet on a stand stood on the floor next to an electronic drum pad. After a short pause, Ms. Meredith picked up the clarinet, grimaced and glanced across at her bandmates. “Now, if I could just remember what I’m meant to be doing on this one, that would be terrific,” she said.
It was just over a week before the launch gig for her second album, and Ms. Meredith could be forgiven a touch of stage fright. The last time she was preparing to debut a major work was summer 2018 for the Proms festival at the Royal Albert Hall. Her ensemble on that occasion included the combined forces of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Proms Youth Ensemble and a large choir.
Today, however, things were a little more D.I.Y.: a tight-knit group of electric guitar, cello, tuba, drums and electronics. Not to mention the composer herself, responsible for all the instruments in front of her.
Musical history is full of pop stars who yearn to be taken seriously on the classical side of the aisle, but the traffic rarely runs the other way. Ms. Meredith is a rare exception.
One of the most established British composers of her generation, Ms. Meredith in recent years has been popping up in the most unexpected of places. A few weeks after that Proms debut, she released a recording of her “collaboration” with Vivaldi, a joyously irreverent response to “The Four Seasons” using a combination of electronics and live instruments. A few weeks later still, she was back onstage, touring boutique summer festivals with her band.
Her music defies the usual attempts at categorization. In the last decade, Ms. Meredith has written a concerto for beatboxer and orchestra, a “gigue” for dance mat and electronics, a piece for chamber group plus recorded M.R.I. scanner, and a body-percussion piece for an orchestra to perform without instruments (“HandsFree”).
Animated by exuberant, juddering cross-rhythms, vaulting easily from frenetic, Terry Riley-ish minimalism to tranquil introspection, Ms. Meredith’s compositions seem to contain whole worlds. As blaring brass fanfares à la Janaceck collide with surges of caffeinated power pop, you find yourself wondering where she will go next.
Ms. Meredith isn’t always sure herself. “Someone once compared me to a shark,” she said in an interview. “It’s true: I do really like to keep moving.”
The new album, entitled “Fibs,” is as skittishly inventive as anything Ms. Meredith has written. The opening track, “Sawbones,” builds from a manic tuba and electric guitar riff to a maddeningly catchy chorus that wouldn’t be out of place at a 1990s club night. There are quieter moments, too: In “Moonmoons,” a graceful, melodic cello line soars over cooing owl sounds and plucked strings.
“The thing about playing Anna’s music is that it’s constantly changing,” said Maddie Cutter, the cellist on “Moonmoons.” “One minute you have a lovely melody, the next you’re doing these wild percussive chromatic things. Then there are all the crazy time signatures. You have to be really clued-up.”
Born in 1978, Ms. Meredith grew up near Edinburgh. As a teenager, she took clarinet lessons and played in a youth orchestra, but had little sense that music was her thing. Her first formal composition, written in high school, was for electronic keyboard, and required that the performer keep their hands on the keys,hitting the buttons that changed the instrument’s sound withtheir nose. (“Maybe I should dig it out,” she said, laughing.) It wasn’t until studying music at the University of York, then specializing in composition at the Royal College of Music, that she realized her gifts might be in any way unusual.
Success came early. By her mid-20s, she was composer-in-residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; by 28, she had won a coveted commission to write a piece for the Last Night of the Proms, the biggest jamboree in Britain’s classical musical calendar, which is broadcast around the world by the BBC. The piece she wrote, “Froms,” performed simultaneously by five orchestras, was, like many things Ms. Meredith has composed since, swaggeringly ambitious.
“The composing me is pretty badass,” she said. “When I’m working on something big, I feel totally unfazed.”
Yet she often felt uncertain about whether she really belonged in the contemporary music establishment, she said. Pulling a face, Ms. Meredith described once spending months writing an orchestral piece on commission, and being utterly dispirited by its debut performance. “The players didn’t seem to care, the audience didn’t seem to care, no one looked like they of it were having a good time,” she said. “And the piece was only played once, there was no recording; that was its only chance.”
This wasn’t a criticism of the way the classical world operates, she insisted: “I know I’ve been enormously lucky to get those commissions. I just wanted to do something where I had more control.”
So she decided to think more like a pop artist, and focus on writing tracks for an EP rather than pieces for live performance, she said. She also decided to follow in the footsteps of composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass, and build a permanent ensemble. Sam Wilson, a percussionist and vocalist joined the group; as did a guitarist, Jack Ross; a tuba player, Tom Kelly; and, later, Ms. Cutter.
The group’s first album, “Varmints,” was released in 2016 to a mixture of acclaim and faint bewilderment.
Ms. Meredith said that, while some critics seemed surprised by her change in direction, she was really only irked by suggestions that somehow she was selling out in attempting more commercial projects. “It’s ridiculous, that assumption,” she said. “For a start, there’s so much more infrastructure and support in contemporary classical music, at least in the U.K.”
Ms. Meredith isn’t alone in trying to change assumptions about where contemporary music should be heard, or how. Just as composers like Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, Mica Levi, Nico Muhly and Max Richter have become fixtures at festivals in the United States and mainland Europe, Britain seems to be in the midst of a boom in so-called neoclassical music.
The niche label Erased Tapes, based in East London, has found unexpected success with recordings of mellow, stripped-back instrumental music — so much so that Decca has followed with its own “postclassical” label, Mercury KX.
“There’s a lot of experimentation right now,” said the radio host Elizabeth Alker, whose show “Unclassified” is devoted to new music that straddles contemporary, alternative, minimal and numerous other adjectives. It has been a surprise hit on BBC Radio 3, an unabashedly highbrow classical music station. “Performers are thinking much more about the live experience, and audiences seem genuinely curious,” Ms. Alker said. “I honestly think they don’t care which category something fits in — or doesn’t.”
Ms. Meredith also said she felt that the musical landscape around her was in flux; having once experienced a degree of anxiety about where to place herself, she no longer entirely cared. “At the moment, I think my biography says ‘composer, producer, performer,’ which I think is maybe a bit much,” she said, then raised her eyebrows. “How about just ‘musician’?”
“Order!” is probably the last word most Brits would want to dance to. That’s because it’s a word that’s regularly yelled out ad nauseam by John Bercow — the former Speaker of the House of Commons — during never-ending Brexit debates.
Belgian DJ Michael Schack has done the unthinkable and turned Bercow’s nails-on-blackboard vocals into a dance song — complete with a video that’s almost certainly the strangest thing you’ll see on the internet today. If you listen to the truly bonkers song, you’ll hear familiar Bercow phrases like “unlock,” “division,” and his signature “order!”
Apex: Stories from the Outlands – “Voidwalker” is the second of, so far, two short cinematic vignettes, meant to provide some narrative to the otherwise plot-barren battle-royale frenzy of fluid movement and chaotic gun-slinging that is Apex Legends. Principally, it is a story of two women. And while it falls into a well known, often criticised trope, it also presents an infinity of choices that are, nevertheless, an absurd binary.
One of these women is a hardened warrior, proficient in the acrobatic, hand-to-hand combat that’s common of female fighters in visual media. Her emotional register contains two options, those being brief flashes of rage or subdued compassion verging on disappointment. But whatever she feels, if it includes anything else, she hides behind a stoic face, and the reflective plate of her distinctive helmet. She is a killer among killers. Her life is kill or be killed. We know that from the opening scenes.
The other is a frail, afraid girl, victimised by some shadowy organisation for reasons that are not clear to her. She doesn’t know who she is, and suffers at the hands of others. Violence is and has been, as we can clearly see, often directed at her. She is abused, and dehumanised by her abusers, cowering in fear and panic. She isn’t a killer, but must become one. She must become who the first woman already is. Because they are the same person.
This character is the one Apex Legends players know as Wraith, known for attracting the kind of players who run off into the horizon hoping to become the next YouTube star, only to get blown to bits. Wraith’s abilities allow her to place portals or enter a mysterious void outside of the game reality, and hear disembodied voices that warn of impending danger. But this is not about Wraith as she is in the game. I want to talk about choice.
Visually, the most distinctive element of the already slick animation of Voidwalker is its representation of possibility. As it happens, Killer Wraith, as I’ll refer to her, and all the other Wraiths hinted at in the cinematic, can see and speak into the other countless timelines. When she steps into the cerulean void, she can actually see all the other hers perform all manner of martial feats, each making slightly different decisions. This, then, is how her powers are explained: a great sisterhood across time and space, where all the Wraiths warn and advise each other on how to best do violence and survive.
It is how she finds who we will call Victim Wraith, too — noticing that in one of the timelines, she is not doing violence, but rather suffering it. When she shouts at her to kick and punch, the Victim Wraith only cowers more. This prompts an act of compassion: out of nowhere, Killer Wraith descends into the world of the Victim Wraith, chases off the scientist abusing her, and then admonishes: “What’s the matter with you? You didn’t even try.”
There is a well known and oft-criticised tendency for “strong female characters” to have their “strength” explained as a reaction to, or result of, abuse. Contrary to how strength, as it is variously understood, is often seen as intrinsic to men and masculinity (no one asks how Marcus Fenix, or many other Burly Bears With Guns, got so ripped and badass when they burst onto the scene with muscles the size of cantaloupes), “badass” women are often required to pay for their strength with pain and victimisation. Perhaps the most archetypical example of that are all the various rape-and-revenge plots, and Voidwalker serves us another one.
Wraiths in Voidwalker are not explicitly sexually abused, but they all suffer at the hands of men disregarding their dignity and humanity — “Stop screaming,” says one. “Ain’t nobody around who gives a damn.” They have their bodily autonomy violated by medical experimentation, and the ordeal leaves them emotionally scarred. And because of that they are also endowed with the coldness and determination to pursue revenge on those who have wronged them, not just to the end of the world, but to the end of all possible worlds.
However issue-laden such narratives are, they are doubtlessly satisfying on a basic, emotional level. Watching a victim turn the tables on the abusers is a vicarious pleasure, and can be empowering, too. In fact the problem is less with those stories themselves, but with else is there on offer. When it comes to women in media, there is a paucity of alternative “badass” origin stories. While it is changing, and we are seeing more and more female characters who do not have to pay for their power that way, this kind of origin story remains cloyingly over represented.
Lindsey Ellis (one of the most important cultural critics of our time), has recently noted something similar when analysing the fate of Sansa Stark in the disastrous Game of Thrones finale. As Ellis observes, Sansa’s eventual ascension to a position of authority and power is bought not just by having suffered all manner of abuse, but also by symbolic and practical shedding of traditional aspects of femininity in favour of the conventional, emotionally stunted and brutal attitude of a male-coded ruler.
About midway through Voidwalker, Killer Wraith, with Victim Wraith in tow, gets into a gunfight. As she dispatches faceless goons with effortless grace, Victim Wraith cowers and hides. When she is attacked by a scientist, one of the architects of her abuse, she retaliates, knocks him down and for a moment, thinks about stabbing him as he lies powerless on the floor. However, she proves too weak to kill, and ultimately “just” decks him with a desperate punch. Killer Wraith, crouched above like a high-tech gargoyle, sneers at that.
“That was your chance – and you’ve missed it,” she observes wryly.
“No, this isn’t me,” Victim Wraith protests, but that too gets dismissed.
“The sooner you accept who you are, the better.”
And who is she? Who is Wraith? Victim Wraith wants to know the answer, but we, the audience, know it already: she is a killer. Not long after this exchange, Victim Wraith does accept it. She shoots at goons, begins to shed the discomfort with violence that casts her as the victim rather than the killer. At the end of Voidwalker, she is separated from Killer Wraith, and emerges into what is to become King’s Canyon, the first arena of the bloodsport of Apex Legends. As she grips the knife she was moments ago too afraid to use, we know that although she left Killer Wraith behind, it doesn’t matter. She is the Killer Wraith now.
One could say — and not be wrong — that to criticise promotional material for a battle royale game for casting violence as an unavoidable necessity is to look for nuance in all the wrong places. After all, battle royales are games predicated on kill or be killed. There is literally no alternative but to shoot first. At the end of a match in Apex Legends you are either dead, or you’ve won. So in that sense, there is no disconnect between Voidwalker and the game it promotes.
One could also say that the Wraiths in Voidwalker had no choice. After all, they could either suffer abuse as Victim Wraith, passively and fearfully, or risk everything as Killer Wraith and lash out. Within the scope of the narrative, Killer Wraith is thus right in admonishing Victim Wraith. If she wants to stop hurting, she has to hurt others. Kill or be killed, once again.
Choice, however, is not just something we are presented in-game, or in-story. In a recent episode of Know Your Enemy, an excellent podcast on the ideologies of the US right wing, an expert on gun violence called Patrick Blanchfield describes his experience at a gun training camp in Nevada. At the end of the programme, the instructors had the participants shoot at a target meant to represent a hostage-taker. They were encouraged to imagine that the hostage-taker was holding a gun to the head of their loved ones (Blanchfield imagined his wife), and that unless they put a bullet in him first, the loved one would die. It’s obvious that in a situation like that, it is kill or be killed, isn’t it? And this is when Blanchfield talks about absurdity. The absurdity of reducing the choices we can take to being victims, and being killers.
It would be a lie to say that I do not enjoy the stories of victims of abuse getting back at their tormentors. I also do not think that we should deny ourselves stories of wounds giving us strength. But that is not the issue here. It is about choice, or rather the lack of it. Voidwalker presents us a glimpse of infinite worlds, and infinite possibilities! And yet, as it turns out, all they amount to is kill or be killed. Either a victim, or a badass. A cowering girl, a cold woman. The stark binary suggests that there is no alternative.Where’s the universe where Wraith’s experience of extreme medical malpractice leads her to become a healer, eh?
To present no alternative is often tacitly branding all the alternatives that do in fact exist as impossible, absurd, forbidden. But when you think about it, it’s much more absurd that in all the potential worlds and timelines, there is only the same binary. And in the end, we are responsible not just for the choices we make, but also for the choices we think are possible in the first place.
Video games all too often promise, and then fail to deliver, meaningful choice, and it’s an issue that tems as much from lack of imagination as it does technical limitations. In a way, Voidwalker is an allegory of that; of the artificial architecture of choice presented as an essential binary. Made choices already made for us.
After a long hiatus, thrash legends Vio-lence finally reunited, and they’ve been playing shows all year (we caught them at Psycho Las Vegas, where they sounded great). They play their first NYC shows of the reunion tonight and tomorrow at Brooklyn Bazaar.
JPEGMAFIA has quickly become a force in avant-rap, and he continues to get bigger and bigger. His tour supporting his great new album All My Heroes Are Cornballs includes two sold-out NYC shows this week, this being the second.
Post-hardcore/emo vets Samiam haven’t released new music in a while, and their shows are pretty rare these days, so any chance to see them is worth taking. Making this show even more exciting is Massachusetts alt-rock OGs Moving Targets (who recently released their first studio album in over 25 years) and Have Gun Will Travel, who will be joined during their set by Texas Is The Reason frontman Garrett Klahn.
Indie/emo/post-rock/etc collective The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die haven’t released new music in two years, but they just put out a compilation of odds and ends and they’re now on tour. Their unpredictable live show is always worth catching, and this tour should be no different. After tonight’s show, they play Long Island on Sunday.
Toro y Moi has proved to have a lot of longevity, even after the end of the chillwave era, and he is now set to bring his tour to Brooklyn Steel for sold-out shows there tonight and tomorrow. Opening is Channel Tres, who released the very good Black Moses EP in August.
Fresh off appearing on stage with Lana Del Rey earlier this week, Australian indie rock/folk artist Julia Jacklin comes to Brooklyn in support of this year’s very good Crushing (Polyvinyl). Opening is Christian Lee Hutson, who has a Phoebe Bridgers-produced album on the way.
Brooklyn goth/noise rockers Bambara have a new album called Stray coming out next year (and they recently released the very good lead single “Serafina”), and while you wait for that, they play this hometown one-off tonight. Well-matched direct support comes from Russian Baths, whose debut album Deepfake comes out this week.
Talib Kweli continues his full-band Blue Note residency with two shows tonight. Special guests are promised at both, and he spilled the beans that the early show will feature the legendary Slick Rick. Intelligenz will also open that one.
San Francisco/Seattle hip hop duo Blimes & Gab (aka Blimes and Gifted Gab, fka B.A.G.) went viral with last year’s “Come Correct,” and they recently released another fun song, “Feelin’ It.” Tonight, they bring their tour to NYC.
New York Comedy Festival continues tonight with tons of shows, including Trevor Noah at MSG, a Patriot Act show with Hasan Minhaj at Gramercy Theatre, Comedy Bang! Bang! Live at Beacon Theatre, and more.
David Byrne has retooled his acclaimed “untethered” 2018 for the Broadway stage and while the setlist and arrangements are much like what they were on his tour, songs are now threaded together with new monologues from Byrne, making for a much more theatrical experience.
Well, Crooks and Liars, if your Impeachment Bingo card included “Holy Crap, what next?” You should go get yourself a prize. I mean seriously, we have Prznint Stupid stabbing allies in the back, the DOJ running errands for his teevee lawyer, who (btw) was out partying with soon-to-be indicted election fraudsters at the Trump Hotel before they were to flee the country with a midnight ticket going anywhere (to paraphrase Journey). What’s next? Who knows! It’s a mad world.
Election Law Blog tells us a lot about the arrest of Rudy Giuliani’s associates. There’s so much more there than meets the eye!
Politics Plus is warning us that Facebook is already at it again, and 2020 makes 2016 look like a warm-up act.