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19/05/2019 09:29:36  

All of a sudden, he’s gone far beyond mere ‘bababababa’ and ‘plpplpplpplp’

After 10 months of patient silence, this week saw an explosion in my son’s vocabulary, as his wayward mash of vowels and consonants gave way to a torrent of altogether more defined syllables. This will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his earlier work. Few who heard his first releases, babababababa or plpplpplpplpplpplp could doubt he was one to watch, and his dadadada earned golden opinions from those who heard within it the freshness of German new wave troubadours Trio, only with the arch and knowing delivery of a young Alan Bennett.

Since he was slow to crawl, and still has no teeth, we’ve taken the fact that he’s babbling a little earlier than his playmates as a sign that he is destined for a life of the mind. ‘What use is a full head of teeth anyway?’ we ask ourselves. Let lesser children pursue a career in competitive eating, a life of Crunchie bars. By the time he’s six our son may still be toothless, but he’ll also be doing speaking tours for his second biography of Lord Liverpool, and presenting one of those moderately dumbed down history programmes on BBC2 – the kind that only get made if the presenter agrees to do at least one or two interstitial segments dressed in period costume.

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15/05/2019 22:28:52  

Guaranteed to make you cry four times every episode, the final series of the Lesley Manville sitcom miraculously turns tiny gestures into epic romance

Mum is a comedy that can be agony. When it first wiped its feet, hung up its anorak and shuffled politely on to BBC Two in 2016, at times it was perhaps too painfully funny. For a season and a half, Mum was very very good, and Lesley Manville was flawless as Cathy, a recent widow bedevilled in her nice Essex semi by her insensitive relatives. It was, however, tiptoeing awfully close to a couple of traps that can snare cringe-coms.

First, the “main character is nice, everyone else is a grotesque fool” format was a little too stark, as we wondered how the saintly Cathy could withstand a torrent of micro-aggressions from her unbelievably selfish son Jason, his incredibly stupid girlfriend Kelly (Lisa McGrillis), Cathy’s outrageously crass brother Derek (Ross Boatman) and his catastrophically snooty partner Pauline (Dorothy Atkinson). Meanwhile, the forbidden connection between Cathy and her late husband’s best pal Michael (Peter Mullan) progressed by nanometres per episode, as he repeatedly stared at her benignly instead of announcing that he’d always loved her. “Character has every opportunity to say The Thing, but never does” is another sadcom trope that risks turning sympathy into frustration: just bloody say it, we almost screamed.

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14/05/2019 09:29:39  

When the Guardian journalist Simon Ricketts died recently, it triggered a torrent of grief on social media. People felt they knew him, even if they hadn’t met. Ian Martin understands why

We lost someone special when the journalist and writer Simon Ricketts died just over four months ago. He was a 24-carat mensch. A living antidote to cruelty and heartlessness. An astonishing comet of kindness blazing across social media’s dark night skies, indiscriminately brightening the lives of everyone. His wasn’t the first high-profile death at our end of Twitter, but it was the hardest.

“Our end” – you know the end I mean. The older end. The flexitarian, smartarse, squabbling, umbrage-taking, performatively progressive end. The rainbow end. The herbivore lunch with an Armagnac at the end.

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14/05/2019 07:28:36  

The third season of the ever-topical legal drama has delivered a torrent of righteous anger but has it gone too far?

Since it began in 2017, The Good Fight has been brilliant and often astounding television. The legal side of the story quickly morphed into an anarchic political drama with only a sprinkling of courtroom action, taking its cue from its predecessor, The Good Wife, which followed a similar path. It has built on those foundations with an admirable lack of regard for decorum, and there is a lot to admire: Christine Baranski’s graceful performance as the esteemed Diane Lockhart, its embrace of playful surrealism, and its willingness to treat real-time, real-world events as TV fodder.

But even as a dedicated viewer and evangelical fan, I started to wonder if it was losing its clarity of vision, at around halfway through the current and soon-to-be-concluded third season.

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06/05/2019 19:26:57  

Google is set to launch new tools to limit the use of tracking cookies, a move that could strengthen the search giant's advertising dominance and deal a blow to other digital-marketing companies, WSJ reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter. [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source.] From the report: After years of internal debate, Google could as soon as this week roll out a dashboard-like function in its Chrome browser that will give internet users more information about what cookies are tracking them and offer options to fend them off, the people said. This is a more incremental approach than less-popular browsers, such as Apple's Safari and Mozilla's Firefox, which introduced updates to restrict by default the majority of tracking cookies in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Google's move, which could be announced at its developer conference in Mountain View, Calif., starting Tuesday, is expected to be touted as part of the company's commitment to privacy -- a complicated sell, given the torrent of data it continues to store on users -- and press its sizable advantage over online-advertising rivals.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

05/05/2019 18:28:15  

The social media firm is deleting billions of fake accounts as it takes on a torrent of fake news, disinformation and hate speech

Less than three years ago, the Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, dismissed as “crazy” the idea that fake news on his platform could have influenced the election of Donald Trump as US president.

Today the company admits it is under siege from billions of fake accounts trying to game its systems to win elections, make money or influence people in other ways, and battling a tsunami of fake news, disinformation and hate speech.

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03/05/2019 06:27:03  

Is engagement with current affairs key to being a good citizen? Or could an endless torrent of notifications be harming democracy as well as our wellbeing?

By Oliver Burkeman

The afternoon of Friday 13 November 2015 was a chilly one in Manhattan, but that only made the atmosphere inside the Old Town Bar, one of the city’s oldest drinking haunts, even cosier than usual. “It’s unpretentious, very warm, a nurturing environment – I regard it with a lot of fondness,” said Adam Greenfield, who was meeting a friend that day over beers and french fries in one of the bar’s wooden booths. “It’s the kind of place you lay down tracks of custom over time.” Greenfield is an expert in urban design, and liable to get more philosophical than most people on subjects such as the appeal of cosy bars. But anyone who has visited the Old Town Bar, or any friendly pub in a busy city, knows what he and his friend were experiencing: restoration, replenishment, repair. “And then our phones started to vibrate.”

In Paris, Islamist terrorists had launched a series of coordinated shootings and suicide bombings that would kill 130 people, including 90 attending a concert at the Bataclan theatre. As Greenfield reached for his phone in New York, he recalls, everyone else did the same, and “you could feel the temperature in the room immediately dropping”. Devices throughout the bar buzzed with news alerts from media organisations, as well as notifications from Facebook Safety Check, a new service that used geolocation to identify users in the general vicinity of the Paris attacks, inviting them to inform their friend networks that they were OK. Suddenly, it was as if the walls of the Old Town Bar had become porous – “like a colander, with this high-pressure medium of the outside world spurting through every aperture at once.”

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25/04/2019 14:27:07  

Candidates were among 40 new self-professed Tory members who shared or ‘liked’ racist or Islamophobic Facebook posts

Two Conservative local election candidates and a woman honoured with an MBE are among 40 new self-professed Tory members who have shared or endorsed racist and inflammatory Facebook posts including Islamophobic material, the Guardian has learned.

The torrent of racist posts include references to Muslims as “bin bag wearing individuals”, calls for the “cult” of Islam to be banned and the Qur’an being branded an “evil book”.

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18/04/2019 14:25:11  

Illustrator Jean-Philippe Delhomme has imagined how great painters would have fared on social media – and the trolling their work might have received

Let’s revisit history for a minute and pretend that Jean Genet, Frida Kahlo, Vincent Van Gogh and their ilk had been #blessed with the ability to share #dailyinspo with their presumably voracious online fans. Would Claude Monet have uploaded #wanderlust shots of the landscapes he was busy abstracting with his dappled brushstrokes? Would users have binged on #foodporn from 1890s Aix-en-Provence, by way of Paul Cézanne’s still-life feed? And would macho surrealist ringmaster André Breton have indulged his followers in a torrent of bare-chested #thirsttraps? Luckily for us, Jean-Philippe Delhomme has imagined the answers to such questions with the cartoon book Artists’ Instagrams: The Never Seen Instagrams of the Greatest Artists.

It’s full of tender parodies of artistic A-listers. There’s the geometrically inclined Piet Mondrian flaunting his Ikea kitchen collab. Jackson Pollock eager to reveal a canvas he’s barely poured or dripped anything on to. Andy Warhol thrilled to promote his soon-to-go-viral Mark Zuckerberg portrait series. And notorious chauvinist Gauguin sharing problematic #AboutLastNight snaps of young Polynesian lovers.

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18/04/2019 13:25:14  

Despite fine performances from Gina Rodriguez and Lakeith Stanfield, the debut film from Jennifer Kaytin Robinson never strays from the genre’s cliches

Someone Great, a new Netflix original comedy written and directed by the first-time film-maker Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, is the kind of movie that’s both undeniably of its time and still curiously rote. At times it plays like an uninterrupted torrent of memes and millennialisms, as though its attention to the parlance and particularities of contemporary urban life might disguise the fact that it’s otherwise a standard, paint-by-the-numbers buddy-romcom, in which three girlfriends – two are on the heels of a breakup; the third has sworn off committed relationships – ring in their sisterhood and their sorrows at a trendy music festival.

Related: The Silence review – shoddy remix of A Quiet Place is a Netflix disaster

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15/04/2019 02:25:32  

"Winter is coming for fans of the hit television series Game of Thrones, with the final season set to hit screens around the world after a near two-year hiatus," reports the South China Morning Post. There were 96 million views for a discussion about the show on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo. "But those watching inside China are also bracing for the chill of censorship." In recent years, Chinese authorities have ramped up the pressure on the television and film industries to clean up content they deem vulgar or politically incorrect. This has led to some serious censorship of foreign productions. Recent examples include the removal of scenes of smashed heads and bare flesh from the American superhero film Logan, and the apparent manipulation of a scene in Oscar-winner The Shape of Water so that a naked woman is made to appear to be wearing clothes... In a bid to get around the censorship, many Chinese Game of Thrones fans have turned to virtual private networks and torrent download websites to access unexpurgated versions of their favourite episodes. Tencent Video holds the exclusive distribution rights for the show in China, leaving one Weibo user to post "I'm begging Father Tencent not to censor too much, thank you." Another added "This censored version is not interesting. I would pay money to watch the uncut version."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

04/04/2019 18:22:23  

A plumbing failure at Westminster brought a soggy end to proceedings. Everything else is getting harder

It felt like a timely metaphor. Maybe it was even a divine judgment. In fact it was caused by a humble plumbing failure from above, rather than a weightier verdict from the same quarter. Even so, few Commons leaks have triggered such lack of concern among MPs as Thursday’s decision to adjourn after a torrent of water had poured into the press gallery while Justine Greening was addressing MPs on problems facing the tax system. No disrespect is intended to the former education secretary, but the early end to Commons business will have come as a relief to MPs and much of the public alike. That’s because the stress and exhaustion that MPs feel about the Brexit crisis are now palpable. And they are very widely shared. A survey last week found that six out of 10 people think that anxiety about the crisis is damaging the nation’s mental health.

The weary and stressed national mood caused by Brexit is understandable – and likely to endure. It provides a significant part of the context for the talks that continued in Whitehall on Thursday between a government team led by David Lidington and a Labour one under Keir Starmer. Those talks have been taking place for the toughest of pressing political reasons. Only a week now remains before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU. Theresa May appears to have decided that her EU deal will not pass through parliament without securing Labour support in some way. But all sides are also aware that the longer the crisis continues, the greater the decline in public contentment with politics.

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04/04/2019 15:22:14  

Leak soaks section of press gallery, fills light fittings and floods a cafe on the floor above

The House of Commons has been suspended for the day after water began pouring into the chamber from the ceiling, soaking a section of the press gallery.

During a backbench debate on HMRC’s methods of recouping unpaid tax and national insurance, a torrent of water started to come down as the Conservative MP Justine Greening spoke, prompting her to pause and look up.

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31/03/2019 17:21:10  

"It's like a time capsule of the end of the world," reports USA Today: 66 million years ago, in what's now North Dakota, a group of animals died together, only a few minutes after a huge asteroid smashed into the Earth near present-day Mexico. Scientists Friday announced the discovery of the jumbled, fossilized remains of the animals, all killed when a tsunami-like wave and a torrent of rocks, sand and glass buried them alive. This graveyard of fish, mammals, insects and a dinosaur is a unique, first-of-its-kind discovery from the exact day that life on Earth changed forever, according to the study lead author Robert DePalma, a curator at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History... DePalma added that the find provides spectacular new detail to what is perhaps the most important event to ever affect life on Earth... The asteroid impact and resulting mass extinction, which scientists call the K-T boundary, marked the end of the Cretaceous Era. The aftereffects of that infamous asteroid collision killed 75 percent of all species on Earth, including the dinosaurs. It's the planet's most recent mass extinction. Scientists believe the asteroid was 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) wide, the BBC reports, and that it "hurled billions of tonnes of molten and vaporised rock into the sky in all directions - and across thousands of kilometres." DePalma argues that moment "is tied directly to all of us -- to every mammal on Earth, in fact. Because this is essentially where we inherited the planet. "Nothing was the same after that impact. It became a planet of mammals rather than a planet of dinosaurs."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

26/03/2019 12:20:51  

SWG3, Glasgow
Backed by a beaming neo-soul band, Noname receives a hero’s welcome for her blend of social commentary and jokey asides

‘Y’all really thought a bitch couldn’t rap, huh?” Noname winks conspiratorially. She’s less than a minute into Self, the first track from her debut album, and Glasgow’s sold-out crowd roars in appreciation. But Noname’s punchlines always hit twice: “Nah, actually this is for me.”

Her evasive moniker has been a symbolic, protective shield for Chicago rapper Fatimah Warner. She self-financed last year’s Room 25 LP with the proceeds from touring her beloved 2016 mixtape Telefone, and both records speak to a slippery sense of identity in an overwhelming, unjust world.

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25/03/2019 17:23:17  

It shouldn’t be a problem for women to decline attention from men, but it often is, as Jameela Jamil’s experiences show

When the actor Jameela Jamil tweeted about her negative experiences of rejecting unwanted advances, she unleashed a torrent of similar stories from other women. Many men, on the other hand, seemed completely shocked.

“Was out at the shops with my friend,” Jamil wrote. “Man ogles me. Man then approaches me to give me his number. I explain I have a boyfriend but thank him for the offer. Man then threatens my career, saying I better remember that I rejected him. And then shouts at me that I’m low class …”

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