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    The best writing of the week, April 28

    The best writing of the week, April 28


    Your Sunday reading

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    We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.

    Grab all of these as a Readlist.

    On Yuri Gadyukin

    Kevin Morris digs into the Borgesian hoax of director Yuri Gadyukin that fooled Wikipedia and IMDB for years.

    The Daily Dot: Kevin Morris - The greatest movie that never was

    Perhaps you’ve heard of Gadyukin? He was a star of early Soviet cinema before fleeing to England. You can read about his life on a fansite and a Facebook group. You can watch him melt down in a British television interview, storming off stage in spittle-spewing rage. For nearly four years, there were Wikipedia and Internet Movie Database articles about him, brimming with citations from authoritative Russian sources.
    Those entries are now gone. Yuri Gadyukin did not owe money to a gangster. His final film was not swirling out of control. Weathers did not kill him. His body was not found beneath the Hammersmith Bridge.On big data

    Kenneth Neil Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger look at how scientists, companies, and even cities are dealing with massive new flows of data.

    Foreign Affairs: Kenneth Neil Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger - The Rise of Big Data

    When a person is seated, the contours of the body, its posture, and its weight distribution can all be quantified and tabulated. Koshimizu and his team of engineers convert backsides into data by measuring the pressure they exert at 360 different points with sensors placed in a car seat and by indexing each point on a scale of zero to 256. The result is a digital code that is unique to each individual. In a trial, the system was able to distinguish among a handful of people with 98 percent accuracy.On relationships

    A couple months after the launch of Wolfram Alpha's Facebook personal analytics tools, scientist Steven Wolfram digs into some of the early findings and insights drawn from the huge data set.

    Steven Wolfram Blog: Steven Wolfram - Data Science of the Facebook World

    For everyone there’ll be a different detailed story behind the structure of their cluster diagram. And one might think this would mean that there could never be a general theory of such things. At some level it’s a bit like trying to find a general theory of human history, or a general theory of the progression of biological evolution. But what’s interesting now about the Facebook world is that it gives us so much more data from which to form theories.On SXSW

    Noreen Malone reflects on a few days in Austin for SXSW and the evolution of the conference.

    New Republic: Noreen Malone - Spring Break for Nerds

    I saw a man in a bike helmet—on the fourth floor of a building, so he’d done some walking—FaceTiming without headphones in a crowded area. During one panel, a woman stood up in the seated audience and unabashedly took a photograph with her iPad of a founder who’d just walked up to the microphone. Another woman lay down in the middle of a busy street, in two different places, so she could get the optimal angle for Instagramming. "You forget," said Crowley, "how quickly you just become numb to these things."On band names

    Michael Erard writes about the difficulty of coming up with band names in the digital age.

    The Morning News: Michael Erard - Like a Lead Balloon

    One can imagine that 20 years ago, any garage band could have any name it wanted—or no name at all. The only reason a band really needed a name was if they were going to gig or record or tour. Let’s say 10 percent of those bands ever left the garage. Today all those bands are on Bandcamp, and they can’t be on Bandcamp without a name. These sites, including Myspace, which has 14 million acts, have inflated the demand for band names.On Star Trek

    David Hochman interviews "king of the reboot" J.J. Abrams on the upcoming Star Trek film, spoilers, Star Wars, and working with Tom Cruise.

    Playboy: David Hochman - Playboy Interview: J.J. Abrams

    Audiences pick up on that stuff. Not only are we post–Star Trek the series and movies, but we’re post–Galaxy Quest, post–Saturday Night Live spoofs. We were coming at this post–Trek satire, so we needed to be earnest in the right places and funny in the right places or people would have made fun of us.On numbers stations

    And finally, with hints of a new Boards of Canada album floating around the web, here's a great piece by David Segal from 2004 that profiles Akin Fernandez and his life-consuming efforts to create the Conet Project.

    The Washington Post: David Segal - The Shortwave And the Calling

    "Conet," in other words, delivers a couple of the slightly subversive thrills that rock could once deliver without breaking a sweat. It feels new, a little dangerous, a ticket into a subculture of sorts. That's an experience you don't find in record stores much anymore, in part because rock has been around for 50 years -- and can anything that old really feel dangerous? -- and in part because corporate America long ago figured out there's gold in the underground, and now mines and mass-produces it faster every year. In a way, "Conet" is a measure of just how fringeward you need to head these days to find something that delivers the frisson of the margins. Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.

    Today’s Storystream

    Feed refreshed 46 minutes ago The tablet didn’t call that play by itself

    Emma Roth46 minutes ago
    There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

    Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

    During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.

    Emma RothTwo hours ago
    Missing classic Mario?

    One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

    Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.

    Asian America learns how to hit back

    The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate

    Esther Wang12:00 PM UTC
    External Link
    Russell BrandomTwo hours ago
    The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

    The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?

    Richard Lawler6:54 PM UTC
    Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

    Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

    Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.

    External Link
    Russell Brandom4:29 PM UTC
    Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

    The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.

    External Link
    Emma Roth4:13 PM UTC
    Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

    Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

    The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.

    External Link
    Andrew J. Hawkins3:37 PM UTC
    Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

    Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.

    James Vincent3:17 PM UTC
    Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

    And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.

    Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
    Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
    The Verge
    James Vincent3:03 PM UTC
    Deepfakes were made for Disney.

    You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

    Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.

    External Link
    Elizabeth Lopatto2:41 PM UTC
    Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

    “An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.

    The Verge
    Richard Lawler2:09 PM UTC
    Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

    City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

    They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.