Movie Critic on Obama Farewell: ‘I Want to Grab His Pant Leg and Tell Him Not to Go!

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Tim Graham reports: Movie critic Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter offered a rave review of President Obama’s farewell address on Tuesday night, hailing it in the headline as “One Last Reminder of What Presidential Looks Like.” Donald Trump is all “schoolyard taunts” for white people in “silly hats,” while Obama is so terrific that “Watching him walk off the stage made you feel like a child desperately holding onto a father’s pants [sic] legs to try to prevent him from leaving the house.”
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“I know exactly how you feel.”

…This sounds like a parody of media fawning over Obama….but then so does so much of the Obama-loving media. But the line about grabbing on to Obama’s pant leg is just priceless:

“I’m more optimistic than when we started,” declared Obama, and it was then that you fully realized that he was transitioning from commander in chief to therapist in chief.

“It has been the honor of my life to serve you. … I won’t stop,” he assured us, invoking the slogan that accompanied his ascendancy to the presidency: “Yes we can.” Except this time, he added, “Yes we did.” Read the rest of this entry »


Rise of the Robot Music Industry

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AI is transforming music streaming, talent spotting, promotion and even composition.

Robotic is not an adjective that many musicians would want applied to their songs but the industry has been fast to embrace data analytics and artificial intelligence to help tailor its services to the increasingly fickle listener.

Algorithms are seeping into the music business to help with talent spotting, promotion and even composition in an industry that has been historically resistant to change and was one of the first to feel the effects of “disruption” through piracy and music sharing.

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Streaming services have already ushered in an era of “hyper personalisation” for music lovers. Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist, launched in July 2015, had racked up 40m listeners around the world and 5bn track streams by May this year, according to a report from the BPI prepared by Music Ally. These playlists monitor what a person is listening to, and cross-references that data with other users with similar tastes to recommend new songs and artists.

Apple Music has opted to use human curators such as Zane Lowe, the radio DJ, for its playlists, but Spotify has doubled down on its robotic recommenders with new services such as Release Radar and the Daily Mix to tempt its subscribers down different paths.

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Yet discovery is only the equivalent of a debut album for streaming services, and can be a blunt tool. Users of Spotify Discover complain that it is hit and miss — often suggesting the same artists and songs repeatedly, and failing to adapt to the often random whims of the listener.

The industry is now hoping that the use of artificial intelligence will bring better analytics, and even predictive technology.

A listener’s location, mood and even the weather conditions are now being built into some recommendation engines. Google Play is, for example, working on such adaptive functions.

“A bot will be able to recognise guilty pleasures . . . see that I’ve been to the pub and serve me a Little Mix record when I’m on the way home,” says Luke Ferrar, head of digital at Polydor, pointing to the use of algorithms to understand how people listen to music. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] REWIND: ‘The Big Short’ and the 2008 Financial Crisis 

The arrival of The Big Short in 2015 – available on streaming services now – and its subsequent nominations at the 88th Academy Awards, has reignited interest in the causes of the 2008 financial crisis.

[Armond White Reviews The Big Short]

The film would have you think that private greed on Wall Street and a lack of regulation caused the economic crash. While stories like this might make for a fun movie, The Big Short fails to align with the facts.

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[The Big Short Spins Historical Lead into Oscar Gold]

Learn more about the 2008 financial crisis in Peter’s book “Hidden in Plain Site: What Really Caused the World’s Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again


Meet the Man Who is Bringing Asia into the Marvel Universe

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C.B. Cebulski is now Marvel’s man in the East, overseeing everything related to the brand. He talks about Hong Kong’s role in the expansion into Asia.

Andrew Sun writes: If Asia is to play any role in the Marvel universe, C.B. Cebulski will have a big say in the matter. In July, the comic book giant asked this loyal soldier to uproot from his New York home, for a new executive post half the world away. Cebulski, packing up everything including the family cat, said yes.

“Marvel was looking for Japan-centric stories at the time,” Cebulski recalls. “I didn’t have any connections but I just kept pitching and looking for opportunities. In the end, Marvel gave me my first writing work based on the fact that I had experienced Japan. So it wasn’t my skill as a writer that got me my first job, it was my intimate knowledge of Japanese culture and manga.”

Working out of parent company Disney’s Shanghai office, he will oversee anything and everything in Asia with the Marvel name attached. This includes licensing deals, film promotions, and special projects such as the upcoming Iron Man Experience attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland.

“My job is basically to help expand the Marvel brand in Asia, develop understanding of the characters, form new alliances and look for partners who will develop the characters and properties with us.”

“My job is basically to help expand the Marvel brand in Asia, develop understanding of the characters, form new alliances and look for partners who will develop the characters and properties with us,” explains Cebulski, whose official title is vice-president, brand management and development, Asia.

“Marvel is everywhere in America, but here it’s a roller coaster around movie releases. The movies hit and there’s a period where there are T-shirts and toys everywhere. After a while, it returns to a lull. We want to build a bridge that connects all the tent poles with all the brands, and that’s what I will focus on.”

“I’m basically reverse engineering the brand. In the West, people know we started in comics and grew to develop games, consumer products and films. But here, people know the films first, so I’ve got to figure out how we get people who don’t know who Stan Lee is to understand there is this other 75-year history.”

“Asia is of utmost importance. The brand is growing here faster than anywhere else in he world. There’s something happening in every territory, whether it’s games in Korea or films in China. I’m here to figure out what’s what and how to connect it all. Why are certain things popular in some areas and not other? Can what we do in Hong Kong translate to the rest of China?”

For non-nerds, Lee is the comic book legend who created Spider-man, the Hulk, the X-Men and other iconic characters, as well as being the chairman of the Marvel empire. The company is no longer cult or fringe in any way. It’s an entertainment powerhouse, ruling box-offices, merchandising stalls and the pop culture zeitgeist. In 2009, the Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel for US$4.3 billion.

[Read the full story here, at South China Morning Post]

As for Cebulski, you’re not likely to mistake him for just another expat executive in a suit with an MBA. His wardrobe consists primarily of bowling shirts and T-shirts with logos and characters. Even more un-corporate-like, he maintains a food blog that chronicles his gluttonous discoveries and adventures (Eataku.com).

But underneath that geek disguise, this friendly hulk has honed the superpowers to move millions of dollars in merchandise.

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“Marvel is everywhere in America, but here it’s a roller coaster around movie releases,” he says. “The movies hit and there’s a period where there are T-shirts and toys everywhere. After a while, it returns to a lull. We want to build a bridge that connects all the tent poles with all the brands, and that’s what I will focus on.”

Cebulski’s nerd credentials are impeccable. He grew up a typical superhero fanboy and collector. “The first comic I found on my own was The X-Men,” he says. “I was still quite young so the story didn’t grab me as much, but the images did.”

“American comics are more word heavy, and everything plays out at a slower pace. If a hero confronts a thug in Asia, the hero grabs the villain, looks him in the eye and then throws him out the window in five or six panels. In American comics, you see the hero enter the room, they would meet, there would three panels of dialogue, then he gets thrown across the room in slow motion, smashes out the window. The hero would say something as the villain falls and smashes into the ground. This would play out over four or five pages.”

Initially he wanted to be a comic artist, but realised he didn’t have the talent. Cebulski then decided to be a storywriter, but his submissions were constantly rejected. Instead of giving up, he took a sabbatical and explored a budding interest in manga, spending several years in Japan. After returning to the US, he finally got his break. Read the rest of this entry »


Netflix to Launch In South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong & Taiwan In ‘Early 2016’

Netflix just dipped its toes into Asia with a launch in Japan this month, and now the U.S. video streaming service has revealed plans for a major expansion that will see it hit four more countries…(read more)

Source: TechCrunch


Apple Exploring Original Programming Move, Could Compete with Netflix

Sources indicate the Cupertino, Calif. colossus has held preliminary conversations in recent weeks with executives in Hollywood to suss out their interest in spearheading efforts to produce entertainment content. The unit putting out the feelers reports into Eddy Cue, who is Apple’s point man on all content-related matters, from its negotiations with programmers for Apple TV to its recent faceoff with Taylor Swift.

An Apple spokesperson declined comment. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Chicago Imposes 9% ‘Anime Tax’, Begins Enforcement of Anime Control Act

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[Also see – Chicago to Apply 9% ‘Amusement Tax’ for ‘the Privilege of Chewing Gum’]

[More  – Chicago to Apply 9% ‘Netflix Tax’]

 


Chicago to Apply 9% ‘Netflix Tax’ for ‘the Privilege to Witness, View or Participate in Amusements that are Delivered Electronically’

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“The amusement tax applies to charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in an amusement.”

Netflix service in Chicago is about to get notably more expensive. On the hunt for new revenue, Chicago’s Department of Finance is applying two new rules that would impact companies like Netflix and Spotify. One covers “electronically delivered amusements” and another covers “nonpossessory computer leases”; together they form a unique and troubling new attempt by cities to tax any city resident that interacts with “the cloud. According to the Chicago Tribune, streaming service providers need to start collecting the tax starting September 1.

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“This includes not only charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements in person but also charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements that are delivered electronically.”

The new tax is expected to net the city of Chicago an additional $12 million annually.

“The amusement tax applies to charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in an amusement,” states the city’s new ruling (pdf).

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“This includes not only charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements in person but also charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements that are delivered electronically.” Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Comedy: Apple’s #WWDC Opener

Apple did something out of the ordinary to open WWDC this year. Before CEO Tim Cook took the stage, the company played a bizarre opening video that showed a behind the scenes look at the opening number it had planned but that never came to fruition…100 MORE WORDS


Verizon Agrees to Buy AOL for $4.4 Billion

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Wireless giant gets ad technology for mobile video; AOL Chief Tim Armstrong to remain

Mike Shields And Thomas Gryta report: Verizon Communications Inc. agreed to buy AOL Inc. in a $4.4 billion deal aimed at advancing the telecom giant’s growth ambitions in mobile video and advertising.

“Certainly the subscription business and the content businesses are very noteworthy. For us, the principal interest was around the ad tech platform.”

— Verizon’s president of operations, John Stratton,

The all-cash deal values AOL at $50 a share, a 23% premium over the company’s three-month volume-weighted average price. AOL shares rose 18% in morning trading to $50.18. Verizon shares fell 1.7% to $48.98.

The acquisition would give Verizon, which has set its sights on entering the crowded online video marketplace, access to advanced technology AOL has developed for selling ads and delivering high-quality Web video.

“Certainly the subscription business and the content businesses are very noteworthy. For us, the principal interest was around the ad tech platform,” said Verizon’s president of operations, John Stratton, at a Jefferies investor conference early Tuesday.

Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin, left, and America Online CEO Steve Case give a high-five after announcing that AOL was acquiring Time Warner in 2000. Photo: Chris Hondros/Newsmakers/Getty Images

Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin, left, and America Online CEO Steve Case give a high-five after announcing that AOL was acquiring Time Warner in 2000. Photo: Chris Hondros/Newsmakers/Getty Images

The U.S. wireless business has matured in recent years, leaving carriers like Verizon, AT&T Inc. and Sprint Corp. increasingly fighting to steal market share from one another. Offering digital video-over-wireless connections represents a growth avenue in coming years for Verizon, which last year brought in $127 billion in revenue and profit of $12 billion. Read the rest of this entry »


TV News Anchors Flock to Periscope In Desperate Attempt to Stay Relevant

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It’d be sad to watch, if anyone were watching

 writes: Ever since the Internet put local TV news anchors on the endangered species list, we’ve seen them try various tech-inspired schemes in order to adjust to the times.peri-sample

[Read the full text here, at the Observer]

Now, mobile live-stream apps like Periscope have caught the attention of the local news anchors everywhere, who were clearly led to believe by the tech hype machine that live-streaming is going to be the death of the news business, even if that claim is ridiculous.

Most of these feeds are “behind the scenes” footage of nothing happening from the perspective of the worst camera in the room.

Occasionally, it’s the same scrappy view from some coifed old white guy reading from a teleprompter that you’d normally see on the local news. Most of the time, it’s the silent, uneventful commercial breaks, or the backroom chatter of floor managers and news directors. Turns out, TV studios aren’t like episodes of The Newsroom, and local news anchors often don’t have very much to say when you get the opportunity to meet them as human beings.

“Look, we get it. One of the most tired speculations about mobile live-streaming apps like Meerkat and Periscope is these will help “citizen journalists” kill the television news business.”

It’s enough to make you wish there was a high-definition camera in the room with sophisticated microphones, broadcast engineers and meticulously-crafted lighting setup and some prepared statements.

Local TV Periscope feeds are all basically the same, and get boring faster than actual local TV news. (Screengrabs: Jack Smith IV)

Local TV Periscope feeds are all basically the same, and get boring faster than actual local TV news. (Screengrabs: Jack Smith IV)

“Local television news is under a brash assault from a number of forces: online news outlets that break news faster and are more sharable, a democratization of video tools, and a credibility problem that is evolving into an ad sales problem.

Moreover, nobody’s watching—in terms of audience, only a few dozen people show up at a time for even the country’s largest local TV studios, largely because discovering new Periscope feeds is difficult and so many of these Periscope feeds wind up in everyone’s front pages randomly.

“Local TV’s problem is the Internet and technology, and whatever the hype, simply turning on a hot live-streaming app isn’t the answer. “

But the worst part is that TV news anchors are just just terrible at live-streaming. The best live-streamers engage heavily with the audience, take requests and interact with comments—the reason people tune in is because they want to be live on set, reaching through the camera and interacting with the stars. Instead, most of the chatter is inaudible and there’s no interaction with the steaming audience. Read the rest of this entry »


Twitter Launches Livestreaming App ‘Periscope’ – Its Own Version of Meerkat

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Kurt Wagnerkurt-wagner1 writes: Twitter is officially pulling back the curtain on Periscope, a livestreaming video app that’s been in beta since the company acquired it back in January, reportedly for $100 million.

Periscope streams live audio and video from a user’s smartphone that other people can watch and comment on within the app — the link to the livestream can be shared on Twitter as a way to spread the word and boost the audience.

The free app, which is only available on iOS for now, provides immediate competition to Meerkat, a similar livestreaming app that took off at the Southimg_2914 by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, earlier his month.

Meerkat, which launched just two weeks before the conference, relies heavily on Twitter’s platform. It uses Twitter login and had used its social graph to help users find people to follow before Twitter cut it off.

Given the relationship between the two products, speculation that Twitter might buy Meerkat made sense, but it bought competitor Periscope instead. Things haven’t been all bad for Meerkat, though. The app has more than 400,000 users, according to CEO Ben Rubin, and it just raised $12 million in a deal that values it at $52 million.

The two apps work in a similar way, but Twitter-owned Periscope is actually more independent from Twitter than Meerkat. Unlike Meerkat, where any Likes and comments are reflected on your Twitter profile, all the engagement on Periscope is kept within the app. Read the rest of this entry »


Andy Greenberg: Inside Popcorn Time, the Piracy Party Hollywood Can’t Stop

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Popcorn Time’s BitTorrent-for-dummies approach has become the virtually undisputed future of video piracy

 reports: Popcorn Time was an instant hit when it launched just over a year ago: The video streaming service made BitTorrent piracy as easy as Netflix, but with far more content and none of those pesky monthly payments. Hollywood quickly intervened, pressuring Popcorn Time’s Argentinian developers to walk away from their creation. But anonymous coders soon relaunched the copyright-flouting software. Today, Popcorn Time is growing at a rate that has likely surpassed the original, and the people behind it say they’re working on changes designed to make the service virtually impervious to law enforcement.

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 “We’re like Google. scraping for new content all over the internet.”

— Popcorn Time’s anonymous developer, known here by the popcorn-box mascot name “Pochoclin”

As Popcorn Time celebrated the first anniversary of its rebirth, WIRED chatted via email and instant message with a software developer from Popcorn-Time.se, one of the most popular of several reincarnations of Popcorn Time. (The anonymous developer asked us to use Popcorn Time’s smiling popcorn-box mascot “Pochoclin” as his or her pseudonym.) Popcorn Time’s masked spokesperson says the streaming movie and TV app is flourishing—in defiance of many of the world’s most powerful copyright holders and EURid, the domain registrar that seized the original site’s web domain last year.

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“After everything we went through, this will be our sweetest revenge.”

— Anonymous Popcorn Time spokesperson

Popcorn-Time.se, Pochoclin says, has millions of users and is growing at the mind-bending rate of 100,000 downloads per day. He or she also hinted that a forthcoming switch to a peer-to-peer architecture will make the service far harder for copyright cops to attack. “We’re at the threshold of one of the most exciting times since we started this project,” Pochoclin writes. “Making all our data available via p2p will mean that Popcorn Time will no longer rely on domains and centralized servers but only on its user base.”

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“After everything we went through,” Pochoclin said, “this will be our sweetest revenge and our biggest victory.”

When Popcorn-Time.se started responding to WIRED’s questions in November, Pochoclin said the reborn project already had 4 million users. But it had taken a serious hit a few months earlier, when Brussels-based domain registrar EURid revoked its website domain, Time4Popcorn.eu. At its new Swedish domain, it’s only recently returned to that earlier adoption rate. (Pochoclin wouldn’t reveal the size of its current user base for fear of drawing more attention from law enforcement or copyright holders.) “[EURid’s domain seizure] was just a small setback … a small but painful kick to the balls,” the spokesperson says. “We’ve grown this project tremendously since we picked it up … The numbers just keep rising.”

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A chart of Google searches for Popcorn Time over the last year, showing its quick growth since the shutdown of the original site in March of last year. (Source: Google Trends, which shows only relative search trends rather than absolute numbers of searches.)

For any other year-old startup, those numbers would seem ludicrous. But Popcorn Time is giving away Hollywood’s most valuable content for free, and making that piracy easier than ever. Download Popcorn Time’s app and in seconds you’re offered a slick menu of streaming TV shows and movies at least as easy to navigate as Netflix or Hulu—but with higher-quality video and hundreds of recent movies and TV shows paid services don’t offer. Read the rest of this entry »


Comeback Story of 2014: Vinyl Records

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Neil Shah writes: Nearly eight million old-fashioned vinyl records have been sold this year, up 49% from the same period last year, industry data show. Younger people, especially indie-rock fans, are buying records in greater numbers, attracted to the perceived superior sound quality of vinyl and the ritual of putting needle to groove.

“Record labels are waiting months for orders that used to get filled in weeks. That is because pressing machines spit out only around 125 records an hour. To boost production, record factories are running their machines so hard—sometimes around the clock—they have to shell out increasing sums for maintenance and repairs.”

But while new LPs hit stores each week, the creaky machines that make them haven’t been manufactured for decades, and just one company supplies an estimated 90% of the raw vinyl that the industry needs. As such, the nation’s 15 or so still-running factories that press records face daily challenges with breakdowns and supply shortages.

“To get more machines, record-plant owners have been scouring the globe for mothballed presses, snapping them up for $15,000 to $30,000, and plunking down even more to refurbish them.”

Their efforts point to a problem now bedeviling a curious corner of the music industry. The record-making business is stirring to life—but it’s still on its last legs. Read the rest of this entry »


NASA: On Space Station, Earth’s Bee-ooty is in the Eyeball of the HD Beholdin’ Beholder


U.S. Home Video Market Grows for Second Year Thanks to Digital Streaming

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(AP) LOS ANGELES U.S. home video spending rose nearly 1 percent to $18.2 billion in 2013, the second straight year of growth as higher spending on video streaming subscriptions and digital purchases offset the decline in DVDs.

The figures were released by the consortium of Hollywood studios and electronics makers, The Digital Entertainment Group, on Tuesday.

Digital sales of movies and TV shows rose 47 percent to $1.2 billion, while subscription streaming spending rose 32 percent to $3.2 billion.

Read the rest of this entry »


WHOOSH: Netflix Blasts Past 40 Million Global Subscribers in Third Quarter

Felipe Caicedo/ Getty Images

Felipe Caicedo/ Getty Images

Andrew Wallenstein reports: Netflix added 1.29 million subscribers in the three months ending in September, according to the third-quarter earnings report issued Monday.

Netflix stock soared  in after-hours trading approximately 10% on news of the growth. In a move that could also be significant for Netflix’s stock, the streaming service also announced that it would accelerate its schedule of spending on original programming.

That brings Netflix’s domestic streaming audience to 31.9 million. Together with the addition of 1.44 million international subs, that brings Netflix’s global sub base to over 40 million. Read the rest of this entry »