“In the first years of the 20th century, Duke Peter of Oldenburg, a
Russian aristocrat, built a palace (above) and a hotel in Gagra, and put
Gagra on the map as a holiday destination for the wealthy. Both
buildings were designed in art nouveau style, though many of the
finishing touches have since disappeared from the dilapidated edifice.
The Soviet government nationalized the palace built by Duke Peter and
converted it into the Hotel Chaika (Seagull), which maintained the air
of an aristocratic refuge. However, during the war between the Abkhaz
and Georgians, the Chaika was looted and has never been repaired.“ - Photos & text from this Wired article
If you’re a frequent user of Instagram, you’ve noticed some funny business in the comments recently. For example, comments the app deems most worthy or most relevant now defy chronological positioning. Behind the scenes, Instagram’s latest filters aren’t color treatments for photos—they’re content filters for mean and abusive comments. A new story in Wired details how Instagram built its new moderation tools, and their unlikely first test subject: Taylor Swift.
Last June, Instagram founder and CEO Kevin Systrom told Wired, he realized he wanted to make Instagram feel friendlier. The most technologically fascinating part of this effort uses Facebook’s proprietary DeepText machine-learning algorithm, which Instagram trained to filter comments much the way its team of human moderators already did. The system is designed to learn context over time, until—theoretically—it can discern an off-color inside joke from an outsider’s random insult. (As part of this effort, Instagram reportedly tags users with a hidden “karma score” based on past posts, a little like Uber’s “passenger rating.”)
If you tap to Settings > Options > Comments, you’ll find a toggle for “Hide Offensive Comments.” That’s Instagram’s program working for you. The other new moderation tool you can set up yourself: It’s called “Enable Keyword Filters,” and it allows users to plug in specific words they’d like to ban from comments on their posts. If you were Lena Dunham, for example, you’d probably want to ban the word “Lamby.”
The same feature allows users to ban particular emoji, and this is where Taylor Swift comes in. Last July, when Instagram was testing the new feature, Swift faced a wave of Kim Kardashian-induced backlash. Kanye West supporters accused Swift of duplicitousness, swarming her Instagram comments with snake emoji by the thousands. The first real-world test of Instagram’s customizable emoji ban wiped snakes off @taylorswift.
You won’t see bee emoji on Rita Ora’s Instagram anymore, either. Read Wired’s story about the nice-ification of Instagram here.
Westworld’s Creators Know Why Sci-Fi Is So Dystopian
The first season of Westworld wasted no time in going from “hey cool, robots!” to “well, that was bleak.” Death, destruction, android torture—it’s all been there from the pilot onward. Then again, on a show about a theme park staffed with sentient robots—sorry, “hosts”—those outcomes are exactly what audiences have come to expect. If science fiction has taught folks anything, it’s that the machines will always rise up against humankind. But why does sci-fi always veer dystopian? Westworld’s creators have a theory.
Storytelling, according to show co-creator Jonathan Nolan, serves an evolutionary purpose, allowing us to try out different realities. With sci-fi, because it’s so often forward-looking, “we’re inventing cautionary tales for ourselves,” Nolan said today at WIRED’s 2017 Business Conference in New York. In other words, when your creations would hurt a fly, it’s time to start worrying.
So does that mean Nolan and his co-creator (and wife) Lisa Joy think Westworld is a foreseeable future? Not entirely. For Nolan, the robots on his show represent more of an allegory for human behavior than a cautionary tale. And Joy sees Westworld, and sci-fi in general, as an opportunity to talk about what humanity could or should do if things start to go wrong, especially now that advancements in artificial intelligence technologies are making things like androids seem far more plausible than before. “We’re leaping into the age of the unfathomable, the time when machines [can do things we can’t],” Joy said.
TOKYO (AP) — Although he’s behind one of the biggest fashion brands to come out of Japan, Issey Miyake detests being called a fashion designer. Maybe a designer, even a sculptor, but not that frivolous, trend-watching, conspicuous consumption known as fashion.
What he has pursued since he started in the 1970s is more timeless. His down-to-earth clothing is meant to celebrate the human body. And it’s anyone’s or everyone’s body — any race, build, size or age.
“The work of Miyake Issey,” at the National Art Center in Tokyo, is a moving journey through his creative mind. The show includes his signature pleats that transform usually crass polyester into chic. In another corner, mannequins are connected by a roll of fabric to highlight his A-POC, or “a piece of cloth,” series that began in 1998. A-POC uses computer technology in weaving to create apparel at the same time fabric is being produced.
Members of Iraq’s Christian minority celebrated Palm Sunday in the country’s main Christian town of Qaraqosh for the first time since it was retaken from the Islamic State group.
Hundreds of faithful gathered inside the town’s burnt out Immaculate Conception church for mass before starting the traditional Palm Sunday march, a procession during which palms are carried to commemorate Jesus’s entry to Jerusalem.
“Thank God, we are returning to our towns and churches after two years,” Abu Naimat Anay, an Iraqi priest, said inside the church, which is Iraq’s biggest and where jihadist inscriptions were still visible on the walls.
Qaraqosh, with an overwhelmingly Christian population of around 50,000 before the jihadists took over the area in August 2014, was the largest Christian town in Iraq.
It was retaken by Iraqi forces late last year as part of a massive offensive to wrest back the nearby city of Mosul from IS but it remains almost completely deserted.
The archbishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Mouche, moved back to the town last week but it needs to be extensively rebuilt and basic services restored before displaced Christians can return en masse.
…Many of the more than 120,000 Christians believed to have fled their homes when IS swept across the region less than three years ago moved in with relatives or into camps in the nearby autonomous region of Kurdistan.
The celebration in Qaraqosh already had a sombre mood when news broke among the faithful that IS had attacked two churches in Egypt, killing at least 38 people.
“The Christians are persecuted, but no matter how much they target us, our belief in God is great and we will stay here because we are not outsiders, we are the owners of the land,” the archbishop told AFP.
This Still Star-Crossed Storyline Is So Depressing
Me: *side eyes title* *reads article* *rolls eyes* Are you freaking kidding me?
Me: ‘So Depressing’ is the blatant sexual exploitation of women on Game of Thrones, including the gratuitous rape of Sansa Stark that was not in the books.
Me: ‘So Depressing’ is Abbie Mills getting sidelined on her own show, Sleepy Hollow, in favor of more Crane family.
Me: ‘So Depressing’ is critics dismissal of fun genre fair in favor of grimdark prestige shows when in the Golden Age of television there is no reason not to celebrate it all. (Thank you WIRED for that great article!)
Me: Let me fix that title for you. *scratches it out and writes a new one*
Still Star-Crossed Powerfully Celebrates The Agency Of Women Of Color
“Robert Pattinson and Louie Garrel Are Kicking Things Into High Gear
New York sibling directors Josh and Benny Safdie cracked the
competition this year with their heist thriller “Good Time,” but it’s
likely to attract the most attention for star Robert Pattinson. Now
firmly into his post-“Twilight” phase, the actor plays a bank-robbing
New Yorker trying to help his mentally disabled brother over the course
of a single frantic night. Pattinson, who has been in Cannes competition
before with David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis,” is well positioned to wow
audiences already enamored of his earlier roles with something edgier
and more surprising; he could be a strong contender for the festival’s
He will have competition from Louis Garrel, the French heartthrob who
plays a young Jean-Luc Godard in the ’60s-set “The Redoubtable.”
Garrel, whose prolific filmmaker father Phillipe is premiering a movie
in Directors Fortnight, is already a major celebrity in France; early
glimpses of the movie in its trailer prove that he’s gone the extra mile
with his portrayal of the New Wave legend, which could help his odds at
Cannes and beyond. “—Eric Kohn, Chief Critic Indie Wire.
‘Widow Elizabeth Mukuhwu sees her two puppies as her companions, not as a commodity. Strapping one on her back and holding another, she sometimes walks five kilometers (three miles) to get her dogs veterinary services at a clinic in Chishawasha, a village east of the capital Harare.
“My husband and my son are dead, so I am alone,” she said. “Tina and Cheetah here keep me company.”’
WHEN Taylor Swift’s dark, angry new track, Look What You Made Me Do, was released, it broke the internet, setting a record for YouTube views. But the reaction to the single itself was far from positive. Swift had created what’s often called a “diss track”, an attack on various unnamed celebrities that appears to deliver a history of all the public feuds she has had in one deadly punch. Targets, according to those who have dissected the record, supposedly include Kanye West (she mentions a “tilted stage” which featured in his tour), Katy Perry (shots of her in a leopard print coat in gold car, evoke Perry) and Nicki Minaj.
Critics described the song as petulant and petty, encapsulating the worst of celebrity narcissism and social media culture. They criticised Swift for being self-obsessed. But Swift happens to be the world’s most successful musician, bigger than Rihanna or Madonna or Beyonce, with a net worth of £215 million. So perhaps the target of all this loathing is the fact we are caught up in the online sniping and tit-for-tatting that often serves as popular culture today. It’s not so much Swift that we hate, but ourselves.
This feature was published in the March 2017 Graph.
Since it’s long and has multiple sections, I’m posting in 2 parts. This first one has Chigi talking about her (extremely relatable) likes and dislikes. Part 2, which is Q&A, will follow either tomorrow or when it is finished.
INSTAGRAM’S KEVIN SYSTROM WANTS TO CLEAN UP THE &#%$@! INTERNET.
KEVIN SYSTROM, THE CEO of Instagram, was at Disneyland last June when he decided the internet was a cesspool that he had to clean up. His company was hosting a private event at the park as part of VidCon 2016, an annual gathering that attracts social media virtuosos, and Systrom was meeting with some Instagram stars. They were chatting and joking and posing for one another’s phone cameras. But the influencers were also upset. Instagram is supposed to be a place for self-expression and joy. Who wants to express themselves, though, if they’re going to be mocked, harassed, and shamed in the comments below a post? Instagram is a bit like Disneyland—if every now and then the seven dwarfs hollered at Snow White for looking fat.
Systrom takes pride in this reputation for kindness and considers it a key part of Instagram’s DNA. When the service launched in 2010, he and Krieger deleted hateful comments themselves. They even personally banned users in an effort Systrom called “pruning the trolls.” He notes that Krieger “is always smiling and always kind,” and he says he tries to model his behavior after that of his wife, “one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.” Kevin Systrom really does want to be the sunny person on display in @kevin’s feed.
So when Systrom returned from VidCon to Instagram’s headquarters, in Menlo Park, he told his colleagues that they had a new mission. Instagram was going to become a kind of social media utopia: the nicest darn place online. The engineers needed to head to their whiteboards. The next image he posted on Instagram, just before Independence Day, was of some sumptuous homemade pretzels.
In mid July 2016, just after VidCon, Systrom was faced with just such an ophiological scourge. Somehow, in the course of one week, Taylor Swift had lost internet fights with Calvin Harris, Katy Perry, and Kim Kardashian. Swift was accused of treacherous perfidy, and her feed quickly began to look like the Reptile Discovery Center at the National Zoo. Her posts were followed almost entirely by snake emoji: snakes piled on snakes, snakes arranged numerically, snakes alternating with pigs. And then, suddenly, the snakes started to vanish. Soon Swift’s feed was back to the way she preferred it: filled with images of her and her beautiful friends in beautiful swimsuits, with commenters telling her how beautiful they all looked.
This was no accident. Over the previous weeks, Systrom and his team at Instagram had quietly built a filter that would automatically delete specific words and emoji from users’ feeds. Swift’s snakes became the first live test case. In September, Systrom announced the feature to the world. Users could click a button to “hide inappropriate comments,” which would block a list of words the company had selected, including racial slurs and words like whore. They could also add custom keywords or even custom emoji, like, say, snakes.
I find it amazing that someone can actually believe that being trans is trendy. The reality for nearly all transgender people, transitioning or not transitioning, is exposure to harassment and invalidation.
It is getting better, for sure, but the situation is still bad, and an attempted suicide rate around 40% proves that being trans is not a picnic in the park.
Harriet Agerholm of the UK Independent writes:
One Twitter user said: “This poisonous narrative that transgender people are fashionable and cool now hides the serious atrocities right in front of us”.
Another argued: “There have literally been at least eight cases of transgender people being murdered in the US so far this year,” asking, “how exactly is that ‘cool’?”
FYI this article was published today, saying it’s now been confirmed via statement from the studio :)
Based on the Wired article “John McAfee’s Last Stand,” the film tells the true story of tech magnate John McAfee, creator of the McAfee Antivirus software, who cashed-in his fortune, left civilization, and moved to the jungle in Belize. There, he set-up a “Colonel Kurtz-like compound of guns, sex and madness,” according to a statement. In the film, a Wired magazine investigator “accepts what he thinks is a run-of-the-mill assignment to interview McAfee, but once he arrives in Belize, he finds himself pulled into McAfee’s escalating paranoia, slippery reality, and murder.”