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  1. "You have to watch this show. There's this guy Kendall Roy, you'll love him." Those were the words that got Emilia Smart-Denson, a 24-year-old woman in New York City, to watch HBO's Succession. For many this may be a surprising selling point for a prestige dramedy about a powerful, wealthy, right-wing family with famously unlikable and diabolical members. But Kendall has taken on a life of his own with young women on the internet. SEE ALSO: 'Succession' Season 4 review: Are you ready to say farewell to the Roys? Over the course of the past three seasons, viewers have watched Kendall, the multi-millionaire heir to his father's media empire, grapple with his lack of paternal love through a cycle of duplicity, backstabbing, and drug addiction. Kendall, as played by actor Jeremy Strong, is a compelling mixture of blind confidence and painful insecurity, a human car crash you can't avert your eyes from. He gained a cult following for iconic, cringe-worthy moments like his performance of a rap at a celebration for his father and yelling "fuck the patriarchy" at reporters. But what does this 40-year-old killer have in common with young women online? More than you think. Succession is so widely posted about that it's reached unexpected corners of the internet. A subset of the fandom have plucked the men of out of the confines of the show to treat them more like boy band members than fictional right-wing media tycoons. And if the men of Succession are a boy band, Kendall is both the frontman and the "sensitive one," ensuring he's the fan favorite. But being a "Kendall girl" goes beyond having a lane or bias: it's both a celebration of the flawed character and an identification with him — albeit one steeped in irony. There's popular Kendall merch: t-shirts and tote bags in the style of Twilight that read, "Team Kendall." One prevalent t-shirt displays Kendall's face framed in a heart with the bright pink text, "I can fix him." Edits of Kendall to songs that speak deeply to the female experience – Mitski and Taylor Swift are popular choices – thrive. One TikTok posted by @emmlaurenson slices together clips of Kendall in turmoil set to "Brutal" by Olivia Rodrigo, a song about the woes of being a 17-year-old girl. The caption reads, "only a month until I get my most pathetic 40-year-old man who's also a teenage girl back." His droopy, serious face is many TikTokkers' muse. It's not uncommon for Kendall to be referred to as a teenage girl, girl-coded, babygirl, girlboss, girlcringe, or girlfailure on Twitter and TikTok. There's an inherent humor to these nicknames: Kendall is not a young, misunderstood woman. But while saying Kendall is "just like me" might have started as a joke, it has a seed of truth to it. "We've adopted him," Fola, another young female Kendall fan, tells Mashable. "A lot of his tendencies are relatable to young women," the 23-year-old New York City grad student explains. She points to his 40th birthday party as an example, a Season 3 episode in which he meticulously plans the event only to end up crying and miserable. Crying on your birthday is a common trope of disaffected womanhood. It doesn't end with Kendall's birthday party breakdown: much of Kendall's character resonates with young women. "There's just so much in Kendall Roy, that very oddly relates to those extreme highs and lows and strong feelings you have when you're a young girl," Julia Riggieri, a 21-year-old promotions assistant in Massachusetts, tells Mashable. When Smart-Denson watched the pilot episode, in which Kendall has a silent, complete meltdown in the bathroom during a family lunch, she was sold. "He rips up newspapers and breaks Q-tips and yells into a towel. And then he tidied everything up, and goes back out and rejoins the family lunch," Smart-Denson tells Mashable. "I have felt that way so many times in my life, the silent, all consuming rage that you have to hide to keep the peace at whatever family event or professional event is happening." It's a scene that came up again and again in conversations with Kendall fans. The way Kendall is posted about in these circles is similar to the way in which online culture has fixated on certain discontent, complex, female characters like Fleabag, Sally Rooney protagonists, and the narrator of My Year of Rest and Relaxation, among others. "When you have young girls who are entering a society that doesn't want them to win, they see that in Kendall because his dad is never gonna let him have what he wants," Hayley Loftus, a 21-year-old film and marketing student in North Carolina and proud owner of a Kendall t-shirt that says "taking a break from feminism to serve my king," explains to Mashable. Smart-Denson echoes Loftus: "Kendall's experiences of being passed over for opportunities that he's very deserving of, or being given authority and then set up to fail and undermined, are things that a lot of women have experienced professionally. It's kind of fun to watch a powerful man have the same sort of demeaning experiences that you've had." In an effort to isolate the parts of Kendall they find relatable, young female viewers have created their own version of Kendall decontextualized from the show. They're forcing representation in a place it doesn't exist and consuming Succession in a way it isn't intended to be all in a tongue-in-cheek manner. And it's entertaining and subversive to contort a powerful, fictional man into a teenage girl. It's kind of fun to watch a powerful man have the same sort of demeaning experiences that you've had. Kendall fans know that they're ignoring a lot of Kendall's character in order to "twist him into something that we know that he isn't. But it's fun to pretend that he is," explains Fola. "We're filtering so much of his existence out of it to make it so that I'm not a right wing sympathizer, I'm a Mitski fan." And what do the girls want from Kendall in the show's final season? More tears and another song. View the full article
  2. When a series has been around as long as Star Wars has, fun cameos become almost as essential to the proceedings as The Force itself. The newest entry in The Mandalorian is no exception to that rule. SEE ALSO: 'The Mandalorian' Season 3's best cameo may seem a little Salacious In The Mandalorian's "Chapter 20: The Foundling," the show flashes back to the immediate aftermath of Emperor Palpatine's notorious Order 66, AKA the forced extermination of all Jedi. It's a moment in the Star Wars canon that's been explored several times, from Revenge of the Sith to Jedi: Fallen Order. We see the infant Grogu get rescued by a mysterious Jedi named Kelleran Beq, who then proceeds to do a bunch of cool stuff to the bad guys before escaping. Who is Jedi Master Kelleran Beq?If you watched the episode, you might be wondering where you've seen Beq before. That's kind of a trick question. This character has indeed appeared onscreen before, in a Star Wars-themed YouTube game show for kids. However, I'm guessing you actually know Best from his time as the voice of none other than Jar Jar Binks. Yes, that badass Jedi who saved Grogu is played by the actor who portrayed one of the most divisive characters in Star Wars history. It's cool that Best got to come back to Star Wars and let his talents shine in a new role. And while multiple characters have crossed over from Star Wars cartoons to live-action television series, this might be the first crossover from game show to live-action television series. View the full article
  3. SAVE $17: As of March 22, you can get a MIXC seed starting kit to grow 120 plant seedlings for just $18.99, down from $35.99, at Amazon. That's a 47% discount. Opens in a new tab Credit: MIXC MIXC seed starting trays (10-pack) (opens in a new tab) $18.99 at Amazon (save $17) Get Deal (opens in a new tab) The first day of spring may have been a couple of days ago, but it doesn't look like Mother Nature got the memo yet. Chilly weather aside, there's still time to prepare for the warmer months ahead. Embrace your green thumb and get ready to grow your favorite herbs, fruits, and veggies with these simple and cost-effective DIY seed starter trays by MIXC. As of March 22, these handy seed starter trays are on sale for $18.99, so it's the perfect time to snag them before they return to their original price of $35.99. SEE ALSO: This plant identification and care app is the gift gardeners are rooting for This kit (available in black, green, pink, and white) includes 10 seed starter trays (120 starter plant cells total), 10 watertight base trays, 10 humidity domes, and 10 plant labels — everything you need to start an indoor garden. With a drainage hole in each seed tray, you don't have to worry about oversaturating your plants with water. Plus, the trays are reusable, so you can keep growing your favorite plants year after year. When to start seeds indoorsWhile growth dates may differ for each type of plant (and your plant's location, lighting, etc.), starting seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost date is generally recommended. You can look up your area's first and last frost date by typing in your zip code on websites like the Farmer's Almanac, which provides a comprehensive guide to planting and harvesting your crops based on your location. View the full article
  4. Content warning: this article discusses self-harm, ableism, racism, and eating disorders, which could be triggering for some readers. Last year I was looking for medical advice online, which most medical professionals would deem a bad idea, but is common practice within rare disease and "invisible" illness communities. When a new symptom appears out of the blue, people turn to forums, Instagram pages, and internet communities to avoid a trip to accident and emergency for the third time that month. It is a risk chronically ill people often take to put off medical intervention out of fear of acquiring further medical trauma. For me at least, crowdsourcing for advice often yields better results than the doctors who believe I am wasting their time. What started as seeking help from others who had experienced debilitating pain and worrying symptoms, led me into a dark pattern of late night meltdowns after hours of online scrolling, I now know that repeated desire to make myself feel awful was a form of self-harm — just digitally. As I trawled the internet in search of others who were experiencing periodic numbness of their hands and leg, I fell into Reddit. The forum plays host to thousands of micro communities talking about everything from electric bikes to raising picky eaters, as well as large gatherings of people supporting each other through chronic illness and disability. This time, however, I didn’t find myself in communion with other sick people, instead I was exposed to R/illnessfakers, a place with hundreds of people who have made it their job to prove that sick people, just like me, are always lying. I’ve known about R/illnessfakers for a while — last summer the BBC made an ill-thought-out documentary on the group that led to serious harm within the disabled community including inappropriate calls to the police and trolling across disabled people’s social media. Matt Klein, Foresight Lead at Reddit announced last May that R/illnessfakers was "one of the most viewed communities this week across health and wellness", with close to 130,000 members. I knew the forum existed before I watched the show but I never logged on and read myself, I thought I knew better. SEE ALSO: The gender health gap makes people's lives hell However once I fell down the toxic internet rabbit hole of R/illnessfakers, I read every single post. I spent hours consuming this content that was created exclusively by people trying to prove the illnesses I have are not real. Posters in the page regularly mock sick people, acting as if they are true crime documentary researchers, not heartless and nosey busy bodies. I was distraught, I felt my anxiety rise in real time but I couldn’t stop. To be clear, I was not the subject of scrutiny in this forum, but my illnesses were. There were threads relating to what the group term "illness influencers", defined also by Klein as "influencers believed to be manufacturing chronic conditions for clout", although that is a stretch considering there is very material gain to be found as a disabled content creator compared to those flogging fast fashion 24/7. I returned to that forum week after week, until I asked my boyfriend to block access on all of my devices. Why was I doing this to myself? I felt obsessed with knowing how little these people thought of disability, how far they would take an invasion of another’s privacy whilst claiming to be doing something good. What is digital self-harm? Could my unstoppable desire to keep reading whilst ruining my mental health be considered self-harm? Digital self-harm as a concept was initiated into academic research by the founders of the Cyberbullying Research Center, Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja, who define the term as "a practice of anonymous online posting, sending, or otherwise sharing of hurtful content about oneself", and was originally linked to a trend in teens whereby individuals would "self troll" through burner or anonymous accounts they made themselves. However, some newer sources describe digital self-harm more generally as "intentionally seeking out harmful content about oneself". This definition certainly applies to me and my habits. "Oneself" can be conceived as about you as an individual, but it could be argued that it can pertain to content relating to your identity or marginalised experience — in my case, disability. "Digital self-harm is probably not recognised as often as it should be." David McLaughlan is a clinical psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Roehampton, with extensive experience of addiction as well as a deep interest in our digital health. He spoke to Mashable about the prevalence of destructive online behaviours like my own: "Digital self-harm is probably not recognised as often as it should be. The act itself is often very secretive and there are no scars to see afterwards. As clinicians, the focus of our attention is often on emotional abuse coming from others, rather than individuals emotionally abusing themselves." In order to know I wasn’t alone, I started asking others if they acted in similar ways. It started with my friends and I got a lot of nodding heads in response, particularly from other women in my life. Then I ventured back online. I spoke to Naomi, a young Black woman living in Nigeria, about her experiences of digital self-harm on TikTok. Naomi is in recovery from an eating disorder, but during some of the lowest times in her illness, she sought out people to validate her negative thoughts: "I would actively trigger myself by going on TikTok and reading comments that trolls would make about women and their bodies. There was this guy that said that if Black people weren’t so lazy and delinquent police wouldn’t kill us." Naomi spent a lot of time reading all of the man’s hateful material, and was terrified when she started to agree: "After a while I stopped mentally condemning it all and I just started trying to rationalise his beliefs. It was like I was brainwashing myself." SEE ALSO: Doomscrolling again? Here are five ways to cut back. It is hard to talk about online negative behaviours like digital self-harm without considering the conditions that put us all online so often. Doomscrolling is now a well recognised part of online consumption, referring to spending extensive time online reading negative news stories, videos or general content surrounding a catastrophe or disaster. It is attached to the act of digital self-harm, as the more content we consume, the more we are fed, whether we are seeking it out to hurt ourselves or not. David McLaughlan reminds us, "Social media apps are designed to get you hooked. We often pay more attention to bad news and negativity (known as negativity bias), which in turn will drive the algorithm on social media to present more content of that nature to you." How can social media reinforce self-hatred?Even when searching for content that you think may be safe, it’s possible to stumble into previously harmful behaviour patterns. Naomi says when she was using TikTok during her recovery, she still managed to find sources that would harm her: "I saw videos of people who have recovered from their eating disorders and have gained a significant amount of weight. They talk about how they are so much happier now and the whole comment section is filled with people saying they're lying or 'good for you, but I’d rather die than weigh 80 kilos.'" "It was almost like I was looking for confirmation that other people were also thinking the worst things I also thought about myself." Lex, an online content creator who dispels myths around skin conditions and shares her journey with Rosacea, has a similar story to tell. Talking to Mashable she says: "I used to read comments on articles about me even though I knew there would be cruel comments that would make me cry." Although it seems like an easy solution from onlookers would be "just don’t look," digital self-harm manifests for me, and many others I spoke to, as a compulsion. Lex says, "I couldn't stop thinking about it. It was almost like I was looking for confirmation that other people were also thinking the worst things I also thought about myself." I can’t explain it better myself. I kept reading that forum because those people said things that the worst part of my brain told me too. Finding someone (or 100+ of them) who are prepared to say the things internalised ableism said to me already was just fuelling my own self-hatred. McLaughlan notes that these actions are invisible to many who might be trying to help us: "Most psychiatrists would immediately recognise compulsive physical behaviours which cause harm, such as skin picking (excoriation) or hair pulling (trichotillomania) however compulsive digital behaviours which cause harm are harder to spot. It feels like, as a society, we are starting to wake up to the potential drawbacks of these digital platforms." "Every time a doctor told me my tests were clear, I thought back to those forum dwellers who said my disease wasn’t real." Every time a doctor told me my tests were clear, I thought back to those forum dwellers who said my disease wasn’t real. Every time I cancelled on a friend from a chronic pain flare, I remembered the commentators who called disabled people self centred, avoiding responsibility. It was confirmation bias, seeking out things I already thought to be true. What is being done to protect vulnerable internet users?There is no easy solution. It is not in the interests of tech giants like TikTok and Instagram to police their content with vigour, many companies do follow legal guidance that forces them to remove illegal content explicitly featuring certain topics, but critics suggest it is not stringent enough. The Online Safety Bill legislation which continues to debated in the UK parliament, has recently removed its clauses that would fine companies who fail to remove technically legal but harmful content. At present, social media giants like Meta, claim to remove all graphic images of self-harm, and also do not allow images of self-harm that are not graphic, such as healed scars, to appear in searches or hashtags. However, the distinction between content that helps people in mental distress, and the posts that put them at further risk, is complex to distinguish. The amended Online Safety Bill now proposes to provide users with the ability to filter out said content including pro-eating disorder and misogynistic posts themselves. If the bill passes in full, the onus will still remain on the user to police their own content, which given the mental distress of people seeking out said posts in the first place, does not seem an adequate solution. Presently, digital self-harm must be deconstructed by the person who is struggling. Lex cut herself off from article comment sections through the help of friends: "I have asked friends to read comment sections and summarise the negative and positive responses to try to 'scratch the itch' without actually taking in the specific cruelty. It helps a little." What can you do to stop your own digital self-harm?If you nodded your head as you read this piece, and have found yourself stuck in toxic internet places, a cold turkey quitting process might be helpful to explore. Enlisting a trusted friend or partner to block sites or apps on your devices is useful, extensions for your phone or web browser like Cold Turkey Blocker, can also be great. Limiting time spent on social media using your phone’s screen time blockers can be a way to ensure you are not left scrolling in the middle of the night, or at a time when you are at your most vulnerable. The algorithm works against us, but it is possible to re-calibrate who you follow and redirect your online viewing, so the algorithm suggests less triggering content, and more joyful moments. Moreover, reaching out to a professional therapist to find the root of your desire to hurt yourself, is key to stopping the cycle. The internet can be a joyful place to find like minded friends and watch silly animal videos, but if it isn’t making you feel good, it is time to take a break. As for me, the habit seems to rear its head in times when I am already low, I haven’t succeeded in breaking the cycle yet but writing this feels like a good start, naming it diminishes some of the shame. As David McLaughlan told me, "Keeping self-harm behaviours secret only serves to perpetuate them." If you're feeling suicidal or experiencing a mental health crisis, please talk to somebody. If you're in the U.S., text "START" to Crisis Text Line at 741-741. You can reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988; the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860; or the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. Text "START" to Crisis Text Line at 741-741. Contact the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI, Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. ET, or email [email protected] If you don't like the phone, consider using the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Chat at crisischat.org. Here is a list of international resources. If you're in the UK, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or contact Shout, a 24/7 free mental health service in the UK(Text SHOUT to 85258). View the full article
  5. “This is the first song I’ve written about being on the road,” said Karly Hartzman of the Rat Saw God singleView the full article
  6. The Omnichord Real Book features collaborations with Jeff Parker, Ambrose Akinmusire, Brandee Younger, Julius Rodriguez, and moreView the full article
  7. The Maryland rapper begins his Water 2 Fire Tour in AprilView the full article
  8. The Arkansas musician’s second single of 2023, following “Me First”View the full article
  9. American Movie and Tiger King director Chris Smith is helming the band’s first-ever fully authorized movieView the full article
  10. Buzz, buzz, buzzzzz. Our favorite football team-turned cannibalistic cult is back, and from what we've seen in Season 2's trailer, things are about to get even bloodier. If you haven't spent the past year ceaselessly scrolling through Reddit threads nitpicking the 19 months a high school football team spent stranded in the forest — we've got you covered. Ahead of Yellowjackets Season 2 premiering this Friday on Showtime, we've rounded up everything you need to remember from Season 1 including teenage pregnancy, kidnappings, the making of a cult, and so, so much, death. 1. Teenage Shauna is pregnant with Jeff's baby. Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) slept with her best friend's boyfriend. Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME. Above all else, even the cannibalism, Yellowjackets is a show about teenage girls. And like any teen flick, there's some drama in our favorite catastrophically chaotic camp. In Season 1, we learn that a teenage Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) is sleeping with her best friend Jackie's (Ella Purnell) boyfriend, Jeff (Jack DePew). To make the betrayal worse, Shauna is pregnant with Jeff's baby. The final cherry on top of this abysmal sundae is that she's stranded in the middle of nowhere with little to no food or medical assistance — and Jackie's onto her. After reading Shauna's diary, Jackie discovers the affair and calls her out in front of the group. While Shauna's baby news first excited the girls, especially Jackie (who doesn't love delivering a baby in the epicenter of a survival disaster?), things get grim during this pivotal fight about Jeff. When Shauna tells Jackie to leave and no one intervenes, Jackie storms out of the cabin and decides to sleep outside...and we all know how that turned out. 2. Jackie dies and things start getting weird. Vale Jackie (Ella Purnell). Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME. Right after their rift, Jackie spends the night outside the cabin where it's extremely cold. And where no one anticipated it would snow that evening. The team wakes up to a forest blanketed in snow, with the pitting realization that Jackie slept outside in these conditions slowly making its way into everyone's foresight. The group rushes outside and finds Jackie tragically frozen to death, but things somehow manage to get even darker after that reveal. SEE ALSO: Cannibalism is consuming pop culture. What does it all mean? As part of their, let's call it, mourning, Lottie (Courtney Eaton), Misty (Samantha Hanratty), and Van (Liv Hewson), sacrifice a bear heart to the "wilderness" in a makeshift shrine that they've built. To add to the creeps, Lottie chillingly concludes the season declaring, "Shed blood my beautiful friends and let the darkness set us free." Things are now officially in full swing at Camp Yellowjackets, with the girls beginning their journey to the cannibalistic cult we know they later become thanks to the opening of Season 1. If Lottie's declaration is anything to be taken literally, more blood is about to be spilled. 3. Travis mysteriously dies and leaves a cryptic note. Natalie (Juliette Lewis) doesn't believe Travis' death happened as it appeared. Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME. Steering away from the onslaught of cannibalism for a moment, another big plot point in Season 1 was Travis' (Andres Soto) mysterious death. We know he was one of the few guys stranded with the girls in the forest, and we know that as a teen (Kevin Alves) he and Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) had a romance going on both during their time in the woods and after it. In the present day, Natalie (Juliette Lewis) is hellbent on finding out how and why Travis really died, refusing to believe the police's opinion he died by suicide — she's convinced there's something more sinister at play. With the help of Misty (Christina Ricci), Natalie realizes there were candle wax marks in the shape of that dreaded symbol from the forest on the site where Travis was found. You know the one. The weird triangle, circle thing we're all obsessed with. The symbol's placement leads Natalie to believe that Travis was murdered or more specifically, sacrificed. In addition, Travis cryptically left a note reading "Tell Nat she was right," to add to the whole rabbit-hole surrounding his death. But by the season finale, we start to get some answers. As part of her investigation, Natalie enlists the help of an old friend, Kevyn Tan (Alex Wyndham), to look into Travis' toxicology report (it was clean) and his bank accounts. While Natalie doesn't manage to answer the phone call (we're getting to why), we learn that Lottie (who will be played by Simone Kessell in Season 2) withdrew all of Travis' money and emptied his bank account, implying that she had something to do with his death — and that she's still alive. 4. Natalie is kidnapped by a purple-clad group with a familiar symbol. Kidnapped! Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME. We don't know many details about Lottie's present-day activities beyond her revealed connection to Travis, but we do know that a group of people in purple, sporting necklaces with the show's infamous symbol, kidnapped Natalie by breaking into her hotel room and forcefully taking her somewhere we're probably going to see a lot of in Season 2. Are Lottie and the group connected? From the trailer, it appears she might be some form of cult leader so... SEE ALSO: 10 'Yellowjackets' theories keeping us up at night Perhaps Lottie's revamped her brief stint as a teenage guru and made it her full time career? I'm already terrified of teenage Lottie, so something's telling me that she's only gotten more creepily prophetic as an adult, and Natalie might be in danger. 5. Taissa's sleepwalking is only getting worse. Taissa (Tawny Cypress) has some *stuff* to figure out. Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME. Adding to Yellowjackets' staple creepiness is a sleepwalking Taissa (Tawny Cypress), whose condition is so extreme she practically turns into a different person at night. In Season 1, Taissa's unconscious nighttime wandering basically act as grounds for a double persona, where "awake" Taissa can't remember anything that "asleep" Taissa did. While stuck in the wilderness, Taissa's sleepwalking (so far) has mainly been just that, and in the more extreme case, eating dirt. But as an adult, her sleepwalking has become more sinister. So far, we've learned she's been watching her son, Sammy (Aiden Stoxx), sleep at night. And not by peacefully sitting by his bed, but by crouching in a tree outside his room. We also learn by the season finale that she's built a whole shrine in their basement featuring: her son's favorite toy, a decapitated dog head (yes a real dog, her family's beloved pet Biscuit in fact), and a heart that could be the dog's or something else's. All these sacrificial knick knacks are neatly placed in front of, you guessed it, the same symbol from the forest, Travis' death scene, and the people who kidnapped Natalie. SEE ALSO: Watch the 'Yellowjackets' cast aggressively lip syncing to 'Just a Girl' After Taissa's wife, Simone (Rukiya Bernard), finds the shrine, she packs up her stuff and leaves with their son — who could blame her? But something's telling me that Taissa's sleepwalking is only going to get worse. We don't know why she's doing it. She doesn't know why. And at this point it should be called sleepmurdering. There's also the fun little vision she keeps having of the man with no eyes, an apparition she first saw on her grandmother's death bed, and something that we still don't know is actually real or an external embodiment of internalized trauma. 6. Jeff's blackmailing fiasco, the Adam issue, and Shauna's big mistake. Vale Adam (Peter Gadiot). Credit: SHOWTIME. Another big Season 1 plot point to remember is Natalie, Taissa, and Misty getting blackmailed by someone who supposedly knew everything about what went down in the forest. When the three are sent cryptic postcards with the camp's creepy symbol on it, they're tasked with giving an associated blackmailer $50,000 to stay quiet. Natalie and Taissa team up with Shauna to figure out who the blackmailer is, and while their initial attempt fails, Shauna later finds out it was her husband Jeff (Warren Kole). Jeff's furniture store was about to go out of business, so he needed the money to keep it going. While Shauna reprimands him, there's a bigger problem on her plate: Adam (Peter Gadiot). Having met after a fender bender, the two were having an affair, but Shauna starts realizing Adam might be hiding a big secret. She can't find his name anywhere online, and it feels like everything he's told her about his past can't actually be backed up. Adding to the suspicion is the fact that her diaries (with all of the Yellowjackets' secrets) went missing after Adam spent a night in her room — we know it's Jeff, but in the heat of the paranoia Shauna begins suspecting that Adam might be the blackmailer. SEE ALSO: 17 things to check out because you just miss 'Yellowjackets' so much So...she kills him. Shauna shows up at Adam's apartment, begins interrogating him, finds an unofficial tell-all book on the Yellowjackets, puts two and two together, and stabs him. With Misty's expertise and Taissa and Natalie's help, Shauna manages to clean up the crime scene and dispose of her lover. After finding out Jeff was the actual culprit, she lies to her former teammates and says it was Adam — validating her murder and protecting her husband. For a fleeting moment it seems that Shauna's slippery slope is wrapped up, but we later find out that Adam's been reported missing and the police are out to find him. We can expect the Adam issue to prevail in Season 2, and odds are, Shauna's in big trouble. 7. Misty kills Jessica the "journalist." Misty gonna Misty. Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME. Team Yellowjackets' body count doesn't end there. Along with Shauna's murder of Adam, Misty's also done a big killing that might haunt her in Season 2. To ensure her election campaign ran smooth, Taissa hired a pseudo-journalist (who's actually an investigator), Jessica Roberts (Rekha Sharma), to see if any of the girls would speak up about their time in the wilderness when offered a hefty amount of money. While everyone proves loyal, Misty's allegiance takes an extreme turn when she kidnaps Jessica and keeps her hostage. Misty's kidnapping quickly becomes a twisted bed and breakfast, and she ultimately decides to let Jessica go, but not before lacing her cigarettes with fentanyl. While driving, Jessica takes a puff and immediately crashes her car — with Misty killing her under the guise of a drug-induced car crash. Sure Misty's plan seems airtight and Jessica's confirmed dead, but in the world of Yellowjackets no one is ever really safe. 8. Javi is missing. Where'd Javi go? Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME. Many things went down in the Yellowjackets' unique, wilderness-exclusive homecoming, but amidst the collective shroom trip and everyone quite literally losing their shit, Javi (Luciano Leroux) went missing. Watching the team basically go feral from the sidelines, Javi flees when suddenly Shauna chillingly warns him to run. SEE ALSO: Watch 'Yellowjackets' from anywhere in the world with this streaming-friendly VPN Javi runs away into the depths of the forest, and he still hasn't returned. Some think he's dead, but Travis is hellbent on finding his younger brother. Whether or not Javi is still alive is going to be a big question mark looming over Season 2, where we'll hopefully get some answers. 9. Rest in peace Laura Lee. Vale Laura Lee (Jane Widdop). Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME. Laura Lee (Jane Widdop) was the first Yellowjacket to die in the wilderness — and she will always be remembered. When the girls find an abandoned aircraft (presumably belonging to "dead hunter guy" who owned the cabin they now inhabit), Laura Lee decides to amp up her aviator knowledge and read the plane's manual. With purely theoretical lessons under her belt, she decides to fly the aircraft to try to find help. In an explosive moment (pun intended) of euphoria and hope, the plane takes flight and Laura Lee manages to fly for a bit, but the plane spontaneously combusts midair. The Yellowjackets have not only lost their first teammate, but they've also lost what could have been their only way out. Laura Lee's death was a turning point in the show and the team's time in the wilderness, with the aftermath seeing the looming darkness emboldening their belief that something in the forest doesn't want them to leave. 10. Lottie is our Antler Aueen, but our Pit Girl remains a mystery. Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME. Everyone remembers Yellowjackets' opening scene. A mysterious girl runs through the woods, and falls into a pit landing on wooden spikes. Her body is picked up by a group of teenagers wearing the creepiest possible clothing, from fur masks to antler crowns — with one wearing pink Converse. Dubbed the "Antler Queen" and "Pit Girl" by fans, Yellowjackets' first episode previews the girls' future in the woods as clearly a cannibalistic cult — but who exactly are the Antler Queen and Pit Girl? During their homecoming, Lottie wears the antler crown we see in the pilot and her behavior so far, from her visions to her sacrifices to the girls ultimately pinning her as a messiah, heavily confirms that she's the Antler Queen. But the identity of the Pit Girl still remains unanswered. We know she's wearing Jackie's necklace, but we also know that Jackie's dead. The Pit Girl could have been one of Jackie's closer friends, or the necklace could have been used by the girls to mark their next victim — or more crassly, meal. While our Antler Queen may have a name, our Pit Girl still remains a mystery, but by the looks of Season 2's trailer we might be getting closer to our answers. SEE ALSO: 'Yellowjackets' Season 2 review: Our favorite messed-up cannibals return — with even more bite Winter is officially in full swing at Camp Yellowjackets, and Lottie's premonitions don't look promising. It's time to buckle up and get ready for another wild season featuring our favorite football-playing, wilderness-surviving, cult-worshipping girls. Yellowjackets begins streaming March 24 on Showtime. View the full article
  11. In a world where clear and independent reporting struggles to get heard in a sea of sensationalized clickbait, the German Heise group is generally recognized as a reliable and accurate news source. For several days last week, an unknown number of visitors to heise.de were denied access to the company’s reporting. Instead, they found themselves redirected to Germany’s anti-piracy website blocking portal and statements that had no basis in fact. Silently Blocked For Several Days A Heise analysis, published Tuesday, reveals that the publication first learned of issues affecting access to its website last Friday, March 17. More messages from readers were received on Monday, and all reported the same thing. When attempting to access heise.de, web browsers responded with a certificate error and an explanation. A bright orange splash page informed Heise readers that due to copyright infringement, Heise had been rendered inaccessible. The message usually confronts internet users who attempt to access a specific set of sites previously identified as facilitators of mass online copyright infringement. Heise had no idea why the message was being displayed but did find a common denominator. All of the readers reporting problems were using the same internet service provider – 1&1 AG, a €3.9 billion telecoms group servicing 15.6 million fixed line and mobile customers. DNS Tampering/Poisoning Heise reports that its editors and system administrators were getting closer to the source of the problem on Friday but then a reader provided crucial information. “He had set up his provider’s standard DNS server with the IP address as the DNS server in his router,” Heise reports. “This temporarily answered a question about www.heise.de with a CNAME entry that referred to the notice.cuii.info page. Other readers also confirmed that they were using the provider’s default DNS servers.” Under normal conditions, web browsers accessing heise.de receive a response from the Domain Name System (DNS) to visit an IP address defined by the publication. In this case, Heise.de’s domain had a surprise CNAME (Canonical Name) entry that mapped heise.de to notice.cuii.info, the location of the orange splash screen carrying the copyright notification. Since Heise itself is a 1&1 customer, staff tried to replicate the issues experienced by customers on a 1&1 DSL connection in the company’s editorial office. That ultimately failed and the redirect eventually disappeared on its own. Heise Requests Answers, Receives None In an effort to get to the bottom of the mystery, Heise said it contacted 1&1’s press office. The publication was informed that the internet service provider’s technical department would investigate but as things stand, Heise has received no response. “The case remains a mystery: Only a small proportion of the queries to 1&1 DNS servers seem to be affected, and it is also not a regional problem. The tips came from Berlin and Hesse, among others,” Heise reports. Starting from the position that the Domain Name System shouldn’t be tampered with, the question is why that appears not to be the case here. The short answer is that, with assistance from 1&1, Germany has implemented a DNS tampering system that enables rightsholders to redirect 1&1’s customers to a blocking page when they attempt to access specific pirate site domains. CUII and Site-Blocking in Germany Copyright Clearing House on the Internet (CUII) was launched in 2021. It operates from cuii.info and its blocking notification page is located at notice.cuii.info, the subdomain/domain that appeared in Heise.de’s DNS CNAME records. “The Copyright Clearing House on the Internet (CUII) is an independent body. It was set up by Internet access providers and rights holders in order to use objective criteria to check whether the blocking of access to a structurally infringing website is lawful,” CUII explains. Current members of CUII: 1&1 AG (telecoms), German Book Traders’ Association, Federal Music Industry Association (BVMI), German Football League (DFL), Freenet DLS (telecoms), German Games Industry Association, Motion Picture Association (MPA), Sky Deutschland, STM (publishers), Telefónica Germany, Telekom Germany, German Film Producers Association (VDF), and Vodafone Germany. “At the request of the rights holder, a review committee will examine and, if the requirements are met, recommend a DNS blocking of this structurally copyright-violating website,” the CUII website notes. When a blocking decision is recommended, the matter is then referred to the German government’s Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) to confirm that a blockade will not violate net neutrality. Currently a small number of pirate sites are affected. Code of Conduct CUII’s stated purpose to recommend blocking of websites whose main purpose is to infringe copyright. The body is limited to handling “clear cases” where platforms have no real interest in supplying legal content. Under its code of conduct, CUII observes the requirements laid down by the Court of Justice of the European Union to prevent internet service providers from encroaching on internet users’ freedom to access information online. “For this reason, the Federal Network Agency is also involved in the process as the competent authority so that it can review the recommended blocking based on the requirements of the Net Neutrality Ordinance,” CUII notes. Who Will Accept Responsibility? Given all of the checks, processes and systems in place to prevent the blocking system from doing harm, what happened to Heise should’ve been impossible. As things stand, not only was it possible but nobody seems prepared to offer an explanation. That’s a big issue. At the time of writing, Swiss DNS resolver Quad9 is being forced by a German court order to implement blocks after losing a case to Sony Music. Sony Music is a member of BVMI, which in turn is a member of CUII. As things stand, a completely innocent website has lost traffic for 72 hours and the visitors who were redirected to the CUII blocking page were informed that Heise was blocked for copyright reasons. Indeed, as per CUII’s own standards, Heise was labeled a “clear” infringer of copyrights with no interest whatsoever in providing legal content. That probably needs to be addressed with a clear explanation, sooner rather than later. From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more. View the full article
  12. Good news, everyone! Instagram is launching new types of ads. OK, we were joking about the "good" part. Instagram's parent company Meta announced the change on Tuesday, detailing several new types of ads. According to the company, ads will show up in search results to "reach people actively searching for businesses, products and content." SEE ALSO: It's over for NFTs on Instagram and Facebook Instagram already serves ads in its search results, at least for me (see image below). These are the old ads in search results. We're getting new, different ads in search results soon. Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable But now the company says that ads will show up in the feed that you can scroll when you tap into a post you've seen in the search results. Facebook says it plans to launch these globally "in the coming months." Another new type of ads we'll be seeing are Reminder ads, which will be used to "announce, remind and notify people of future events or launches that they might be interested in." Need an ad to remind you of an ad? Instagram's got you covered. Credit: Instagram Instagram says that users will be able to opt into these reminders and receive three notifications about upcoming events; one the day before, one 15 minutes before, and one at the time of the event. Featured Video For You Here's what the internet looked like the day Facebook and its apps broke Instagram has been increasingly aggressive when it comes to advertising in the past year or so, at some moments reaching the point of absurdity. And while my Instagram feed isn't entirely composed of ads anymore, it does appear that the company plans to permeate the content it serves with ads in every way imaginable. View the full article
  13. BBC Radio One's "Unpopular Opinion" segment has seen many an unlikely rant about mundane qualms at the likes of Lady Gaga, Dwayne Johnson, Stormzy, Jake Gylllenhaal, Ed Sheeran, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake, Daniel Craig, Benedict Cumberbatch, Regé-Jean Page, Simone Ashley and Nicola Coughlan, and many more. And this week, it's You star Penn Badgley fielding callers with host Greg James. From watching feet videos on YouTube to pavements should go in specific directions and farts being more melodic than techno music, there's plenty to unpack. Lemons and limes as a snack? "Are we talking roasted or raw?" Badgley immediately asks. I mean, I'm not super sure on Badgley's joking claim of American exceptionalism, but hey, this is "Unpopular Opinion." View the full article
  14. “I had to be in a new frame of mind to become Sylvester Stewart again to tell the true story of Sly Stone. It’s been a wild ride and hopefully my fans enjoy it too.”View the full article
  15. Whenever a popular new show is returning, it's internet tradition to comb over everything single piece of publicity material for potential clues as to what might happen next. The poster for Succession Season 4, which shows the main characters standing on the balcony of a glassy building, is no exception. But are there really any Easter eggs hiding in a simple poster? "I mean a little, yeah. There is!" said Sarah Snook, who plays Shiv Roy on the HBO show, in The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon clip above. "But I feel like you won't know until you know. There is a thing that once the season begins airing, it may get related back to this moment." Does that mean there's going to be a key scene that takes place on a balcony? A showdown? A big argument? A death?! We'll have to wait and see. Succession returns to HBO and HBO Max at 9 p.m. ET on March 26. View the full article
  16. According to the Labor Department, there were 10.8 million job openings in January. So, why haven't you heard back from that job you applied to yet? It may be because the job you applied to is a "ghost job." The term has recently been coined to describe job openings left active online for months and seemingly never filled. In some cases, the job opening might not even exist. A survey from online loan company Clarify Capital asked over one thousand managers involved in the hiring process questions regarding job openings at their companies. The survey found that 60 percent of job postings online are kept active for more than one month. The bulk of those openings were left online for two to three months. One in ten had the online job posting active for more than six months. SEE ALSO: Twitter silent as hackers scam users with stolen high-profile verified accounts Why are some of these job openings left online for so long? The most common explanation is that some companies truly have standing openings, and that they are always open to hiring the right applicant when they come along. However, a significant number of managers also shared that the openings are kept active because the jobs simply don't exist. Of those surveyed, 43 percent of managers said they post job openings online in order to give the impression that the company is growing. Another 43 percent said that they posted job openings to keep current employees motivated. And 34 percent took that one step further and said they kept online job posts active in order to placate overworked employees. So basically, nearly half of the hiring managers surveyed said that their company posted jobs with the intent to bolster their company's image, or provide false hope to their understaffed workforce that help was on the way. As many workers in a swath of various industries deal with layoffs over the past few months, a new pool of job seekers have entered the market looking for potential employers. This is especially true for the tech sector where companies like Meta, Amazon, and Twitter have recently laid off thousands of employees. Online news outlets first started reporting on this "ghost jobs" phenomenon last year. A recent article from the Wall Street Journal has thrusted ghost jobs back into the spotlight. Career websites typically agree that the best time to look for a job is in January and February, right at the start of the New Year when there is a spike in hiring. However, if you've spent the last few months applying and haven't heard back, it may very well be because you applied to a ghost job. View the full article
  17. If you’ve been on social media over the past few years, then you’re probably familiar with the rise of meditation and mindfulness as tools to help cope with anxiety and depression. While those may work, there’s also more data as of late to show that breathing, particularly deep breathing exercises, may help improve sleep. All you had to say were the words “improve sleep” and I was hooked. For some background, I’ve had a rocky road with sleep. There have been periods where I didn’t sleep at all, times where I slept too much, and then where I’m at right now which I think is a “normal” sleep routine. With that said, as someone with a history of bad sleep, I’ve always been open to trying new tricks to help get a better night’s sleep and fall asleep faster, which is why I decided to test out the Somnox 2. With a price tag of $599, the Somnox 2 is advertised as a “snuggable sleep companion” with a memory foam interior for people who want a more energizing and peaceful sleep. As someone who has done breathing exercises before to help with sleep, I didn’t really understand the hype over having a physical tool to breathe with, especially one that’s $600, but here we are trying it out. After conducting some research about Somnox 2 and hopping on a call with the creator to learn more about the product, I wanted to put it to the test myself to see how it worked, if it actually improved my sleep, and whether or not I feel it’s worth the investment. I used it both for sleep and managing my everyday anxiety to make the most out of the features. The verdict? The Somnox 2 did help control my breathing and was a great anxiety companion. However, I didn't love it for sleep. And at $600, I can’t necessarily say it’s worth it, but it depends on how much you want to take control of your sleep or are eager to try to reduce your anxiety. Setting up the Somnox 2 The Somnox device is not ready to go straight out of the box. Credit: Casey Clark / Mashable You do need to charge the Somnox prior to use — it charges via a USB-C port. When it’s plugged in a blue light pops up and will appear steady once it’s fully charged and ready to go. According to the brand, it takes about four hours to hit an 80 percent charge. I let mine charge overnight for eight hours so it was all ready to use the following night. The assembly is pretty simple — all you have to do is download the Somnox app and follow the prompts. The app is compatible with Android 5.0 or higher and iOS 13 and is available in both English and Dutch (since the product is from the Netherlands.) The app connects to your phone via Bluetooth which activates the Somnox. It won’t start moving unless you power it on and connect it through the app. How does the Somnox sleep robot work? The device itself looks like a pillow in the shape of a kidney bean. It’s super soft and has an indent on the part that’s supposed to be placed on your chest. It uses an air bladder mechanism that inflates/deflates similar to how the body works and taps into exercises featured on the app. According to the brand, Somnox utilizes breathing techniques “to reduce stress, lower your heart rate, and calm your body and mind. By holding the Somnox 2, you can physically feel the calm breathing rhythm and then (subconsciously) adopt it. This allows you to relax, so you can drift off to sleep faster and stay asleep for longer.” Now, I’m not a scientist, but this seems like a pretty bold claim to make. Somnox has done clinical studies to show the efficacy of the product, but I think it’s always good to take those at face value and realize everyone has a different experience, especially when it comes to sleep. The Somnox 2 app is intuitive and easy to navigate When you open the app, it’ll ask you to set up your Somnox 2. This requires finding the right breathing pattern for you. You can adjust it based on how fast and how slow it’s going compared to your normal breathing rate. Once you’ve found the right pace, you can set it. Next you’re prompted to choose from one of four options: sleep, focus, rest, and relax. For each of the settings, the first step is to confirm your breathing rate. I didn’t really know what this meant at first so I started at 15 breaths per minute. I couldn’t find any guidance in the app for this so I just maneuvered with the settings and went from there. It’ll then send you to a screen where you’ll see your selected pace followed by the end pace (the rate you’ll want your Somnox to breathe at the end of your session). For mine, I had it set to 10 breaths per minute. Next, you’re able to set the ratio of your inhales and exhales to your preference. There are three options to choose from here: equal breathing (1:1), average breathing (1:2), and longer exhale (1:3). I chose average breathing which is a 1:2 (in/out) ratio. Choose from different exercises and programs within the app. Credit: Screenshot: Somnox In the app you can choose your breath pace and breath ratio. Credit: Screenshot: Somnox Then you can select if you want to turn on the Somnox Sense which uses its smart sensors to better adapt to your breathing rhythm. The sensors work by detecting your respiration rate and working to gradually slow down breathing in real-time. Finally, you’ll select the intensity of the breathing from low to high and the duration of your sleep session which can fall anywhere between five minutes and two hours. There’s also the option to pick from one of the pre-programmed exercises whether that’s 4-7-8, 1:2, coherence, box breathing, boost alertness, or pranayama — and you're able to adjust each of these accordingly as well. Here's a quick look at what those exercises are, according to Julian Jagtenberg, founder and CEO of Somnox: 4-7-8 is a breathing technique for falling asleep. Four seconds in through the nose, sevem seconds of holding the breath, eight seconds of exhaling through the mouth. 1:2 ratio of inhalation versus exhalation (exhaling twice as long), by prolonging the breath you calm down the vagus nerve and shift toward the parasympathetic part of the autonomous nervous system. Coherence, also known as circular breathing 1:1 ratio, will bring your heart in coherence with breath. When breathing in, your heart rate quickly increases and when exhaling, it decreases. Box breathing: square breathing 1:1:1:1 — Equally inhale, hold, exhale, hold as if you are following a square shape. Boost alertness is a breathing exercise that provides energy as it is fast paced. It's recommended to do first thing in the morning to "wake up" the body and mind. The journal and sound effects make the experience more interactive and enjoyableWhat I really liked was the journal feature on the app. There’s a section where you can jot down your sleep quality, emotions, and thoughts to see how they relate and perhaps even change over time. You’re able to pick from one of five emoji and then add thoughts about the sleep you had from the previous night. I filled out my journal in the morning when I knew exactly how I felt from the prior night’s sleep. As for music, the Somnox 2 is equipped with a Bluetooth speaker which can be used to play meditations, noise, and music from the app and other online applications like YouTube, Spotify, etc. There are volume buttons on the side to raise and lower the volume as desired. My favorite meditation was the Japanese Gardens because I found it super relaxing and it helped to clear my mind. Plus, the white noise was helpful for me to fall asleep to since I always need some constant background noise at night. Somnox 2 performance As of writing, I’ve used the Somnox 2 for about two weeks. The device itself actually works and the app seamlessly works in tandem with it. However, in terms of results, I have a few thoughts: SleepFor sleep, I don’t think it’s been very beneficial for me. I wasn’t able to find a position while I was trying to fall asleep where I could feel the device working. This may be different for you depending on how you sleep, but I can’t really have anything on me while I sleep or I just get frustrated. Since you have to have the Somnox near your chest in order to reap the full benefits, I didn’t really find it super useful at night since I don’t like to cradle anything while I sleep. But if you're a cuddler, this could work for you. AnxietyI think it’s a really great tool for anxiety. I’d even go as far to say it’s more of an anxiety relief device than a sleep device — at least for me. As someone who tends to get anxious throughout the workday, I thought the Somnox was a great grounding tool. Whenever I had racing thoughts, I’d grab my device, sit on my bed with my hand on the device and just breathe with it. I’d set it to box breathing for 10 minutes and would solely focus on my inhale and exhale. Usually when I’m having a panic attack it’s hard for me to actually guide myself to breathe, however; having a more tactile device makes it easier to focus my attention directly toward it. Plus, the meditation music was very relaxing and allowed me to engage more of my senses to help ground and reduce the severity of my anxiety. Is the Somnox 2 Worth It? Do I think Somnox 2 is worth the value? This is a difficult question because it depends. If you plan on using it solely for sleep, I don’t think it’s worth it. However, this is really an individualized question. If your sleep is horrible and you’re really looking to try another method, then it might be worth it for you. Achieving a good night’s sleep is priceless and I firmly believe that — so it’s really going to depend. Additionally, I think if you use it at other points in the day to work on your breathing and grounding, it adds more value to the product. Instead of only using it at night, you’ll be able to get more use from it throughout the day and get your money’s worth. It’s not a cheap breathing device so it makes sense that the price tag reflects that quality, but $600 is a lot and not something you’ll want to purchase unless you’re really sure you’re committed to using it and improving your sleep. View the full article
  18. Among the most buzzed-about movies out of SXSW 2023 was Bottoms, a teen sex comedy with tons of promising talent attached and a eyebrow-raising premise to boot. After the rousing acclaim for her cringe comedy Shiva Baby (one of our favorite films of 2021), Bottoms writer/director Emma Seligman reteamed with her hilarious leading lady Rachel Sennott. Together, they and The Bear's electrifying Ayo Edebiri tackle the story of two lesbian besties looking to hook up with their crushes by creating an all-female fight club at their high school. Given all these details, you might think you know what to expect from Bottoms, but I can assure you that you're wrong. And that's pretty awesome. Fans of Shiva Baby might have walked into Bottoms anticipating the kind of comedy that spikes anxiety and pulls out more gasps than laughs. But Bottoms plays broader and rougher, moving away from cringe and deep into cackle. Bottoms is a ruthless and hysterical parody of the teen sex comedy. Ready for American Pie to look tame? With Bottoms, Seligman and Sennott, who co-wrote the screenplay, reveal a story that is way wilder, way wackier, and way, way more gay than the typical teen sex comedy churned out by Hollywood. Critics are citing a slew of movies as apparent influences, ranging from the hard-R Superbad to the recent SXSW hit Booksmart, as well as the dark comedy Heathers and the sapphic spoof But I'm a Cheerleader. But Bottoms blows past the cliches of these comedies with a sense of humor that is unapologetically horny and gleefully transgressive, starting with its tongue-in-cheek title. It all begins with our heroines, bullied misfits not because they're gay but because they're the wrong kind of gay. The theater kid who turns out incredible musical performances every school play is high-fived by jocks, but PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Edebiri) are "gay, ugly, and untalented." Their fashion sense causes cocked eyebrows and casual insults from cheerleaders Brittany (Kaia Gerber) and Isabel (Havana Rose Liu). Still, the awkward outsiders pine for these towering femmes. And when a weird rumor leads to a big fat lie, an improvised after-school fight club (in the name of self-defense) becomes the clumsy, sweaty, comical way for PJ and Josie to make an impression on their crushes — and the school at large. Seligman doesn't pull punches when it comes to comedy or violence. Her girl crew gets broken noses, faces spattered with blood, and beatdowns that made the audience at the SXSW premiere yelp in unison. Her punchlines hit just as hard, with Sennott's PJ proving an assassin of grim jokes. For instance, when urged to make their club a place for sharing, PJ, who is bad about boundaries and reading the room, asks frankly, "Who here has been raped?" A flurry of shocked laughs trembled in the audience. Then, PJ doubles down, "Gray area stuff counts too." As hands go up onscreen, cracks of laughter broke out in the theater as this daring comedy turned the horribly relatable into the hilarious. Visual jokes and high school archetypes are similarly souped up, especially when it concerns the football team. Rivals in romance and school affection, these jocks are drama kings who make an amusingly melodramatic meal out of a minor injury. They wear revealing briefs for promotional posters urging students to "get horny" for football. As Jeff, a slack-jawed Nicholas Galitzine perfectly captures feral bro energy with a performance that's equal parts horndog, hothead, and doofus, while Miles Fowler's Tim goes more James Spader '80s villain, with snarled smiles and none-too-subtle threats. Adding oomph to every setting is a deluge of posters popping with absurd declarations ("Pineapples are worse than drugs!") or ludicrously overzealous school pride, including one that's The Creation of Adam re-imagined with God handing Jeff a football. It's bits like this that assure Bottoms won't just be a thrilling first viewing, but also a comedy that will reward multiple rewatches with hidden jokes. Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri slay in Bottoms. The supporting cast is terrific, including footballer turned comedic stunner Marshawn Lynch as the girls' teacher Mr. G, who has a tendency to overshare and read spicy magazines in the classroom. But as funny as Lynch is, there's no chance of a scene-stealer outshining Sennott or Edebiri. Sennott has twice thrilled critics, first with her sharply comic turn in Shiva Baby and then as a hysterical party girl in Bodies Bodies Bodies. PJ is a new beast altogether, a bossy bestie whose mouth moves faster than her brain, leading to barbs that — while hilarious — sting. As a try-hard high schooler flabbergasted by flirting, Sennott channels self-destruction and sloppy longing into jolting pratfalls and wobbly facial expressions. While Bottoms characters are extremes, under Seligman's direction the ensemble doesn't lose touch with the emotional thread — the dizzying mix of lust, self-doubt, loyalty, and selfishness that makes up being a teen in the throes of like. Where Sennott is bold, Edebiri is soft yet no less hilarious. Forget the polished and self-assured Sydney Adamu of The Bear or the casually cool Ayesha on Abbott Elementary. Josie's gawkiness exudes from a jumpy physicality and a wide-eyed gaze that makes her recurring panic a tad contagious. Whether Josie is bumbling through a tall tale, stumbling into a formative flirtation, or fumbling to save the day in an absolutely outrageous climax, we're bound to her vulnerability and deep, aching awkwardness. So when she falls, we may well laugh, but we also feel it like a punch to the boob. Together, Sennott and Edebiri crackle with an explosive energy that makes PJ and Josie's long-time friendship instantly authentic. But more than that, their chemistry makes Bottoms spark from its opening scene, where hyping each other with frantic but chaotic compliments sets the tone. Bottoms is madcap fun. Because Bottoms pulls so much influence from the teen comedies and tropes that have come before, you might think you'll know where it'll wind up. Sure, the parody dips into some familiar beats involving first kisses, a friendship on the brink of ruin, and a pivotal football game, but how Seligman knits all these pieces together is uniquely bonkers and brilliant. Seligman and Sennott's script pays tribute to the mayhem of being a teenager by discarding any pretense of reality and leaning hard into emotional overdrive and limitless absurdity. Nothing is sacred, be it the monument of American high school football, the glorification of teen love, or finger-wagging over teen-on-teen violence. Bottoms gives a juvenile middle finger to the lot and is better for it. Jokes are packed so thickly that it almost feels wrong to review the film after just one watch, especially because several punchlines were drowned out by the rolling laughter from the audience. Hitting hard with a potent combination of humor, angst, and raunchiness, Bottoms is not only riotously entertaining but also sure to establish itself as a queer, chaotic landmark among its iconic predecessors. Bottoms was reviewed out its World Premiere at SXSW 2023. View the full article
  19. This year's SXSW has brought a collection of comedies delving into the stranger-than-fiction true stories behind such sensational inventions as Tetris and BlackBerry. At first taste, Flamin' Hot seems to fall into this category, as the family comedy focuses on Richard Montañez, a Mexican-American janitor whose hard work and love of his culture inspired a whole new brand of snacks and launched him to the heights of marketing exec at Frito-Lay. Along his journey to the top, there will be plucky humor about life's dark corners, a love story with his endlessly supportive wife (a radiant Annie Gonzalez), and a couple of cute kids who love a crunchy treat that "burns good." However, this feel-good narrative is more fiction than fact, which calls into question its very existence. Is 'Flamin' Hot' based on a true story? Based on Richard Montañez's memoir, A Boy, a Burrito, and a Cookie, the Flamin' Hot movie follows Richard from his childhood as a precocious misfit who sold burritos to bologna-loving white classmates, to a rambunctious teen who turned to theft to snatch at the finer things, to a family man working tirelessly to carve out the American dream for his kin. The script by Linda Yvette Chávez and Lewis Colick delivers this narrative with plenty of heart and humor, portraying everything from racist bullying to gang violence with a playful tone in service of its Mexican-American hero who never gives up. It's easy to see why Eva Longoria picked the story, which is full of winsome moments of small victories and warm fun, for her directorial debut. But for all its whimsy and inspirational arc, Flamin' Hot blatantly ignores that Montañez's self-aggrandizing success story was debunked by the Los Angeles Times in 2021, though Flamin' Hot was already in development. In real life, there's no record that Montañez had any role in the creation or initial marketing of the Flamin' Hot brand, though he did rise through the ranks from plant worker to marketing director at Frito-Lay. The truth, per the LA Times, was that "Flamin’ Hots were created by a team of hotshot snack food professionals." But why let the truth get in the way of a good story? Plenty of biopics bend facts or exaggerate, for better or worse, to sell their message about the meaning of a celebrity's life. So, why not Montañez's? The problem with Flamin' Hot is less that it's a feel-good fiction, and more that the filmmakers don't embrace that freedom to tell a more challenging narrative. Instead, this success story treats systemic issues as mere hurdles that can be bested with enough charm and grit. What does Flamin' Hot have to say? Credit: Emily Aragones/Searchlight Pictures At the film's World Premiere at SXSW, Flamin' Hot played terrifically to a packed house at Austin's Paramount Theater. The audience gobbled up jokes about precocious kids, too-spicy slurry, and the similarities between the hierarchy of business and the impenetrable cliques of a high school cafeteria. The screenplay uses a voiceover from Richard (played by a personable Jesse Garcia) to sprinkle in punchlines and smooth over rough edges in exposition, a tool that recalls the nostalgic ardor of A Christmas Story. Indeed, a childlike joy coats both feel-good movies, allowing the filmmakers to soften the more adult elements discussed. While Richard quips via voiceover, violence happens comically just out of frame or virulent racism is shrugged off with a "whatcha gonna do?" vibe that befits Jim from The Office. This aw-shucks attitude can be jarring, especially played in opposition to archival footage tracing how Mexican Americans have been abused by systemic injustices in America. Through Richard's unflappable attitude, Longoria keeps rigorously positive, selling Montañez's hopeful narrative that hard work, community, and a great idea can assure success. Flamin' Hot charts the (fictional) development of the spicy Cheetos flavor from Richard learning the ways of Frito-Lay, to calling on his wife for perfectly peppery recipes, to relying on his kids and neighbors to hype the product in a gleeful guerilla marketing montage. It's all very cute, packaging the quest for the American dream in easy-to-crunch steps. However, within this narrative, the film inherently reveals that for a marginalized person to succeed in American business, they need much, much more going for them to overcome the fleet of interchangeably smug white bosses who stand in the way of their ambition. Matt Walsh (Veep, Upright Citizens Brigade) is cast as Richard's tunnel-visioned manager, instantly telegraphing comic incompetence with his very presence. It's not enough for Richard to have a great idea. He has to go nearly broke, risk alienating all his co-workers, and potentially getting his plant shut down to be heard. He can't just be great; he has to be enduring and exceptional, which eats away at the would-be inspirational nature of this story — especially if this isn't even how it happened. Flamin' Hot is feel-good but not think-deep. Credit: Emily Aragones/Searchlight Pictures Flamin' Hot strives to celebrate Montañez's success story, whether or not it's real, and whether or not it's actually all that hopeful. The film white-knuckles its way through potentially derailing dramatic plot points — including possible prison sentences, poverty, racism, and domestic violence — to keep relentlessly upbeat. Once you push past Richard's charming sales pitch, told through voiceovers and energetic fantasy sequences where he imagines himself alternatively as the center of a 1950s sitcom, an '80s movie hero, or an avenging angel, the pluckiness of it all is thinner than Lay's flagship potato snack. The most intriguing of these fantasy sequences, however, might be the ones that Montañez isn't in. When the business decisions are out of his hands, he speculates on the corporate showdown going on in a distant boardroom. Essentially ripping off Michael Pena's bit from the first two Ant-Man movies, Rivera's voice pours out of the execs (including a spirited Tony Shalhoub as PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico) as they lip-sync to his imagined gangster talk. Ironically, here is where Flamin' Hot feels the most honest. Here is where Richard reveals that he thinks of these big bosses as crooks who just haven't yet been caught. Here is where the facts are happily shoved aside for the story he prefers. Here is where a Hollywood reimagining is rousingly exposed as preferable fun compared to the most likely stiff, uninspired reality. In these scenes of Richard's fantasies, Longoria scratches at something subversive and tantalizingly thrilling, no matter how untrue. For what it's worth, Longoria defends her film's depiction of Montañez. During SXSW, she told the LA Times, "We never set out to tell the history of the Cheeto. We are telling Richard Montañez’s story and we're telling his truth." Truth or fiction, Flamin' Hot is a charming romp that boasts a celebration of family, innovation, and moxie. However, for all its energy, the film's exploration of the American dream — and the obstacles to achieving it — is vexingly shallow. In the end, Flamin' Hot is fleeting fun that may well leave you hungry for something more substantial. Flamin' Hot was reviewed out of its World Premiere at SXSW 2023. The film will come to Hulu and Disney+ on June 9. View the full article
  20. TL;DR: Through April 13, a lifetime license to ChatGPT WordPress Plugin is on sale for only $39.97 — that's an extra 32% off its usual sale price of $59 and a massive savings from its $299 MSRP. It may already seem like ChatGPT is making major waves on the internet, but the free research period was just the start. Now that OpenAI has released the API for ChatGPT, there are some super useful ways you can integrate the revolutionary AI into your life. Whether you’re running a blog, an online shop, a personal website, or any other kind of WordPress site, you might want to check out the ChatGPT WordPress Plugin while you can still get a lifetime license for just $39.97 during the Spring Digital Blowout sale running from now until April 13. Get ChatGPT on your WordPress When you integrate ChatGPT with your WordPress, you unlock front-end and back-end features, and both of them could save you a ton of time. If customer service isn’t your passion, let the robot do it. This Plugin lets you place a ChatGPT icon anywhere on your website that opens to a chat window where visitors can ask their questions directly. That’s not the only way this AI assistant might save you time. Bloggers, content creators, and website managers might especially enjoy ChatGPT’s ability to generate human-sounding content in moments. Just give it some basic information about what you need written and watch it type out a draft for you to fact-check and revise. ChatGPT is impressive, but it’s still an AI. The work might not be perfect, but you can always ask it to revise based on your input. Blog posts, landing pages, video descriptions, SEO metadata, and more may take a fraction of the time when you don’t have to do it all yourself. Plus, if you have a question, now you don’t have to pull open another window to research the answer yourself. Just ask your little AI buddy and learn on the fly. An AI assistant for your WordPress site Connect your OpenAI account to your new WordPress assistant and see how much work you two can do together. Until April 13 at 11:59 p.m. PT, take advantage of digital savings this season and get the ChatGPT WordPress Plugin Lifetime License on sale for the best price online, just $39.97 (reg. $299). Prices subject to change. Opens in a new tab Credit: Mind2Matter ChatGPT WordPress Plugin: Lifetime License (opens in a new tab) $39.97 at the Mashable Shop Get Deal (opens in a new tab) View the full article
  21. TL;DR: Get a lifetime subscription to Dollar Flight Club for just $39.99 as of March 22 — that's an extra 20% in savings from the usual sale price. With your purchase, you'll automatically receive five entries in a $5K Travel Giveaway. Inflation is tough for everyone, and apparently, most airlines currently don't have the financial capacity to soften the blow for people itching to satiate their wanderlust. To top it all off, the cost of jet fuel is as high as ever, so we can't expect flight tickets to go down anytime soon. But a $300 roundtrip flight to Europe is still in the realm of possibility — if only you know when, where, and how to look. If you don't have the time, Dollar Flight Club can do all the scouring for you. Having served over a million customers, the service has earned its place as a popular flight discount alert platform in the market. You can grab yourself a lifetime subscription for only $39.99, and along with it are five raffle entries that can win you a flight to anywhere you point on the map. With everyone and their mother wishing to travel elsewhere, you have thousands — if not millions — of competition for the cheapest airfare. A Dollar Flight Club subscription renders you safe from the virtual hunger games, as it delivers the best economy flight deals to your favorite destinations straight to your inbox. International and domestic deals are served to you on a silver platter, as well as mistake fares departing from your preferred airports. The service claims to help you save an average of $500 on every trip. Aside from flight deals, a subscription also nets you perks and discounts of up to 50% from brands like Babbel, Huckberry, Acanela Expeditions, and more. And if you're the type to build your own itinerary, you can get insightful travel tips from experts to help you put together a great trip. Lay claim to the best flight deals with a lifetime subscription to Dollar Flight Club. It's available on sale for $39.99, and with a purchase, you automatically get five entries in the $5K Travel Giveaway, where you can win flights for two to anywhere. The giveaway ends on March 31 at 11:59 p.m. PT. You know what to do. Prices subject to change. Opens in a new tab Credit: Dollar Flight Club Dollar Flight Club Premium: Lifetime Subscription (opens in a new tab) $39.99 at the Mashable Shop Get Deal (opens in a new tab) View the full article
  22. TL;DR: Use the coupon code SPRING20 to get a lifetime subscription to Rosetta Stone for only $144.97 instead of $299. That's over 50% in savings through April 3. Your spring vacation might be even more exciting if you can speak the language you’re hearing all around you. Learning a language as an adult may be hard, but it might be easier if you have tools that guide you through the whole process from start to fluency. Rosetta Stone has been teaching people new languages for nearly 30 years, and you can spend the rest of your life studying new languages through Rosetta Stone if you get a lifetime subscription while it’s on sale for $144.97 (reg. $299) with coupon code SPRING20. This sale only lasts until April 3 at 11:59 p.m. PT. Don’t let your second language aspirations languish Learning a new language is more than just memorizing a bunch of words, and Rosetta Stone does a lot more than just teach vocabulary. Start studying pocket-sized language lessons that you can practice throughout the day. Study syntax on your lunch break and pronunciation on the commute home. By the time you get to the bus, you might know how to ask where the next stop is in Dutch. You can access your Rosetta Stone account on your desktop or mobile device, so you never have to stray far from a fun study session. There are 24 languages to study, but you can only do it one at a time. When you’re ready to get started, choose from French, German, Chinese, Irish, Hebrew, Italian, Polish, Japanese, and a lot more. Plan ahead so you have time to practice with Rosetta Stone’s speech-recognition technology TruAccent™ and sound almost like a local during your next international trip. Learn new languages for lifeWant to learn a new language? How about 24? Get a lifetime subscription to Rosetta Stone for just $144.97 (reg. $299) with coupon code SPRING20 until April 3 at 11:59 p.m. PT. Prices subject to change. Opens in a new tab Credit: Rosetta Stone Rosetta Stone Lifetime Subscription (opens in a new tab) $144.97 at the Mashable Shop with the code SPRING20 Get Deal (opens in a new tab) View the full article
  23. TL;DR: The Complete 2023 Cybersecurity Developer and IT Skills Bundle is on sale for just $79.99 as of March 22 — that's just $3 per course. Demand for computer and information technology (IT) professionals may continue to grow as long as the digital world remains a huge part of our lives. Learning the basics of cybersecurity and IT could be the first step in launching a new career. Enroll in self-paced courses with the Complete 2023 Cybersecurity Developer and IT Skills Bundle, now just $79.99 (reg. $7,774). Learn cybersecurity on your own timeIf you’ve been searching for a place to start your IT career but aren’t sure if you’re ready to invest in a formal college degree, this course bundle is an excellent option. Get started by learning cybersecurity and cloud fundamentals with courses like Penetration Testing and Mobile Security. You choose which courses to complete and their order. Work through 26 different courses containing over 400 hours of video training, entirely at your own pace on any tablet, mobile, or desktop device. Lifetime access means you never have to rush through the material and you can reference the information for years to come. The Ethical Hacker Certification course teaches the essentials and practices of ethical hacking, which is an especially sought-after skill in the IT industry. You may also complete courses covering Cisco and Microsoft programs, whatever you’re most interested in learning. Become an IT professionalEach course is taught by IT professionals like Brad Stine, who has been working in the security and information technology industries for nearly two decades. Utilize their expertise in your own career. Learn comfortably through the talk-show video format that creates an interactive and engaging learning environment. While it may be hard to become an IT professional without a formal college degree, these online courses can be a jumping-off point or a way to show employers that you have extra knowledge in these subjects. Master the world of cybersecurity and IT with the Complete 2023 Cybersecurity Developer and IT Skills Bundle for only $79.99 (reg. $7,774), the best price you'll find for this bundle online. Prices subject to change. Opens in a new tab Credit: iCollege Complete 2023 Cybersecurity Developer and IT Skills Bundle (opens in a new tab) $79.99 at the Mashable Shop Get Deal (opens in a new tab) View the full article
  24. Nearing the 10-year anniversary of losing her eyesight, Lucy Edwards is reclaiming countless visual experiences...with the help of artificial intelligence. As a partner with visual assistant mobile app Be My Eyes, Edwards is testing the limits of the latest accessibility revelation, the Be My Eyes Virtual Volunteer. The AI-driven tool acts as tour guide, food blogger, personal assistant — you name it — ushering in a new form of complex, human-mimicking assistance using OpenAI's hyper-realistic AI language model. With a single app, Edwards' whole world is expanding, on her own terms. So far, she's used it to help her read fashion catalogs, translate ingredients from Chinese to English and search the web for recipes, write alt text for images within her own photo library, and help her read restaurant menus. Edwards has also demonstrated the potential of using the Virtual Volunteer as a personal trainer and as a guide to navigating the London Tube. Edwards herself is a content creator and disability activist known for her "How Does a Blind Girl" series and travel vlogging lifestyle, among much, much more. Edwards' millions of followers interact with her content as she navigates a world inequitably designed for the sighted population, raises awareness about her disability, and discovers life-changing innovations. She jumped at the chance to test the new tool, as a self-proclaimed tech-savvy millennial. "I was ready for AI before it even existed, because I knew what I was missing. The whole internet could change completely for me," Edwards told Mashable, "because most of the internet isn't accessible as a blind user." SEE ALSO: HustleGPT is a hilarious and scary AI experiment in capitalism Be My Eyes was founded in 2015 to connect users who are blind or have low vision to sighted volunteers through a simple system of real-time, video-chat assistance. The Virtual Volunteer is an expansion of that foundational service, taking the framework of a visual detection software, used in features like iOS 16's Door Detection, and adding onto it the language complexity of GPT-4. In doing this, the tool has expanded the amount of information available to blind and low-vision users in ways never before seen, adding a sense of depth and immediately individualized interaction to accessibility tools. "From feeling so lost and upset when I lost my eyesight, to now thinking I could have all this back is — I don't know, it makes me cry," Edwards said. Riding the AI hype wave over access barriersOpenAI's new GPT-4 plopped into the laps of users already toying with huge questions about AI's place in our world: How do we protect artistic integrity with AI tools on the market? In a world of misinformation, is it possible to tell when AI is the "mind" behind something? Are we slowly replacing the need for human skill, and, more importantly, human empathy? Amid all these concerns — and there are quite a few — GPT-4 is rapidly making technological waves, with its new version doing so alongside the claim of social good. In addition to its partnership with Be My Eyes, OpenAI has made its tech available to other learning apps like language platform Duolingo and free education channel Khan Academy. GPT-4 was also introduced to Envision smart glasses, which let wearers hear visual descriptions of the world around them. Mike Buckley, CEO of Be My Eyes, explained to Mashable that the new Virtual Volunteer tool was a long-anticipated, and requested, expansion of Be My Eyes, rather than a trendy redesign of the popular, million-user app. "It's not a shift, necessarily. It's an addition," he said. "This is directly responsive to the people who are blind and low-vision in our community that want something like this." In a Be My Eyes survey polling blind and low-vision users, Buckley explained, the predominant feedback on barriers to use was that some users actually felt uncomfortable with Be My Eyes' human aspect. Most respondents said they don't use the app as often because they "don't want to take a volunteer away from someone who might need them more," and others recounted that it was because they were "wary about calling a stranger or a paid agent." Buckley explained that some were worried an urgent call wouldn't be picked up in time, and a significant portion of surveyed users said it was an issue of independence, not wanting to feel reliant on another volunteer. "Up to this point we just haven't seen a technological tool that would solve these needs quickly enough and accurately enough to launch something like this," he said. But the public availability of ChatGPT, and the collaboration with GPT-4, changed that reality for the company, accelerating an addition to their services. Credit: Be My Eyes Credit: Be My Eyes When Edwards got the call to beta test the tool along with other blind and low-vision users (who can still apply to test the service), she says she was once again brought to tears. "I am such an autonomous person. Thinking about AI… that's just me and my phone. From end to end, it's me and the tech. That is true autonomy: my phone and me in harmony with no other assistance," Edwards said. "That's basically like having my eyesight back in some ways." She and the rest of the Virtual Volunteer testers are part of a WhatsApp group along with Be My Eyes' leaders, providing constant 1:1 feedback on the AI's successes and failures. Edwards says she reports about two to four minor issues every day, but that she's found it to be impressive overall. "It's not perfect," Buckley said, "but it is remarkable." What will it take for AI to gain the trust of accessibility advocates?Some online have expressed a sense of wariness toward a completely AI-led accessibility tool like this, and much of that relates to safety and fact-checking, especially as the app advertises real-world uses in situations like transportation or work. Buckley assured Mashable that accuracy and safety are the number one priority for Be My Eyes' AI use. "The reason we're launching this in a small beta and taking our time is that we want to see how it's really performing in the real world. I've probably done 1,000 tests myself. Our team has done hundreds and hundreds more. I have not had a hallucination. I tried to get it to act badly, but that doesn't mean it's going to be perfect in the real world. "What we've told the beta testers is that this doesn't replace a white cane," Buckley said. "This doesn't replace a guide dog. Be smart. Be safe. Be cautious." Edwards herself had no hesitations about trying out a tool like the Virtual Volunteer, mainly because she's already established trust with Be My Eyes and other accessibility-forward companies. "I think because they're doing it and they're collaborating with OpenAI, I trust it more. It's a process, whereas if it was just me going on ChatGPT — like I have been doing — I don't trust that as much." In its beta form, the new Virtual Volunteer has a built-in prompt for users to connect with a human volunteer if they feel the AI assistant isn't working, and the assistant will also let users know when it's unsure of what exactly it's viewing. At any time, a user can switch to human help as the app's original function will remain the same, working in tandem with the AI assistant. Credit: Be My Eyes Credit: Be My Eyes At its most basic summation, the Virtual Volunteer isn't unlike the current visual assistance tools on the market, from Apple's detection tools to visual detection apps like Seeing AI and Lookout. What is unique is the amount of customizable feedback one can get from the OpenAI language model. Rather than reading out only text-based information, like a screen reader would, or describing in basic terms the object in a user's visual field, the Virtual Volunteer lets users like Edwards interact with a full array of feedback. With superior image recognition and analytic capabilities, pictures and text get equal descriptions, and users can ask layered follow-up questions. The volunteer can respond to prompts on just about anything captured and uploaded with only a phone camera. "You're going to see some spaces adopt AI more generally. I know that there might be older people, or people who have seen the inner workings of AI, that might have some hesitancy. I don't want to undermine that. But personally, I'm really excited," Edwards said. Beyond the technical concerns of heralding AI into this space, though, the tool brings up the question of the necessity of human interaction. Buckley says that just as many Be My Eyes users prefer human volunteers as those who prefer virtual ones, and that the Virtual Volunteer is entirely about choice. "This is about empowering our community with the choices they want to make to solve their needs and increase independence. It's about serving them. That's why we're doing this, and that's also why it's free." In a social reality that puts many people with disabilities at a physical and financial disadvantage, free accessibility tools can be life-changing. Edwards explained that she's been using Be My Eyes in conjunction with other visual assistance apps, much like Buckley recommends other users do. Using her guide dog, Molly, and tools like Microsoft Soundscape and the paid subscription app Aira (which uses professionally trained human volunteers to assist blind users), Edwards has a robust navigational toolkit, one that includes both digital and human resources to utilize as she chooses. "We know AI is powerful, but it's got to be shaped and moved and fostered in a way that this community owns, and serves their needs," Buckley said. Broadly, the tool is just one aspect of a larger discussion about tech innovation, accessibility, and the freedom of the internet. In the fight for a more accessible digital culture, Edwards said, AI-based tools can help more people secure access while they wait for companies and industry leaders to finally do the work themselves. "What I was very hopeless about is that no matter how much I campaigned and campaigned and campaigned, I was never going to get 100 percent of the websites on Google to be screen reader accessible," she explained. "Here is a possible future where that can happen now. It's just the beginning, isn't it?" Want more news on tech and accessibility delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for Mashable's Top Stories newsletter today. View the full article
  25. Season 2 of Shadow and Bone is an amalgamation of several books from Leigh Bardugo's various Grishaverse series, combining plots from Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising, and Crooked Kingdom with some wholly new storylines. One such storyline is the Crows' quest to Shu Han, where they hope to find a legendary blade known as Neshyenyer, meaning "the relentless." Forged by Sankta Neyar, the sword is rumored to be so sharp it can cut through shadow — making it the perfect tool to use against the Darkling's (Ben Barnes) army of unkillable shadow creatures known as the nichevo'ya. While Sankta Neyar's story has roots in Bardugo's The Lives of Saints, it is not something any Shadow and Bone book characters interact with. SEE ALSO: 'Shadow and Bone' showrunner Eric Heisserer breaks down Season 2's biggest changes from the books The Crows successfully bring Neshyenyer to Ravka after an encounter with Sankta Neyar herself. Once there, Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman) brilliantly wields Neshyenyer against the nichevo'ya, helping save Sun Summoner Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) so she can tear down the Shadow Fold. Now, I love Inej getting to use Neshyenyer. She's an incredible fighter whose penchant for using knives has earned her the nickname of "knife wife" from the Shadow and Bone fandom. She is also devoted to the Ravkan saints and views Alina as one, often referring to her as Sankta Alina. It makes sense that she would take up a mythical sword in service to her saint. Yet a part of me wishes one other character could have wielded Neshyenyer, even just for a little bit. And that character is none other than Mal Oretsev (Archie Renaux), Alina's devoted love interest. Mal can have a little blade, as a treat. Credit: Dávid Lukács / Netflix To be clear, my desire for Mal to have used Neshyenyer doesn't stem from a belief that Mal should be the only one to protect Alina — and Inej is still a great choice to wield the blade. However, I think Mal using Neshyenyer would have been a fun nod to a moment from Ruin and Rising that we don't get in the show: Mal's infamous sword tattoo. In Bardugo's novels, Mal becomes captain of Alina's guard and gets an angsty back tattoo declaring, "I am become a blade" in Old Ravkan. It's an oft-maligned quote within the Grishaverse fandom, especially given people's less-than-favorable views of book Mal. Given that Mal is much less angsty in the show, it makes sense that Shadow and Bone would also steer clear of the intense meme potential of "I am become a blade." (However, in what has to be a nod to the original line, Mal does tell Alina that "this entire country will become your blade.") But you know what would have been a fun way to pay tribute to that line and also give Mal a big, epic moment in the final showdown with the Darkling? Having him use Neshyenyer, the blade that everyone has been making a huge fuss about all season long! Maybe Inej tosses it to him when she sees Mal in danger, or maybe Mal picks it up if Inej drops it. I don't care how it happens, I would just love a smidge of Mal and blade fan service. Neshyenyer being from Shu Han adds another layer to the Mal connection: Both Mal and Alina are part Shu, and they've experienced racism all their lives because of it. (Shadow and Bone's handling of race has garnered compelling criticism.) A moment with Mal and Neshyenyer could speak to him connecting to a part of his heritage that has been grossly maligned by others. Tragically, Shadow and Bone deprives us of Mal wielding the coolest blade in the series, but the good news is that, in a change from the books, Mal will be sticking around after the destruction of the Shadow Fold. If we get a Season 3, that means we'll hopefully get more chances for Mal to (figuratively) become a blade. Someone give that man a sword! Shadow and Bone Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix. View the full article
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