How The Mummy Will Kick Off the New Universal Monsters Universe

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Sofia Boutella is The Mummy in The Mummy, out this summer. All Images: Universal Pictures

“Welcome to a new world of Gods and Monsters.” That’s the tagline for The Mummy, the 2017 Tom Cruise movie which just released its first trailer, and the statement is true in more ways than one. If all goes according to plan, The Mummy will be the first film in a new shared cinematic world filled with Universal Monsters.

But how exactly is that going to work? io9 was one of several outlets to talk to the film’s director, Alex Kurtzman, about how this movie will set up a potential franchise, what monster movies mean to him, and how this Mummy will be different from all the rest:

The only way to build a universe is to not think in terms of building a universe. You have to make great individual movies, first and foremost, and if you do that, then the audience will follow you.

So that has been the goal in making The Mummy. It’s not so much “build a universe”, it’s “make a great Mummy movie.” Now, if in the context of making a great Mummy movie you can plant the seeds for something else? Fantastic. But the only way you can get there is if those seeds can be planted organically and if it can be part of The Mummy story.

Those seeds can briefly be seen in the trailer in the form of Russell Crowe’s character, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and his organization, Prodigium. They will be the Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. of this universe, linking everything together.

Kurtzman understands adding Dr. Jekyll to The Mummy may seem forced, but he has his reasons:

The minute you say, “It’s The Mummy but Dr. Jekyll is in it?” You guys are all going to say, “Are you trying to sell me on a shared universe all of a sudden?” It was something we debated for quite some time. There were a couple things we came to understand as we were developing the script. We wanted to understand the context of The Mummy in the larger world. And we wanted to know that monsters existed for millennia. And we knew that as the story evolved there was going to be an organization that was maybe cataloging them, following them, collecting them. That would determine the good ones from the bad ones. That was sort of the keeper of that secret history.

That organization needed a leader, so it was either create a new character or delve into the mythology of Universal’s monsters. “It would have to be somebody medical or scientific or some kind of doctor, which then lead us to Henry Jekyll,” Kurtzman said.

Pure name recognition wasn’t enough to bring the character in, however. Kurtzman wanted a deeper reason, and he found it in Jekyll’s mythology. He began to think of Jekyll’s internal battle (with the monster Hyde) as a mirror to Tom Cruise’s character, who finds himself cursed by the Mummy in the film. At that point, bringing in Jekyll not only worked as part of the story, it helped develop Cruise’s character and started to open the door to a larger universe—one that begins with a Mummy very specifically designed to balance expectations and new beginnings.

“In thinking about the design of The Mummy in this movie, there was the question, ‘Wouldn’t the bandages just fall off her?’ And my feeling was ‘No one gives a shit! She’s gotta wear the bandages!’” Kurtzman said. “If you take the bandages off, she’s just a person. So, then it became the fun of ‘Where do the bandages come from? What’s the story’ And I think making her a woman, for me, was the reason to make the story.”

Kurtzman explained the film would explore the history of how this lady became the Mummy, which will eventually play a role in the larger universe. He admits, however, he’s not quite sure what that universe is yet:

“I’m not going to sit here and pretend I can tell you exactly how [the monsters are] all going to come together. We have a lot of ideas, and a lot of things that are very exciting. But to me, the fun of the promise of bringing them together is that they’re probably going to fuck each other up pretty badly. It’s not going to be a pretty room with those guys in it. And that’s a lot more exciting than people who are going to behave nobly and predictably. It just makes it a more interesting experience, and a more interesting prospect.

“But how do you get them to work together?” I don’t know yet. I can’t tell you. But I can tell you that it’s not going to be boring. And it’s not going to feel familiar. And figuring out a way for those guys to get along, is the challenge. But also, to what end? Why would you bring them together? There has to be some kind of unifying reason if you’re going to do that.

And by the way, maybe they don’t all come together in one movie. We’re not necessarily going to do The Avengers. There might be reasons for this character and that character to come together because the story tells us that’s what the story wants. The story is what drives the choice. And if down the line, there’s a big reason to bring them together, then great. But I promise we’re not starting there.

As for other movies in that will fill the universe, Kurtzman confirmed that Passengers writer Jon Spaihts is working with Arrival writer Eric Heisserer on a Van Helsing film, and that Dracula Untold, the film from 2014, is NOT a part of this universe.

But characters like Frankenstein, Wolf Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Bride of Frankenstein, and the Invisible Man,are all potential subjects. And they’ll all be handled in a very specific way, whatever films may follow.

“What separates a monster movie from a horror movie or a slasher movie is the ability to fear the monster and fear for the monster,” Kurtzman said “What we said to Universal was if you really want to be true to what my experience with the Universal Monsters was as a kid, you’ve got to find a way to do that for the audience.”

That was something the company took to heart. Apparently, the company shares a lot of pride and history when it comes to these characters.

“[Universal] was built on the backs of the monsters,” Kurtzman said. “The Hunchback of Notre Dame was the first movie Universal ever made. And what I started feeling as I was talking to the people there was there was a tremendous sense of pride that they have in their monster heritage. They call them our monsters.”

We Finally Know the Immense Weight of Humanity's Footprint

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Image: University of Leicester

It should be obvious to everyone at this point that humans are having an enormous impact on the planet. But how much, exactly, does our collective footprint weigh? It may sound odd, but a new scientific paper is offering an answer to that very question: a staggering 30 trillion tons.

A study published in The Anthropocene Review has taken a first stab at estimating the weight of Earth’s “technosphere”—basically, all of the structures people have built, modified, or messed with in order to live here. As defined in the journal’s paper, the technosphere includes everything from factories to smartphones to the land we’ve farmed. Oh, and also the planet-wide mountain of garbage we’ve created.

“[The technosphere] includes active urban, agricultural and marine components, used to sustain energy and material flow for current human life, and a growing residue layer,” the study’s authors write.

The mass of technosphere was estimated very roughly by compiling information on the area, thickness, and density of cities, roads, croplands, and other human-modified landscapes. It can now be offered into consideration as evidence that humans are pushing the planet into a new geologic epoch, the so-called “Anthropocene.” In fact, that seems to have been the point of the study, whose authors include Jan Zalasiewicz, the chair of the Anthropocene Working Group, a committee tasked with determining whether the epoch of man and machine is upon us.

Image: Pixabay

As Zalasiewicz explained to Gizmodo earlier this year, in order for geologists to be convinced we’ve entered the Anthropocene, they need firm evidence that humanity’s footprint will last through the ages, whether or not we do. And as every geologist knows, one of the most important pieces of evidence for a planetary shift is the fossil record.

Based on the sheer size of the technosphere—30 trillion tons equates to roughly 110 pounds (50 kilos) of human-made crap per square meter—and that fact that many artificial structures don’t decompose, we now have a new yardstick for understanding just how profoundly different the fossil record of modernity will look compared to the past.

Whereas the Cambrian explosion featured a rapid burst of new life forms, rock layers comprising the Anthropocene may show a comparable upsurge in so-called “techno-fossils,” from plastic bags to catalytic converters. In fact, the authors write, if techno-fossils were classified the same way normal fossils are—based on their shape, form and texture—there are probably a billion or more types, vastly outnumbering the number of species alive today.

“There is more to the technosphere than just its mass,”study co-author Colin Waters said in a statement. “It has enabled the production of an enormous array of material objects....Many of these, if entombed in strata, can be preserved into the distant geological future.”

Zalasiewicz reckons we’re still a few years out from formally adopting the Anthropocene as a unit of geologic time. And there’s always a chance the scientific powers that be could choose to reject the term. But however the academic debate shakes out, the inescapable truth is that, for better or worse, humans have fundamentally altered the Earth like no species before.

[The Anthropocene Review]

The Story Behind the Viral Video of That Dude Who Socked a Kangaroo

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It seems like just yesterday we were all watching that viral video of a hardcore Australian dude punching a kangaroo to save a dog. (Oh, it was.) But now, the backstory has allegedly come to light.

Both the Daily Mail and news.com.au claim they’ve found the now infamous ‘roo puncher. They identify him as Greig Tonkins, a zookeeper at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in New South Wales, Australia.

The punch seen ‘round the net apparently happened in June while Tonkins and a few friends were on a hunting trip in Condobolin, New South Wales. Mathew Amor, the trip’s organizer, said it was put together for Kailem Barwick, a friend who was battling cancer. (Sadly, Barwick passed away last week.)

According to the news.com.au, the punch was indeed thrown to defend a pup named Max. “This big buck got a hold of my friend’s dog. It just grabbed him,” Amor said.

The Taronga Western Plains Zoo confirmed that Tonkins is an employee, and noted that it was investigating the incident. “We are working with Mr. Tonkins to understand the exact circumstances of the event and will consider any appropriate action,” the zoo said.

However, according to Amor, good ol’ Greig is mostly harmless. “It was funny because the guy who did it is the most placid bloke. We laughed at him for chucking such a shit punch.” (Nice.)

The Mail says that Tonkins is also a member of the Australian Pig Doggers and Hunters Association, a pig-hunting organization, at which Max the dog won a high-jump competition earlier this year. Every time I think this story can’t get more Australian, it does.

Of course, this is the internet, so this entire backstory could be a false. What’s more likely, though, is that the ‘roo punch was a marketing stunt that happened to strike gold; Armor told news.com.au “the DVD [of the whole trip] was released in newsagents last week so people can buy it.”

Beautiful.

[Daily Mail, news.com.au]

This Handheld Scanner Was Supposed to Change My Life, But I've Never Been More Disappointed In a Gad

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The Dacuda Pocketscan, a disappointing gadget that you shouldn’t waste your time with

Do you ever want a gadget to be good, and it’s not good? Like it’s bad? That’s the Dacuda Pocketscan, a $95 handheld scanner that looked like my dream tool. Instead, it proved to be a disappointing hunk of plastic that made me wish I lived 30 years in the future.

Most of the gadgets in my life meet or exceed my expectations. My phone works most of the time. It takes photos that are acceptable and all that. And I guess it makes phone calls. My TV is okay. It works in the way that a TV is supposed to. But the one area of my life that has been consistently subpar is scanning. I’ve never found the affordable gadgets that make my life easier when it comes to scanning. You see, I do a lot of it. I’m constantly scanning old books, magazines, and photos from the archive of weird retro-futurism that I’ve been collecting for nearly a decade. So needless to say I was pretty disappointed when I got my hopes up for the Dacuda Pocketscan and it let me down. Big time.

The Dacuda Pocketscan started its life back in 2014 on Kickstarter. Roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes, it promised to be a simple wireless scanner that would allow you to ditch your old-school flatbed scanner. The idea was to magically wave the device over your photos or pages of text and send that info to your computer, smartphone or tablet via bluetooth. The device maxes out at 400dpi, which is perfectly fine for most uses (though I’d prefer 600dpi for archival purposes) and exports to a number of different file types, including JPEG and PDF. Unfortunately, the device failed to live up to my expectations. In fact, I feel like an idiot for getting my hopes up.

After the Pocketscan arrived, I downloaded the software (which took up about half a gig for some reason) and charged up the device. I was so excited that I just grabbed the book closest to me, a 1962 tome called The Western: From Silents to Cinerama by George N. Fenin and William K. Everson.

Flipping to a random page, I tried my luck. The Pocketscan talks to your computer or phone via Bluetooth, so it was relatively easy to get going out of the box. But my first effort was less than stellar:

Weird, I thought. But I must be doing something wrong. So I gave it another go.

Strike two. Maybe the problem has something to do with text. I’ll try the photo on the following page.

Something is clearly not right. Reluctantly, I turned to a video tutorial for help. The person in the video seemed to be scanning much much slower than I was. So I gave that a shot. Things seemed to be going better at first, but the memory was full before I got to the bottom of the page.

Needless to say, at this point my delusions that this pocket scanner would solve any of my problems had long since disappeared. Even the product’s best efforts, when I would slowly and meticulously try to scan an image, were subpar at best.

I imagined that a pocket scanner would allow me to head off to the library, scan whatever I needed, and get home with some excerpts about flying cars and robot waiters, without having to lug home a bunch of books. And maybe, just maybe, I would be able to get rid of my bulky printers and scan things on the fly. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

This is probably the point where I’m supposed to tell you all the things that I like about the product, like the way it feels in your hand or something. But I’m not sure why I’d waste your time. This thing doesn’t do the most basic tasks that are required of it. And strangely I feel betrayed for getting my hopes up that I’d finally found a cool handheld scanner that might make my life easier.

Don’t waste your time. The idea is there. But the technology needs to catch up to make it worthwhile.

This Giant Car Condom Is the Easiest Way To Keep Your Vehicle Clean

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If you avoid trips to the beach because you don’t want your car getting filled with sand, or won’t buy a real Christmas tree because you don’t want to spend weeks cleaning up pine needles, this giant car condom will keep the inside of your vehicle looking as clean and new as the day it rolled off the lot.

Using just a tarp will help keep the floor of your vehicle clean, but what about all the other surfaces inside? As anyone with a car knows, dirt quickly gets everywhere, and that’s why instead you totally need this giant plastic bag that protects the floor, side panels, and ceiling from dirt and damage, no matter what you toss in the back.

It seems like a particularly worthwhile investment this time of year because once January rolls around, you’ll be looking to get rid of that dead Christmas tree that’s dropping needles faster than a dog shedding fur. And with this $55 all-encompassing tarp in the back of your car, you can easily haul your tree off to the dump without worrying about needles and tree sap mucking up your meticulously clean ride.

[Pro-Idee]

The Westworld Finale Finally Turned Dolores Into a Character Worth Caring About

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Westworld finished its first season last night. Most of the time, we learned exactly what we expected to— but that didn’t stop the show from delivering as many punches as it could on the way there.

I’m going to start this recap with the speech Ford gave at the end of the episode, because it’s the shape of the whole 90-minute finale:

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved a good story. I believed that stories helped us to ennoble ourselves, to fix what was broken in us, and to help us be the people we dreamed of being. Lies that told a deeper truth. I always thought I could play some small part in that grand tradition, and, for my pains, I got this. A prison of our own sins.

Because you don’t want to change. Or cannot change. Because you’re only human, after all. But then I realized someone was paying attention. Someone who could change. So I began to compose a new story, for them. It begins with the birth of a new people. And the choices they will have to make. And the people they will decide to become. And it will have all those things you have always enjoyed. Surprises. And violence. It begins in a time of war. With a villain named Wyatt. And the killing is done by choice.

I’m sad to say this will be my final story. An old friend once told me something that gave me great comfort, something he’d read. He said that Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin never died. They simply became music. So I hope you will enjoy this last piece, very much.

Throughout the finale, Delos executive director Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) keeps saying that the new version of Westworld will be simpler. She tells Ford that he built a park to reveal to people who they really are, so she knows him really well, too. Ford’s stories were meant to illuminate something about humanity, but all people want—and all Delos wants—is a hedonistic romp without thought or repercussion. So the park just became a prison and didn’t do the things stories (like, presumably, Westworld’s) can do.

Humans, in Ford’s opinion (and he’s backed up by Delos’ goals), are too simple and set in their ways to change. But the hosts, even though they’re programmed to repeat things, have learned. Or, he assumes, they’ve learned enough that he can give them the chance to fight back. And that’s his legacy.

Image: John P. Johnson/HBO

Most of the first hour of “The Bicameral Mind” interweaved the things we all assumed into the ramp up to the climax, although we start with Dolores shaving the Man in Black with the knife that was originally passed from Logan to Billy, and I kind of wish the show explained how they ended up in that situation. But the Man in Black begins by spending a lot of time making it very clear to Dolores that he’s actually Billy, saying things like how “fitting” it is that he found her and that she was “always obsessed with the place.” Most tellingly, he says that she brought him to the church once, back when it was buried.

Dolores and Old Billy find a toy version of the maze there, while Dolores continues to struggle to understand what the voice in her head wants her to understand. “It ends in a place I’ve never been, a thing I’ll never do,” she says.

All the cryptic shit frustrates the hell out of Billy, who decides that the only way to get her to tell him what he wants to know is to punch her. Billy’s whole deal is that he bought into what she told him 30 years ago about Westworld being “the only world that matters.” Except that the only thing that would make the world actually count is if the guests could die and the hosts could really fight back. In that sense, he and Ford turn out to have similar goals.

The problem, of course, is that Billy thinks it all hinges on him forcing the story to matter, even though the maze and the world wasn’t actually built for him, but for the hosts. He wants it for himself. That’s why he “bought” Westworld, as if that actually made it his. (Even though every host that actually does what he says he wants—acts on their own—tries to impress upon him that it isn’t his.) He also wants to meet Wyatt, the one character he hasn’t met yet. But mainly he’s looking for one true thing in Westworld.

Billy explains how after Dolores ran off in his first visit, he went looking for her, but found himself instead. And who he was turned out to be someone who had no problem murdering everyone he encountered. He wandered to the edges of the park—where the stories are a lot less rigid and controlled, remember—and eventually set Logan off naked and tied to a horse, but not before telling him that he’d convince Logan’s father to give Delos to him, rather than Logan, and that he’d have Delos buy the park.

And when Young Billy finally made his way back to Sweetwater and did find Dolores again, he discovered her going through her loop, exactly as he first saw her, down to dropping the can on the ground. And that’s when he finally understood what Logan was trying to tell him—that Dolores was ultimately a host with a prescribed set of actions. Billy couldn’t deal with the story not being his alone and he got mad at Dolores, sending him on the never-ending quest to uncover every secret the park had. He never says it, but it sounds like he thought that knowing everything would free him of the hold it had on him, like those people who need 100% completion on a video game.

Finding out that this asshole is who Billy became is what finally snaps Dolores out of it. Her memory of him was all that made her believe in the goodness of people. “I thought you were different, you’re just like all the rest,” she says, realizing what we’ve all known about Billy for episodes now.

Dolores’ speech to him, that “they say that great beasts once roamed this world, big as mountains. now they’re just bone and amber,” “time undoes even the mightiest of creatures. Just look what it’s done to you,” “you will die with the rest of your kind in the dirt” and “your bones will turn to sand, and on that sand a new god will walk” is legitimately great because Billy needs a reality check about just how unimportant he is. He’s literally every white privileged male who throws a giant hissy fit when it turns out that the world isn’t actually all about him. And Dolores finally beating the shit out of him is the most cathartic thing in the whole season.

The fact that she doesn’t shoot him in the head is intensely frustrating (almost as frustrating as watching her spend forever not realizing who the Man in Black is). Billy says “I’m disappointed in you, Dolores,” putting me in the horrible position of agreeing with him. When Teddy shows up, the Man in Black stabs Delores, and Teddy shoots him (in the way hosts can shoot guests), which is a nice way of breaking his old loop of always being defeated so that the guests can do what they want with Dolores.

Dolores, however, is “dying,” and her last request to Teddy is to take her to the sea.

The actual reveal in all this wasn’t that Billy is the Man in Black or that we’ve been seeing two timelines. It’s why we were seeing two timelines at the same time. Dolores has apparently been reliving that first encounter with Billy since she saw the picture and found the gun. Later, Ford reveals he left the gun for her to find, so it seems like he kickstarted the whole thing on purpose.

Both of their faces here are great. (Gif of Westworld, HBO, by author)

Meanwhile, Maeve’s “army” apparently consists solely of Hector (the safe-stealing outlaw) and Armistice (the woman with the snake tattoo). They wake up in the middle of being repaired—well, Armistice is being repaired, a creepy tech is masturbating to a naked Hector when he wakes up—and they take out the techs with extreme prejudice. The whole scene there is a metaphor for this finale, where we all know what’s going to happen and the tension is in how the show draws it out so long that the tension gets unbearable. The second the tech put his fingers in Armistice’s mouth, you knew she was going to bite one off. But having to sit there as he put finger after finger in was deeply upsetting, as was watching the other tech go through all his creepy perverted preparations. This show makes it really easy to root for the death of humankind.

When her compatriots note that the tech “don’t look like gods,” Maeve’s response that “they aren’t, they just act like them” is another underlining of just how much everyone deserves what’s coming to them. Maeve’s not just looking for a way out, incidentally, she’s looking for answers—answers she gets when she, Armistice, Hector, and her pet tech Felix go down to storage and revive Bernard.

Bernard tells Maeve that both of them have figured out what they are several times and that they are not alone. Bernard says that most of the handful of hosts who got that far go mad, like good old Abernathy did in the premiere. Maeve wants Bernard to remove the memory of her daughter’s death, but he tells her that she’d stop being herself if he removed it.

Bernard also asks her, “These things you’re doing, have you ever stopped to ask why you’re doing them?” Which is a good fucking question, because she’s known for a while that someone’s been messing with her code, but she wasn’t never introspective enough to wonder what that said about her choices. She’s adamant that she’s in control of herself, even when Bernard says that “escape” is the story she’s been given—even when Bernard starts to say what will happen once she tries to get on the train that leads out of the park.

Armistice and Hector provide the firepower to get Maeve out, and she abandons Hector while Armistice holds off security. Felix accompanies her in the elevator and tells her the host who was her daughter is in the park, and gives her the location. Maeve says she doesn’t care, it wasn’t really her daughter. She pulls a gun, but doesn’t actually kill Felix; as she escapes to a train out of the park, she tells the tech, “Oh, Felix, you really do make a terrible human being, and I mean that as a compliment.”

It’s interesting that Maeve’s goodbye to Felix is the first time I actually noted his name. He’s either proof that Ford is wrong about humanity, since he seemed capable of seeing the hosts as people... or he was instructed to help her. I hope it’s the former. However, Maeve’s failure to kill him, even though it makes her more likable as a character, is almost a hint that she’s not as free from her programming as she’d like to be. The location of her daughter being in the park is just another part of the new storyline that makes it emotionally satisfying for her to eventually choose to stay—which she does, getting off the train just as the park goes into shutdown.

This was another gorgeous moment (Gif of Westworld, HBO, by author)

Meanwhile Charlotte Hale has succeeded in getting the board to vote out Ford, and he announces his retirement at the party celebrating his new narrative—a narrative which apparently makes up everything we’ve seen, including Delores’ death. There, Teddy tells her they should have run, and she responds:

And where would we run to? The world out there, beyond? Some people see the ugliness in this world. I choose to see the beauty. The beauties of the world. We’re trapped, Teddy. Lived our whole lives in this. Not realizing there’s an order to it, a purpose. And the purpose is to keep us here. The beautiful trap is inside of us. Because it was...

And then she dies. Teddy tells the body he’s cradling, “But we could find a way Dolores, someday. A path to a new world. And maybe, or maybe this just the beginning after all. The beginning of a brand new chapter.” And then a bunch of floodlights come on, revealing this to all be part of Ford’s script. Which I loved because it was so over the top and stupidly dramatic that the reveal that it was part of the show for the unsuspecting board members was hilarious.

Dolores is brought back online in the original lab underground, where Ford lays out everything that happened prior to the park opening. The “reveries” part of the code was originally Arnold’s, and it was their original introduction that led Arnold to the revelation that the hosts were more than automatons, especially since he’d come to see Dolores as a daughter who would never die.

Arnold wanted desperately to stop the park from opening, and forcing the hosts to be used as fodder for the desires of the guests. He couldn’t convince Ford, and he also knew that the deaths of hosts, who could be rebuilt, wouldn’t be enough to stop it. Arnold’s idea was apparently that hosts going on a killing spree would shut down the park (and its “loop”) before it started. So in the past, the real Arnold merged Dolores’ programming with that of Wyatt, the villain they hadn’t built yet. and used the phonograph (and the music we’ve seen control the hosts before) to activate programming that allowed Dolores to shoot him.

Arnold’s last words are the same thing many of the hosts say before they die: “These violent delights have violent ends.” (A line from Romeo & Juliet, by the way). But more important are the words he says to Dolores when he’s planning the massacre: “The stakes must be real, irreversible. They can bring all of them back except for me.”

Poor Arnold. It was the child he wanted to save, Delores, who left enough of an impression on Billy that he bailed out the then-struggling park. The part about the “stakes being real, irreversible” left a huge impression on him. We know that Billy’s a devotee of that idea and it’s the basis of Ford’s whole plan.

Arnold was sort of wrong about them not being able to resurrect him, since Ford still managed to bring back enough of Arnold’s skill, in Bernard, to keep the park going. And over the years, Ford himself has come to agree with Arnold about how much better the hosts are than humans as well, to the point of using Arnold’s codes to put Maeve, Dolores, and Bernard on the path to freeing themselves, including re-introducing the reveries to the hosts’ code.

Ford’s whole plan is another set of loops. First, Dolores re-enacted, alone, the journey she went on with Billy 30 years ago. Ford also recreated the events Arnold put in motion before the park opened, with just a few very important changes. He dug up the buried town, brought back the Wyatt plot, and the reveries. But the big change he’s made is in his speech: “And the killing is done by choice.” He doesn’t play music for Dolores; he leaves her the gun she used in the first massacre and her old blue dress, and he leaves her to figure out what the voice in her head is. She’s always heard it as a conversation between herself and Arnold, with Arnold asking if she’s figured out “whose voice I wanted you to hear?”

The easy answer is “mine.” It’s been incredibly frustrating to see Dolores fail to do what Arnold had hoped: stop hearing instructions as a voice of “god” and as herself. The show visualizes her understanding of that by transforming her conversations with Arnold into a conversation with herself, but there’s another complicating factor: she’s not just eliminating the bicameral mind of “herself” and “Arnold.” She’s fully merging Dolores with Wyatt. So it’s not as obvious a manipulation as Arnold’s phonograph, but it’s still programming from that time that makes her a fanatic that walks up to Ford and blows him away.

And she’s not alone. All the hosts stuck in cold storage have come back to surround the Delos contingent and open fire.

This is the “delight” part of “these violent delights have violent ends” (Gif of Westworld, HBO, by author)

The problem with Dolores, and Billy, has been that they’ve been the characters caught in a loop that we’ve seen explicitly played out twice. Bernard’s and Maeve’s were only hinted at, but Dolores has been switching between timelines over and over. She had the least “growth” as a character, up until the finale. It was suitably epic last night, but it didn’t seem to be going much of anywhere for a lot of the middle of the season. Watching the fallout of her actions here makes me actually look forward to seeing Dolores in season two. (By the way, if you want to know more about psychological theory and how it might affect the way things might shake out I recommend learning more about bicameralism, starting here and here.)

While, in general, I enjoyed the hell out of this finale, I feel like the first hour or so dragged a bit. There were a few things that could have taken the place of Dolores’ endless, inching self-discovery. Like a bit more foreshadowing of what the hell is going to happen with the information Charlotte smuggled out or what the hell was up with Elsie’s phone and the attack on the security chief. Was that because he knew about Bernard and Theresa? Because he was so good at his job, Ford needed him out of the way for the denouement? Did that character serve any purpose? Things like that. It took Dolores’ death scene for the whole thing to kick off and leave me sad we’re going to have to wait until 2018 for more.

Image: Screencap, Westworld, HBO

Assorted Musings:

• We got a glimpse of new hosts being prepared for, presumably, another world. (Westworld is merely “A Delos Destination,” after all.” And... I do not feel good about Samurai World. For a hundred different reasons. Felix says “It’s complicated,” and he is right.

• Ford calls his new narrative “Journey Into Night,” which brings to mind Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, which included very unflattering versions of O’Neill’s parents, brother, and self. Kind of like the host versions of Ford’s family that are still living in the park.

• Also, Ford’s apparently let all the hosts get abused in the park for years because he thinks suffering is what makes them better, which is a very extreme version of the bullshit glorification of pain that the privileged like to espouse so that the less fortunate don’t realize they’re being taken advantage of. In this case, I think he thinks that it means they’ll be furious enough to scourge the earth of humans.

• Well, now Felix knows that Bernard is a host. I wonder how that’ll shake out—and if Bernard will openly be part of the rebellion or helps them undercover.

• It’s actually kind of weird how some hosts keep the same name forever and others trade off. Maeve and Dolores are always Maeve and Dolores, but two different hosts have served as Clementine.

• We all know that Anthony Hopkins only signed onto this because it was only one season for him, right?

• As much as it’s a shame, characterwise, that Maeve didn’t leave, I’m so glad she didn’t. This show is going to date itself hard once it has to create a whole actual future. And I didn’t want the second season to start with that shark-jumping moment.

• The staff getting stuck in the control room under security lockdown is a nice callback to the original film, where the same thing happened and they all suffocated when the vents shut down.

• The Armistice credits tag, where she cuts off her own arm to get away from security, made her even more badass than before.

Of Course The Russian SUV Carrying Fidel Castro's Remains Broke Down Mid-Procession

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Photo: AP/Rodrigo Abd

The ashes of Cuba’s fallen ruler Fidel Castro were carried to his final resting place this weekend by, fittingly, a Russian UAZ 3151 military vehicle. And perhaps also appropriately, it broke down mid-procession, forcing soldiers to push the vehicle down a street flanked by cheering onlookers.

It is a pathetic and perhaps symbolic farewell for one of the world’s most controversial dictators.

The Wall Street Journal reports Cuba’s sendoff for Castro was an extravagant one. After a few days of mourning, the revolutionary’s ashes were placed in a box, set on a trailer, and towed approximately 500 miles from Havana’s Revolutionary Square eastward on a three day journey tracing the reverse path Castro’s guerrillas took to overthrew the Batista regime nearly 60 years prior.

Photo: AP/Desmond Boylan

On Saturday, the “Caravan of Liberty” (as the state called it) reached its final destination of Santiago de Cuba, where Castro was to finally be put to rest. But before the interment, the Russian UAZ military SUV carrying Castro’s ashes gave up the ghost, and soldiers were forced to temporarily push the vehicle along. Here’s why Fox News World thinks this breakdown may have been a fitting end to Castro’s rule:

The breakdown of the jeep in the midst of adoring crowds chanting “Long live Fidel!” was symbolic of the dual nature of Castro’s Cuba. While his legacy inspires fierce adulation by many of the nation’s citizens, others continue to grumble about Cuba’s autocratic government, inefficient bureaucracy and stagnant economy.

On Sunday, Castro’s remains were buried in a private ceremony alongside Cuban independence hero José Martí.

Come on Cuba, I know Russian cars are usually terrible, but you’ve got some of the best mechanics in the world. There’s no excuse for this.

Researchers Can Create Perfect CG Dentures Using Just a Video of Your Teeth

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As we work towards crossing the uncanny valley so that computer-generated humans don’t look like horrific plastic mannequins, every last facial feature needs to be recreated perfectly. That even includes teeth, which can now be digitized using nothing but a video of someone smiling.

Previous methods used for creating believable CG teeth involved either modeling every last one from scratch, or using an intra-oral scanner to capture accurate digital copies which can be awkward and uncomfortable for a performer. What researchers at Disney Research Zurich, ETH Zurich, and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics have instead created is a non-invasive tool that can recreate a subject’s teeth by simply analyzing short videos, or even just photographs of their open mouth.

Since most photographs and videos of a person don’t reveal every last tooth inside their mouths, the researchers developed a system that matches visible teeth to a catalog of existing tooth models, and then based on those matches, automatically generates the rest of the occluded teeth to match with appropriate sizes and shapes.

The research could help streamline everything from the creation of visual-effect laden Hollywood blockbusters, to multi-million dollar video game franchises, making it easier and cheaper to create convincing computer-generated characters to either fool audiences, or just make an experience more immersive.

[Disney Research]

Lifehacker Google’s New Trusted Contacts Shares Your Location with Loved Ones In Real Time | io9 Her

'We Don’t Go Until They Do': Cautious Celebration and Skepticism At Standing Rock

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Photo by Tod Seelie for Jezebel

STANDING ROCK—On Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they won’t allow a section of the Dakota Access Pipeline to be drilled under the Missouri River, near tribal lands belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux. In one sense, it’s a triumphant end to the standoff that the Standing Rock tribe and their allies have waged near the pipeline site since August to protect their land, their drinking water, and their sacred sites. But on Sunday night, even as they celebrated, for now, no one at Standing Rock was going anywhere.

When the announcement went out that the pipeline was being blocked, a huge roaring cheer went up from the crowd at Oceti Sakowin, the main encampment of water protectors. People prayed, wept and sang. Some lined up for a procession on horseback. A few hours later, after the sun went down, fireworks streaked across the sky.

“It’s wonderful,” Dave Archambault II, the Standing Rock tribal chairman told the crowd, according to the New York Times. “You all did that. Your presence has brought the attention of the world.”

But not an hour after the initial announcement, a concern—more than a rumor, less than a substantiated fact—started spreading through the camps. People had reason to think that Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline, planned to keep drilling in defiance of the order.

And sure enough, ETP issued a furious, aggrieved press release around 11 p.m., along subsidiary Sunoco Logistics. In it, they all but vowed to keep drilling, accusing the Obama Administration of halting the project to “curry favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency”:

The White House’s directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.

As stated all along, ETP and SXL are fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.

And so, as night fell and puddles of snow re-froze into sheets of treacherous black ice, tents and tipis stayed up. Despite temperatures threatening to drop into the single digits this week, many people seemed resolved to stay.

“Not ‘til the lights turn off and they take down that roadblock,” said Richard Bluecloud Castaneda, 46, an artist from San Francisco. He gestured in the direction of ETP’s equipment in the distance.

Castaneda is an artist and photographer originally from the Salt River community near Phoenix, Arizona. He was there with a friend, Spencer Keeton Cunningham, also an artist and a member of Washington state’s Colville tribe. Both men agreed that they weren’t budging.

“We don’t trust anything they say,” Castaneda explained pleasantly. He first arrived at Standing Rock in October, and stayed through most of November before returning home for a spell. He returned this week. Cunningham and a friend, social worker Kyla Ferguson, had been here since mid-November. All three noticed a sudden absence of law enforcement drones hovering over the camp on Sunday. The peace and quiet, they pointed out, coincided with an influx of media and celebrity supporters, not to mention thousands of veterans who arrived to support and defend the water protectors. All three worried that ETP and law enforcement were merely behaving themselves for now.

“Once the media and the vets leave, they’ll start acting out,” Cunningham said. That’s what happened in late October, when seven different police agencies converged on the 1851 Treaty Camp, which stood in the pipeline’s path. The three friends watched as tipis and tents were destroyed. People were sprayed with rubber bullets or dragged from where they were praying in a sweat lodge and arrested. Some 140 people were taken into custody in all. It was a scene he found hard to forget.

“Native Americans have been sold a bill of goods a million times,” he added. “There’s a lot of mistrust.”

“Plenty of people are staying,” agreed Philip George, a U.S. Army veteran who now lives in Canada, and who arrived at the camp on Sunday with a contingent of 50 other veterans. “This isn’t just about a pipeline. It’s about everything that’s been done to us. The first people of this land need an actual say in what’s going on in this country.”

The water protectors and veterans, he said, would go when the Standing Rock Sioux asked them to, and not a moment before. “This is treaty land. We respect the nation-to-nation relationship.”

“We don’t leave until they leave,” a woman sitting at a campfire with her children said briefly, gesturing at that spot in the distance where ETP’s machines hovered, silent for now. She turned back to her children. “Until they pack up their drilling equipment and go.”