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Black Friday Not Your Thing? Try 'Civilised Saturday'

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In what may be the most British thing ever, British bookshops are offering “Civilised Saturday” events to shoppers wary (or weary) of Black Friday chaos.

The shopping holiday known as Black Friday began in the States, but has spread like a rash in recent years up into Canada, down into Mexico, and across the pond to Europe, Asia, and Australia, despite the fact that none of these countries celebrate American Thanksgiving. Last Black Friday, British consumers spent more than £800 million online. Just online.

But not every retailer is happy about Black Friday. “It’s about discounts. It’s about a feeding frenzy,” Alan Staton of the Booksellers Association told The Guardian. He said the day’s violent scramble for bargains and steals is “antithetical” to everything booksellers stand for.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative. More than 100 independent bookshops around the country have planned for a Civilised Saturday. “It may be for people who have gone through Black Friday and need some R&R afterwards,” Staton explained to The Guardian, “or for those who shun it for a more civilised alternative.”

Civilised Saturday events and offerings will vary from shop to shop, as each has interpreted the theme differently. At Book-ish Bookshop in Crickhowell, customers can sip prosecco and compete in a posture competition, walking down the street with books balanced on their heads.

“I liked the idea of an alternative to Black Friday,” proprietor Emma Corfield-Walters told The Guardian. “It’s a bit of a yah boo sucks to the big guys like Amazon.”

The Bookshop Kibworth in Leicester is offering a day of relaxation-by-reading. “We’re going to invite people in the shop to take a seat in our specially delivered green velvet armchair, and get them to explain to us what they’re looking for and how they’re feeling,” owner Debbie James told The Guardian. “Then we’ll go about plucking titles off the shelf to bring back for them to look at in the chair. They’ll also be given tea and cakes, and a complimentary hand massage.”

Visitors to the Edinburgh Bookshop can enjoy “genteel” snacks and beverages. At Burway Books, they’ll find mince pies, mulled wine, art, and singing. Wenlock Books in Shropshire is serving afternoon tea.

It seems unlikely, but maybe if Americans are very, very good, it’ll catch on over here.

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Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
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Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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entertainment
Netflix's Most-Binged Shows of 2017, Ranked
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Netflix might know your TV habits better than you do. Recently, the entertainment company's normally tight-lipped number-crunchers looked at user data collected between November 1, 2016 and November 1, 2017 to see which series people were powering through and which ones they were digesting more slowly. By analyzing members’ average daily viewing habits, they were able to determine which programs were more likely to be “binged” (or watched for more than two hours per day) and which were more often “savored” (or watched for less than two hours per day) by viewers.

They found that the highest number of Netflix bingers glutted themselves on the true crime parody American Vandal, followed by the Brazilian sci-fi series 3%, and the drama-mystery 13 Reasons Why. Other shows that had viewers glued to the couch in 2017 included Anne with an E, the Canadian series based on L. M. Montgomery's 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, and the live-action Archie comics-inspired Riverdale.

In contrast, TV shows that viewers enjoyed more slowly included the Emmy-winning drama The Crown, followed by Big Mouth, Neo Yokio, A Series of Unfortunate Events, GLOW, Friends from College, and Ozark.

There's a dark side to this data, though: While the company isn't around to judge your sweatpants and the chip crumbs stuck to your couch, Netflix is privy to even your most embarrassing viewing habits. The company recently used this info to publicly call out a small group of users who turned their binges into full-fledged benders:

Oh, and if you're the one person in Antarctica binging Shameless, the streaming giant just outed you, too.

Netflix broke down their full findings in the infographic below and, Big Brother vibes aside, the data is pretty fascinating. It even includes survey data on which shows prompted viewers to “Netflix cheat” on their significant others and which shows were enjoyed by the entire family.

Netflix infographic "The Year in Bingeing"
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