Brief thoughts on the Hans Zimmer Revealed live concert tour

After watching Hans Zimmer’s Coachella set, I knew immediately I had to go see him live. So, this weekend, I drove 1000+ miles to Las Vegas, NV to see the latest stop on his Hans Zimmer Revealed tour. I wanted to just jot down a few thoughts quickly, with the possibility of a more expanded review later on:

  • Overall, I had an amazing time. The full set list included some of Zimmer’s greatest hits, as well as some deep cuts (e.g. True Romance, Sherlock Holmes). The whole concert was 3 hours long, including a 30-40 minute intermission in the middle and an encore. I felt like I got my money’s worth ($100+).
  • In my opinion, Hans Zimmer has done as much to shape the world of modern cinema as any director or piece of technology. His movie scores have not only left indelible impressions, but they’ve also influenced tons of other artists as well (for good or ill). Seeing him on stage, talking about his music, sharing stories about how some pieces came to be, was a delight. Zimmer himself performs in pretty much every song, sometimes on keyboard, sometimes on guitar/banjo, sometimes on percussion. His talent is monumental.
  • In terms of presentation, you could tell that everything was done according to Zimmer’s specifications. There was a band at the front of the stage, with lead soloists, and then behind them a small chamber orchestra and a choir(!). The light show was really intense and impressive. A gigantic screen behind all the performers showed some visualizations of songs that were being performed (There were no clips from movies though, I assume due to rights reasons). While some of the screen images bordered on cheesy (an issue with the Game of Thrones show as well), I appreciated the overall experience from a visual perspective.
  • My only complaint: The show was extremely loud, which itself is not a problem. However, some of the show was really just a bit too loud. I was really excited to hear Zimmer play the main track from Man of Steel, but when that track got intense, it just sounded like a lot of high-pitched noise. That was too bad, because I absolutely love it at a more manageable volume. A few other tracks suffered similarly from being not super well mixed and oppressive in their volume.
  • The encore was three of Zimmer’s tracks from Inception. On the one hand, they are amazing tracks and were performed exceptionally. On the other hand, damn you Zimmer for teasing me with the possibility of finishing a concert WITHOUT playing those tracks.

I felt like my entire life’s interest in film music, which probably started when I first bought a CD copy of the score for Crimson Tide at Circuit City (yeah), culminated in this concert. As Zimmer strolled through a collection of his greatest hits, I started to grasp precisely how much of my life has been spent listening to his music.

Moreover, I realized often his music is better than the movies they are in. Like when he started playing “Up Is Down,” I remembered, “Oh yeah, I DID listen to that amazing string-led track 50x even though I never saw the third Pirates movie more than once.”

Hans Zimmer is a legend in movie music. If you love film scores as much as me (and maybe even if you love it quite a bit less than me), know that this show is worthy of the work he puts out into the world.

I have shared more detailed thoughts about this concert on Periscope.

The Black List’s new AI service ScriptBook already seems to have huge problems

UPDATE: It now appears as though the blog post announcing ScriptBook has been taken down. My original post follows.

Earlier today, the well-regarded site The Black List, which surfaces some of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood, announced the launch of ScriptBook, a new AI service for evaluating scripts:

Who is ScriptBook?

ScriptBook is a technology company that uses machine learning and natural language processing to learn about film scripts. By analyzing thousands of produced film scripts, movies and associated data, their algorithm can analyze a film script based simply on its words. By using AI, ScriptBook can provide a more objective analysis of a film script than any single human reader.

Why are we adding this product?

Our goal is to provide writers another tool to help them analyze their work. This product does not replace the evaluation service performed by our team of professional readers — instead, it offers a new, cutting-edge way to look at screenplays. It provides objective metrics and analysis on a very subjective endeavor. Our philosophy is that machine learning combined with real human taste and intuition can help us understand the world better than either alone. Increasingly, these tools are being used by studios and production companies to make decisions, so we want to offer such a tool to writers at the lowest price point possible.

For $100, ScriptBook will provide a 4-page analysis of your feature length script. The site provides a sample report for the Denzel Washington film Fences to show what a typical analysis might look like.

There are obviously lots of challenges with reading a script and offering useful suggestions for improving it. The idea that an AI could perform this analysis accurately feels pretty far-fetched. And apparently it is! Because even ScriptBook’s own analysis of Fences seems wildly off.

Film producer Keith Calder tore into ScriptBook on Twitter. I don’t think I have anything to add to this:

How Netflix treats great indie films

David Ehrlich, writing for Indiewire, on what it means to have your film on Netflix:

I don’t know if Netflix has the power to kill the movies, but the last few months have made one thing incredibly clear: Netflix certainly has the power to kill their movies, and it’s doing that with extreme prejudice. It’s not a distributor; it’s a graveyard with unlimited viewing hours. Netflix doesn’t release movies, it inters them.

And the problem is getting worse, because the movies that Netflix is buying — and funding — are getting better. When the company first got into the original features game with Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation,” the tepid response wasn’t much of a concern; the roll-out was a mess, and most theaters refused to play a movie that was premiering day-and-date with a streaming service, but the assumption was that Netflix would learn from their mistakes and better serve their filmmakers.

Cut to: Sundance 2017, when Netflix rolled up to the festival with several of the program’s most exciting titles already in its back pocket. One such title was Macon Blair’s giddily good “I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.,” which would go on to win the coveted Grand Jury Prize, joining the ranks of films like “Whiplash” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Not only did the victory lend the streaming giant some much-needed credibility in the indie universe, it also gave them the opportunity to champion Blair as a major talent, and build some momentum for his next collaboration with “Green Room” director Jeremy Saulnier (which the streaming giant will eventually release). Surely they would make the most of it, right? Of course not. Netflix quietly uploaded the movie onto their platform in the middle of the night like it was a new episode of “Fuller House.”

I’m really torn about Ehrlich’s piece. On the one hand, I agree with his overall point: Netflix is buying up great movies and doing very little to promote them. And while being on Netflix might make you financially whole, it’s questionable what it may do for your career or for your movie being seen.

On the other hand, he makes numerous points I disagree with. For instance, he writes:

In fact, Netflix recently took steps to make it even more difficult for customers to find what they crave or stumble upon new delights, as the company made the myopic decision to replace its somewhat worthless star ratings with a completely worthless “thumbs up / thumbs down” approach. Good luck finding your way around that buffet when all of the food is divided into “good” and “rotten.”

Five star ratings are awesome for people who are really into movies and like refining their preferences. But the vast majority of people don’t give a crap about that, and just use one star or five stars. Not to mention there is wide disagreement about what the star ratings even mean. From a piece on The Verge about Netflix’s decision:

Switching to a binary thumbs-up / thumbs-down system might seem less granular than offering five stars, but [Netflix VP] Yellin said there’s an implicit understanding with thumbs-up / thumbs-down that people are doing it to improve their own experience rather than trying to rate it for the rest of the world. And at the end of the day, it’s really about just getting more people to rate things.

“What’s more powerful: you telling me you would give five stars to the documentary about unrest in the Ukraine; that you’d give three stars to the latest Adam Sandler movie; or that you’d watch the Adam Sandler movie 10 times more frequently?” Yellin said. “What you do versus what you say you like are different things.”

Later, in Ehrlich’s piece for Indiewire:

If a movie premieres on Netflix, is it still even a movie? In an age where the word “film” is often a misnomer and content is classified less by the intent of its production than by the means of its distribution, it could be said that movies — at least for the time being — are simply things that play in movie theaters. It may seem like a matter of semantics, but I think we’re talking about qualitatively different experiences. When Netflix buys a movie, it guarantees that the vast majority of people will never get to see it in its full glory. It’s the equivalent of a museum buying a work of art, locking it in a vault, and making photocopies so widely available that people lose sight of the fact that they’re missing out on the real thing.

In the era of peak TV, I can certainly agree that there is a lot of fluidity in the division between TV and film right now. But I also think the implication that the theatrical experience is an essential part of making something a “film” is a somewhat privileged viewpoint.

If Netflix never existed, the vast majority of Americans probably never would’ve seen Macon Blair’s I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore in a theater. They may never have even had a chance to. That film might never have even played in a theater outside a film festival or special event. But today, over 40 million Netflix subscribing households in the US can pull it up on their TV and access it instantly. The fact that most of them will not is a problem I think Netflix (and its filmmakers) will need to contend with. I don’t see how that makes it no longer a film, though.

See also: The Ringer’s piece on “The End of Independent Film As We Know It”

Ijeoma Oluo interviews Rachel Dolezal for The Stranger

Ijeoma Oluo’s interview with Rachel Dolezal is worth reading in its entirety, but I was particularly moved by Oluo’s closing argument:

For a white woman who had grown up with only a few magazines of stylized images of blackness to imagine herself into a real-life black identity without any lived black experience, to turn herself into a black history professor without a history degree, to place herself at the forefront of local black society that she had adopted less than a decade earlier, all while seeming to claim to do it better and more authentically than any black person who would dare challenge her—well, it’s the ultimate “you can be anything” success story of white America. Another branch of manifest destiny. No wonder America couldn’t get enough of the Dolezal story.

Perhaps it really was that simple. I couldn’t escape Rachel Dolezal because I can’t escape white supremacy. And it is white supremacy that told an unhappy and outcast white woman that black identity was hers for the taking. It is white supremacy that told her that any black people who questioned her were obviously uneducated and unmotivated to rise to her level of wokeness. It is white supremacy that then elevated this display of privilege into the dominating conversation on black female identity in America. It is white supremacy that decided that it was worth a book deal, national news coverage, and yes—even this interview.

And with that, the anger that I had toward her began to melt away. Dolezal is simply a white woman who cannot help but center herself in all that she does—including her fight for racial justice. And if racial justice doesn’t center her, she will redefine race itself in order to make that happen. It is a bit extreme, but it is in no way new for white people to take what they want from other cultures in the name of love and respect, while distorting or discarding the remainder of that culture for their comfort. What else is National Geographic but a long history of this practice. Maybe now that I’ve seen the unoriginality of it all, even with my sister’s name that she has claimed as her own, she will haunt me no more and simply blend into the rest of white supremacy that I battle every day.

Thus, Oluo concludes that Dolezal is not a monster, but just another symptom of a society in which white cultural imperialism is a way of life.

I think often of our /Filmcast review of Get Out, which we recorded with Slate writer Aisha Harris. In the review, Harris discusses how the film weaponizes white womanhood in particular as presenting a threat to black people [SPOILERS for Get Out below]:

If we had to rank them, in the way this movie plays out, white womanhood is the top threat for black people. Just think about the fact that Allison Williams character Rose is the last of the family members to die. Throughout the movie there’s little sprinkles of dialogue and moments that set up Allison Williams’ character as exactly what  you think someone like her would think about herself.

“I’m a white woman so everyone must want me.” The fact that she’s luring all these black men, googling NCAA players. The fact that she teases his friend Rod, played by Lil Rel, about how he wants to fuck her, and is just very open about it…the idea that white womanhood is the pinnacle, the definition of beauty, the definition of everything that’s pure, and the way it plays with that, I think is just very ingenius.

I hadn’t viewed the film this way but Harris’s observation rang true to me, and I was reminded of it while reading Oluo’s interview.

See also: Our recent Gen Pop episode with Tiq Milan, who discusses why the concept of being transgender is qualitatively different than being transracial.

Facebook organic reach continues to plunge

Facebook has publicly stated that organic reach on its pages for businesses and publications will decline as time goes on. For many large publishers, organic reach has been approaching 1% for a long time (that is, the number of people who see a post from a Facebook page on their personal News Feed is 1% of the people who Like that page).

Now comes a new report from Kurt Gessler at the Chicago Tribune that illustrates just how far organic reach has dropped:

Starting in January of this year, we at the Chicago Tribune started to anecdotally see a fairly significant change in our post reach.

We weren’t seeing a huge difference in post consumption or daily average reach, but we were just seeing more misses than hits. At the Tribune, we have a fairly stable and predictable audience. We had around a half million fans at the end of March and have seen slow but steady growth in the last year. Most Facebook posts fell into the 25,000 to 50,000 reach range — with a few big successes and few spectacular failures each day, usually based on the quality of the content or the quality and creativity of the share.

But starting earlier this year, we started to see far more misses. And not reaches in the low 20,000’s but 4,000 reach or 6,000 reach. Digital Editor Randi Shaffer was one of the first to notice […]

In December of 2016, we had only 8 posts with 10,000 reach or less. In January of 2017, that had grown to 80. In February, 159. And in March, a ridiculous 242 posts were seen by fewer than 10,000 people. And while late 2016 saw record lows in that lowest quartile, that 242 is far above any prior month in our dataset. And we were seeing a steady decrease in that 25,001 to 50,000 quartile. That had gone from 248 in January 2016 to 141 in March 2017.

What did this mean? In baseball terms, we were hitting far fewer doubles and we were striking out 1 every 3 times at the plate. Four months earlier, we struck out 1 of every 90 at-bats.

Gessler speculates on reasons for this change, the most plausible of which is Facebook’s algorithm. Usage of Facebook’s app as a whole could be declining, but it seems unlikely based on mobile usage statistics.

Either way, it’s a difficult time to rely on Facebook if you’re a publisher. According to a recent report from The Verge, Facebook’s Instant Articles experiment seems to not be panning out as they’d hoped, from a subscription/revenue perspective.

Media has always been a side interest for Facebook, and not essential to its core function. But I hope for the sake of a well-informed citizenry that they continue tweaking their algorithms to surface content, including news, that is relevant, interesting, and true for all users.

See also: Why Facebook’s tips for spotting fake news don’t really work very well.

What’s going on with The Ones Who Knock podcast

For several years, Joanna Robinson and I hosted a podcast about Breaking Bad called “The Ones Who Knock.” This was one of our first popular recap podcasts together and led to many memorable moments like future-Star Wars director Rian Johnson doing a commentary with us on “Ozymandias“, one of the best episodes of TV ever produced.

Awhile after the Breaking Bad series finale, we converted this podcast into a Better Call Saul recap podcast. However, listenership fell off a cliff and pretty much never recovered.

Simultaneously, we’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into Gen Pop, a new podcast that is funded by listeners through Patreon and which features interesting conversations with awesome people about pop culture.

We’ve been getting a lot of requests to re-start The Ones Who Knock but ultimately the numbers are not there to justify us to bring it back as a full-fledged show. Instead, we are going to be doing a sort of “The Ones Who Knock” lite by posting podcast recaps every two weeks as bonus audio episodes on the Gen Pop Patreon feed. We’ll also likely do a full season recap that’s released publicly on the Gen Pop feed. So, to recap:

  • All Patrons at the rate of $2/month will have access to the bonus episodes. 
  • All subscribers to the Gen Pop podcast [iTunes link] will have access to the season recap we will do after season 3 has aired.

I know this is not what a lot of “The Ones Who Knock” fans wanted, but it lets us put time and resources into a show that is a longer term investment for us, while making sure our hardcore fans are served. Thanks for your understanding and listenership.

Stephen Tobolowsky’s New York Times interview

John Williams, interviewing Stephen Tobolowsky, for The New York Times, about his new book, My Adventures with God:

When did you first get the idea to write this book?

The real genesis of the book, so to speak, was probably 2008. I had a terrible accident, and I broke my neck in five places riding a horse on the side of an active volcano in Iceland. What could possibly have gone wrong? So I got back to America, and the doctor told me I had a fatal injury. Which is disturbing on many levels, including a terrible misuse of the word fatal. There’s not a lot you can do with a broken neck. So I’m at home waiting to recover, and I know it’s going to be a few months. And I thought: What if what the doctor told me was true? What if I had died on that mountain in Iceland? What would I have wanted my sons to know about their father?

Those stories became the podcast “The Tobolowsky Files,” and some of those found their way onto national radio. And then Simon & Schuster said, “Can we do a book of some of these stories?” That became “The Dangerous Animals Club.” After that, my editor, Ben Loehnen, called me up and said: “Several of the stories have a kind of spiritual resonance that we’re getting feedback on from people. Is it possible you could write another book of stories that are held together by the idea of spirit or belief or faith or something?” And I said, “Sure, not a problem.” […]

Persuade someone to read it in less than 50 words.

These are true stories from my life. Most are funny. Some are not. They’re often unbelievable, occasionally creepy. Together they tell a bigger story of how we are shaped by the invisible. Something I call divine. Something I hope becomes wisdom.

I have a copy of My Adventures with God [Amazon link] and from what I’ve read so far, it exemplifies the best qualities of Stephen’s storytelling. It is moving, funny, and provocative. I’m so pleased to have been a tiny part of Stephen’s journey towards bringing his stories into the world.

Watch Hans Zimmer’s spectacular Coachella performance

Hans Zimmer performed a set at Coachella that blew the roof of the place yesterday(it’s already on Reddit’s front page this morning). Those of us who weren’t there live could watch on Coachella’s live stream.

Unfortunately, Coachella only uploaded a small portion of the 60+ minute performance (seen above). That being said, here’s a list of the full set:

  • Inception – Half Remembered Dream
  • Inception – The Dream is Collapsing
  • Inception – Mombasa
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – One Day
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – Up Is Down
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – He’s a Pirate
  • The Lion King – Circle of Life
  • The Lion King – Under the Stars
  • The Lion King – This Land
  • Gladiator – The Wheat
  • Gladiator – The Battle
  • Gladiator – Elysium
  • Gladiator – Now We Are Free
  • Freedom
  • The Dark Knight – Why So Serious
  • The Dark Knight – Fear Will Find You
  • Aurora
  • Inception – Time

If you want to see Hans Zimmer live, there’s still a chance! Check out the tour dates on his website.

Recommendation for the new Mac Pro: Make it as versatile as possible

Marco Arment, writing for his blog, on how Apple should design the new Mac Pro:

The requirements are all over the map, but most pro users seem to agree on the core principles of an ideal Mac Pro, none of which include size or minimalism:

  • More internal capacity is better.
  • Each component should have a reasonably priced base option, but offer the ability to configure up to the best technology on the market.
  • It needs to accommodate a wide variety of needs, some of which Apple won’t offer, and some of which may require future upgrades.

Or, to distill the requirements down to a single word:

  • Versatility

I agree with all of Arment’s recommendations. The pro market needs versatility to accommodate a huge variety of use cases.

I’m skeptical that Apple, which seems to prize thinness above all other design principles these days, will follow this path. That being said, their recent mea culpa seems to indicate they are open to a hard pivot on a product for this product.

How the model minority myth is deployed

Andrew Sullivan had a piece for New York magazine yesterday that set my Twitter timeline on fire. In discussing United’s recent dragging of an innocent Asian man off a flight, Sullivan wrote this:

Do you know the real reason Dr. Dao was so brutally tackled and thrown off that United flight? It was all about white supremacy. I mean, what isn’t these days? That idea is from the New Republic. Yes, the cops “seemed” to be African-American, as the author concedes, so the white-versus-minority paradigm is a little off. Yes, this has happened before to many people with no discernible racial or gender pattern. Yes, there is an obvious alternative explanation: The seats from which passengers were forcibly removed were randomly assigned. New York published a similar piece, which argued that the incident was just another example of Trump’s border-and-immigration-enforcement policies toward suspected illegal immigrants of color. That no federal cops were involved and there is no actual evidence at all of police harassment of Asian-Americans is irrelevant — it’s all racism, all the time, everywhere in everything.

It’s easy to mock this reductionism, I know, but it reflects something a little deeper. Asian-Americans, like Jews, are indeed a problem for the “social-justice” brigade. I mean, how on earth have both ethnic groups done so well in such a profoundly racist society? How have bigoted white people allowed these minorities to do so well — even to the point of earning more, on average, than whites? Asian-Americans, for example, have been subject to some of the most brutal oppression, racial hatred, and open discrimination over the years. In the late 19th century, as most worked in hard labor, they were subject to lynchings and violence across the American West and laws that prohibited their employment. They were banned from immigrating to the U.S. in 1924. Japanese-American citizens were forced into internment camps during the Second World War, and subjected to hideous, racist propaganda after Pearl Harbor. Yet, today, Asian-Americans are among the most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups in America. What gives? It couldn’t possibly be that they maintained solid two-parent family structures, had social networks that looked after one another, placed enormous emphasis on education and hard work, and thereby turned false, negative stereotypes into true, positive ones, could it? It couldn’t be that all whites are not racists or that the American dream still lives?

Sullivan has often made controversial statements about race, like when he repudiated Black Lives Matter, but now he’s bringing the status of Asians into this argument and my brothers and sisters just were not having it.

In response, journalist Jeff Guo issued the following tweetstorm:

It’s important to recognize when and how the myth of the model minority is deployed. It’s almost always used to disparage one minority group, and occasionally to turn minority groups against each other. We should be vigilant against it.

A toxic worker’s damage can outweigh the benefits of a superstar employee

Nicole Torres, writing for HBR in 2015, about a paper by Dylan Minor and Michael Housman:

They compared the cost of a toxic worker with the value of a superstar, which they define as a worker who is so productive that a firm would have to hire additional people or pay current employees more just to achieve the same output. They calculated that avoiding a toxic employee can save a company more than twice as much as bringing on a star performer – specifically, avoiding a toxic worker was worth about $12,500 in turnover costs, but even the top 1% of superstar employees only added about $5,300 to the bottom line.

The real difference could be even bigger, if you factor in other potential costs, such as litigation fees, regulatory fines, lower employee morale, and upset customers. One 2012 CareerBuilder survey found that 41% of the nearly 2,700 employers surveyed estimated that a bad hire could cost $25,000, while a quarter believed it was much higher—$50,000 or more.

As we’ve seen over and over again in recent days, companies often value the skills of high performers at the expense of all other beneficial characteristics. This comes to cost them dearly when their superstar employees turn out to be toxic workers.

Ian Abramson’s insane stand-up set on ‘Conan’

I hadn’t really heard of comedian Ian Abramson before, but he’s definitely on my radar now. On a recent episode of Conan, Abramson dramatically upped the stakes of his set by giving an audience member the trigger to a dog shock collar that he wore around his neck. Good jokes got a pass; bad jokes resulted in a body-jolting shock.

The result is a set of jokes that needed to be funny to avoid bodily harm. I felt more invested than I ever have in a comedian’s set being hilarious. For the most part, Abramson succeeded. Bravo for taking a chance and creating a really memorable late-night moment in the process.

(via Vulture)

Visualizing the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies

Bloomberg has an incredible data visualization of every Fast and Furious movie (excluding the eighth):

The Fast & Furious blockbuster franchise unfolds over nearly 14 hours so far—and that’s before an eighth movie in the $4 billion series, The Fate of the Furious, arrives in theaters on Friday. The newest film will speak in a lucrative language that audiences have learned to crave: gear shifts, engine revs, car chases, angry banter about cars, and sips of Corona. Exactly how fast and how furious is the Fast & Furious cinematic universe? The family at Bloomberg decided to meticulously analyze all seven movies to track their evolution. We counted just about everything that could be turned into a meaningful metric, even screen time for men’s biceps.

Here are some of the biggest findings in my opinion:
  • The movies have grossed over $4 billion but it’s really Fast Five ($626MM), Fast and Furious 6 ($789MM), and Furious 7 ($1.5B) that sent the series’ box office receipts into the stratosphere.
  • As time has gone on, the movies have focused on cars and racing less and less, with less than one minute occupied with racing in Furious 7, compared to a luxurious 15:10 of racing screentime in Tokyo Drift. This makes sense, as the movies have shifted towards more of a heist model, compared with the undercover police intrigue from the first three films.
  • In contrast, the number of action scenes have significantly increased over time. Number of car action scenes, hand-to-hand-combat scenes, and explosions have all gone up dramatically from Furious movies 3-7.
  • Remarkably, despite how schlocky and unrealistic the series has gotten, reviews of the films have trended upwards over time, with Furious 7 receiving the highest RottenTomatoes score of all of them, 79%.

Check out the full rundown at Bloomberg’s site.

Burger King is trying to trigger your Google Home

Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge, about one of Burger King’s new ads:

Burger King is unveiling a horrible, genius, infuriating, hilarious, and maybe very poorly thought-out ad today that’s designed to intentionally set off Google Homes and Android phones.

The 15-second ad features someone in a Burger King uniform leaning into the camera before saying, “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?”

For anyone with a Google Home near their TV, that strangely phrased request will prompt the speaker to begin reading the Wikipedia entry for the Whopper. It’s a clever way of getting viewers’ attention, but it’s also a really quick way of getting on viewers’ nerves — just look at the reactions people had when ads accidentally triggered voice assistants in the past.

After much use, my home assistants now feel like an extension of my household. I don’t like companies like Burger King messing with them without permission.

Side note: I’ve noticed that whenever an Amazon Echo ad comes on TV, it typically doesn’t trigger my Echo (or the ad briefly triggers the Echo before it powers down again). Not sure how Amazon is pulling this off — my guess is it involves “teaching” Alexa the audio profile of the ads and telling Alexa to ignore them — but it’s impressive.

UPDATE: Google seems to have disabled the ad’s ability to communicate with your Google Home:

‘Fast and Furious’ movies with Corona being consumed averaged $87 million more box office than those that don’t

Reddit user LundgrensFrontKick has a fascinating analysis correlating Corona consumption in Fast and Furious movies with an increase in critical positivity and box office receipts. Those that feature Corona being consumed average $250 million domestically and have a combined 63% IMDB/Rottentomatoes score, while those that don’t average $163 million domestically and have a 57% IMDB/Rottentomatoes score:

“You can have any brew you want, as long as it’s a Corona.” With these beautiful words The Fast and the Furious announced its glorious partnership with Corona. Corona saw its zenith in The Fast & The Furious, but it got a massive push in Furious 7 when Dom famously turned down delicious Belgian beer in favor of a bucket of Corona. Corona and the Fast world have become synonymous with each other and have built a beautiful world in which nobody gets drunk or gains weight due to excessive drinking. However, after rewatching all the films I’ve come to realize Corona doesn’t play that big of a role in the Fast world. In my mind, the entire team are always incorrectly chugging bottled beer while cruising around the earth engaging in shenanigans. I am 100% serious when I say I was surprised when I compiled the numbers of Corona sightings.

See also: A brief history of Furious product placements.

[Thanks to Drew Wallner for bringing this to my attention]

The problem with Louis CK

I tried to articulate some of my issues with Louis CK’s new special, 2017, on the latest episode of the /Filmcast. I used to feel that CK was poking fun at politically correct people — that there was a broader purpose to trying to rile people up with his humor. Of late, I’ve lost that sense and started to perceive his humor as merely inflammatory, rather than commenting on comedy that is inflammatory.

Here’s his recent opening monologue for SNL:

Other people have deeper issues with his humor. Here’s Jeff Ihaza, writing for The Outline, about 2017:

We often look to comedians for philosophical advice or digestible interpretations of our current moment. (President Obama once quoted, and was later criticized for, a Chris Rock joke in a speech about race.) For fans of C.K., who has been accused on multiple occasions of sexual misconduct with women comedians, there are more pressing ethical quandaries and clear limitations of his endlessly cynical worldview. As the writer Vinson Cunningham pointed out in The New Yorker, “In Louis C.K. 2017, he acknowledges the fundamental absurdity of the standup’s recent designation as a purveyor of sociopolitical opinion. ‘Here’s what I think,’ he says, almost rolling his eyes at himself, as he eases into a finely parsed opening routine on abortion.”

Perhaps it is the fault of the modern age. Comedians like Louis C.K. and Dave Chappelle — whose similarly timely Netflix specials premiered last month — were seen as soothsayers once upon a time, able to vocalize their fans’ anxieties and make them laugh. Today, there seems to be a deficiency of such voices. Louis C.K., whom I once considered an insightful, if absurd, philosopher, seems like too much of the wrong thing. In the context of the current mood and with the knowledge that he might be a predatory person, his style betrays something darker than mere self-deprecating wit.

Diving deeper into ‘Ghost in the Shell’

I wanted to share a few more pieces about Ghost in the Shell (aside from the one I posted the other day) that I’ve found to be particularly helpful in shaping a productive debate on the new film: