Rachel Maddow on the Affordable Care Act

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Rachel Maddow tackled the historic news yesterday with a grace and eloquence usually only seen in Democratic politicians in Aaron Sorkin television shows (and I'm saying that as a compliment). A great opening monologue that's both informative and uplifting:

 

It's Okay

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A few months ago, I signed up for The Listserve, a service where you agree to receive a daily e-mail from a random stranger in exchange for the possibility to write your own e-mail at some point. Right now, the list of people signed up is at about 20,000, but it's growing each day.

While some of the e-mails are a colossal waste of time, many of them are poignant and insightful. In fact, I found today's to be simple, yet unexpectedly profound. Here it is, from Jazmin in Guelph, Ontario.

***

I thought long and hard, perhaps just long, about what to write. And of course I procrastinated to the point where I almost wondered if I'd missed my window to write to the list. You sign up, and you know intellectually that someday you'll have to write to everyone, but you figure it will be ages away. You'll have time to think of something.

And then it appears in your inbox asking to speak to hundreds of people. Some of whom will read and smile. And some of whom will think you're a blithering idiot. And some will think you have something interesting to say. And some will delete it without reading. And some won't understand.

And it's okay.

It's okay not to be read. It's okay not to have everything work out as you planned. It's okay not to be liked by everyone.

It's okay. It's okay to be ordinary and not one of the ones winning awards and being on the news and doing Great Things (tm).

I'm only about a week away from turning 40 years old. An age that sits solidly in what most consider middle age. Ancient to the 20 somethings and younger, in the prime of life to those already there and past. I'm not concerned with getting older. I enjoy the experience, the knowledge, the gift of being able to say that I'm closer to a half century of existence than not.

But I haven't done anything spectacular. I haven't devoted my life to curing childhood cancer. I'm not a famous politician or entertainer. I'm not a stunning businessman or scientist. I'm just fairly ordinary.

And that's okay.

I have a calm life, one that is creative and interesting. One that doesn't make for a good answer to that question of 'what's new?' or 'what do you do?' at parties, but one that leaves me generally content.

And that's okay.

So dream big, Do All The Things, but it's /okay/ if that Big Dream is something little and not earth shattering. There's nothing wrong with content.

Take good care of yourself, and remember that Life is Good.

301

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I've always wondered why Youtube stops counting views publicly when videos hit around 301 views. Presumably it's for some sort of verification process, but how does that work? And why 301? Numberphile has the answer after speaking with Youtube's analytics team, and it's fascinating:

The Hard Knock Life of a Filmmaker

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I've written about Bobby Miller's film Tub before, but the short film randomly went viral on Reddit the other day. With his newfound fame, Miller took to Reddit's "Ask Me Anything" section to answer some questions. Miller's always a fun guy, but I particularly liked his answer to one Redditor asking, "Would you recommend going into film?":

This is a legit question and a hard one... I think if you choose any kind of art as a career, it's going to be tough. I've struggled with money before TUB and after TUB. The last few years I've done a lot of digital content for companies like MTV, Next New Networks, and the Collective. And that's what's put a roof over my head. When it comes to jobs, you really just have to work your ass off on your first one and make an impression. Because every single job I've had past that first one has come from the first one! No one looks at resumes, they look at your work. And if it's strong (or you bribe them money), they'll hire you. Would I recommend going into film? I'd only go into it if there's literally nothing else you can do with your life. If you go to bed dreaming of making movies and waking up with those same dreams, then unfortunately you're screwed and you should join the filmmaking community!

The Life and Times of an Apple Store Retail Employee

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How can Apple manage to pay its retail employees about the same amount as those of other, much less profitable companies? Because they believe in the cause:

The phrase that trainees hear time and again, which echoes once they arrive at the stores, is “enriching people’s lives.” The idea is to instill in employees the notion that they are doing something far grander than just selling or fixing products. If there is a secret to Apple’s sauce, this is it: the company ennobles employees. It understands that a lot of people will forgo money if they have a sense of higher purpose. That empowerment is important because aspiring sales employees would clearly be better off working at one of the country’s other big sellers of Apple products, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, if they were searching for a hefty paycheck. Both offer sales commissions.

Why Facebook Stopped Using Facebook Credits

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When Facebook first introduced its Facebook Credits system in 2009, some pundits that believed it foretold one of Facebook's future line of business. Those sorts of prognostications ended this week as Facebook announced it'd be phasing out the virtual currency, although it would continue to facilitate payments.

Peter Vogel explains why Facebook ended its Credits experiment:

Ironically, it’s the enormous potential of Payments as a revenue source that is causing Facebook to phase out the Credits currency. Payments as a revenue source is too important to Facebook’s future to take the risk of promoting an untested and unproven currency. To establish Facebook Credits, Facebook would have had to spend significant resources educating the public and building the brand of Credits. It’s a much easier solution to simply transact in an already established currency that users understand and utilize.

A Night (of Bowling) to Remember

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Riveting story by Michael J. Mooney over at D magazine, about one of the most incredible nights of bowling you'll ever read about. Not gonna lie; this story made me pretty emotional. Underdog sports stories are a weak spot of mine, but even I wasn't prepared for how this story would end...

The First 30 Days

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What is one year like in the life of David Chen? We're all about to find out.

Earlier this year, a woman named Madeline released an interesting video on Vimeo. She had shot one second of video for every day of her life during the year 2011. I found the result to be unexpectedly inspiring and moving.

Several months later, /Filmcast listener and all-around awesome dude Cesar Kuriyama took to the stage at TED to unveil his own "one second every day project", which he'd been filming every day for the 30th year of his life.

Kuriyama is passionate about the project and believes everyone should engage in it. I think the final result is fascinating, a seemingly endless series of context-less images. Context-less, that is, to everyone but the filmmaker. It's a compelling snapshot of one's life, a video that is evocative for the creator and intriguing and enigmatic for the viewer.

So, I'm pleased to announce that I am also undertaking this project. My birthday this year was May 20th, right around the same time I uprooted my life from Boston and moved to Seattle. Starting on that day, I have filmed one second of video every single day. Around this time next year, I'll plan to publish the result, a chronicle of my first year here.

In doing this project, I've made a few observations about how best to approach it. First of all, I think this project works best when the second that you record is somehow representative of the day that you had, or at least, how you want to remember that day. In practice, this can get a bit tricky; often times the most interesting that happens to me is an interaction I have with someone else. While I can frequently "anticipate" when a good "second" will arrive, it's often inopportune to whip out a camera and start recording. Secondly, it's useful to record multiple seconds for each day, giving you the option to choose from a number of them. As a result, it's also important to have a robust cataloging system for all of your "potential seconds." Finally, I don't have experience with this yet, but it sounds like it's useful to create a master file for the final video, then stitch the videos together intermittently and continuously add them to that file, as opposed to doing them all at the end. Alternatively, one could also create videos for each month, then bind them all together in the end. I may end up going this path because it will allow me to release regular video content, but it also robs the final video of some of its uniqueness. We'll see. 

As a proof-of-concept, I've stitched together my first 30 seconds, representing my first month here. You can find this video below:



When I began working on the project, I asked Cesar Kuriyama, "What if you do this every day for a year and the resulting video ends up being incredibly boring?"

Kuriyama responded, "That's good! Because then you'll look back on how boring your life was and you'll resolve to change things."

Not a bad point, that. I don't know what the end result will motivate me to do. I can only hope it will show a life lived full, with love, laughter, and friends, a humble aspiration for the beginning of my new life.

[I am indebted to Cesar Kuriyama for his counsel and for helping me to establish a workflow for pulling these clips together. Be sure to check out his other work.]

Microsoft Unveils Surface Tablet

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Microsoft pulled the curtain back on a bold new hardware initiative yesterday: the Surface tablet. Here's Microsoft's official press release on the topic. And here are a bunch of people explaining why it's awesome:

Gizmodo says it "made the Macbook Air and the iPad look obsolete."

Joshua Topolsky says it signifies the start of Microsoft's "next chapter."

VentureBeat's John Koetsier has an unexpectedly moving write-up on this product's significance:

There’s something quintessentially American about Microsoft. Start, grow, fight, claw, win. Get knocked down, get back up. Fight again, lose again. Get mocked, laughed at, ridiculed, and ignored. But never give up. Never say die. Never stop believing that the dream is possible … that you can do it.

There's not much I can add to the chorus, other than that I was impressed with the secrecy that the company was able to maintain around the product. Much of the speculating by the press was either partially or totally incorrect. I certainly didn't know what was about to be announced and I imagine the same is true of many in the company. For an organization as big as ours, they kept a super tight lid on things, and that was impressive.

It's so incredibly exciting to be working for a company that has the entire tech press excited about a product launch. May it be the first of many.

Vulture's Great Aaron Sorkin Interview

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Great Sorkin interview by Mark Harris, with tons of memorable excerpts including this one, on the advantages of making a show for premium cable:

[T]here are no commercial breaks, so you’re not, every eight minutes, building to a sort of phony climax. Fewer episodes per season, so you’re able to do a better job on each episode. There’s another advantage that nobody ever talks about. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is. And it’s end credits. Why are end credits a big deal? Because no matter what you write, the last moment is meant to resonate. And with HBO or any of the premium cable channels, it does. You have music playing, you have end credits rolling, the audience has a moment to sit there and just kind of feel the way the storytellers are hoping you’ll feel. On network TV, the last line of the episode can be, “Mrs. Landingham’s dead.” And then we cut immediately to a Nokia commercial. And so I always felt like the episode was getting punched in the face right at the end.

Unfortunately the first reviews for The Newsroom are already out and they're not pretty. Here's Emily Nussbaum's take:

The pilot of “The Newsroom” is full of yelling and self-righteousness, but it’s got energy, just like “The West Wing,” Sorkin’s “Sports Night,” and his hit movie “The Social Network.” The second episode is more obviously stuffed with piety and syrup, although there’s one amusing segment, when McAvoy mocks some right-wing idiots. After that, “The Newsroom” gets so bad so quickly that I found my jaw dropping. The third episode is lousy (and devolves into lectures that are chopped into montages). The fourth episode is the worst. There are six to go.

A Case Against File Sharing

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The Trichordist (via Matthew) responds to a blog post by Emily White at NPR, in which White grapples with the ethics of file sharing:

“[S]mall” personal decisions have very real consequences, particularly when millions of people make the decision not to compensate artists they supposedly “love”. And it is up to us individually to examine the consequences of our actions. It is not up to governments or corporations to make us choose to behave ethically. We have to do that ourselves.

Wine Connoisseurs Are Basically Full of Crap

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Jonah Lehrer confirms what we all suspected: when it comes to wine, most people are just guessing.

What can we learn from these tests? First, that tasting wine is really hard, even for experts. Because the sensory differences between different bottles of rotten grape juice are so slight—and the differences get even more muddled after a few sips—there is often wide disagreement about which wines are best. For instance, both the winning red and white wines in the Princeton tasting were ranked by at least one of the judges as the worst.The perceptual ambiguity of wine helps explain why contextual influences—say, the look of a label, or the price tag on the bottle—can profoundly influence expert judgment.

Mormonism and Homosexuality

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The Weed writes a post coming out of the closet as a Mormon gay man happily married to a heterosexual woman. The results are surprising and heartfelt:

[W]hen talking to some friends about our situation in preparation for this post, one of them said “It’s almost like we’ve encountered a real live Unicorn!” She was joking of course. She was just saying that they were talking to something that not many encounter. A mythical creature. Someone who is gay, Mormon and married. And then as we told new friends about ourselves in preparation for this post, we told them we were initiating them into “Club Unicorn” because they had now seen something mythical with their very own eyes. I now extend that invitation to every one of you. I am not a myth. I am real.

Why Memory Is Malleable

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Turns out there's a benefit for memory being so pliable: imagination. Claudia Hammond explores:

If memories were fixed like videotape recordings, then imagining a new situation would be challenging. For instance, you can picture yourself arriving by double-decker bus at a tropical beach for the wedding of Johnny Depp to your best friend next week. To do so you need to do the equivalent of finding your personally recorded memories of sitting on buses and visiting your best friend, before ordering clips from the mind's archive of films starring Johnny Depp and TV programmes featuring tropical beach weddings -- memories which could be decades apart. Then you splice all these elements together to create the scene. Cognitively it sounds like hard work, but the flexibility of our memories makes it relatively easy to meld these memories together to invent a scene that we've never witnessed before.

Greece's Dilemma

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A moving piece by Nikos Konstandaras on the terrible position Greece has found itself in:

We hear that about 80 billion euros has been pulled from bank accounts and that 500 million to 800 million euros is being withdrawn each day. Some of this goes toward paying bills, while the rest is being hidden or moved abroad. And yet, last month there was still about 170 billion euros in Greek banks, despite the growing chorus of economists declaring that Greece will leave the euro. Why? Maybe when the volcano rumbles, when the thugs come for our neighbor, when a society gives up the fight for progress, the familiarity of our routines numbs us to the dust and roar of the coming stampede. Maybe we do not think bad things will happen to us.

Happy Father's Day

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Here is a photo my father taken in January 2011. My brother and I would often try to help my parents to shovel/snowblow the snow out of our massive driveway whenever we could. Sometimes dad just did it himself, though.

I like this photo because I think it conveys the desolation of New England winter. Those who have encountered it know how brutal and alienating it can be. But it also conveys the indomitable spirit of my father, who has triumphed over many, many odds in his lifetime to carve out a life for the Chen family in America.

Hope y'all have a happy Father's Day today.

But What If It Just Doesn't Make Sense?

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On the /Filmcast, we recently recorded our Prometheus review episode. It was a lively discussion and I enjoyed it a great deal, but it's prompted a wave of e-mail and feedback that has only rarely occurred during our podcast's entire run (one other memorable instance: Inception). I love all the e-mails we receive and I'm incredibly grateful that people are engaging with our show and with films in such an enthusiastic fashion. I love stuff like these 15 insane theories about film and TV that will blow your mind, ideas that re-orient and re-cast everything you've come to know and believe about how a film unfolds. But when it comes to Prometheus, I tire of the vastly divergent interpretations of what actually happened in the movie.

Drew Mcweeny's spoiler-y Q&A about the film is enjoyable on its own (make sure you check out all the other articles I list in our review too), but it also highlights a potential issue that Prometheus raises: isn't it entirely possible that this movie just makes no damn sense? In light of all the glaring plot errors highlighted in Drew's post, isn't it entirely possible that the screenwriters/director just had no idea what they were doing when it came to constructing an internally cohesive and satisfying narrative?

And if that's the case, does Prometheus really deserve hours and hours of pondering and writing and theory-espousing?

Of course, there are plenty of movies that don't explain themselves at all, movies where the viewer struggles mightily to make sense of the events on screen, yet they are movies still widely regarded as masterpieces. I think invoking David Lynch at this point in the conversation is appropriate. /Filmcast listener John from The Fifth Wall writes the following [SPOILERS for Prometheus]:

***

First, what is the last David Lynch film you saw?  I hate to pull the "it's notsupposed to make sense" card, yet I do believe the film works on a meditative level that belies (and, in many ways, renders moot) the plot.  "Lost Highway", for example, is an exercise in meaningless if you demand an explanation as to why Fred Madison suddenly becomes Pete Dayton in terms of conventional plotting.  However, if you catch the deceptively nonsensical line from Madison near the beginning of the film, that he "likes to remember things [his] own way," the film opens up and the pieces fall into place.  (I can back that argument up, I swear, but you don't check your inbox for 10,000 word treatises on movies from 1990s.)  David in Prometheus also has a line that I'd argue functions as a cypher to unlocking the real meaning underlying this film -- a line you didn't touch on, which says to me that you had a different viewing experience than I did:


  • David: Why do you think your people made me?
  • Charlie Holloway: We made ya 'cause we could.
  • David: Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?
In other words, what if you tracked down God and, to quote Fight Club, "He never wanted you"? In fact, "In all probability, he hates you"?

I'm a Lynch apologist. I know he's not everyone's cup of tea, and I'm sure most Lynch fans out there will want to tar and feather me for making this comparison.  But I'll also say that, somehow, I walked out of Mulholland Drive without caring that The Cowboy is never explained or given "Script Writing 101" character motivations.  (I'll go even further and say that I can re-watch Blue Velvet a dozen times more before I die and never care that the script is atrociously stupid in ways that far surpass anything in Prometheus.  And, ho boy, does Prometheus have some atrociously stupid moments)  And with that, I'll put the Lynch references away.

Looking at Prometheus on those terms, I'll only add that I just didn't see the problem with a lot of plot "problems" you raised.  You thought it was problematic that the Engineers that created humanity eons ago now apparently want to destroy us.  Or that the "black goo" that sparks life on Earth would result in the xenomorphs in the future.  To that, I say that it's more bizarre to assume that a sentient race would have consistent motivations over millions of years, or that we'd be able to understand the motivations (or the technology) of a truly "alien" race.  That probably sounds like a cop out ("so again, we're not supposed to understand it, great"), but I don't think so.  This was, for me, a movie about the perils of human exploration into areas we can't possibly hope to understand, any more than Europeans could understand the Americas and all the strange diseases and natives that handed them their asses for centuries thereafter.  Turning that analogy inside-out, the experience of David getting beaten up by the Engineer may be akin to the Aztecs learning that Hernan Cortes was no Quetzalcoatl, that this supposed "god" came to bring their destruction for reasons the Aztecs couldn't possibly have understood at the time.  This is Solaris as bio-horror sci-fi.

I'd argue that the film tells us all about the Engineers that we need to know for purposes of this entry in the series.  As far as the humans (and the audience) are concerned, it's because they "can", and humanity is right to feel as disappointed as David was by that discovery.  If this email generates any reaction on your podcast, I can already hear the laugh line, "Great, the movie wanted me to feel disappointment, and it succeeded at that."  But there's profundity to be had in that disappointment, at least for me.  

After that, the emergence of a "xenomorph" was perhaps the cheapest bit of unnecessary "fan service" in the whole movie.  First off, I don't buy that it was a xenomorph -- they were not on LV-426, the giant squid was at most a distant cousin of a facehugger (as if a possum and a grizzly bear were the same animal), and (come on) Ridley Scott knows what a xenomorph looks like and he would have give us one if he wanted to go there.  But he was presumably going "somewhere" with that scene, unless it was a sign of sheer studio meddling.  Short of that unlikelihood, I hope that, much like Ridley very deliberately highlighted that they were going to LV-223 and not LV-426, he was also deliberately showing us something not a xenomorph to signal that there was more story to be told in future installments before we circle back around to the opening of Alien.


***

John's e-mail gives you an idea of the types of e-mails we've been receiving (all of which offer totally different interpretations of the events of the film), but I think the Lynch comparison is somewhat apt. The issue I have with this argument is that I feel it's completely belied by the movie's fairly effective opening setup, as well as its positioning as a summer blockbuster. There's no better way for me to say it but this doesn't "feel" like a movie where people are supposed to disagree on the fundamentals of the plot itself. Sure, we may have differing interpretations on what the meaning of life is, and what motivates Dr. Shaw, and what makes us human. But are we really supposed to disagree as to what the hell the Engineers were doing in the first place, why they were trying to kill all humans, etc.?

I'd like to bastardize a quote from Arthur C. Clarke, if I may: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Here's a corollary: "Any sufficiently non-sensical film lacking explanation, cohesion, or logic is indistinguishable from a masterpiece."

Why We Cheat

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Dan Ariely shares some insights on why we cheat:

Over the past decade or so, my colleagues and I have taken a close look at why people cheat, using a variety of experiments and looking at a panoply of unique data sets—from insurance claims to employment histories to the treatment records of doctors and dentists. What we have found, in a nutshell: Everybody has the capacity to be dishonest, and almost everybody cheats—just by a little. Except for a few outliers at the top and bottom, the behavior of almost everyone is driven by two opposing motivations. On the one hand, we want to benefit from cheating and get as much money and glory as possible; on the other hand, we want to view ourselves as honest, honorable people. Sadly, it is this kind of small-scale mass cheating, not the high-profile cases, that is most corrosive to society.

Aaron Sorkin's Self-Delusional NYTimes Interview

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David Itzkoff recently conducted an interview with Aaron Sorkin about his upcoming new HBO series The Newsroom. I'm super-psyched about the show and hope it's a return to form for Sorkin, who's been on a roll after winning a Best Screenwriting Oscar for The Social Network.

Itzkoff does a good job at getting at some of the issues that Sorkin faces in creating a television show, but it struck me from reading the interview that Sorkin is either a skilled deceiver or he's deluding himself when he makes some of his statements. Here he is discussing The West Wing:

I have no political background, and I have no political agenda. All of my experience has been in theater and writing. But I just thought it would be fun to write about a hypercompetent group of people.

Riiiight, so it's just a total coincidence that Sorkin's band of flawed but ridiculously noble political figures was Democratic? To be fair, Sorkin also had solid Republican figures on the show too (e.g. Ainsley Hayes, Glen Walken), but I could never shake the feeling that they were perfunctory characters, put in there to demonstrate how "balanced" Sorkin was. "Alright, so Democrats are the unquestioned heroes in this show, but we also have this super attractive and intelligent blond woman, see?!" I'm not saying that there aren't any super attractive and intelligent blond female Republicans out there (in fact, I think their existence is well-proven by now), but taken in this context, these characters almost feel condescending through their very existence.

These issues are easily encapsulated in the promo for The Newsroom:



Linda Holmes has already brilliantly deconstructed this trailer:

Gender dynamics are a serious problem in nearly all of Sorkin's writing, and here, we open with a condescending lecture from a wise man to a stupid woman who says something ("Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?") that represents a real phenomenon he's trying to get at, but which is an utter straw man in that it's not typically expressed in that sort of "hit me, I'm a pinata" kind of way.

Sorkin seems to have trouble finding a balance between "extremely smart" and "extremely dumb" on his shows, and to use one or the other is to inevitably condescend to one side or the other.

Here's Sorkin again:

It’s funny that you brought up “Studio 60” because Matthew Perry once said, “I think that if you wrote this under a pseudonym it would still be on the air.” With “Studio 60,” there was a thought that I was writing autobiographically when I wasn’t.

Riiiight, so it's just a total coincidence that that show's protagonist, Matt Albie is a flawed but ridiculously noble writer dead set on changing the world through his writing? Nathan Rabin has a great piece on Studio 60 where he delves into this very issue:

In premise and execution, Studio 60 was a work of unbearable, overweening arrogance. It began with making the lead character of Matt Albie both a clear Sorkin surrogate and a writer so ridiculously romanticized even M. Night Shyamalan might say, “Get over yourself, dude. You’re a fucking writer, not Jesus’ younger brother, the one God really likes.” 

I could go on but I think you get the point. Aaron, you are one of my heroes and one of the most gifted writers on the planet. OWN IT. Own your own opinions. And maybe understand that sometimes your point of view might leak out into the world through your work. We'll forgive you for it.

Before You Use Airbnb, Check Your Lease

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Chris Dannen writes how he was living the high-life, making $20,000 renting his place out via Airbnb. Then his landlord found out...

On Monday, June 4, about 10 days before my cofounders and I planned to push our first product into the iTunes App Store, a stranger in a blue blazer served me with a restraining order filed by my landlord. There was language requiring me to kick out my guests (a German couple) immediately after being served, but the judge had crossed out that section and initialed in the margin; I guess he found that part punitive. My lawyer later told me I would probably be forbidden to have roommates again, which in the pricey New York rental market is tantamount to eviction.

Is the TV Business Collapsing?

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Here are two competing points of view about how quickly the TV industry is collapsing. The first comes from Henry Blodget over at Business Insider, who argues that TV industry trends mirror the collapse of the newspaper industry:

[L]ots of newspaper companies went broke or almost went broke. And the stock of The New York Times Company, the country's premier newspaper, fell from $50 to $6. In other words, newspapers were screwed. It just took a while for changing user behavior to really hammer the business. The same is almost certainly true for television.

Former Blodget employee (and all-around great writer) Dan Frommer points out that market forces in the TV industry are drastically different:

The reality is that, yes, the TV industry will change over time. Some of today’s winners will become tomorrow’s losers, and new entrants may grow to dominate. But barring some unforeseen technical or creative revolution, it’s going to happen a lot slower than you think. It is easy to complain that the cable/telco/satellite-dominated TV distribution system is inefficient, too expensive, or “ripe for disruption”, and many do. But that model is actually still very strong.

I tend to agree with Frommer here. Yes, the way we watch TV will soon change forever. But the entrenched forces are so intense that they aren't going to go away nearly as quickly. Just look at how HBO has recently had to fight off willing payers with a stick. It will more likely be a slow and painful decline. Look forward to it.

After the World Didn't End

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Tom Bartlett followed a bunch of people who thought the world was going to end on May 21, 2011, from before the fateful date until one year afterwards. This story is as tragic as you might anticipate:

That intricacy was part of the appeal. The arguments were so complex that they were impossible to summarize and therefore very challenging to refute. As one longtime believer, an accountant, told me: “Based on everything we know, and when you look at the timelines, you look at the evidence—these aren’t the kind of things that just happen. They correlate too strongly for it not to be important.” The puzzle was too perfect. It couldn’t be wrong.

How to Create a Podcast Empire

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Jesse Thorn walks you through the steps. Some of it is common sense, but it's solid advice all around. Thorn has had a lot of success in the field, achieving what most podcasters can only dream about. I'd like to think that if I had made different choices (than the ones I've deliberately made), I might have established something comparable to the empire that Jesse's created. But maybe I'm just kidding myself.

Plot Holes Big Enough to Drive a Space Ship Through

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Frank Swain (via Annalee) does a spectacular job deconstructing the scientific flaws of Ridley Scott's Prometheus. SPOILERS in the article:

The scientific techniques carried out during the movie are a bit hit and miss. Conceptually, items such at the moving arm scanner on the hospital bed, and what I will only refer to as the “coin-operated vivisection chamber”, are ace, and a good extrapolation of emerging technology. They’re swish and smooth and white and very much like Apple products. And like Apple products, the people using them don’t really seem to know what they’re doing.

Cognitive Waste

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How much time do we whittle away watching television? Clay Shirky (via Alex Micek) puts things in perspective:

[I]f you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project--every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in--that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it's a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it's the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that's 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, "Where do they find the time?" when they're looking at things like Wikipedia don't understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that's finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.