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Things I learned this week #22

This week the UK Government has brought us Lockdown The Third, a threequel in the franchise after the straight-to-TV movie that was the November lockdown. Cases, deaths, and hospital admissions are at an all-time high in our country at the moment, with London in particular looking pretty scary. It might be the "the last push" like this (boy, I really hope it is the last push), but that doesn't help the healthcare workers being forced forward/backwards/downwards by this whole situation. So for goodness sake, just stay inside. Call out people who are making selfish choices. We're all making decisions for everyone else around us, it really is that simple. Arrange FaceTime calls, yoga sessions, happy hours, online games, book clubs, Netflix watch parties, and craft dates with people. Life isn't going to be normal for a while, but we're going to get through this together and then one day get irresponsibly drunk as we sit in or outside a pub until closing time with the people we love, and think about what life looks like now. Until then just... learn to crochet or cook or something.

  • This cat: Mike the Cat guarded the British Museum, who was "probably the most famed British feline of the 20th Century". Which seems like a narrow competition, but look, I don't want to detract from Mike's notoriety. After a decade's service, he passed away in 1929, and officials at the museum placed a memorial stone near the Great Russell Street entrance of the museum. (source)
  • This not-fireworks display: At Mariana Bay, Singapore, officials organised a light show performed (which feels like the wrong word) by five hundred drones. Just watch the video, it's mesmerising to watch them twinkle, form into animals, or just geometric patterns. (YouTube video)
  • This over-qualified actor: Y'all have seen Stranger Things, right? The Netflix original 80's horror show which lives in my heart forever because I watched it during my Ph.D. with my housemate and like a whole bunch of popcorn. Mate, honestly it's so good. Anyway, there's this iconic scene right at the end of the third season where the world is about to end, and some of the characters are driving their iconic 80s car away from a world-consuming monster. The Duffer brothers took nearly three minutes of screen-time during this climax for an over-the HAM radio rendition of the title theme from The Never-Ending Story. It's baffling and I'm amazed it got approval. Susie, the long-distance (previously almost certainly fictitious) girlfriend is played by Gabriella Pizzolo, played the title role in Matilda on Broadway in 2013. Pizzolo gets less than a minute's screen time but she rocks it. Bonus fun fact: the composers for the show (Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein), who produced the iconic synth-heavy score and title theme music weren't even told about this musical number until they turned to set one day. (source)
  • This other Ancient Egyptian Script: We all know that ancient Egyptians wrote in hieroglyphs: the pictorial script of birds, plants, and other symbols which were ubiquitous in their crypts and monuments. However, after around 700BCE, most cultures in the Ancient Egyptian period had at least two scripts in use at any one time: hieroglyphs to record what was morally good and should endure for eternity (like holy texts and things you'd write on your culture-defining monumental tombs), and demotic (meaning popular) which was a more cursive script used for day-to-day things. That said, we estimate only about 1-5% of the Ancient Egyptian population were literate. The script survived in use until about the second century BCE, when it was replaced by Coptic - notably it wasn't replaced wholesale by Latin, as one might expect when the Roman emperors decided they owned the Nile now. (source)

What I've had on Rotation

  • Something New In Sickness & in Flames by The Front Bottoms (Rock/Punk, 2020). I only just discovered this rock/punk-ish duet, and I'm a little bit in love. It's like they're shouting poetry, or little truths, or little anecdotes that are connected most of the time, but sometimes it's a very loose connection. It's energetic, it's erratic, it's honest, and it's not so hardcore or edgy that it's exclusionary or difficult to listen to. Put it on when you next go for a walk sometimes. (links)
  • Something Old A Moment of Madness by Izzy Bizu (R&B, 2016). I was recommended this album as something to have on in the background if I needed to get something else done, and I really liked it. It's upbeat, soul-ish R&B that can stand its own as the centrepiece of music, or can hold into the background. It's gentle and doesn't demand your attention, but he clear voice and clean production doesn't wither under it. (links)

Cool Articles

  • DALL·E: Creating Images from Text by Open-AI. Isn't this a terrifying little read. The Open-AI team show how they trained an AI to generate images from free text prompts. For example they gave it the phrase "A storefront with 'Open AI' written on it", and the AI went ahead and made it. Trained on a corpus of labelled images, it was able to throw together these images on demand. Some of them are terrifying because they're so accurate - others are terrifying because they're 90% of the way towards making the image, and sit in the 'Nightmare Fuel' region of the uncanny valley.
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