Wednesday, February 28th, 2024


Grabs Popcorn

"In October 19, 1878, Scientific American published a series of pictures depicting a horse in full gallop, along with instructions to view them through the zoetrope. The photos were taken by an English photographer, Eadweard Muybridge, to settle a bet between California businessman Leland Stanford and his colleagues. Stanford contended that at some point in a horse's stride, all four hooves were off the ground. He enlisted Muybridge to take photographs of the positions of a horse's hooves in rapid succession. Muybridge's 12 pictures showed that Stanford had won the bet." I'm always disappointed when Stanford wins, but this piece of motion picture history—known as The Horse in Motion—is worth noting as we gallop toward a new form of video powered by AI. It would have been hard for anyone who saw the limited horsepower of that early example of motion pictures to envision our bufferless era of Netflix and chill. Hell, even the founders of Netflix didn't envision that when they first started mailing out DVDs. So grab your popcorn and find your seat, because today's examples of AI-created video are already hard to believe, and we're not even through the opening credits. There will be a lot of cool uses for this technology. But if we want the cool stuff to have a greater impact than the bad stuff, we're gonna need a bigger horseshoe. WaPo (Gift Article) with a look at the trailer for our cinematic future. The future of AI video is here, super weird flaws and all. Yes, some of the flaws are weird (especially the smoking scene). But this is early and they'll be ironed out and we're gonna have to figure out how to deal with directors who want to use this tech to create an alternate reality for nefarious ends. (Maybe I'm just projecting.)

+ Action Cut: Tyler Perry announced he was stopping an $800 million expansion on his Atlanta studio after one look at the new OpenAI software Sora.


Commitment Issues

The Michigan primaries were stress-inducing for both parties. Trump continued to show an inability to break beyond his base. And Biden was weighed down by more than 100,000 Michiganders who voted "uncommitted" to protest against his Israel/Gaza policies. A few quick thoughts on that protest vote. First, voters have the right to be angry, frustrated, and saddened by what's going on in Gaza, but if this uncommitted movement extends to the general election and helps elect the treacherous architect of the Muslim ban (and Bibi's dream candidate), then its organizers should be committed. Second, it's worth keeping in mind that Biden's primary job when it comes to the Middle East crisis is keeping it from spreading into a wider regional and even global war that could threaten the lives of Americans. And on that score, he's managed to do a pretty good job. Third, there's an element that has been completely lost in all the protests calling for a ceasefire: The monstrous terror organization that started this war with acts of murder, rape, and kidnapping have thus far refused to agree to a ceasefire. NYT: Hamas Rejects Cease-Fire Proposal, Dashing Biden's Hopes of Near Term Deal.

+ "Hard to believe, but Netanyahu is ready to sacrifice Israel's hard-won international legitimacy for his personal political needs. He will not hesitate to take Biden down with him." Tom Friedman in the NYT (Gift Article): Israel Is Losing Its Greatest Asset: Acceptance. "I don't think Israelis or the Biden administration fully appreciate the rage that is bubbling up around the world, fueled by social media and TV footage, over the deaths of so many thousands of Palestinian civilians, particularly children, with U.S.-supplied weapons in Israel's war in Gaza. Hamas has much to answer for in triggering this human tragedy, but Israel and the U.S. are seen as driving events now and getting most of the blame."


Ad Nauseam

"A new report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy suggests that the 'greenest' car in America may not be fully electric. The nonprofit group, which has rated the pollution from vehicles for decades, says the winning car this year is the Toyota Prius Prime SE, a plug-in hybrid that can go 44 miles on electricity before switching to hybrid." WaPo (Gift Article): The ‘greenest' car in America might surprise you. (I drive a plug-in hybrid and I need to get gas about only once every three months or so. The key is to be vigilant about plugging it in and to hate leaving your house.)

+ The Verge: RIP to the Apple Car, we hardly knew ye. "Apple's decision to kill its secretive car project is a reflection of the harsh reality confronting electric and autonomous vehicles across the globe."


This Race Should Be Called A Dry Heat

"A sharp hiss filled the room as a competitor ladled four cups of water over a hot pile of black sauna rocks. Steam spiraled above our heads. Calm set in — briefly. Three minutes were on the clock. In this small wooden sauna, a team of 14 semi-clad people in costumes squeezed in, including two in wigs and four Zorros. At exactly three minutes, everyone tumbled out, found their robes, and set out in the snow searching for the next stop in the winter race." At Europe's sauna marathon, schvitzing is a sport. I finally found my sport.


Extra, Extra

Resting Mitch Face: "Mitch McConnell, the longest-serving Senate leader in history who maintained his power in the face of dramatic convulsions in the Republican Party for almost two decades, will step down from that position in November." The next leader may not be as effective at getting what they want, but they'll be a hell of a lot more Trumpy.

+ Family Separation: "It's been almost two years since Sasha Radchuck, then 11, pleaded with Russian soldiers not to separate him from his mother at what was called a 'filtration camp' in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine, where they had both been forcibly resettled after being forced from their home in besieged Mariupol. He still talks of his mother in the present tense, but hasn't seen or spoken to her since April 2022." Ukrainian children recount horrors of being kidnapped by Russian soldiers.

+ Brokering Out of Jail: "Since the disgraced crypto mogul was convicted of fraud, his supporters have maneuvered to secure a lenient sentence, with his lawyers recommending he serve no longer than 6.5 years in prison." NYT: Sam Bankman-Fried Makes His Last Stand. "Since last summer, he has been housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where he has spent much of his time working on the case, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Mr. Bankman-Fried has also shared crypto market tips with the guards, the person said, recommending investments in the digital coin Solana."

+ Out of the Pan and Into the Panhandle: "The five fires have burned 575,000 acres, which is larger than Houston, as residents have fled or sheltered in place." Texas firefighters battling massive Panhandle wildfires, including second largest in state's history. "Since the fire started, it has spread at an average rate of 150 football fields every minute." Here's the latest from CNN.

+ Jair Head: "Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is under investigation for having allegedly 'harassed' a humpback whale while riding a personal watercraft off Sao Paulo's coast last year." (Somewhere at Mar-a-Lago an intern is being ordered to get the boss a whale to harass.)


Bottom of the News

Oompa Loompa doompadee doo, I've got another puzzle for you. Oompa Loompa doompa dah dee, If you are wise you'll listen to me. Wonka is a movie, it's not real life. Wanting it to to be will only bring strife. Stay in your house, don't waste your cash. If you want sweets, just order DoorDash. A Willy Wonka-inspired experience ‘scam' was so bad that people called the cops.

+ Cavaliers guard Max Strus hits halfcourt buzzer-beater to shock Mavericks.