On Shania Twain's 'Life's About to Get Good,' We Have No Choice But to Take Her Word for It

There’s something just so inherently delightful about the prospect of a brand-new Shania Twain single, from an upcoming brand-new Shania Twain album, in 2017. The last time Shania released an album, LeBron James had yet to even make his NBA debut, and after endless false-start rumors and reported delays, it was starting to look like she might not release another until well after he retired. It’s not an exaggeration to say there’s been no substitute for her barnstorming country-pop while she’s been gone, either: No star to appear in her wake has matched her effortless charm, her global ambition and her absolute sledgehammer hooks.

This is all to say that “Life’s About to Get Good,” released Thursday (June 15) as the first taste from Now, due in September, didn’t have to actually be all that good to still be a welcome presence in our lives, especially going into the warm-weather months. Luckily, it is anyway; a rollicking anthem of folk-pop perseverance with a gently throbbing pulse, a sing-along-by-song’s-end chorus and an inscrutable, almost quacking hook on the verses that sounds like it should be marking a Naked and Famous song. It’s marvelous, it’s irresistible — it’s Come on Over-worthy, which 20 years later is still pretty much the highest compliment you can give to a song of its ilk.

It is also — rather quietly — completely devastating. If you don’t know about the drama Twain has undergone in her personal life since she’s been gone, a quick summary: She separated from superproducer husband Robert “Mutt” Lange after nearly 15 years of marriage, with Lange alleged to have been having an affair with Twain’s best friend, Marie-Anne Thiébaud. Shania bounced back quickly, however, and within two years she was remarried — to Frédéric Thiébaud, former husband of Marie-Anne. It’s the kind of stuff that would’ve been deemed over-the-top even in a classic country song, and it’s unignorable context when considering the alternately heartbreaking and heart-filling lyrics of of “Life’s About to Get Good.”

Despite the song’s sunny sonic demeanor and Twain’s unwavering delivery throughout, the verses are a pretty big downer from the opening lines: “I wasn’t just broken, I was shattered/ I trusted you so much, you were all that mattered.” The second verse gets even more brutal: “The longer my tears fell, the wider the river/ It killed me that you’d give your life to be with her.” And then the absolute killer at second verse’s end, as the singer resolves to move on despite her wallowing instincts, declaring “It was time to forget you… for-e-ver.” The pause before the final word and way she extends it to emphasize all three syllables sounds like she’s still considering pulling it back at any second, and it’s spine-tingling just to hear her reach the end of it.

Shania Twain performs on the Toyota Mane Stage during day 2 of 2017 Stagecoach California's Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 29, 2017 in Indio, Calif.

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Shania Twain Announces New Album ‘Now’: Listen to the First Single

But that’s where the chorus comes in, and thank heaven. The refrain is such an instantly familiar affirmation that it threatens to overwhelm the nuance of the preceding verses, as Twain rhapsodizes (with sturdy backing-vocal support), “Life’s about joy/ Life’s about pain/ It’s all about forgiving and the will to walk away.” She soldiers on with newfound determination: “I’m ready to be loved/ And love the way I should/ Life’s about, life’s about to get good.” It keeps the song from ever becoming a drag — Shania would never, not with a lead single — but has just enough lived-and-learned bruising to steer clear of being pat, either.

And when it comes to the chorus… she would know, wouldn’t she? It’s always dangerous to read too much real life directly into pop music, but with a story like Twain’s it’s pretty hard not to, and the music and delivery sells both the hurt and the healing with such crackling alacrity that it almost seems insulting not to assume she knows exactly from what she speaks. It’s exactly what fans would’ve asked for from a Shania comeback single, and it makes its title one of the year’s most gleeful self-fulfilling prophecies.

Minecraft Nintendo Switch Cross-Platform Play Uses Xbox Live Sign In; Could Explain No PS4 Support

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Nintendo Switch Minecraft users will have to sign in with Xbox Live
  • This is needed for Minecraft cross-platform play
  • It could explain Sony’s reluctance to support it

According to Mojang CEO Jonas Martensson, to use Minecraft for cross-platform play Xbox Live is required even on the Nintendo Switch. In an interview with Pressfire.no translated on popular gaming forum NeoGAF, he stated that Nintendo has agreed to this and have been “pretty pragmatic and understanding.”

“We’re tying everything together with Xbox Live. So you log in with Xbox Live…,” he trailed off, further being pressed by the website if this would include the Nintendo Switch to which he said:

“Yes. That’s pretty unique as well! But everyone that’s in on this, all the platform holders, have been pretty pragmatic and understanding of that what we’re trying to do is create a good experience for the players. We needed a good system to connect everyone, and Xbox Live is a good system.”

Later in the interview he goes on to say that Nintendo has been “very open when it comes to working together” and the process of incorporating Minecraft cross-platform play on the Nintendo Switch has been “very smooth.”

Minecraft Nintendo Switch Cross-Platform Play Uses Xbox Live Sign In; Could Explain No PS4 Support

Over the week, Sony has been on the receiving end of criticism for not supporting Minecraft’s cross-platform play functionality. This would have ensured all consoles, mobile devices, VR, and PC can all play together online. If this does require an Xbox Live account to sign in, it would add to Microsoft’s tally of daily active users, essentially driving its business forward.

Understandably, Sony wouldn’t be interested in exposing its consumers to Microsoft’s ecosystem, which could explain Sony’s Jim Ryan using a rather flawed defence that essentially harks back to Nintendo’s overprotectiveness in the 1980s and 1990s. Martensson stops short of saying this when asked, rather replying with the more diplomatically acceptable “you’d have to ask them [Sony].”

 

This isn’t the first time Sony has been unwilling to bring cross-platform play to the PS4 with football meets cars multiplayer title Rocket League not getting the nod for Xbox One versus PS4 play.

“We’ve been doing that with PS3 and PC, PS4 and PC most recently with Street Fighter 5 and Rocket League and other games. That’s nothing new for us, in terms of working with developers and publishers to allow cross-platform play between PC and PS4,” said Sony Worldwide Studios’ Shuhei Yoshida to Eurogamer at the time.

“Because PC is an open platform it’s much more straightforward,” Yoshida continued. “Connecting two different closed networks is much more complicated so we have to work with developers and publishers to understand what it is they are trying to accomplish… We also have to look at the technical aspect – and the technical aspect could be the easiest. We also have to look at policy issues and business issues as well.”

Eventually Rocket League was made playable for PS4 players to play with those on the PC and not against Xbox One owners. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft is open to a similar arrangement for Minecraft.[“Source-ndtv”]

Chandigarh: 58 vending zones; No more street shopping at Plaza, sectors 1-6 too no go

Soon, Sectors 17, 19 and 22, which are known hubs for street vendors, would become no vending zones, according to the office of the chief architect. Also, sectors 1 to 6, where the top brass of Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana stay and which include the famous tourist spots, Sukhna Lake and Rock Garden, have also been recommended as no vending zones.

This was told by Chief Architect Kapil Setia at a meeting of senior officers, including UT Administrator V P Singh Badnore, UT Adviser Parimal Rai and Home Secretary Anurag Aggarwal. The chief architect also informed officials that as many as 58 sites across the city have been identified as vending zones where street vendors would be allowed to ply their wares.

Confirming the development, Additional Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation, Uma Shankar Gupta, said they would now conduct a joint inspection to check the final feasibility before issuing license. “Both officials from MC and the chief architect’s office would visit each of the sites. The no vending zones have been earmarked keeping in mind the heritage,” Gupta told the Chandigarh Newsline.

The 58 vending zones include sectors 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 23, 36, 38, 54, 46. The engineering wing would also assist the MC and the office of the chief architect.

The survey began in July 2016 under Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, with the aim of registering and rehabilitating street vendors so that they are not exploited. It also calls for proper rationing of urban streets and spaces. Until the survey was being conducted, the MC announced that it would not displace any street vendor because of which vendors came up at Sector 17 plaza as well.

The vendors will have to pay Rs 2,000 per month as vending fee for non-essential service providers, whereas essential service providers like tea stall, barber, cycle repair shops have to pay Rs 1,500 per month as vending fee. However, due to a delay in making the vending zones, licences could not be given.

The agency, Haryana Nav Yuvak Kala Sangam, which conducted the survey, had identified 21,621 vendors under the Street Vendors Act, 2014. The MC had proposed two categories of vendors – service providers and non-service providers. The vendors’ fees were also proposed to vary area-wise and the type of service they
provided.

Poker-Winning Machine Is No Threat to Humans

I didn’t worry too much when computers beat humans at checkers, chess, or Go. It was, after all, only a matter of time before someone built a powerful computer with a vast database of known game situations. But now that machines are beating professionals at poker – a game of imperfect information – a question must be asked: Is artificial intelligence starting to threaten people in creative jobs?

In terms of game complexity – the number of allowed positions reachable in the course of a game – no-limit Texas Hold ’em poker, isn’t an AI researcher’s worst nightmare. The chess game tree has 10 to the 120th degree nodes. The one for Go has 10 to the 170th degree. Two-player, no-limit Texas Hold ’em is in between with 10 to the power of 160 possible decision points. There are methods of making the game-tree complexity manageable in a real-time game, often based on disregarding what led to a particular position and reducing calculation depth for future positions, and they’ve been successfully implemented.

Poker-Winning Machine Is No Threat to Humans

But in poker, the imperfect information creates a whole extra layer of complexity. As Matej Moravcik and his team of Canadian and Czech researchers wrote in a January 2017 paper describing DeepStack, a piece of software they developed that bests professional poker players:

“The correct decision at a particular moment depends upon the probability distribution over private information that the opponent holds, which is revealed through their past actions. However, how the opponent’s actions reveal that information depends upon their knowledge of our private information and how our actions reveal it. This kind of recursive reasoning is why one cannot easily reason about game situations in isolation, which is at the heart of local search methods for perfect information games.”

In other words, it’s hard to reduce poker to a workable abstraction without compromising on the level of play. Two competing groups, however, appear to have overcome that problem lately: Moravcik’s and another one, from Carnegie Mellon University, which hasn’t published a description of its winning program yet. Members of that group, however, have provided pointers to what they did in their previous work.

 

The language in which DeepStack creators describe their software is disturbing to anyone worried about being edged out by machines. Moravcik and his team wrote that DeepStack had “intuition” – an ability to replace computation with a “fast approximate estimate.” The machine developed it through “training” on lots of random poker situations. It worked well enough consistently to beat 33 pro players from 17 countries.

Libratus, the Carnegie Mellon team’s product, is apparently based on different principles, using more precise calculations in the final part of the poker hand than in the early stage. It has beaten four top poker players, who came away in awe: The software managed to remain unpredictable and keep winning. Among other techniques, it varied the size of its bets to maximize profit in a way even the best human player finds it too taxing to imitate.

The good news for humans, however, is that even with all the complexity-reducing shortcuts the researchers have developed, beating a good poker player requires a huge amount of computing power. Deep Blue, the IBM machine that beat Gary Kasparov at chess, was a 32-node high performance computer. Libratus used 600 nodes of a supercomputer, the equivalent of 3,330 high-end MacBooks. It would take far more, and probably more ingenious shortcuts, to create an artificial intelligence that can win real-life, multi-player poker games at a high level.

It never pays in AI research to say that something is impossible. The field is fast developing and claiming successes that seemed unattainable a decade, even five years ago. But one can see how introducing even a little uncertainty and information asymmetry immediately makes AI developers’ work far harder and resource-intensive. Poker, though it’s extremely difficult to play well, is, after all, a game with well-defined rules. How much artificial brainpower, and what unfathomable shortcuts, will be required to excel in a game with few or no rules – like a business negotiation, or, at the extreme, a process like the Syria peace talks? Humans are used to situations in which rules develop in real time. No existing machine – and, judging by the state of the art, none that will be developed in a near future – can come close to our confidence in dealing with uncertainty and imperfect information.

Machines play an important role in eliminating routine jobs. What we’re seeing with recent AI developments is the expansion of how we define “routine” to most processes with clear rules. Even the more complex of such processes – like multi-player poker – may turn out to be economically inefficient to automate. But processes without defined rules appear to be beyond the realm of the practical. To be safe from machines, we humans need to seek out such situations and learn to excel in them.