The fourth Thor movie — now revealed to be called Thor: Love and Thunder — is on its way, and it’s bringing a surprising cast member: Natalie Portman, reprising her role as Jane Foster, who’ll be following in her comic counterpart’s footsteps to take on the role of Thor in the film, announced as part of Marvel’s massive San Diego Comic-Con panel.

The news come after an early announcement ahead of SDCC that revealed that Thor: Ragnarok director Taiki Waititi would be returning to direct the fourth installment of the superhero franchise. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson will also return for Thor: Love and Thunder, reprising their roles as Thor and Valkyrie, respectively. Hemsworth and Portman are also confirmed to be part of Marvel’s upcoming What If? animated series for Disney+, too.

Portman hasn’t appeared in an Marvel film since 2013’s Thor: The Dark World (outside of a brief cameo in Avengers: Endgame using cut footage from that film), with Portman herself commenting in 2016 that “As far as I know, I’m done,” in reference to future Marvel appearances. There were also reports back in 2011 that Portman had fought with Marvel over the decision to drop Patty Jenkins, the original director for Thor 2, from the project. Her absence in subsequent films had been hand-waved away in Ragnarok by explaining that Thor and Jane had broken up offscreen between films.

As for Portman’s role in Thor: Love and Thunder, Marvel is keeping that (along with basically any information about the film) under wraps for now. On the comic book side of things, Jane Foster became Thor after the original Thor was deemed unworthy to wield his hammer, Mjolnir. Given the current Mjolnir-less state of the MCU following the third Thor film, though, it’s possible that Portman’s Foster will gain her godly powers some other way.

Presumably, we’ll find out more closer to Thor: Love and Thunder’s release date on November 5th, 2021.

Image: Marvel

One of the bombshell announcements during Marvel’s Hall H presentation at San Diego Comic-Con tonight was that the studio would be rebooting Blade, with True Detective and Luke Cage actor Mahershala Ali set to star.

The character was one of the first of Marvel’s superheroes to become a notable hit as a film: Blade was released in 1998, starring Wesley Snipes as the titular vampire hunter, a role he’d go on to reprise in 2002 for Blade II, and in 2004 for Blade: Trinity. Marvel reacquired the rights to the character, as well as Ghost Rider and the Punisher back in 2013. Marvel brought in Ghost Rider (which had been a pair of films starring Nicholas Cage), and the Punisher (another two films), for Agents of SHIELD, and its Netflix superhero franchise, starting with Daredevil, respectively.

Marvel didn’t release any additional details about when we’ll see Blade back in action, nor what form — at this point it could be either a series for Disney+ or a feature film. There are certainly plenty of opportunities for both in the coming years.

The character was born Eric Brooks, and is half-human, half vampire. He first appeared in comics in 1973 in The Tomb of Dracula #10, and after saving a man from vampires, turned to hunting them.

Something that the studio will need to figure out at some point is how to reconcile Ali’s role as Blade and as Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes from Netflix’s Luke Cage series, which is technically a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well (albeit loosely, given the tenuous connections between the franchises). For that matter, he was also the voice of Miles Morales’ Uncle Aaron in Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse. He’s certainly no stranger to superheroes.

Image: Peter Sciretta

Marvel Studios’ Phase Four of its Marvel Cinematic Universe will include 10 movies and Disney + series when it launches next year, with 2021 looking especially crowded. President Kevin Feige appeared at San Diego Comic-Con for Marvel’s 90-minute appearance in Hall H, where he gave a pretty lengthy update on Phase 4.

The Phase Four slate that Marvel unveiled includes the following: Black Widow (May 1st, 2020), Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Fall 2020), The Eternals (November 6th, 2020), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (February 12, 2021), WandaVision (Spring 2021), Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (May 7th, 2021), Loki (Spring 2021), What If (Summer 2021), Hawkeye (Fall 2021), and Thor: Love and Thunder (November 5th, 2021). Feige made a surprise announcement at the end saying that he didn’t have time to address where the Fantastic Four or X-Men would end up in the franchise, but that one additional project will be Blade, which will feature Mahershala Ali.

The next phase includes a mix of sequels, like Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness — to be directed by Scott Derrickson, which is described as the MCU’s first horror film, Thor: Love and Thunder, the fourth movie in the franchise, to be directed by Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi. Unlike the last several Marvel movies, however, Natalie Portman will play Thor this time around. There’s at least one prequel, too — Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson in the titular role, one that she has been fighting to have for years. Rachel Weisz, Florence Pugh, and David Harbour will also star.

Other film projects will feature several new heroes: The Eternals and Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings. Like Guardians of the Galaxy, neither Shang-Chi or The Eternals are household names — but it looks as though Marvel Studios is hoping that they’ll have wide, mainstream appeal.

The Eternals centers on a group of beings known as Eternals who use their advanced skills to protect humans in the future. The comic book series, created by legendary creator Jack Kirby was, “one of many many many things that we are actively beginning to have creative discussions about,” Feige previously told Slash Film. Feige also confirmed that the movie will star Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie.

Shang-Chi will focus on the titular character, Shang-Chi, who devotes his entire life to bringing down his father’s criminal empire. Feige confirmed at Comic-Con that The Mandarin, the villain who was supposed to appear in Iron Man 3 but ultimately did not, will appear for real this time in Shang-Chi. Marvel is working with director Destin Daniel Cretton on the project, best known for his critically acclaimed film Short Term 12. Simu Liu, best known for his work on Canadian comedy series, Kim’s Convenience, is set to play Shang-Chi.

But the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t just movies anymore — Disney’s forthcoming streaming service, Disney+, will feature several ongoing projects, like Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, Hawkeye, and What If?. Feige and his team went into some more detail about a couple of shows, including Loki. The show will follow the character after he escaped with the Tesseract in 2012 — something that only happened thanks to Avengers: Endgame. The version of Loki played by Hiddleston appears to be one that didn’t experience the events of several films, like Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame. The show will premiere on Disney+ in spring 2021.

Unlike the existing entries in the MCU, where there was a major divide between the film and television properties, it looks as though the stories will fit together closely, with projects like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier picking up after Avengers: Endgame, Hawkeye exploring some of the character’s time as Ronin, and with the events in WandaVision leading right into Doctor Strange 2. Feige and Disney CEO Bob Iger previously said the MCU films and Disney+ series would intertwine, and now we know how that looks. There’s a good chance other characters from all of the aforementioned series and films could intertwine in some way, too.

That will also extend to the Disney + show What If?, a non-canon, animated series that presents alternate takes on the existing MCU, like what if Loki had found the hammer of Thor? The panel revealed that numerous MCU actors will reprise their roles for these alternate takes.

The Phase 4 slate answers the immediate question about what comes after the franchise that culminated with Avengers: Endgame and Spider-man: Far From Home. Expect more information next month at Disney’s D23 conference.

Image: Marvel Studios

Marvel President Kevin Feige just unveiled a packed slate of projects that represent the next phase of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, including sequels, original projects, and television shows, but he also announced that they’ve got plenty more to come beyond 2021, including sequels to Black Panther and Captain Marvel, as well as with other properties, like the X-Men and Fantastic Four.

At the end of Marvel’s Hall H presentation at San Diego Comic-Con, Feige announced that Black Panther 2, Blade, Captain Marvel 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Fantastic Four, and Mutants are all happening — they just don’t have dates confirmed yet.

It’s not a huge surprise that Disney has long-term plans for the Marvel franchise — in May, it announced slots for 65 films over the next eight years, including Marvel, Star Wars, and live-action Disney films. 2022 will include at least three Marvel films (February 18th, May 6th, and July 29th), although after 2023, that list grows sparse, with only Star Wars and Avatar films listed. If the company holds to its three-films-a-year schedule, it’ll have at least 18 Marvel films hitting theaters between now and 2027 — and that’s not counting the Disney+ streaming shows.

Tonight’s Phase 4 reveal shows off a mix of films that draw on existing characters alongside brand new ones, and it’s safe to say that we’ll probably see more new characters eased into the franchise as time goes on. Tonight’s announcement also shows that Marvel is keen to bring in some of the franchises that have long been out of reach due to Byzantine rights issues, like Fantastic Four and the mutants, which had been held by 21st Century Fox. With Fox now part of Disney, Feige and Marvel Studios will be able to incorporate them at some point down the road — just not right away.

Promotional images for The Expanse, featuring Drummer, Amos, Holden, Naomi, and Alex.Image: Amazon Studios

Amazon has finally revealed when the next season of The Expanse will begin streaming: December 13th, 2019. The company made the announcement today at San Diego Comic-Con, releasing a trailer and a longer clip of the upcoming fourth season.

Based on the science fiction book series by James S.A. Corey, The Expanse is set several centuries in the future, where humanity has colonized the solar system and broken into three major factions: Earth, Mars, and the Belters, an alliance of settlements in the asteroid belt and outer planets. The bulk of the series follows the crew of a spaceship called the Rocinante as they find themselves in the midst of an interplanetary war, and have to contend with the discovery of an alien substance called the Protomolecule that’s been weaponized by a malevolent Earth corporation, and which went on to create an gate to thousands of worlds beyond our home system.

This latest season will be based on the fourth installment of the series, Cibola Burn, in which the crew of the Rocinante are dispatched to a colonial world known as Ilus to settle a dispute between the corporation that claimed the world, and the settlers who touched down on it first. The planet is also home to the remnants of an alien civilization that created the protomolecule. The trailer shows off some of the troubles that the crew will face, and some new faces, like Adolphus Murtry (played by Pacific Rim’s Burn Gorman), a brutal and temperamental security chief for the company that’s laid claim to the planet, Royal Charter Energy.

In addition to the trailer for the season, Amazon released a longer clip from the show, showing off the crew of the Rocinante landing on the Ilus, which will be one of the major locations this season.

Some spoilers ahead.

The Syfy channel picked up the series for adaptation back in 2015, and over the course of three seasons, adapted the first three books, Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, and Abbadon’s Gate. Syfy canceled the series last year, but the series was quickly picked up by Amazon for a fourth season.

The first three seasons of the show tell a relatively contained story: tensions between Earth, Mars, and the Belters bring the solar system to war, and the alien protomolecule upends that when it creates a massive ring gate that connects the solar system to a vast, interstellar network. Up until this point in the series, humanity has been fighting amongst itself, but now, people have access to thousands of new, uninhabited planets to travel to. The Syfy’s tenure on the series ended right at that point, and had the show not continued, it would have been a natural ending point.

 Image: Amazon Studios

But the book series will last for nine installments, and the penultimate book, Tiamat’s Wrath, hit bookstores earlier this year. Cibola Burn is a good opportunity for Amazon to reboot the show, as it brought in a couple of new major storylines for the series. Series showrunner Naren Shankar told IGN on Wednesday that the shift from Syfy to Amazon brings them some new freedoms that they didn’t have before. “We’re no longer bound by the archaic content, language, and runtime restrictions you’re constantly forced to deal with on broadcast and basic cable.”

The Expanse’s fourth season will debut on December 13th on Amazon Prime Video.

The US Army says that it will conduct live-fire tests of a new Robotic Combat Vehicle next year. While the tests won’t involve vehicles ultimately slated to go into combat, they will be used to show off various technologies that may later be incorporated into platforms in the future, and how soldiers might eventually utilize them on the battlefield.

The RCVs are built on an M113 armored personnel carrier, and will be controlled by soldiers in a vehicle called the Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators (MET-Ds), an upgraded Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The MET-Ds will be equipped with cameras and a remote turret, which crew members will control with touchscreen panels.

The first phase of testing will begin next March at Fort Carson in Colorado, and will feature a pair of MET-D vehicles and four RCVS. Each MET-D will be controlled by a driver, a gunner, and four soldiers, who will control a pair of RCVs to assess platoon-level maneuvers. The Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center and the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, will then look over the results and make adjustments for future tests.

The next phases will be bigger: An infantry unit will test out the RCVs in Europe next May, and another test will take place sometime in late 2021, which will see six MET-Ds and four M113 RCVs, along with four light and medium RCVs to conduct company-level maneuvers. A third phase will take place in 2023, with six MET-Ds and four M113 RCVs, along with four medium and heavy RCVs.

The Army has been working for several years to develop armored robotic vehicles, but the vehicles being used in these tests aren’t the actual robotic vehicles that will eventually end up in combat — they’re surrogate vehicles designed to simulate a future platform. These tests are aimed not at the vehicle capabilities, but at how their operators utilize them and to learn how to best use future robotic vehicles to attack an enemy without putting soldiers directly in the line of fire.

David Centeno Jr., chief of the center’s Emerging Capabilities Office, says in the release that when US forces come under fire, the Army will need to “find ways to penetrate that bubble, attrit their systems, and allow for freedom of air and ground maneuver.” These robotic systems would be able to do that: they’re mobile platforms equipped with cameras and guns, which could be directed into the line of fire by soldiers who are well out of range. The vehicles are expected to be smaller and faster than the crewed vehicles that the Army currently fields. Because they won’t actually carry people, they wouldn’t need to be as heavily armored, and could dedicate more space to weapons or fuel.

The Army is currently working to develop future RCV platforms. In May, it held a demonstration event, which saw six different teams test out eight remotely-controlled robotic vehicles on a course in Texas. The Army used the demonstration to begin figuring out what the best approaches are for building future vehicles and what role they might play on a future battlefield.

As the line between film and television continues to blur, big-screen movies are still supposed to flaunt their scope. In a summer where plenty of would-be blockbusters are withering at the box office, and plenty of potential moviegoers seem to be staying home to watch Stranger Things, size and scale remain selling points for the theatrical experience. Avengers: Endgame hops around planets and time-streams. Men in Black: International zips between continents like a James Bond picture. Even your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man takes a whirlwind tour of Europe.

Some of these big-scope adventures do deliver the requisite cinematic thrills. But as plenty of blockbusters deflate into disappointment, a different sort of summer movie has been making headway. In the lackluster summer of 2016, The Shallows (in which a stranded Blake Lively matches wits with a shark) and Don’t Breathe (in which trapped young people match wits with a wily, murderous blind man) provided more efficient and consistent thrills than a lot of their super-sized, mega-budgeted counterparts. Call them limited-location thrillers. So far this summer, the limited-location thriller to beat is the underhyped Crawl, in which a hurricane-stranded Kaya Scodelario matches wits with a pack of alligators.

Crawl isn’t as well-crafted as either The Shallows or Don’t Breathe, though it shares a producer with the latter: Sam Raimi, whose first two Evil Dead movies are gonzo versions of the limited-location thriller. Hit-and-miss horror auteur Alexandre Aja knows how to deliver lean, mean horror action. Crawl is far less tongue-in-cheek than his Piranha remake, but it doesn’t build to a fever pitch or deliver dynamite setpieces.

It does, however, maintain its tension in a way that outshines many of this year’s summer thrill rides. The setup is an ingenious hybrid of disaster movie and creature feature: College student Haley (Scodelario) drives to her old family home in the midst of a hurricane to make sure her dad (Barry Pepper), who hasn’t been answering his phone, is safe. She finds him gator-bitten and unconscious, and as their house floods, she realizes the alligators are pouring in along with the rainwater. Father and daughter must avoid both drowning and massive alligator teeth; much of the movie’s 87 minutes takes place in the rapidly flooding house.

That limitation is a major asset. Crawl has plenty of computer effects, but unlike so many movies whose reach exceeds their effects budget (especially in disaster-movie circumstances that seemingly call for large-scale destruction), it doesn’t require its characters to spend the entire movie in front of obvious green screens in a desperate simulation of epic scope. The weather effects are obviously computerized, but the house itself is a real set, flooded with at least some real water. When Haley first ventures into the basement to find her dad, Aja plays up the muck, gunk, and early hints of gore for all they’re worth. Because the set dressing feels so tactile, the movie creates a genuine sense of atmosphere in a potentially generic setting.

 Photo: Paramount Pictures

Content to explore its small-scale setting, the movie never drifts off into location-hopping weightlessness as Haley swims, jumps, and, yes, crawls around various tight passages and makeshift waterways. When the alligator bites come, they feel especially toothsome thanks to practical gore effects, and the stuntwork creates a more believable athleticism for its character—much moreso than stars who must be replaced by a CGI wire-frame cartoon every time they do something superheroic. If Crawl doesn’t have a standout setpiece, it’s because the whole thing moves so quickly and efficiently.

This includes the obligatory emotional backstory, which is basically a feature-length version of the “gymnastics” foreshadowing involving Malcolm’s daughter in The Lost World. Haley is a competitive swimmer. (Guess what stroke she specializes in?) Her dad is her former coach who may have pushed her too hard. Of course a bizarrely coordinated alligator attack turns into a proving ground for her swim skills, and maybe even a catalyst for family healing. This is all about as corny as it sounds, but like The Shallows, Crawl treats its lead character’s boilerplate with dignity, anchored by Scodelario’s no-fuss lead performance. It’s silly, sure, but it also has a pleasing clarity — nothing in this movie feels like it was frantically and haphazardly rewritten in the editing room. Alligators chase a resourceful swimmer; what’s to rewrite?

Yet even the studios that make movies like Crawl don’t always seem to understand the relative blessings they have on their hands. In spite of Aja’s decent track record, his movie wasn’t widely screened for press. This seems especially strange in a week where extremely mixed reviews for the would-be spectacle and scope of The Lion King popped all across the internet. This summer in particular, no studio should be ashamed to release an unpretentious, well-paced bit of entertainment like Crawl — and audiences shouldn’t feel ashamed to leave the comfort of their homes to check it out.

french flag (flickr)

Ahead of this weekend’s Bastille Day celebration on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the creation of a space command that would be part of the country’s Air Force, according to Reuters.

President Macron made the remarks to military personnel, saying that the space command would be responsible for defending the country’s satellites, and that it would officially be created in September. The Air Force, he says, will eventually be renamed as Space and Air Force. It appears as though this new command will replace France’s existing Joint Space Command, which is already responsible for France’s existing space assets, and coordinating with the militaries of other European nations.

While it has the third-oldest space agency, France has begun to focus more on space in recent years. According to Breaking Defense, the country plans to spend 3.6 billion euros between now and 2025, and in December 2018, it launched a new military reconnaissance satellite, the CS0-1, with more to follow in the coming years.

In recent years, a number of countries have begun to recognize space as a distinct “domain” of warfare — a distinct location or concept where warfare can take place, such as on land, sea, air, or space, or within digital systems. This command appears to be France’s answer to addressing the the problems that space-borne military infrastructure potentially brings.

France’s new command looks as though it would be analogous to the United States Space Command, a part of the US military originally founded in 1985 to oversee and coordinate the country’s orbital assets, like satellites. That command was disbanded and merged into the US Strategic Command after the September 11th attacks. Last year, President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Defense to create a new Space Command, a precursor to a new, full-fledged branch of the military, Space Force.

Megvii, a Chinese AI startup that supplies facial recognition software for the Chinese government’s surveillance program, is expanding its technology beyond humans to recognize different faces of pets. As reported by Abacus News, Megvii’s new program is trained to recognize dogs by their nose prints — much like how humans have unique fingerprints.

Using the Megvii app, the company says it can register your dog simply by scanning the snout through your phone’s camera. Just like how a phone registers your fingerprint for biometric unlocks, the app asks you to take photos of your dog’s nose from multiple angles. Megvii says it has an accuracy rate of 95 percent and has reunited 15,000 pets with their owners through the app.

Facial recognition for pets is becoming more widespread over the past few years. The concept has been used by researchers for wildlife conservation. Over in the US, an app called Finding Rover also uses facial recognition technology to locate cats and dogs that are reported as missing.

But in China, Megvii says its app will be used for more than just reuniting owners with their lost pets. With its existing relationship with the government, it says its app can also be used to monitor “uncivilized dog keeping” to fine civilians who don’t pick up after their dogs or allow them to walk without leases in public spaces.

Following the 2016 presidential election, states like Pennsylvania indicated that they would be working to upgrade their voting machines to allay security concerns. A new report from the Associate Press reveals that while counties across the United States have purchased new equipment, many of machines are running outdated software that could still be vulnerable to hackers.

At the heart of the issue is the operating system that the machines run on — Windows 7. Microsoft released the operating system between 2009 and 2014, and it’s since been overtaken by Windows 10. The company has scaled back its support for the OS, and will officially end support for it next January.

In an analysis of voting machines across all 50 states, the AP says that it “found multiple battleground states affected by the end of Windows 7 support, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Arizona and North Carolina.” Some states, like Georgia and Michigan, are considering new systems that use Windows 7.

Furthermore, the AP says that two of the three major election equipment vendors — Election Systems and Software LLC, and Hart InterCivic Inc — supply machines running outdated software: Hart InterCivic’s operating system will reach the end of its mainstream support on October 13th, 2020 (apparently Windows 10 Enterprise 2015 LTSBWindows 10 IoT Enterprise 2015 LTSB), while Election Systems and Software says that it will be offering a new system running on Windows 10. However, it’s unclear if that will be cleared for use and distributed to counties before the 2020 election in November. The AP says that a third vendor, Dominion Voting Systems Inc., is unaffected by the issue, but points out that it does have systems that it “acquired from no-longer-existing companies that may run on even older operating systems.”

As states begin to prepare for the 2020 elections and place orders for new systems, state officials in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona have indicated that they have spoken with vendors about the software on the machines.

Election vendors also have had notable problems with security — Election Systems and Software disclosed that it installed potentially-vulnerable remote access software on its machines, while Russians breached the computer systems of another vendor, VR Systems, and were able to break into the voting databases of two Florida counties prior to the 2016 election. To be clear, individual machines are notoriously vulnerable to hackers, but the decentralized nature of the US’s election infrastructure means that it’s hard to change votes en-masse. But, with a close election, foreign agents could potentially mess with election results, or at the very least, undermine confidence in the final results.

Microsoft tells the AP that it will issue free security updates for Windows 7 through 2023. But, while the company can continue to release patches for its systems, system owners will need to actually install them. In 2017, the WannaCry cyberattack crippled thousands of computers in over 100 countries that were running versions of Windows XP and Windows 7 that didn’t have security patches installed. Windows ended up issuing a special patch for Windows XP users, and has since released additional patches to fix new vulnerabilities. But even more than two years later, Microsoft says that more than a million computers are still vulnerable to security exploits.

On Thursday, 7-Eleven Japan suspended a recently-launched mobile payments feature on its 7Pay app after a flaw allowed a third party to make bogus charges on hundreds of customer accounts.

The company released the feature on Monday, July 1st: it allowed customers to scan a barcode with the app and charge a linked credit or debit card. However, the company received a complaint the next day: a customer noticed a charge that they didn’t make. The app had a flaw, according to Yahoo News Japan (via ZDnet). A hacker would only need to know a user’s date of birth, their email, and phone number, and could send a password reset request to another email address. The app also defaulted people’s birthdates to January 1st, 2019 in instances where they didn’t fill out the field, making it even easier for someone to break into an account.

In this instance, hackers appear to have automated the attack, and according to the company, around 900 individuals had their accounts targeted and charged ¥ 55 million ($500,000). 7-Eleven Japan says that it has suspended the feature by stopping the app from charging linked cards, posted a warning to the 7pay feature’s website, and has stopped registering new users. The company also says that it will be compensating users who had their accounts hacked, and set up a support line.

A member of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry told the company that it needs to bolster its security, according to Japan Times, and that it didn’t follow security guidelines. Japanese authorities have since arrested two individuals attempting to use a hacked account, and believe that they might be connected to (or had been hired by) a Chinese crime ring known for using stolen identities online.

It appears that Google will soon add a play button to its Chrome browser, as spotted by ZDnet and Techdows. The button will live on Chrome’s toolbar, and will allow users to play or pause a video or music that’s playing in a tab.

The feature is called Global Media Controls, and it’s currently being tested on Chrome’s Development browser, Canary. Once it’s enabled, the feature appears next to the URL field, and will highlight what is playing, even if it’s on a different tab.

 Screenshot: Andrew Liptak / The Verge

If you have the Canary browser and want to test it out for yourself, you can go to its experiments page, chrome://flags/, and search for “Global Media Controls.” When the result pops up, you can then enable it. After relaunching the browser, you’ll see a tiny play button next to the URL field. Once you’re listening to a song or video, the feature will allow you to skip forward or back, pause, or play the file. Testing it out myself, it works with video sites like YouTube and Vimeo, as well as Apple’s podcast pages and Spotify, although if you have multiple tabs that are playing something (say, if a page starts autoplaying a video), it’ll only pull up the original.

It’s not clear when the button will be live for the main Chrome browser yet, but it does appear to be a useful feature. Google has introduced a couple of helpful features along these lines in the past — an indicator for what tab was playing something, the ability to mute an individual tab, and most recently, the ability to mute a site permanently. This seems like the next logical step — pause the song or video you were actually listening to in order to listen to something else quickly.

Formula E, the first global all-electric racing series, has unveiled the racecar that will run in its new upcoming off-road sister sport, “Extreme E.” Dubbed Odyssey 21, the all-electric SUV made its debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK this weekend. It has even been making runs up the famous Goodwood hill, and while it’s still just a prototype, one thing is clear: it’s an absolute unit.

I wouldn’t say that just to say it, either. The wheels alone measure 940mm (37 inches!) in diameter, according to Extreme E’s organizers. The SUV’s body is 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) wide, 1.9 meters (6.2 feet) tall, 4.4 meters (14.4 feet) long, and the whole thing weighs a whopping 1,650 kilograms (3,638 pounds).

And yet this big lad can still go from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour (0 to 62 miles per hour) in 4.5 seconds, even on steep grades. That’s thanks to a total 400kW (550hp) power output, driven by motors on each wheel.

The Extreme E series will start putting the Odyssey 21 prototype through its paces this September, and French manufacturer Spark Racing Technology is set to deliver 12 final versions of the racecar in March 2020.

Extreme E is slated to kick off in early 2021. The goal of the series, which was created by Formula E founder Alejandro Agag, is to race in far-flung places with “fragile ecosystems” to “highlight the impact of climate change,” as well as promote electric vehicle technology. The series is still working out how all that will happen, though it did just sign a multi-year broadcast deal with Fox Sports. What is clear is that, if the final vehicles look anything like the first prototype, Extreme E will be a racing series full of big, beefy EVs that are also really fast. As Swedish racing driver Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, who drove the Odyssey 21 up the hill at Goodwood, can be heard saying at the end of the clip above: “Holy shit!”

The Justice Department announced this week that former Equifax CIO Jun Ying has been sentenced to four months in prison for insider trading. He pled guilty earlier this year for for selling his stock in the company prior to the announcement that it had been hit with a massive data breach in 2017.

The Security and Exchanges Commission charged Ying with insider trading last year. The Department of Justice says that in August 2017, after learning about the breach, he began researching the impact that a similar breach had on another company’s stock price. Later that morning, he promptly exercised and sold all of his stock options, earning nearly a million dollars from the sale. In doing so, he avoided a loss of $117,000 that he otherwise would have incurred when the company’s stock price dropped after the disclosure. More than 150 million people had their personal information leaked in the incident.

“Ying thought of his own financial gain before the millions of people exposed in this data breach even knew they were victims,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak said in the announcement. “He abused the trust placed in him and the senior position he held to profit from inside information.” The DOJ says that Ying is the second person found guilty for insider trading: Sudhakar Reddy Bonthu, another employee, pled guilty last July.

It’s a good time to be an indie developer making games for the Nintendo Switch, and the most recent title to prove that point is My Friend Pedro.

From developer DeadToast Entertainment, the formal entity by sole designer Victor Agren, and renowned indie publisher Devolver Digital, My Friend Pedro is an evolution of Agren’s Flash experience fans of Adult Swim web games might have played a half decade ago. Now as a full-fledged console title, it’s easily one of the most stylish and aesthetically distinctive games I’ve played in quite a while. Even as a $20 indie game meant to be played over just a few sittings, what makes the game truly shine is both its replay value and how it pushes you to engage with its perfection-demanding higher difficulties.

The core conceit is simple, particularly if you’ve ever played Hotline Miami or any of the titles it inspired. You’re a masked killer with a penchant for gunning down bad guys, and this time around, there’s a surreal talking banana to tell you where to go and what to do. Oh, there’s also a pulsing synthwave soundtrack, naturally, and tons of gory violence. What makes My Friend Pedro stand apart is how, like Hotline Miami, it can turn even the most casual of players into score-chasing obsessives and speed runners bent on earning a coveted A or S rank in every one of its 40 levels.

My Friend Pedro shares a lot of its DNA with another recently released indie game called Katana Zero, both of which take a few well-established game ideas and stitch them together in a stylish package. The two titles are Devolver-published games from tiny teams and revolve around a signature slow-mo feature, and both are targeting console gamers solely on the Nintendo Switch, with Steam releases to reach the PC crowd. In Katana Zero, you can slow down time to deflect or dodge bullets with a samurai sword. In My Friend Pedro, you’re slowing down time to make gun shots more precise and yourself more acrobatic. You’ll also look badass while you’re doing it.

My Friend Pedro has a few truly spectacular touches that make it different from your standard bullet time shoot ‘em up. For one, there’s a unique, albeit rather convoluted, set of aerial maneuvers you can pull off to earn extra points and look even cooler while you clear a room of bad guys. Those include flips midair that require that you slow down time, flips off of walls and ledges, shooting in two directions simultaneously, and spinning while grounded or while flipping to dodge bullets.

 Image: DeadToast Entertainment / Devolver Digital

Do all of these at once — a feat that is not all that easy given the sometimes cumbersome console control scheme — and you can shower an entire room with bullets in pretty much all directions, while dodging enemy fire as you spin and somersault. At the advice of a friend, I remapped the slow-mo feature from the L3 position to the right bumper button on Switch, and I started playing almost exclusively on the Switch Pro controller when I wanted to be more precise with my aiming. That helped a lot. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll feel appropriately like a Keanu Reeves character, equal parts The Matrix and John Wick.

The other nice touches are environmental items and vehicles that mix up the standard breach formula, which can feel overused after the first few dozen times you’re forced to break through a closed door or jump through a pane of glass into a room full of enemies. For instance, toss a frying pan into the air and you can shoot it with bullets from the other side of a sliver of open window to deflect and rain down bullets in a room you’re not even standing in. There are also motorcycle and skateboarding sections that take the standard mix of frenetic action and slowed-down acrobatics and put them on fast-moving rails.

 Image: Dead Toast Entertainment / Devolver Digital

But beyond the relatively thin story and the initial gleam of the slow-mo shooting, what’s going to make My Friend Pedro click for you, or not, is whether you’re really interested in score chasing. That’s where the true depth of the game comes in, and it’s not going to be for everyone.

My Friend Pedro has a steep learning curve for players intent on trying it at its higher difficulties, which is required for those shooting for high scores on the leaderboards. You can achieve A and even S ranking on normal and hard, but you’ll have to toggle on “bananas” mode for the extra score boost to come anywhere near a top 10 score. And I imagine the players who do go deep with My Friend Pedro will predominantly be gunning for the highest scores possible, as there’s not really a reason to replay levels otherwise.

That said, the game never thoroughly communicates central concepts — like the fact that getting hit by an enemy bullet will drastically lower the time you have to continue chaining the combo, or that chaining combos requires you carefully time when you down your last enemy to give you enough buffer to reach the next. Or that you can adjust aim assist if you find yourself needing more precise, manual aiming to avoid taking damage and potentially spoiling a combo, which in turn spoils an entire run if you’re going for a high score. You’re left to figure out those tricks on your own.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the first stage, I discovered that chaining a combo for every single one of the 21 enemies was possible, and about 45 minutes later, I had actually achieved it through a mix of trial-and-error problem-solving and speed-running prowess. I saw my high score skyrocket, earning me an S ranking and a spot at number five on the global Switch leaderboards.

Granted, it was day one, and my performance has since been eviscerated, but it was a stunning revelation to figure out the secret to the upper echelon scores and I was given a rather satisfying reward as a result. Chaining every enemy in a single combo becomes much, much harder in later stages, so I haven’t been able to come close to the top 10 on those levels.

Keep in mind that this is a game that’s designed around these kinds of obsessive replay sessions. At $20, you’ll still get your money’s worth if you do just play through the main story and perhaps try a few of the levels on harder difficulty settings, but there’s not a whole lot to spend your time on unless you really want to dig deep and plan those perfected runs.

That said, the magic of a devilishly simple game like My Friend Pedro is in pulling you in with its flashy appearance and keeping you around with its depth. Just prepare to hit replay… a lot. It takes a while to nail a perfect run, but it’s well worth it when you pull one off.

My Friend Pedro is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC.

I love industrial design and have for as long as I can remember. As a child, I broke my dad’s Braun electric razor playing with the dial that raised and lowered the blades because the action was so cool and “clicky.” At school, I dreamed of being either a product designer or an architect.

Those dreams were dashed when I flunked technical drawing (I was off by over 4cm and the tolerance of the test was less than 0.5cm) and failed my physics and maths exams, both of which are somewhat vital to designing beautiful buildings that don’t fall down. So for the past 30 years my inner industrial designer has lived vicariously through the career of my contemporary (he’s only a few years younger than me) and fellow Brit, Sir Jony Ive.

Ive made being an industrial product designer “cool”. Stop anyone in the street and ask them to name a famous industrial designer and I would hazard a guess that, if they have an answer at all, it would be Jony Ive.

Yes, there are many other influential industrial designers. Yves Béhar and Dieter Rams — who was much admired by Steve Jobs and was the visionary behind so many of Braun’s products (including my dad’s broken electric razor) — both come to mind. So does Marc Newson, a contemporary of Jony’s and a partner in his new company LoveFrom. All are legendary in the design community but none have either the name recognition or influence on the level of Ive.

Not only has Ive designed some of the most iconic Apple products created over the past 30 years — the iMac, the iPod and the iPhone to name just a few — the success of these products has directly affected the lives of millions of people and changed how they view the importance of great industrial design as a result.

If you were to simply pose the question “if Jony Ive designed a [insert product here],” most people would be able to visualize exactly what that product would look like: minimal design, clean form, functional utility and a copious use of aluminum. That’s remarkable.

Furthermore, this appreciation of great product design has led to it becoming a core tenet of the commercial success of any tech product in today’s marketplace. I would argue that Microsoft’s remarkable resurgence with the Surface under Satya Nadella is at least partially a result of his willingness to embrace the importance of design over pure utility as a defining brand value of the company. That does not mean just copying Apple: the Surface Studio and Surface Pro are beautifully designed in their own right, and they are also uniquely Microsoft. The same could be said of the Pixelbook which is decidedly Google, or even the Galaxy S10 Plus which is unmistakably Samsung (the Bixby button is a dead give away).

The back of the first generation Apple iPhone
My original iPhone photographed using an iPhone 6 plus

And the rising value of great product design is not just confined to companies working in the sphere of consumer tech. Back in 2006, when I was photographing the interiors of Virgin America’s brand new planes, I remember just how often we compared the design language of the seats and lighting to Apple and Ive. Without Virgin America’s mood lighting or 50 channels of entertainment, I doubt JetBlue would have followed so closely, let alone American Airlines. The same can be said of cars. Look at the interior design of many cars in 2019 and I think that you can clearly see hints of Ive’s influence.

Of course I am not saying that Jony Ive is directly responsible for a better in-flight experience or a more imaginative and functional car dashboard. But I am saying that it’s a result of Ive’s unquestionable influence that many companies now see good design as a far more vital component to their success than they did 30 years ago.

Nor am I saying that everything that Ive has ever created has been wonderful. During his time at Apple he has produced some real lemons, too (the Newton, the Cube, the “trashcan” MacPro and iOS 7 immediately spring to mind). But that fallibility only makes me respect his greatest hits even more. At least he was trying something different and new.

But while the wider and real adoption of good industrial design practices has unquestionably benefited both consumers and design fans, perhaps rather ironically the one company that has suffered the most as a result has been Apple (though not financially). This may explain Ive’s departure.

As Buddy Pine says in the film The Incredibles, “if everyone is super, then no one is.” Thirty years ago, Jony Ive’s design aesthetic and partnership with Steve Jobs made Apple’s products stand head and shoulders above almost anything else available. They were truly revolutionary. The iMac was a joyous translucent blue, orange or magenta PC when every other computer manufacturer’s offering was a beige box; the iPod was gorgeously chunky with a practical, childlike simplicity of operation that put “a thousand songs in your pocket.” And as for that first iPhone. Well, let me just say that in terms of its design, I believe it is still the best iPhone by far.

But in 2019, it is extremely difficult to continually maintain that level of game changing impact. It is very hard to lead from the front. Apple has found it challenging to encourage their user base to update to the relatively iterative new design of the iPhone X and XS. I’m not surprised it’s cautious of introducing something too revolutionary. Apple is caught in a trap of its own making: critics demand that Apple be the bold, brave brand we’ve come to expect but its users are only fine with that as long as everything works just the same. We are moving into a post hardware world where seamless functionality across multiple devices is vital and great design is regarded as a given.

For me personally, Apple’s products no longer define milestone moments in my life like they once did. Over the past few years those spots have been taken by products made by Google, Nintendo, and Sony. I have no doubt that the designers of all of them were influenced by Ive in one way shape or form, but that doesn’t alter the fact that the only Apple products I own today are an old Apple TV and the laptop I was provided by The Verge.

I have moved on from Apple and I am looking to new brands for design inspiration. Maybe Jony decided to do the same.

Photography by James Bareham / The Verge

Yahoo News is reporting that a “retaliatory digital strike against an Iranian spy group” was carried out this past Thursday. The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Associated Press all confirmed the report with their own sources, including the further detail that the cyber attack was approved by President Donald Trump. It was the same day that Trump called off airstrikes against Iranian targets.

The target of the attacks was an “intelligence group” that either has ties to or is part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, depending on which report you read. That group had been connected to recent attacks on commercial ships in the region, according to Yahoo News. The Post says that the attack was “crippling to Iran’s military command and control systems,” but did not result in any loss of life. The Times reports that Iranian missile control systems were also targeted.

The US cyberattacks were launched by US Cyber Command, and the Times reports that they “had been planned for several weeks” and were meant as a response both to the attacks on oil tankers as well as the recent downing of an US drone aircraft.

This is not the first time the US has been involved in a cyberattack against Iranian assets. It famously is believed to have helped develop the Stuxnet worm that attacked nuclear centrifuges in Iran. And in 2016, it was reported that the US had created a plan called “Nitro Zeus” that could have been used against Iran’s infrastructure, though the plans were reportedly shelved.

Neither the full extent of this week’s cyberattacks nor their effectiveness is fully known yet, but it’s possible that there could be more such conflicts to come. The Wall Street Journal recently detailed concerns raised by security firms that Iran had already begun stepping up its hacking attempts on US targets. The Department of Homeland Security warned of a “recent rise in malicious cyberactivity directed at United States industries and government agencies by Iranian regime actors and proxies.”

Even if Iran does not respond to the cyberattacks, it seems likely that tensions will continue to increase. Mr. Trump said today that he intends to impose “major additional sanctions on Iran on Monday.”

Amazon Prime subscribers in Canada now have access to Prime Reading, a membership perk that offers access to “a rotating selection of books, comics, and more” at no extra cost. This content can be accessed from Kindle and Kindle Fire devices, and also via the Kindle app on Android and iOS. You can download up to 10 Prime Reading titles onto your device at one time.

As for selection, Amazon says its Prime customers in Canada can expect “hundreds” of options — some books include Audible narration — including:

Hundreds of popular Kindle books: Enjoy a diverse selection of titles, including bestsellers Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and over 90 Lonely Planet guides, as well as favourites from Canadian authors like Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen and Room by Emma Donoghue, and titles from Thomas King.

Award-winning comics: Dive into popular comics like Star Wars, Batman Vol 1: I am Gotham, Captain Marvel Vol 1 and Black Panther.

Read on your own device: Use Prime Reading with the free Kindle apps for iPhone, iPad, Android tablets and phones, PC, Mac, as well as on Kindle devices and Amazon Fire tablets.

Popular Kindle features: Enjoy all the great Kindle features customers love, such as Whispersync, Popular Highlights, Page Flip, and customer reviews

You’ll see a “read for free” option on books and comics that are included in Prime Reading.

Prime Reading is a stepping stone to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service, which unlocks a library of over 1 million titles for a $9.99-per-month subscription. It’s similar to the way Amazon gives Prime members a free tier of music streaming in hopes that they’ll upgrade to the paid service.

Earlier this week, Amazon announced a new version of the Kindle Oasis, its top-tier e-reader, with a new feature that allows owners to adjust the warmth of the screen’s backlighting.

There have been a few good deals worth checking out this week, but the best one comes in today from Amazon and Walmart. Both retailers have cut the price on the iPad Pro (12.9-inches, 64GB, WiFi) down to $824.99. That’s over $150 off of its usual $999 price.

This is the lowest price that we’ve seen for this model, and it makes deciding between the 12.9-inch and 11-inch iPad Pros a little tougher. If you value screen real estate, the larger iPad Pro is the clear winner. However, if you want something that’s easier to tote around, you can get the 11-inch iPad Pro with 256GB of internal storage at Amazon for $824.99, the same price.

Whichever model you decide on, both will be compatible with the new iPadOS software that’s coming soon. With it, these iPads will have native support with USB flash drives and SD card storage, and if you own a macOS computer, you can connect it wirelessly to use as a secondary display or drawing tablet via Sidecar.

 Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

If you’ve been waiting for the Samsung Galaxy S10 lineup of phones to get a little cheaper, B&H Photo’s deal does that by taking $200 off the 128GB versions of the S10E, S10, or S10 Plus. These phones are unlocked and work with all GSM and CDMA carriers in the US.

This deal brings the S10E (usually $749.99) down to $549.99, which is a good price for an Android phone with the latest Snapdragon 855 processor. The S10 is currently $699.99 instead of its usual $799.99 price, and if you want a large phone, the S10 Plus is $799.99 (usually $999.99).

 Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Drop (formerly MassDrop) has Sony’s 1000X M3 wireless noise-canceling headphones for $289. This model usually costs $349, and it’s currently the best price that I’ve seen, though this price might not last all weekend if it sells out of stock. I use these headphones every day, and they’re a good option if you want punchy, warm sound and noise canceling that’s effective at silencing your roommates, dog, or anything else that’s keeping you from enjoying a quiet moment.

The Xbox One controller with wireless adapter is $54.99 at B&H Photo and Amazon, which is about $25 off of its regular price. It was over $30 off earlier this week, but it’s still a decent deal if you need a controller. Beyond using it with an Xbox One or Windows 10 PC, the controller will be natively supported on iPhones and Apple TVs once iOS 13 and tvOS 13 arrives.

Persona 5

There isn’t much urgency to this next deal, but it’s still good to know about in case you want to pick up some PS4 games on the cheap. Sony has announced that a few new titles are now part of its PlayStation Hits, and have received permanent price cuts down to $19.99.

Notable recent additions include:

Neon Genesis Evangelion has returned for a second life on Netflix, legally available for the first time in a couple decades. Watching Neon Genesis Evangelion in 2019 is fascinating for a number of reasons — namely, seeing what a new generation of people will make of the show — but the most interesting is the new world it’s been released back into. The anime was always apt, but in the two decades since the original series was first broadcast on TV Tokyo, it’s become the ideal anime for our time; thematically, the series is about the awful courage needed to stop an oncoming apocalypse, and what the people charged with protecting everyone else are obliged to cope with.

Neon Genesis Evangelion was critically acclaimed and beloved on its release (aside from the last two episodes, which were to put it mildly, controversial) both because it was a dense work of psychological fiction and because people could recognize it as a genuine artistic achievement. In 1995, when it was released, the western world was relatively prosperous and stable; Japan, however, had recently undergone both an earthquake in Kobe and a terrorist attack in Tokyo, which, that close to the end of the millennium, must have felt like the first rumblings of doomsday. Hideaki Anno’s masterpiece came into that void and had something to say about depression, cataclysm, and what it costs to save the world.

The plot goes something like this: Shinji is a 14-year-old boy who’s been conscripted by his estranged father, who runs a secret intergovernmental agency, to pilot an Evangelion, one of the titular giant robots. The organization’s purpose is to defeat the Angels — equally large aliens that are hellbent on destroying the human race — and the Evangelions are humanity’s final weapon, the only thing that’s strong enough to destroy them. Shinji does not want to pilot the Eva. And yet he has to, or humans are doomed.

While the show was always very good at synthesizing its philosophical influences into a coherent, cohesive whole, the fourth episode in particular does this quite well; it’s one of the earliest signs that Neon Genesis Evangelion is not just another fable about giant mechs and even bigger monsters. In episode four, we find Shinji breaking down from the stress of piloting the horribly beautiful EVA Unit 01, from fighting Angels. He runs away from the apartment he’s sharing with his guardian, Misato, and into the field surrounding Tokyo-3, the city built for the fight against the Angels. (And I mean: can you blame him? That’s a lot of stress for one hormonal teenager.)

This is one of the great tensions of the series: Shinji doesn’t want to fight and potentially die, but he has to. Only certain people can pilot the EVAs, and he’s drawn a cosmically short straw. Shinji returns to the city eventually, recaptured by the shadowy organization. He has a conversation with Misato (who also happens to be his boss) in which she forces his resignation because he doesn’t have the right attitude to be a pilot; she seems to think he needs to be more enthusiastic about saving humanity. There’s a beautiful shot of him at the train station, missing the train back to his former life, and being welcomed back by Misato to the only real home he’s ever known. He gets back in the proverbial robot.

That’s a very brief summary of the episode’s plot, but what’s really interesting here is the way Neon Genesis Evangelion depicts that emotional shift to the audience. It uses the Hedgehog’s Dilemma — an example drawn from the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s Parerga and Paralipomena (1851), the last major work he published before he died — to make a smart point about intimacy. The dilemma, in brief: it’s a cold day, and a group of hedgehogs is huddled together for warmth. The problem is that the closer they get the more their quills prick. The idea, naturally, is that humans work the same way: intimacy is often quite painful.

Shinji doesn’t really have anyone close to him, and therefore for him any kind of intimacy is as unbearable as the loneliness he can’t escape. (His father is the head of that aforementioned shadowy intergovernmental organization, and he transparently doesn’t care about Shinji’s well-being; his mother is dead.) He can’t seem to connect with his classmates, and he’s afraid to let Misato care for him because she doesn’t, at this juncture, seem emotionally capable of it — she’s an avatar of the work he hates and yet is compelled to do. Because again: everyone will die. And that, to Shinji, is the most unbearable thought of all.


Currently, we are facing our own seemingly intractable — but ultimately solvable — problems, much as Shinji faces the Angels. Right-wing authoritarianism is on the rise around the globe; climate change, still unchecked, is beginning to ravage the planet; and economic inequality is more visible than it’s ever been before. There are concentration camps in America, and there is a government agency tasked with conducting raids of unsuspecting immigrant families and capturing the ones without what the government deems correct paperwork. The president has personally approved this. Things are bad, and they are getting almost unstoppably worse. Morally and physically, the world is on the brink of disaster.

Here, Shinji’s reaction in episode four — which, by the way, is called “Hedgehog’s Dilemma” — is instructive. Stress leads him to flee, to look away from the fights to come; but he returns in the end because of his moral obligation to the rest of society. I don’t think, in the end, that he returns out of a noble sense of duty. Shinji returns because he’s betting on the small chance that he, a hedgehog, can move a little closer to Misato and, through her, to the rest of humanity.

Watching it now is unsettling because of how timely it feels. The idea that we are required to help the people who can’t help themselves — anyone materially threatened by the current regime — is powerfully resonant. It feels like an emotional guide for what to do next.

Nowadays, it also feels like social media has turned the experience of using the internet into its own kind of society-wide hedgehog’s dilemma; private abuses can be broadcast to a global audience instantly, and that is its own terrible intimacy. When children die in government-run camps for migrants, for example, or when police shoot unarmed black civilians, to take another, more common scenario, we hear about it through platforms like Twitter and Facebook; we’re close enough now to feel the spines.

And it is unbearable. It is an unbearably intimate thing to see or to hear about. Another example. The other day I saw a video in one of my various feeds, of white cops beating a restrained and hooded man. It began to autoplay, and what I saw was abjectly horrifying.

The strange thing, however, was that watching the video felt in a way like bearing witness. It was as though I’d come face-to-face with the unedited present; I understood that a version of that beating — comparatively mild, in the grand scheme of things — was playing out in various unseen ways across the country. It is not so often that you witness someone exercising power over another person when they’re not afraid of the consequences of being watched.

Shinji never becomes a righteous, unafraid hero. He can’t help but be himself; he can’t help feeling terrified and powerless every time he enters his EVA before a battle with an unknown and unknowable Angel. And here, I think, is the final lesson: intimacy is painful, but the warmth that’s possible when people draw together is worth fighting for. Even if you’re afraid, and especially if you feel powerless. We don’t have to change ourselves to fight. The prick of those spines should spur us into collective action.

Last weekend, I went to see The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and it just does so many things so well. But of all those things, its sharpest feature is its ability to tell big stories in a small way, and it does that again and again.

My fiancée compared the beginning of the film to the beginning of Up, telling essentially the complete story of the movie in a succinct, beautiful, heartbreaking few minutes. It’s such a stunningly confident intro, too, that you go into the movie with an immediate sense of awe and wonder.

My favorite instance of this kind of storytelling, though, is a brief gag in the middle of the movie, where a naked man sits down beside the protagonist on a bench. We see him as a weirdo at first, but the film flips it around and instead shows the troubles of San Francisco at large, rather than laughing at this obviously troubled man’s expense.

Check out seven trailers from this week below.

Stranger Things

With just a few weeks to go before the return of Stranger Things, Netflix has put out the biggest trailer yet, showing how this season is going to up the stakes pretty much across the board, with a bigger monster, a bigger world, and a bigger fight against whatever’s coming out of the Upside Down now. The show returns July 4th.

The Angry Birds Movie 2

There was a time when it seemed like Angry Birds would be the Mario of a generation — a beloved series of characters that reappear again and again in different formats. But I don’t get the sense that people are playing Angry Birds all that much anymore. There’s just… this. It comes out August 14th.

On Becoming a God in Central Florida

I have little idea what this show is about, but it stars Kirsten Dunst, has an amazing name, and looks wonderfully stylized, so I’m totally in. The series premieres August 25th.

The Banana Splits Movie

It’s weird to think about how we culturally got to a place that certain movies exist. I don’t really know what exactly comes together to make The Banana Splits Movie — a love of horror, a need for irony — but here it is: a movie adaptation of a cheery ‘60s kids show that turns some goofy costumed characters into murderous villains for some reason. The movie is going straight to a digital release sometime this summer.

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HBO picked up a film from Sundance that’s about a high school girl dealing with an assault she can’t remember, which she finds out about from a video being shared around her school. The film is based on a short by the same director, which won Cannes’ top short film prize in 2015. The feature comes to HBO on July 27th.

Bad Trip

Bad Trip puts a new twist on the Jackass-style prank compilation: it ties all those stunts together with a loosely constructed plot into a feature film. The movie is supposed to combine prank footage that has stars messing with non-actors, strung together with a basic road-trip plot. It stars Tiffany Haddish, Eric Andre, and Lil Rel Howery and comes out October 25th.

Ready or Not

I love a simple and totally ludicrous horror movie plot, and this has the most ludicrous plot.

The United States Cyber Command has made a number of incursions into Russia’s electrical infrastructure in recent months, according to a new report in The New York Times. Officials that the publication spoke with characterized the moves as a warning to Russia that the US is willing to operate more aggressively in this arena to deter potential cyberattacks.

According to the Times, “officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets.” One senior intelligence official told the Times that “it has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year,” and that they are “doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.” The efforts amount to what is described as a “persistent presence” within Russia’s infrastructure, and there is no indication that the US has actually launched any sort of attack.

Officials tell the Times that the US has been probing the country’s electrical grid since 2012, and that those efforts have stepped up significantly in recent months, sending “potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before.”

US officials have spoken about the need to be able to launch a cyberattack against the Russian government if the need arises. The Times says that Cyber Command didn’t outline what actions it had specifically undertaken with its newfound authorization. It also notes that the agency can undertake operations with authorization from the Secretary of Defense, without the approval of the President.

The newly-revealed actions parallel those that Cyber Command undertook in November 2018 to take down state-linked troll operations like the Internet Research Agency before the midterm elections. Those operations reportedly took the group offline and unable to access the internet, and it was one of the most aggressive actions made public after the Department of Defense authorized the Command to make more offensive campaigns in June.

The efforts appear to be part of a move by the Trump Administration deter potential attacks by demonstrating that the US is willing to delivering a cyber attack. At a conference earlier this week, National Security Advisor John Bolton said that the US made the response against election meddling their “highest priority last year,” and that they were ready to impose heavy costs on anyone who tried until they “[got] the point.”

A little over a year after discontinuing its Mac desktop app, Twitter says that it’s bringing the program back after Apple unveiled Project Catalyst for macOS 10.15 Catalina. It explained why it decided to drop the app last year.

Twitter made the announcement during Apple’s WWDC conference last week, saying that the app would launch with Catalina this fall, and that this new version will have a variety of features like dark mode, keyboard shortcuts, multiple windows, and notifications.

In February 2018, Twitter pulled the application from Apple’s App Store after a history of sporadic updates, and recommended that people simply use the web version. In its post yesterday, it also provides a bit more of an explanation for why the original Mac app was discontinued: while it originated with the iPhone app, the Mac app “diverged as Twitter increasingly focused on its mobile apps,” and the company simply couldn’t maintain the two.

Twitter says that with Project Catalyst, they’ll be able to use their existing iOS codebase and will add on features for desktops “while keeping our maintenance efficient as we continue to improve this shared codebase in the years to come.”

Last October, Kickstarter announced that it was ending its subscriber-based crowdfunding platform, Drip, but that it was planning a successor project with XOXO festival creators Andy Baio and Andy McMillan. Now, that project has been shut down, according to its creators.

Drip’s unnamed successor project was designed to provide “financial stability and transparency to independent artists.” It came out of conversations from Kickstarter founder Perry Chen and Baio, Kickstarter’s former CTO, with the intention of migrating Drip creators over to it before shutting it down later this year. Kickstarter provided seed funding for the new platform, and Baio and McMillan had brought on people to develop and run the company, but explained that while the concept was a good idea, they “couldn’t find a way to make the business viable.”

The issue appears to have come down to how to generate revenue in a stable and reliable way. The pair say that they explored a number of options: “voluntary subscriptions from users, premium features, increased fees,” but kept finding that “the resources required to support a high number of lower-volume creators always outpaced our revenue.”

“We were intent on running a sustainable and independent business. Even if we went the traditional route and raised venture capital, it didn’t appear likely to survive once that funding ran out. We were building this for the community we care about, and many of the artists and creators in our community are already financially insecure and vulnerable. The idea of launching something with so much uncertainty and risk felt irresponsible and unfair.”

Baio and McMillan noted that they ended up shutting the project down last month, and will be returning the remaining seed funding to Kickstarter. Drip’s shutdown appears to still be on track to happen: they say that they’re going to help the creators remaining on the platform migrate to others.

It’s a bit of a shame, because their description of what they were planning looks to be particularly appealing: a subscription platform with a focus on new and marginalized artists, human-curated discovery and recommendations, and community moderation tools.

Updated June 15th, 3:40PM ET: Updated to clarify that Kickstarter only provided funding for the project: it was uninvolved in the development of the platform.

Magic school clashes with a murder mystery in Magic for Liars, the debut novel from Sarah Gailey, best known for their American Hippo short stories — but with one key twist.

That’s because while the school and the murder may be magical, Ivy Gamble, the investigator hired to solve the case, is completely ordinary. Unable to sling a spell or cast a charm, she’s a far more relatable character than most other magical detectives that dot the literary landscape.

Spoilers for the book ahead.

 Image: Tor.com

When we first meet Ivy, she’s eking out a living in Oakland tracking down cheating husbands, dodging muggers on her doorstep, and drinking her way through the local bar scene. Then she’s offered the chance to solve a murder: Sylvia Capley, the health and wellness teacher at the Osthorne Academy, was found split in two in the library, and the headmaster wants to hire Ivy to find out who did it.

There are two problems, though: that the Osthrone Academy is a Hogwarts-esque magical school full of teenagers with supernatural powers that add a whole host of possibilities to the case; and that Ivy’s estranged twin sister — who, unlike Ivy, does have magical powers and whom Ivy has spent the last few years avoiding — is a faculty member there.

Magical schools are a staple of the fantasy genre, from J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts and Lev Grossman’s Brakebills to Terry Prachett’s Unseen University. Magic for Liars introduces readers to yet another school of spellcraft: The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, set in a world very much like ours with magic just bubbling under the surface.

But Gailey’s school, more than nearly any other magical institution, feels like a high school. Students graffiti the walls, cheat on homework, and text too much in class. There are mean cliques and pregnancy scares and all the other problems that are all too often lacking in magical schools, giving it a familiar framework to relate to.

We see all this through Ivy’s eyes, who like many of the grown-up Harry Potter fans that Magic for Liars is geared towards, has spent her entire life wishing for the kind of magic abilities that her twin sister Tabitha has and that Ivy lacks. But as Magic for Liars makes clear, some problems are just fundamental to human nature, and no amount of magic can solve those on its own.

Despite the genre trappings, it’s the relationship between Ivy and Tabitha that drives the story forward. In a sense, it’s the novel’s second mystery, unraveling what went wrong between the two sisters and what (if anything) can set things right.

Gailey’s debut novel seamlessly blends two genres together, imbuing noir-like mystery with the fun of a more traditional magical adventure that’s taking place along the edges.And Gailey’s worldbuilding clearly establishes a much larger world (something that they established themselves as particularly proficient at in their American Hippo novellas.)

Ultimately, Magic for Liars is a great debut for Gailey, with fun characters, an interesting mystery to unravel, and a unique spin on the magical noir genre. And while Gailey hasn’t announced plans for a sequel, we won’t have long to wait for more from them: their next novella, Upright Women Wanted, is out in February.