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‘Game of Thrones’: Go Behind the Scenes of Season 8, Episode 1 with an 18-Minute Video

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the Season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones.

Monday mornings are going to be all things Game of Thrones for the next few weeks. Not only do we, the adoring public, know it, but the talented folks in front of and behind the camera know it, too. That’s why, in addition to a bunch of accessible featurettes tacked onto the episodes themselves in order to tease new episodes, explain episodes we just saw, and highlight some powerful story moments, HBO will also be releasing episodic featurettes in a series dubbed “The Game Revealed.”

They’re not slouching on this behind-the-scenes look, either. This nearly 18-minute video goes to great lengths to show how the final season of the epic, award-winning drama came together, highlighting the talented cast and crew that put in grueling hours to make it all possible. It’s a great look at the production side of the gorgeous and cinematic series, and it also shines a spotlight on the hundreds of folks it takes to pull off such a tall task.

Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, Sophie Turner, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maisie Williams, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Dinklage and more appear in this fun-filled behind-the-scenes peek, just the first of many more to come.

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CUT THROAT PANTONE LIVING CORAL CHEF KNIFE

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The superb Australian knife-making outfit, Cut Throat Knives, is celebrating their 4th anniversary this year. In spectacular fashion, that milestone comes along with a new, visionary release inspired by PANTONE’s Color of the Year. Allow us to introduce you to the Living Coral Chef Knife.

Designed to embrace the color’s vibrancy and natural warmth, this kitchen cutting tool boasts a handle crafted from resin cast coral — meaning they took a mold of living coral and recreated it without harming the ocean lifeform — that’s as stunningly beautiful as it is sturdy and durable. And that handle is mated to an 8″ K-Tip blade, with a traditional Japanese hamon pattern, that makes it ideal for both detail work and larger-scale workhorse cutting tasks. Unfortunately, this singular blade is also ultra-limited — with only five ever being made. Each with their own oak display box, this limited-edition chef knife will sell for $1,100 a piece.

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BUGATTI HOME FURNITURE COLLECTION

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At this stage, Bugatti is practically synonymous with automotive excellence, as their Veyron, Chiron, and now Divo hypercars have captured the attention of motor vehicle fanatics around the world. But it looks like they’re finally branching out — unveiling a line of furniture inspired by their automotive exploits they’re calling simply the Home Collection.

The centerpiece of the whole collection is the legendary Cobra Chair — originally created in 1902 by Carlo Bugatti but reimagined for the modern home in a limited edition. But that’s far from the only exceptional piece, as the collection also includes a couch, lounge, two other chairs, a table, and more — including a yet-to-be-unveiled bed. And they’re all made with rare and beautiful materials like premium leather, Sodalite gemstone (a physical embodiment of Bugatti Blue), Striato Olimpico marble, carbon fiber, and high-performance technical fabrics. No word yet on pricing and availability, but we expect to hear more soon.

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ONE DOLLAR ITALIAN HOMES

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Buying an Italian dream home just got as easy as ordering off the dollar menu. The cities of Mussomeli and Zungoli are selling properties for just one euro. One located in Sicily, the other close to both Naples and the Amalfi coast, the tiny rural villages are attempting to revitalize their neighborhoods by offering abandoned homes for below bargain rates. While the houses are in need of serious renovation, they're situated among historic castles, ancient churches, and some of the most incredible scenery in Italy. The only catch is buyers are expected to renovate their properties within three years of purchase.

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MB&F X L'EPEE MEDUSA CLOCK

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Known for their adventurous horological creations, MB&F have once again teamed up with Swiss clockmaker L'Epée 1839 for an extravagant piece. The Medusa clock has a hand-blown Murano glass body that houses a dual-configuration clock which can be ceiling mounted with hanging glass jellyfish tentacles or placed on a desk using five metal arches. Powered by a movement that took two years to develop, two rotating rings sit within the clock, one that displays hours and the other minutes while time is read using a single fixed indicator that extends over the rings. The jellyfish theme continues with Super-Luminova coated numerals, allowing it to glow in low light just like the gelatinous sea creature. Medusa comes blue, green or pink in three limited editions of 50 pieces.

 

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TESLA OLYMPUS MAX HYPERCAR CONCEPT

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From the release of their first vehicle, Elon Musk’s Tesla all-electric car brand has been ramping up their offerings — each one more spectacular than the last. And with the 2nd generation Roadster set to be one of the fastest cars ever built, it stands to wonder: what comes next? Digital designer Jeroen Claus seems to think it might look something like this Tesla Olympus Max hypercar concept.

Mashing together Tesla’s design language with that of Aston Martin’s mind-boggling Valkyrie, this magnificent creation looks like a performance vehicle built for the likes of Zeus himself. From its sleek, carbon fiber body to its aggressive styling and wide-and-low stance, this bad boy is primed to go lightspeed. Pair that with doors that open like the wings of a pegasus and a tech-forward interior cabin, and the Olympus Max is most definitely a chariot fit for the gods. And while there’s no performance information, we’re pretty sure it’s safe to assume the horsepower figure would end up somewhere well-above the 1k mark. Hopefully, the folks at Tesla will see this and take some notes.

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FRANKLIN STEAK

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He might be better known for his barbecue, but Aaron Franklin prefers to eat steak — and knows how to cook it just as well. Penned with help from James Beard Award-winning writer Jordan Mackay, Franklin Steak delves into the food with trademark zeal. From regional cooking methods and cattle breeds to dry-aging and even building out your own custom backyard grill, it covers everything you need to know to cook your best steaks yet. $20

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DESERT DOOR TEXAS SOTOL

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The evergreen sotol plant — often called the Desert Spoon — is unique to northern Mexico and Texas and has lanky green leaves with sharp-tipped spears. It's often confused with agave, but this rare plant produces a spirit that was the first alcoholic beverage ever consumed in the state of Texas nearly 800 years ago. Desert Door is only U.S. distiller of this unique spirit, using wild-harvested sotol plants to create a liquid that is as versatile as vodka, but more complex and interesting. Each batch is handmade in Driftwood, Texas, and bottled at 80 proof in blue glass swing top bottles.

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OAK DOOR GOLDEN GIANT BURGER

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On May 1, Japan will celebrate the beginning of the Reiwa era and the Enthronement of Emperor Naruhito. The Oak Door restaurant inside the Grand Hyatt Tokyo is doing so with a special burger. Dubbed the Golden Giant Burger, it consists of a 1kg beef patty, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheddar cheese, Wagyu beef slices, foie gras, and freshly shaved black truffles. It's served atop gold-dusted buns alongside triple-cooked giant fried potatoes and a magnum-sized bottle of champagne, red, or white wine. For smaller appetites, there's a Golden "R" version, which keeps the gold-dusted bun, foie gras, Wagyu slices, and black truffles while adding Madera Sauce and goat cheese. The Golden Giant will be served through June 30, and orders must be placed at least three days in advance. $895

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Sony Teases The World With First Details About The PS5, And The Wait Is Going To Be Excruciating

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Though rumours have been swirling for months, it’s now official: The PlayStation 5 is coming and we now know that it’s got some beefy specs. But in classic Sony fashion, we’re going to have to sit through tedious and unnecessarily long teases before this next-gen console is anywhere close to hitting shelves.

Remember when Sony announced the PS4 back in 2013? Two hours of hype, lofty marketing speak, and then the console itself was a no-show.

This time around we have slightly more details, thanks to an interview Sony’s Mark Cerny gave Wired. The quick and dirty of it is as follows: new CPU, GPU, a solid state drive (!), 3D audio, and backward compatibility with PS4 games. Of those specs, the most intriguing is the SSD as it promises noticeably faster loading and rendering times to keep up with more graphically intense games. According to Cerny, the CPU will be based on AMD’s third-generation Ryzen line, while the GPU will be a custom variant of Radeon’s Navi family—and yes, it supports ray tracing.

Wired didn’t get much in the way of a hands-on but a demonstration of a section of Spider-Man on a PS4 Pro showed the character travelling between destinations in its fictitious Manhattan setting. The load time was around 15 seconds to relocate Spidey. The same section of the game running on the next-gen console only took 0.08 seconds to load.

As for the rest of it, Sony is being purposefully annoying. When asked whether the next-gen console will keep with tradition and be called the PlayStation 5, Cerny reportedly gave an “enigmatic smile” and only referred to it as the “next-gen console.” (It would be very Sony-like to call it PSV just to spite all of us.) As for price, ha. Who knows. It’s also not hitting stores anytime in 2019. We could see it in 2020. Or, possibly sometime in 2021. Also, don’t expect more details at this year’s E3. For the first time in 24 years, Sony has opted to skip the event entirely.

So buckle in folks and prepare for at least another year—possibly two—of Sony coyly dropping hints and rumours about a product that is definitely coming, just not yet.

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Nuclear Fuel Rod Removed From Stricken Fukushima Reactor For The First Time

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Engineers in Japan reached an important milestone today, as they began removing fuel rods from one of three reactors that experienced meltdowns in 2011 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

Hard to believe, but it’s been eight years since the catastrophic Tōhoku earthquake struck Japan on March 11, 2011. The resulting 15-meter-high tsunami spilled over the seawall protecting the Fukushima nuclear power plant, flooding the facility’s turbine buildings. Reactors 1, 2, and 3 overheated, resulting in meltdowns and hydrogen-air explosions. Fortuitously, reactors 4 through 6 had been shut down for inspections, but 4 was damaged during the explosions.

The operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (Tepco), has finally started to remove nuclear fuel from one of the three damaged reactors, according to a statement released by the company earlier today.

The assemblies are being placed in a steel cask and transferred to a different storage pool at the Fukushima facility. It’s the first time Tepco has removed fuel from inside a unit that experienced a meltdown, so this is an important step in the effort to clean up the plant — an operation that is expected to take decades.

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In this image taken before the disaster, the spent fuel pool and the fuel rods can be seen in pristine condition. 

Back in 2014, Tepco managed to remove all 1,535 units of nuclear fuel inside reactor 4, a unit that didn’t experience a meltdown. The operation to remove rods from reactors 1 through 3 was supposed to have started in late 2014, but technical problems and high levels of radiation within the plant resulted in significant delays, reports the Japan Times.

Early today, engineers at Tepco used a remotely operated crane to extract a fuel rod from a storage pool located inside reactor 3. This unit contains 566 fuel rods, the majority of which are spent. The current plan is to remove seven unspent, low-risk fuel rods by June of this year.

The operation at reactor 3 is expected to last until the end of March 2021, according to the Tepco statement. There are a total of 1,573 spent and unspent fuel rods stored across the entire facility. Work to remove the fuel from reactors 1 and 2 is scheduled for 2023, per the Japan Times.

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A spent fuel rod being lowered into a cask for storage.

Tepco is not planning to extract molten nuclear fuel until at least 2021. Progress has been slow but steady. Earlier this year, a remote-controlled probe picked up some small pieces of radioactive debris in an important proof-of-concept experiment.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe toured the Fukushima complex and nearby areas this past weekend—a visit that comes one week after Olympics minister Yoshitaka Sakurada resigned his post (though he has since been reappointed). Sakurada committed a major gaffe by saying a local politician, Hinako Takahashi, was more important that the recovery of the power plant, as Bloomberg reports. Clearly and quite understandably, the Tōhoku disaster — which left around 20,000 people either dead or missing — remains a sensitive subject in the Japanese psyche.

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Pepsi Mercifully Spares Humanity From Its Space Billboards -- For Now

Image: A Russian startup, StartRocket, plans massive billboards to beam advertisements to Earth.

If there is one thing no one needs, it’s additional spaces for brands to overwhelm humanity with even more advertising. But thanks to capitalism, the sky is evidently the limit.

One startup claims it will offer brands the chance to pollute our night skies with a system of teeny, reflective satellites used to replicate logos and messages of paying clients. Futurism reported Saturday that StartRocket, a company in Russia, found its first customer in PepsiCo. Per Futurism, the two partnered on a test launch to promote the energy drink Adrenaline Rush.

But contrary to Futurism’s report that Pepsi will “use an artificial constellation, hung in the night sky next to the stars, to promote an energy drink,” PepsiCo now says that outside of an “exploratory test,” this isn’t going to be an ongoing deal.

“We can confirm StartRocket performed an exploratory test for stratosphere advertisements using the Adrenaline GameChangers logo,” a PepsiCo spokesperson told Gizmodo in a statement by email. “This was a one-time event; we have no further plans to test or commercially use this technology at this time.”

StartRocket did not immediately return a request for comment.

StartRocket claims on its website that its web of reflective CubeSats could be used for advertising and information services as well as for governmental use during “catastrophical emergencies.” The startup says this system of satellites would orbit Earth from a distance of about 400-500 km and would display three to four messages per day. According to its own timeline, StartRocket is hoping to complete the first test launch of its so-called Orbital Display in 2021.

Sitnikov told NBC News in January that he was inspired to invent the “first media in orbit” after learning of the launch of the secret deployment of the Humanity Star last year. For the uninitiated, the Humanity Star is a glorified disco ball that was launched into low-Earth orbit by the private aerospace company Rocket Lab.

Initially intended to orbit Earth for up to nine months as some sort of narrative about humanity’s position in the universe, the thing fell back to Earth just two months after its launch.

Also of note about the Humanity Star was its status as a nuisance to the science community and its interference with astronomers’ ability to study our night skies, as the Verge reported at the time of its demise. NBC News noted that projects like these that shoot more stuff into low Earth orbit also have the potential to contribute to an increasingly worrisome space junk problem.

There’s also the issue of whether regulatory powers will allow StartRocket or any other private company to start charging brands to launch shit into our skies whenever or however they choose to. Even if PepsiCo’s experimental campaign partnership turns out to be either a spectacular failure or some kind of viral marketing scheme — which god help us, is always a possibility — StartRocket isn’t the first company to dream up ads in space. It definitely won’t be the last.

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Capcom Is Releasing A Plug-And-Play Arcade Stick That Contains 16 Classic Games

The latest video game throwback is here: Capcom Home Arcade is a plug-and-play fight stick with 16 classic arcade games, including standbys like Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, lesser-seen favourites like Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors, and a few non-fighting game titles like Strider and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo.

The joystick comes with an HDMI cable and a USB power supply, so it’s ready to go right out the box. It's priced at €222.99, which equates to just over $360 locally.

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The full list of games:

1944: The Loop Master

Alien Vs. Predator

Armoured Warriors

Capcom Sports Club

Captain Commando

Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness

Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors

Eco Fighters

Final Fight

Ghouls ’N Ghosts

Gigawing

Mega Man: The Power Battle

Progear

Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting

Strider

Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo

It’ll go on sale October 25th.

HOW IT WORKS

Simply Plug & Play!

Connect the supplied HDMI cable from your Capcom Home Arcade to your TV, and the supplied USB cable to a USB power supply and turn on.

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The Nikola Wav is an electric watercraft with a 4K display and cruise control

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Coming in a few years alongside an electric off-roader

Electric trucking company Nikola Motors just announced an all-electric sit-down personal watercraft called the Wav (pronounced “wave”). Inspired by the design of superbikes, the Wav is a wild looking jet-ski style vehicle that Nikola Motors CEO Trevor Milton called the “future of watercraft.” It features a waterproof 12-inch, 4K display in the dashboard, LED lights in the front and back, and even has cruise control. Milton debuted the Wav alongside an all-electric off-roader and the company’s two flagship electric big rigs at an event in Arizona Tuesday night.

“This watercraft defies the norm and creates a new standard,” Jordan Darling, the vice president of Nikola’s powersports division, said on stage. The Wav will be powered by a completely new adaptable battery architecture that Nikola developed specifically for watercraft, and a smaller stand-up version will come next. The company is already taking reservations for the Wav, but pricing and other specs were not immediately announced. The Wav is supposed to ship sometime in the early 2020s.

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While there have been attempts at battery-powered Jet Ski-style watercraft before, most haven’t left the concept stage. Nikola scooped up one of the more promising concepts in a 2017 acquisition, which helped build out the company’s nascent “powersports” division that also includes all-electric four-wheeled vehicles meant to be used off-road.

In fact, Nikola announced a second consumer vehicle Tuesday night which is exactly that: a four-wheeled electric off-roader called the NZT. It’s built like an off-road utility vehicle, but is outfitted with creature comforts typically reserved for passenger cars, like an HVAC system and a big digital display. The NZT is due out in 2021, though no pricing or additional specs were announced.

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The Nikola NZT.

The Wav and the NZT will be the first Nikola vehicles that many people interact with, but the company’s main focus is making hydrogen and battery-powered electric big rigs. Nikola has teased three different big rigs over the past few years, but gave the last two — the North American Nikola Two and the European Nikola Tre — a proper debut Tuesday night. The company has about $14 billion in commitments for the big rigs, with Anheuser Busch as its biggest customer so far. The beverage company announced last year that it has ordered “up to 800” of Nikola’s trucks. In contrast, Anheuser-Bush has placed just 40 preorders for Tesla’s battery-powered semi truck.

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The Six Billion Dollar Man Movie With Mark Wahlberg Is Back On

Lee Majors was once The Six Million Dollar Man. Now, Mark Wahlberg is finally adding a few zeroes to that number.

It feels like a Six Million Dollar Man movie starring Mark Wahlberg has been in the works for six million years. In that time directors have come and gone, as have producers and release dates, but now a new director is on board who could get the film back on track.

That director is Travis Knight, who is coming off the critically acclaimed but financially disappointing Bumblebee. Variety reports he’s boarded the big-screen adaptation of the TV show about a secret agent who gains superhuman abilities when he’s upgraded with bionic parts. And though the character, originally played by Lee Majors, was worth $6 million in the 1970s, inflation has upped that number by 1,000 percent. Wahlberg will be The Six Billion Dollar Man.

As recently as last year, the film had a summer 2020 release date, but that was quietly taken off the table at some point. “It’s a matter of finding the right director,” Wahlberg told Screenrant in November. “We’ve been close many times...It’s one of those things where you have to keep pushing, you have to keep plugging away, and eventually, it’ll come together, and hopefully, we’ll be in a situation where I find myself making the best possible version of the movie.”

It seems that Knight, who also directed Kubo and the Two Strings and runs Laika, is that director. If he gets to work soon, a 2021 release seems possible.

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These $32 True Wireless Earbuds Include Bluetooth 5.0 and a 55-Hour Charging Case

SoundPEATS True Wireless Earbuds | $32 | Amazon | Promo code 6Y7NPPC9

Once the province of the biggest tech companies, affordable Amazon brands are now turning out true wireless earbuds with solid reviews, and you can grab this set from SoundPEATS for just $32 today with promo code 6Y7NPPC9.

Featuring Bluetooth 5.0 for a stable, long-range connection, these buds can run for about three hours on a charge, but the (admittedly fairly large) charging case can keep them running for an impressive 55 hours without being plugged in, making them great for long trips, or just for people who forget to plug things in at night.

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Winters Are Only Going To Get Worse, So Researchers Invented A Way To Generate Electricity From Snowfall

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The farther you get from the equator, the less effective solar panels become at reliably generating power all year round. And it’s not just the shorter spans of sunlight during the winter months that are a problem; even a light dusting of snow can render solar panels ineffective.

As a result of global warming, winters are only going to get more severe, but there’s at least one silver lining as researchers from UCLA have come up with a way to harness electricity from all that snow.

The technology they developed is called a snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator (or snow TENG, for short) which generates energy from the exchange of electrons. If you’ve ever received a nasty shock when touching a metal door handle, you’ve already experienced the science at work here. As it falls towards earth, snowflakes are positively charged and ready to give up electrons.

In a way, it’s almost free energy ready for the taking, so after testing countless materials with an opposite charge, the UCLA researchers (working with collaborators from the University of Toronto, McMaster University, and the University of Connecticut) found that the negative charge of silicone made it most effective for harvesting electrons when it came into contact with snowflakes.

Details about the device they created were shared in a paper published in the Nano Energy journal, but it can be 3D-printed on the cheap given how accessible silicone is — for five bucks you can buy a spray can of it at the hardware store as a lubricant.

In addition to silicone, a non-metal electrode is used, which results in the triboelectric generator being flexible, stretchable, and extremely durable.

Its creators believe it could be integrated into solar panel arrays so that when blanketed with snow in the winter months, they could continue to generate power. But the triboelectric generator has other potential uses too. Since it doesn’t require batteries or charging, it could be used to create cheap, self-powered weather stations that could report back snowy conditions and how much has accumulated.

It could also improve activity trackers used by athletes competing in winter sports, allowing the movements of individual skis to be tracked and recorded which would provide valuable insights for athletes as they train to perfect their form.

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Victor Hugo Wrote ‘Hunchback of Notre-Dame’ to Save the Great Cathedral

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The author believed that it was the duty of the people of his age to preserve structures like Notre Dame—and so he wrote a 1,000-page novel to convince them to save the cathedral.

You might say that the best fiction exists to disassemble expectations. Nature can be the same way, which is why, even when we understand the realities of fire, we’re still taken aback—in the modern, technologically-ramped-up age—when something like Notre Dame Cathedral becomes a sky-tethered conflagration.

You want to say, “Wait, shouldn’t we be able to stop this?” and “Surely it is possible with all of our advances to keep such a blaze from beginning?”

But that is not how nature works, nor how great fiction works; they’re both going to do what they’re going to do, and then we must adjust.

We have expectations when we come to a story in literature. For instance, there will be a protagonist, and normally that person will be a human, unless we’re in the sci-fi ambit or Franz Kafka’s brain. But here on earth, you expect to see a human at the center of a story. Victor Hugo did not quite see things this way when he published The Hunchback of Notre-Dame in 1831.

He was in his mid-fifties, and this was a man with a cause. You might even call it an extra-curricular cause, so far as the literary arts went. For Victor Hugo was in thrall to Gothic architecture, the way a self-described geek might be headlong into anime now.

Gothic architecture rose—and that is a key verb in this style—to prominence in the late Middle Ages. It was mankind’s upwards march upon the heavens, drama writ in spires, turrets, rib vaults, and flying buttresses. The structures looked to be frozen in acts of great bounding movement, like someone had hit the pause button as these limestone titans leaped in battle or journey, with great stakes at play.

Stone angels stood guard in suspended flight at strategic vantage points, lest some minion of Satan come flying around a corner gaining access to human vulnerability down on the ground below. This was architecture to inspire awe, and it reminded you, too, of your mortality, like the home offices of heaven just happened to be hanging over your head, so wise up. There was a darker element in the resolute grays, but at the same time, Gothic structures exuded warmth, perhaps because they could look like expansive candle sticks in mid-melt blown up to the size of towering buildings.

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Victor Hugo, who beheld Notre Dame Cathedral often, had his ‘aha’ moment: This church, this piercer-of-the-skies, would be the central character of his next novel, an opus even by the standards of opuses, its Byzantine chambers mirroring the architectonic passions, and structural designs, of Notre Dame, the ne plus ultra in the Gothic style.

So: We have Mr. Gothic Architecture Buff, and he wasn’t against some fear-mongering, believing that it was the duty of the people of his age to preserve structures like Notre Dame Cathedral. If you haven’t read the nearly 1000 pages of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and someone mentions it to you, you’re going to think about the titular creature, who, thanks to various cinematic adaptations, became a horror bogey up there with Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy, the Wolf Man, and the Phantom of the Opera. Despite him not being a horror bogey at all. It was the hauntingly dramatic intensity of the cathedral’s design that served as horror film substrate. It just looked of the stuff of our imaginations at Halloween, as much a part of that eldritch ecosystem as haunted castles, creaky old mansions on low-lying hills, and graveyards where it might as well perpetually be midnight.

But while this is a terror novel, in a way, it’s a terror novel about mankind’s devolution. A key theme of the book is that the arrival of the printing press is going to mean the death of Gothic architecture. It took a huge outlay of effort and genius to make art like Notre Dame Cathedral. The printing press, meanwhile, would mean that any fool could slap whatever on paper, and out it would go into the world. You might say Hugo envisioned it as akin to Twitter or Facebook, with the concomitant weakening of the written word, and, in following, the weakening of how capable we were as thinkers. A fear evinced in the book is that we are all going to go to mental flab, and when that happens, we’re going to start to screw up the good things we’ve managed to make to date.

Hugo was certain to have recognized, as he wrote The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, that Gothic architecture was falling out of favor. Paris was not quite in the Victorian age, but there was a sense of “Hmmm, that’s a bit much, isn’t it?” Life was hard enough; Gothic architecture was fatiguing in that it asked a lot even of your eyeballs. You couldn’t just set your gaze on a Gothic structure and know what it was all about. Your eyes had to travel, they had to work; you might say that your eyes had to think.

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But so it goes with any great work of art, and any great prose work of art. There is topography in language, and a work of prose art has architectural qualities, from its multi-chambered plot-structure-voices-tone design, and how that will be engineered and executed, to what is happening, even, in each sentence. Letters in tandem with each other possess group shapes. There are rises, valleys, lower levels. These variations, subtle as they may be, impact us psychologically. We think architectonically, and Hugo’s fear was that we were losing this, as so-called progress marched on.

Hugo sets the novel, in a sense, in 1482, but that’s the external setting. The internal setting is the mind, where these preconceptions we’ve been discussing are not indebted to any time period. They’re belonging to a problem—the slackening of imagination. The trend towards the safe rather than the daring.

You get a beautiful story of friendship, between Quasimodo—try to knock that Disney-fied version of him out of your head—and Esmeralda, an ostensible odd couple who wasn’t that odd of a couple in the end. I think our very best relationships can follow that design model. Why? Because we were open to how they disassembled our expectations in the first place. Hell, a “meet cute” story is often predicated upon that disordering of expectations and building up the blocks in a way different than we normally do at other, more prosaic points in our lives.

But Hugo laments the treatment of Notre Dame as much as he allows us to despair over Quasimodo’s plight. Think of the cathedral like a great face bearing witness on societal twists and turns. It is the architectural recordist of that which occurs in the streets below, and, in a way, in human hearts encased in chests.

Image result for notre dame cathedral gothic architecture HD wallpaper

Certainly there were other people in Hugo’s time with affection for the cathedral, if not so much Gothic architecture outright. The passion for Notre Dame stemmed largely from its spiritual nature and French pride, the group-think of “We have wrought this thing, behold.” For Hugo, though, the cathedral was more than a cathedral; it was a symbol, a complex localization of human ingenuity and how humans must think if they are to be ingenious. He also sensed—correctly—that a mighty, prolix novel could be a sharply-honed spearhead. If the novel were a success, Notre Dame was likely to have better days, too.

Buildings have a natural flow to them. Sometimes they flow in circular patterns, other times they appear to flow against their own directional currents. They are like prose that way. The flow of Notre Dame Cathedral is downward—like tears rolling down great stony cheeks. Its movement is towards the folk. Quasimodo receives his castigations in the novel, but not like the urban design committees who allegedly tried to upkeep Notre Dame Cathedral and who made it worse.

“And who put the cold, white panes in the place of those windows?” Hugo writes. The image is that of making a patient with a few bumps and bruises actually sick. These fervid critiques have the quality of Mark Antony’s famed speech in Julius Caesar to them. “And who substituted for the ancient Gothic altar, splendidly encumbered with shrines and reliquaries, that heavy marble sarcophagus…”

Yeah, who! Name names! We’ll get you! Brigands.

Hugo lavished love on the cathedral in swaths of evocative prose. He fairly blanketed it in prose, you might say, every last cornice. And as he connected Quasimodo to this structure, he joined us with both of them.

“His cathedral was enough for him. It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquility and benevolence. The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him – he resembled them too closely for that. It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at. The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and kept watch over him. He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues in solitary conversation with it. If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

That is building with prose right there. That Hugo’s humanism found room for a structure, shows us how enveloping it was. This was one of the first novels to include members from all—or most, anyway—levels of society. You could write about a king, and you could write about a rat in the wall, and you could do so within a single sentence. Charles Dickens and Gustave Flaubert took notice, and I think you see architecture featured so prominently in the work of the former—Scrooge’s house, for instance, is very Notre Dame Cathedral in miniature, and turned inside out—on account of Hugo.

After the publication of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, parts of the cathedral were renovated, in a manner to gladden the heart of both a Hugo and a Quasimodo. Some of those parts, alas, have just felt the devouring touch of flames.  But take heart: art that has existed and made its mark in the world perpetually inhabits that mark and rises within it, just as every great prose work of art surges to the clouds, Notre Dame-style. Don’t be fooled by the flatness of the page. It only feels that way when you rub your hand over it. There is no actual flatness there, when the creator has disassembled expectations.

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Final ‘Dark Phoenix’ Trailer Signals the End of Fox’s ‘X-Men’ Film Franchise

Back in 2000, the world had just survived the dreaded Y2K scare, and with renewed hope for the future, looked forward to the start of a new summer blockbuster trend: superhero movies. Sure, they’d been done before, but rather poorly. X-Men, however, took the popular Marvel Comics title and excellent Saturday morning cartoon and turned it into even more of a household name, also introducing a fella by the name of Hugh Jackman as a very different but fan-favorite take on Wolverine.

Nearly 20 years and 12 films later, Dark Phoenix looks to bring the era of Fox’s film franchise to a close. (Who knows what’s ultimately going to happen with The New Mutants.) Not only did the film series run out of ideas (apparently, since they’re rehashing the Dark Phoenix saga again), they ran out of options as Disney swooped in to gobble the property up in a mega-merger. It remains to be see what Disney’s MCU wants to do with their newly acquired X-Men, but for fans of the Fox films, this will be your last hurrah. Enjoy it while you can.

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Amazon’s The Boys gets a new, NSFW trailer and a July 26th release date

Amazon has a new trailer out for its upcoming adaptation of The Boys, a long-running comics series written by Preacher and Hitman author Garth Ennis. Set in a world where superheroes are real, but also terrible people who abuse their vast powers, The Boys focuses on a group of vigilantes who work to hold those “heroes” accountable — with lots of bloody, aggressive mayhem.

The latest trailer — which is definitely NSFW — gives a good look at the series’ Zack Snyder-esque style: a grim but comedically over-the-top level of sex and violence. It also lays out the series’ basic conceit: “How do you spank a superhero?”

Starring Karl Urban as Billy Butcher, the leader of “the boys,” along with Jack Quaid as protagonist “Wee” Hughie Campbell, who is suddenly thrust into the world of anti-superhero vigilantism, The Boys appears to be promising a more mature take on the superhero genre. Think the ponderous moral ethics and abrupt violence of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen adaptation blended with Deadpool’s R-rated irreverence.

The Boys premieres on Amazon Prime Video on July 26th.

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DC Universe Drops Its First Cryptic Swamp Thing Teaser Amid Reports of Production Woes

Out of all of DC Universe’s live-action comic book adaptations, Swamp Thing’s been the most shrouded in mystery, which is appropriate given its otherworldly subject matter. Aside from casting news, there’s been little detail about what the series might look like, but today, DC Universe suddenly dropped the first trailer for the series.

Short as the teaser is, it features a good first look at Swamp Thing’s titular hero, DC Comics’ living embodiment of a swamp’s plant life, who’s set to be played by two different performers.

While DC’s decision to drop the teaser late on a Wednesday afternoon with little buildup might seem strange, it could be very intentional. While production for DC Universe’s live-action Swamp Thing series had been well underway, the 13-episode-long series is reportedly being cut short. The local reports out of Wilmington, North Carolina say the production was halted after episode 10 to the surprise of cast and crew.

Early Wednesday morning, actress Virginia Madsen (who portrays Maria Sunderland on the series) wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post that Swamp Thing’s team was being “cut to the core by those who have never set foot in the swamp.” She also wrote, “I am beyond sad. What a terrible decision.”

Given everything that’s happened with Swamp Thing within the past few hours, it’s unclear just what’s going on with the show and what DC’s plans for it are. Dropping a trailer is a strong indicator that Swamp Thing will, at some point, begin streaming on the DC Universe platform. But whether the series we eventually see represents the full vision for what Swamp Thing was meant to be is up for debate.

Swamp Thing is set to premiere May 31.

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WOODFORD RESERVE $1,000 MINT JULEP CUP

Woodford-Reserve-1000-Mint-Julep-Cup-0-Hero.jpg

The folks at Woodford Reserve are very proud of the fact that they’re behind the official bourbon whiskey of the Kentucky Derby. As a celebration of that partnership, they’ve unveiled a limited edition series of $1,000 Mint Julep Cups. And you can buy one for yourself.

To celebrate the 145th Kentucky Derby, only 145 examples of these handmade cups will be made. The first 125 of them are crafted from silver-plated pewter, while the remaining 20 are gold-plated. Both also feature etchings of Churchill Downs’ iconic Twin Spires alongside prominently displayed oak barrels. Every example also comes with a bottle of Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey and a silk-lined wooden display box. The gold cups are also accompanied by a specially-made silver Woodford Reserve Sipping Straw. The silver cups are priced at $1,000 apiece, while the gold version is selling for $2,500.

MIKA: I actually much prefer the silver version over the gold.

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The New Hobbs & Shaw Trailer

OK, so if you thought the new Fast and Furious spinoff was just gonna sidestep around the fact it turned its villain (played by Idris Elba) into a genetically enhanced superhuman—because that’s just what this franchise can do now, alongside literally anything else it wants — well, here you go: say hello to Black Superman.

The latest trailer for the action Smörgåsbord that is Hobbs & Shaw pretty much spells out the entire, perfectly simple plot of the movie: Shaw’s sister stole a bioweapon from Elba’s supervillain character, and so Hobbs and Shaw have to save the world.

Also, there’s a haka, because it’s Dwayne Johnson and are you gonna say no to that guy when he says “hey, can we get a haka in here,” and then I guess there are some cars because they still have to kind of do that to be called a Fast and Furious movie.

It’s ridiculous. It’s incredible. It is more ludicrous action than anyone should know what to do with on a Thursday morning. But as an indication of just how completely batshit wild these movies can get in the future—like, say, this but iiiiiiiiin spaaaaaaaaaaace — I’m on board.

Bring forth Black Superman. Also, just cast Idris Elba as Actual Superman in The Suicide Squad while you’re at it, thanks.

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