Saturday, October 23, 2021

Sequel Theory


From @DKThompson / Derek Thompson of The Atlantic:

Between the 1970s and 1990s, the share of sequels in Hollywood didn't change.

Since 1999, it's basically been more sequels, remakes, and adaptations every year.


1. Probably the smartest version of the "in the long run, everything is downstream of technology" argument

2. The rise of prestige TV

The 1990s happened to be when cable TV neared its financial apex, drew in big-time showrunners whose hits had a flywheel effect that, over time, sucked original stories to the smaller screen

3. The Anita Elberse Blockbuster theory

As marketing costs for films grew, it pushed studios toward safer projects with more built-in "pre-awareness." Late 90s was an inflection point in studios choosing Fewer-Bigger-Familiar over More-Small-Original

4. The Phantom Menace Theory!

I have some fondness for the idea that the Phantom Menace had a kind of Roger Bannister Effect on Hollywood, showing that you can break land-speed records for shitty familiarity and audiences will still show up in droves.


Directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad, Venom)
Starring Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg 

NYT on Seattle Food and Beer Scene


New York Times - "Beef Has Issues. This Seattle Steakhouse Agrees."
By Brett Anderson

"Mr. Thornhill, 37, and his colleagues — notably the restaurant’s original butcher, Tom Coss — have made it a mission to make steaks out of cuts long considered too tough, small or unsightly for the assignment. This accounts for the long list of steaks that most diners will never have seen on a steakhouse menu, if at all.

They include, depending on the night, obscure cuts (like gracilis and coulotte) and others presumed to be palatable only if slow-cooked or ground into hamburger (ball tip, brisket deckle).

Through trial and error, Mr. Thornhill and Mr. Coss developed methods for butchering and aging tougher, leaner cuts that deepen the flavor and help tenderize the meat, at least to a point. (Mr. Coss was laid off, along with the rest of the staff, at the start of the pandemic; he now is head butcher at the Shambles, a Seattle bar and butcher. Mr. Johnson joined Bateau after it resumed regular service in April.)

For diners, part of the Bateau experience is learning that meat from free-roaming, grass-fed cows will always require a sharp knife. “As consumers, we’ve been told that the best-quality meat is tender meat, fork tender,” Mr. Thornhill said. “Our metric for quality is flavor.”

All of the steaks, including the traditional steakhouse varieties, are cooked the same: seared in cast-iron pans and basted with brown butter. The meat is priced by weight, with some cuts available in four- or five-ounce portions. This reduces waste and encourages diners to sample."

New York Times - "Exploring Seattle’s Booming Beer Scene"
By Christopher Solomon

"Seattle is home to nearly 70 breweries — a staggering number, greater than several states can boast. Summer is one of the best times to backstroke through this ocean of cool beer as the pandemic loosens its grip. There’s always something new to try and someplace new to go as breweries continue to take root in this thirsty city, sometimes in the unlikeliest of places. Ersatz biergartens have sprung up in parking lots as the pandemic forces breweries to become creative about how to gather people safely.

Exhibit A lies about three miles north of downtown Seattle’s high-rises, where a patch of gray industrial land has become a popular brewery district in only a few years. Eleven breweries with taphouses occupy the roughly six-block square of what’s now called the Ballard Brewery District ...

But even this list doesn’t fully capture the sudsy momentum. Cast your eyes a few more blocks in any direction, and the number of breweries-with-taprooms swells. Cloudburst Brewing has added a satellite taproom to its nearby brewery about one mile west of here. A bit farther to the south sits Holy Mountain Brewing, one of the best microbrewers in the nation. A beer lover could wander for days. Best of all, almost everything is so close that the thirsty and curious can explore on foot, or on one of Seattle’s ubiquitous shared scooters or city bicycles."

NFL Families: Trevon Diggs


The Ringer - "Is Trevon Diggs Really This Good, or Just Lucky? Yes."

NFL Families: Arch Manning


ESPN - "Arch Manning and life as the nation's top quarterback recruit in a family of quarterback royalty"

NBA 75 Team


 - "NBA 75th Anniversary Team announced"

USA Today - "The 10 biggest snubs who were left off the NBA's 75 greatest players list"

The new names (from the NBA's 50th anniversary team):
  1. Ray Allen
  2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  3. Carmelo Anthony
  4. Kobe Bryant
  5. Stephen Curry
  6. Anthony Davis
  7. Tim Duncan
  8. Kevin Durant
  9. Kevin Garnett
  10. James Harden
  11. Allen Iverson
  12. LeBron James
  13. Jason Kidd
  14. Kawhi Leonard
  15. Damian Lillard
  16. Bob McAdoo
  17. Steve Nash
  18. Dirk Nowitzki
  19. Chris Paul
  20. Gary Payton
  21. Paul Pierce
  22. Dennis Rodman
  23. Dwyane Wade
  24. Russell Westbrook
  25. Dominique Wilkins

Highest Basketball Court in the World


(via @FOS.)

To celebrate the start of a new NBA season, Hennessy brought basketball to two symbolic places:

Basketball An iconic art venue in London
Basketball The top of a skyscraper in Shanghai

The court in Shanghai is the highest basketball court in the world.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Globalization of TV


Vulture - "Planet Squid Game"

"Netflix’s ability to turn non-English-language shows into worldwide hits is nothing new, with series such as Narcos, Dark, La Casa de Papel (Money Heist), and Elite all breaking out in big ways over the past five years. But those triumphs are starting to pale next to the emerging success of Squid Game, a hugely addictive dystopian drama from South Korea that, barely two weeks after its premiere, has become a massive social-media phenom — and the No. 1 show on the streamer’s popularity charts in 90 countries, including the United States. Just how big is it? Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos went on record this week predicting that writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk’s creation might soon dethrone Bridgerton and The Witcher as the platform’s most sampled original-series launch ever.


Netflix’s global TV head, Bela Bajaria, says her colleagues at Netflix Korea, under the guidance of regional content chief Minyoung Kim, had long expected big things from Squid Game, particularly when the first footage started coming in. And because consumption of K-dramas among U.S. Netflix subscribers has exploded by 200 percent in the past two years, the company was optimistic that Hwang’s epic story could overperform here and in other parts of the world. “But we could not imagine that it would be this big globally,” Bajaria tells Vulture. “We always knew it was going to be a signature title for Korea, but there’s no way to have anticipated it would be this big.”

The near-instant enthusiasm for Squid Game is all the more impressive because the series isn’t based on any preexisting intellectual property, such as a book or comics series, and thus didn’t arrive with a corresponding built-in fan base or even the name recognition of something like Lupin. And while Bajaria says the show did get a substantial promotional push in Korea and other Asian countries, there was hardly any marketing in the U.S. outside of a trailer tailored to American audiences. Instead, Squid Game seems to have broken out simply through what the exec calls “an organic fandom,” one fueled in no small part by Netflix’s ability to put the show into more than 200 million homes around the world at once. Subscribers “tweeted and TikToked about it, and it just grew through word of mouth,” Bajaria says. “People hear about it, people talk about it, people love it, and there’s a very social aspect to that, which does help grow the show outside of what we do.”

It also helps that, in addition to shelling out billions to produce its programming, Netflix invests millions more to make sure shows like Squid Game are easily watchable even for folks who don’t speak the language used in them. Netflix offers subtitles in 37 languages and dubs its shows in 34, far more than any other major streamer. That means subscribers who don’t have the patience for subtitles (read: a lot of Americans) are now much more likely to get invested in series and movies they otherwise would have skipped (dubbing scolds be damned).

This, along with streaming’s lack of time-and-space constraints, has dramatically expanded the potential audience for local-language content. Catching a new foreign-language movie, for example, once required residency in a big city or a tolerance for driving a few dozen miles in search of an art-house cinema. But in the streaming age, even if “you might not be the kind of person who would want to do that, you might click ‘play’ on Squid Game,” Bajaria says. Netflix’s decision to make international content widely available and easy to watch, she adds, “takes away the barrier of entry … and opens up different storytelling for more people.” And it’s clearly working in the U.S.: Bajaria says streaming of all non-English content is up 71 percent since 2019 among the platform’s American audience."

Golf During the Pandemic

The Making of Dune


New York Times - "The Man Who Finally Made a ‘Dune’ That Fans Will Love"

"The decision to stream the film seemed to Villeneuve symptomatic of threats to the cinematic tradition itself, which he sees as fulfilling an ancient human need for communal storytelling.


An environmental fable, a parable of the oil economy, a critique of colonialism, a warning against putting your faith in charismatic leaders, “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides, an aristocratic teenager who travels to a distant land; joins with a desert people, the Fremen; becomes their messiah; and leads them into revolt against their colonial oppressors. Paul’s story recalls “Lawrence of Arabia” (Herbert was influenced by T.E. Lawrence), and “Lawrence” came to mind as I watched “Dune.” Each movie is a character-driven geopolitical epic, each was filmed in Jordan’s Wadi Rum and each is a spectacularly beautiful cinematic ode to the desert.


Villeneuve’s insistence on real-world locations for “Dune” led him to spend days in a helicopter on reconnaissance flights over the desert. “When you go up in the air, there are things that reveal themselves, like some twin mountains that look like two old grandmothers, that I feel were so linked with the nature of the movie, and they became kind of characters for me,” he explained. The movie’s cinematographer, Greig Fraser, came to the project straight after working on “The Mandalorian,” a “Star Wars” series filmed almost entirely in a virtual studio where real-time computer rendering of scenery moves seamlessly on screens behind the cast. This process gives directors absolute control over the environment — it “takes out the problem of [expletive] that goes on in the world, like cloud cover, like someone parking the portaloo in the wrong spot,” as Fraser puts it. When Fraser offered some of this technology to Villeneuve, he declined. Villeneuve needed to shoot the movie in real desert landscapes, the director told me, “for my own mental sanity, to be able to inspire myself to find back that feeling I was looking for of isolation, of introspection.”


The “Dune” production designer Patrice Vermette told me they used Google Earth to look for the right location for the scenes on Arrakis: a desert with rock formations that the Fremen would use as refuges from the searing, inimical heat. They found promising candidates in Iran, Chad, Mauritania, Libya. “Pretty difficult,” he admitted. They ended up in Wadi Rum, “like a trade show of rock formations,” but it lacked dunes. The team collected samples of sand from Jordan in water bottles so they could match its color to another location, and ended up in the vast dune fields of the Rub’ Al Khali desert in Abu Dhabi.


For the strangest thing happened to me after watching “Dune” this summer: It slipped into a different part of my memory than films usually do. It felt like news. Images from it have unexpectedly become part of the way I’ll always remember this summer and fall: images of burning ships and glittering sands interspersed with forest fires, the terrible legacies of colonial crimes, failed wars, the constant drumbeat of the pandemic, waves of religious and neo-religious fervor spurred by societal inequities and the constant, dreadful background knowledge that the climate is breaking down around us. “Dune” was always an allegorical novel; sci-fi’s ability to hold up a mirror darkly to culture is one of its primary aims. But “Dune” the film has somehow become part of the world for me, less a reflection than a refraction of reality, burnished with desert dust and shadow."



Axios - ""Holoportation" lets you beam yourself anywhere"

"A company called PORTL sells a 7-foot-tall booth into which you can beam a 3-D image of yourself anywhere in the world."


"Details: People can "beam into 100 portals at the exact same time," Nussbaum says.

The person doing the teleportation must have authorization from the PORTL owner to beam in. "It’s very easy" for the owner, he says: "You just plug it into the wall and you turn it on."

The lead investor in the company's last investment round was Tim Draper, the superstar venture capitalist.

How it's being used: During the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, "we allowed fans to beam into a PORTL, and it looked like they were beaming into a hologram baseball card," Nussbaum says.

P. Diddy beamed in from Florida to his son's birthday party in L.A.

IWC, the Swiss watchmaker, holoported its CEO to an event in Shanghai.

The University of Central Florida — which got a PORTL this summer for its medical education program —is building a library of recordings with real-life patients who holoported into student classrooms."

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Geopolitics of Making Movies


Foreign Policy - "New Bond Can’t Take On Beijing’s Supervillains"

Jony Ive on Steve Jobs


Wall Street Journal - "Jony Ive on What He Misses Most About Steve Jobs"

"When her brilliant and inquisitive children ask me about their dad I just cannot help myself. I can talk happily for hours describing the remarkable man I loved so deeply.

We worked together for nearly 15 years. We had lunch together most days and spent our afternoons in the sanctuary of the design studio. Those were some of the happiest, most creative and joyful times of my life.

I loved how he saw the world. The way he thought was profoundly beautiful.

He was without doubt the most inquisitive human I have ever met. His insatiable curiosity was not limited or distracted by his knowledge or expertise, nor was it casual or passive. It was ferocious, energetic and restless. His curiosity was practiced with intention and rigor.

Many of us have an innate predisposition to be curious. I believe that after a traditional education, or working in an environment with many people, curiosity is a decision requiring intent and discipline.

In larger groups our conversations gravitate towards the tangible, the measurable. It is more comfortable, far easier and more socially acceptable talking about what is known. Being curious and exploring tentative ideas were far more important to Steve than being socially acceptable.

Our curiosity begs that we learn. And for Steve, wanting to learn was far more important than wanting to be right."

Slack is Changing Socialization for Work


The Atlantic - "Slackers of the World, Unite!"

"Slack was explicitly an antidote to email—the formality, the clunkiness, the crush of useless messages, the bottomless reply-alls, and the chirpily false I hope this email finds you well! s. It organized information by subject (like a message board), not conversation (like email), and its architecture encouraged users to share knowledge broadly. Everything was saved by default, so all the flotsam and jetsam of daily work was captured in a sort of running ledger. It worked on desktop and phone, and made switching between the two seamless."


"Toward the end of my conversation with Stewart Butterfield, he returned to a thought he’d left unfinished earlier: “Before, I said the adoption of something like Slack is inevitable. I don’t mean that, like, if we didn’t make Camel-brand cigarettes, people would buy Winstons instead. I just mean it’s a general-purpose technology. And people do mostly good stuff with computers generally, but people also use computers to do bad stuff, like put ransomware on hospitals. There’s a fundamental kind of moral reckoning with technology right now that if a technology has a bad use and also many good uses, should we take it away in order to prevent the bad use?”

No, but it’s an irrelevant question. Entire organizations have rearranged themselves around Slack. Slack isn’t a backhoe, as Butterfield suggested—it’s a Trojan horse. We installed it on our computers because it was cool, and because it was easy, and because we looked around and everyone else was using it. A generation of workers has bought into this wholly new way of working—one that feels good enough, often enough; one that is interesting and addictive and natural. If companies took Slack away, they’d need to reorient their processes, contend with angry employees, and generally put a great deal of toothpaste back in a pretty big tube.

Whether Slack is better or worse than email, good or bad for workers and bosses, liberating or oppressive or dangerous or delightful or all or none of those things, it’s here."

Simulating Life on Mars in Israel


LEGO's 9,090 piece Titanic set



CNN - "LEGO to release a 9,090-piece scale model of the Titanic -- its biggest set ever"

Popular Mechanics - "Lego’s New 9,090-Piece Titanic Set Is Now the Largest Model Ever Created"

Balenciaga for The Simpsons


New York Times - "Homer Simpson Was Made for Fashion"

"About “The Simpsons,” he said, “I always loved the tongue-in-cheek humor, the romance and the charming na├»veness of it.”

Al Jean, an executive producer and writer of “The Simpsons,” said that when he learned of the Balenciaga project in January, “my response was, ‘What’s Balenciaga?’” He turned to Wikipedia for answers."

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Licorice Pizza

November 26, 2021
Written & Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

House of The Dragon

2022 on HBO Max.

The Shrink Next Door

November 12, 2021 on Apple TV+.