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Posted by Annalee Newitz

The cast of <em>Solo</em> takes a break.

The cast of Solo takes a break. (credit: Disney)

Today, the next standalone Star Wars film wrapped. Directed by Ron Howard—after a bitter departure from previous directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie)—the movie at last has a name. It will be called Solo. The film explores Han Solo's early adventures and is rumored to give us a glimpse of how Han won the Millennium Falcon from Lando.

Howard announced the wrap in one of his many snaps from the production. Han Solo will be played by Alden Ehrenreich (Beautiful Creatures), and Donald Glover (Atlanta, Community) will be Lando Calrissian. Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) plays Kira, who is one of the adventurers Han will meet, and Thandie Newton (Westworld) has an unknown role. Joonas Suotamo will play Chewie.

Howard didn't just finish up the film that previous directors Lord and Miller worked on for six months. He did extensive reshoots, and it seems likely that he changed the film quite a bit from the original comedic vision. The film was written by Lawrence Kasdan, who worked on the first trilogy with Lucas, along with his son Jon Kasdan. It's due in theaters on May 25, 2018.

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Posted by Jonathan M. Gitlin

Volvo

If I asked you to guess the manufacturer behind a new two-door, carbon-fiber bodied, 600hp plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, it's possible Volvo would not be the first name you thought of. And technically, it doesn't wear a Volvo badge anywhere, because this is the first product from Polestar, the automaker's new electric performance brand. It arrives in 2019 and is the first of five new EVs from Volvo. And it looks stunning.

The past few years have been good ones for Volvo. Parent company Geely has been a generous, hands-off benefactor, and the results are showing. The Swedish automaker is now one of the most forward-thinking in the industry and a home to good engineering and design across disciplines that include interiors, infotainment, and autonomous driving. Its Scalable Product Architecture provides the building blocks for a number of very good vehicles; both the XC90 and S90 impressed us, and a brief drive in the smaller XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid has whet my appetite for a proper test later this year.

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Posted by Kyle Orland

The announcement video for Jon Burt's Sonic 3D Blast: Director's Cut

At this point, retro-game lovers are well used to fan-made "hacks" of classic titles that can do anything from adding modern players to Tecmo Bowl to adding an egg-throwing Yoshi to Sonic the Hedgehog 2. What we can't recall seeing before, though, is the original developer of a decades-old console game returning to fix it via a downloadable, emulator-friendly patch.

That's exactly what Traveller's Tales founder Jon Burton is planning for Sonic 3D Blast. Burton announced via video that he's going to make a "Director's Cut" that fixes gameplay problems and adds new features to the original Genesis and Saturn title. Burton's roadmap includes fixing the game's infamous slippery momentum (which often makes Sonic feel like he's running around on ice), enabling a pre-existing hidden-level editor, adding Super Sonic, adding an in-game save system, and more. A follow-up video shows more specifically how Burton is removing many of the control and gameplay frustrations that helped lead to middling reviews for the 1996 release (and subsequent ports to more modern platforms).

Burt notes explicitly that this is "something I'm doing on my own time, for fun, and not connected to Sega or anyone else," so it's hard to call this an "official" remastering of the original game. That said, Burton's history with the title and his pedigree with Traveller's Tales set this effort apart from other unofficial retro-game mods. And Sega's wholesale embrace of 16-bit game modding via Steam is practically a stamp of support for this kind of modern rejiggering of classic titles.

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Posted by Peter Bright

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

It has arrived: Windows 10 version 1709, build 16299, the Fall Creators Update. Members of the Windows Insider program have been able to use this latest iteration for a while now, but today's the day it will hit Windows Update for the masses.

As with the Creators Update earlier this year, the Windows Update deployment will be slow to start off with. After a spate of issues around the Anniversary Update, which shipped in 2016, Microsoft took a more measured approach with the Creators Update. It took about five months for the previous update to reach two-thirds of machines, as the company rolled the operating system out first to systems known to be compatible, then expanded its reach to an ever larger range of hardware and software, and finally opened the floodgates and offered it to (almost) any Windows 10 machine.

Again like the Creators Update, anyone who is impatient and wants to forcibly install the new version will be able to do so with the Update Assistant and Media Creation Tool when they get updated, presumably at some point today.

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[syndicated profile] apod_feed

One of the strangest objects in the outer Solar System has recently been found to have a ring. One of the strangest objects in the outer Solar System has recently been found to have a ring.


Culture consumed

18/10/17 16:02
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[personal profile] fred_mouse
DVDs
  • Ella Enchanted - Very pretty reworking of some of the fairy tale tropes, especially focused on the fickleness of fairy gifts and human nature. There are some cringy scenes, and I really really struggle with the pushing of the agenda finding a perfect ever after partner is a thing that teenage girls/young women should be looking for (and yes, a little bit there is that for the young man, but he seemed that bit older). I'm dithering on giving this one away, or whether I would watch it again (will check with youngest). 7/10
  • Finding Neverland - Aii, movies that make me cranky. There is 'based on a true story', and then there is 'killing someone off at the wrong point in history so that you can make a scandal where there wouldn't have been one'. Supposedly about JM Barrie, his friendship with the Llewellyn-Davies family, and the writing of Peter Pan. I'm not intending to ever watch this one again, because shouting at the screen is not actually one of my hobbies, regardless of how much I indulge in it. 3/10
  • Hinterland, S1E1 "Devil's Bridge". Billed as a "Welsh Noir Crime Thriller", it wasn't surprising that this was on the dark side, and that the crime aspects opened with quite the nasty crime scene. There are a lot of dark elements in this story, and in some ways it isn't the opening murder that is the darkest part. I'm hoping that some of these will continue into the other episodes of the season, because there are historical crimes/events referenced that haven't been dealt with. I'm not going to specifically reference them here, because learning about them is an important part of the story, and wouldn't want to spoiler people who might be inclined to watch it.

Books
  • ICO: Castle in the Mist by Miyuki Miyabe. Novelisation of the computer game of the same name. Very pretty story, lush language and detailed set pieces. Pacing is a bit wonky, probably reflecting said origins as a computer game. Some fascinating world-building, but no idea how true it might be to the original game. 8/10
  • The Traitor and the Tunnel by Y S Lee. In this, the third of the four existing Mary Quinn mysteries, author Y S Lee has upped the ante, sending Mary in to the royal household to investigate a sequence of petty thefts. The story feels even more convoluted than the previous one that I read, which is quite the challenge. Characterisation is detailed and considered, the world-building and sense of place descriptive and evocative (although more so at the visual level than the tactile or olfactory), while the story thunders on at a great rate. An enjoyable read. 8/10
  • The Wicked and the Divine: Imperial Phase Part 1 by Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson/Cowles (Vol 5 of the trade paper back collections of the comics; issues 23-28). The conspiracy elements are ramping up, the remaining avatars are splitting in to camps, and the woman who might have been able to explain what was going on shared tidbits of information unevenly amongst her favourites before her death (in a previous volume) so no-one really has any idea of how bad things are going to get. The plot line of the coming Great Darkness gets a lot of attention, and the morality of the gods gets delved into. 9/10


I'll note that I'm not being particularly critical in my reading, or it might just be that these three really were all of a level. I enjoyed them, I'd probably be willing to reread them, but I'm not really feeling like recommending them all over the place. Except maybe the Lee, because actually that one has a lot of really interesting details that I don't see elsewhere (the graphic novels have a new conceit, but there are two many complex conspiracy theory comics out there for me to point to this one as special).
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Posted by Annalee Newitz

The Zoomable Universe, by Caleb Scarf with Illustrations by Ron Miller (Scientific American/FSG)

Sometimes we want science to show us the complexity and uncertainty of everything, but sometimes we just want it to dazzle us.

You'll get a heaping dose of dazzle in Caleb Scharf and Ron Miller's coffee table book The Zoomable Universe: An Epic Tour Through Cosmic Scale, from Almost Everything to Nearly Nothing. It recalls the wonder-laced scientific writing of Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan, and it reminds us that the scientific view of the world is gorgeous as well as rational.

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[personal profile] hunningham
Pretending to be Batman, or Bob the Builder, or Dora the Explorer helps kids stay on task.

I love this. From BPS Research Digest and via [personal profile] andrewducker

Psychologists have reported in Child Development that when four- to six-year-olds pretended to be Batman while they were doing a boring but important task, it helped them to resist distraction and stay more focused.

But the researchers aren't really sure WHY this works - many theories, not enough data, more research needed.

Also, does it work for adults as well as it does for the four to six age group? Enquiring minds want to know.
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[personal profile] luzribeiro posting in [community profile] talkpolitics
When a right-winger* brings up Communism, they do so only to make liberals defensive and try to force them to deny they are Communists so they will stop making the valid points for which the conservative has no possible defense. It’s the know-nothing’s safe place, like a child who has no response to a confusing situation but “you’re a doodyhead!” Communism has never been a major player in American politics.

When people say they are against something because it didn't work somewhere else, I'm pretty sure that is fallacious thinking. I've seen it with both communism and capitalism. Perhaps the system in question could work, but they did something wrong. Perhaps the country's failure was due to something entirely different. You can't just make such a claim without giving a compelling argument or reason to back it up.

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[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/81: Bellman & Black -- Diane Setterfield
What little there had been to frighten or pain him was left behind in the forgotten days of childhood: as a man he saw no reason to be afraid. Now some great hand had peeled back the kind surface of that fairy-tale world and shown him the chasm beneath his feet


Young William Bellman, aged ten, aims his slingshot at a distant rook and -- improbably -- kills it. He's full of regret: he didn't mean to ... but then a fever strikes, and he begins the process of forgetting.
not spoilery )
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Posted by Sam Machkovech

(credit: EA)

EA packed a double-whammy announcement into a single post on its blog on Tuesday. The company announced the dissolution of an internal game studio and a substantial reboot of that studio's upcoming, unnamed Star Wars game.

Visceral Games, which began life as EA Redwood Shores in 1998, is now "ramping down." Members of its staff are being moved to "as many other projects" as possible, according to EA executive Patrick Söderlund. The studio is best known for the Dead Space trilogy, along with a number of '90s and '00s games in the Lord of the Rings and 007 franchises.

Visceral had most recently snagged headlines because the studio had been put in charge of one of EA's upcoming, unnamed Star Wars games. The project was being led by all-star game industry vet Amy Hennig (best known for the Uncharted series). That game appears to have been all but blown up, as per Söderlund's lengthy-yet-vague statement. "It was shaping up to be a story-based, linear game," he starts, only to describe "feedback about what and how [fans] want to play" and "fundamental shifts in the marketplace."

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Hard Things

18/10/17 00:09
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Life is full of things which are hard or tedious or otherwise unpleasant that need doing anyhow. They help make the world go 'round, they improve skills, and they boost your sense of self-respect. But doing them still kinda sucks. It's all the more difficult to do those things when nobody appreciates it. Happily, blogging allows us to share our accomplishments and pat each other on the back.

What are some of the hard things you've done recently? What are some hard things you haven't gotten to yet, but need to do?
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[personal profile] fayanora
There's this book Alex has had on his Amazon wishlist for a long time, NATURAL SATANIC WITCHCRAFT - Traditional,Spiritual,Orthodox (Volume 1)" by Kindra Ravenmoon, that he wants mainly for the fact it contains "malevolent uses for gemstones," information we can't find anywhere else.

Well before, this was just a curiosity and not a very high priority thing, but now I'm doing the Dalia Ravenstone story, I now feel this book has become something I NEED, since those malevolent uses for gemstones could come very much in handy for this story at some point along the way. The book is only basically $23 (and trust me, that's pretty much the cheapest I can find it anywhere), so I'll probably get it next month with something else for the free shipping. But man, that feels ages away right now, and $23 is a lot of money for a book. I rarely spend more than about $10 for any book. But that information about malevolent uses for gemstones is just too tempting to resist much longer.

Of course, if anyone else wants to buy it for me now and send it to me in a few days, I would be glad to pay you back plus interest when I get money again November 3rd.

Gah. That reminds me, I also need the first volume of The Crystal Bible. It took me like, a year or more to figure out that I had *volume* 2, not *edition* 2. Only figured it out because it didn't have rose quartz in it. (Though lilac quartz ended up being better for what I wanted than rose quartz was.)

(Yes, I could just make something up, but I'm trying to make magic in the Ravenstone universe as close to real-world magick as possible, just a lot more powerful. And honestly, it's easier to buy this book and see what this list entails than it would be to try to think of things myself, since I don't know much about the *regular* magical uses for gemstones; I keep having to look things up online.)

museum visit

17/10/17 21:06
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[personal profile] calimac
Our friend E. recommended the exhibit on Teotihuacan current at the de Young Museum in the City. So, B. having the day off work today, we went. It's a pleasure to have such things within the range of doing on impulse without prior notice.

Most of the Mexican pyramidal sites that people know are in the Yucatan, but this one is in the central highlands near Mexico City. It predates the Aztecs, but whether it was built by their ancestors or someone else is unknown. It's been excavated for over a century, but a lot of valuable material has recently been discovered in tunnels.

I was most attracted to the carvings in serpentine, jade, onyx, and other stones, but there were also a lot of intriguing ceramic pieces, carvings on large conch shells, etc. One of their favorite images was the feathered serpent, sometimes depicted on wall murals at 6 to 8 foot length, and just begging to be incorporated into a fantasy novel. (It's been done, by Kenneth Morris and perhaps others I don't recall.) There were also feathered felines (the captions used the word feline for all such creatures, whether feathered or not, as their resemblance to what we'd call cats was elusive), birds with hands, and people with ghostly imperturbable expressions akin to those of moai statues, carved from stone but with eyes of shell or pyrite. It was all memorable and distinctive stuff.

We added a successful browse through both of the museum's gift shops, and then drove down, out of Golden Gate Park where the de Young is located, to Borderlands in the Mission district, passing by a whim past their future site on Haight a couple blocks east of Ashbury, to which they're in the process of buying the freehold; this turned out to be a better route to the current store than the one I'd been previously contemplating. There we had cider in the attached cafe - ah, fall! when the cider blooms - while waiting for the store to open at noon, where we bought more books.

Lunch at a Mexican place in South City where I'd been before, and then home, and that was our half-day out.

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