iPhone/Apple Watch Questions

Since it’s Friday and I’m sitting here doing about a million emails and other various tedious work, and because it has been several weeks since my last Thread, I thought I’d send one out to see if folks have questions about the new iPhone (I have the iPhone 11 Pro Max) or new Apple Watch (I have the Titanium Edition Apple Watch Series 5). Go ahead, distract me :)

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A Breaking Bad Newsletter

Newsletters, Cinematic Friends, Twitch Beyond, Apple AR, El Camino, iPhone 11 Pro

Is Anyone Going to Get Rich Off of Email Newsletters?

Kaitlyn Tiffany speaking to Helena Fitzgerald, writer of Griefbacon:

This is not an essay you can imagine being received the same way on a mainstream music blog, especially one read by men who worship indie rockers, or people who don’t already know Fitzgerald’s style. And as she goes on, she pulls out the personal part, which is that these weird and funny bits of psychoanalysis of strange older men is part of her own sexual history with “dads” and people who radiate, as she calls it, “big divorce energy.”

She’s kidding, but it’s serious; the arguments are playful and then they’re meticulous; it’s a several-thousand-word piece of cultural criticism, but it’s also just an email. The ambivalence of the format is what makes it special, and the privacy is what makes that possible.

I think about this a lot as well. What I like about this format is how informal it is, because it’s email (which I actually think is still too formal, but that’s another discussion). But with the new proliferation of newsletters, the format is becoming decidedly less formal. And the ongoing monetization will make it even less so. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a reality. Just like the blogs before them (and the original newsletters before them!).

It’s trendy now to suggest alternatives to the crush of information on the big social networks; it was only a matter of time before the people with money caught up. That doesn’t mean there’s an easy solution. Dragging the private world of the newsletter into the spotlight is its own attention economy crime. Carusillo made $800 a month for four months after she started charging for That Wet Look, but then she quit. “In no way did I feel tech culture raining down on me. There was no one up top who was like Claire, put out product, baby,” she says, “But I did think, if I skip a week, people are paying for this product and they’ll be mad at me. I started to get nervous that people, now that they were paying for this product, were not happy with the quality of it.”

“I do not think that a couple of people being able to pay their rent with their newsletters represents a sea-change in the industry,” Friedman says. “I actually see it as a continuation of a trend that has already been very prominent, which is that you can only shore up your financial success if you’re really well known.” You have to leverage your personality for profit the same way you do on Twitter or Instagram. The new (old) social network has come along to disrupt the old (new) social networks.

Good points as well. And again, things I think about as I have a general roadmap for a way forward with newsletters. But part of me just wants to keep this really informal. Also, lots of examples about how women have historically driven this format forward.

Box Office: 'Friends 25th' Laughs Up Strong $2.9M

Pamela McClintock on the theatrical run for Friends — yes, the old NBC show:

The screenings, held Sept. 23, Sept. 28 and Oct. 2, were one of many anniversary tributes paid to the show. Each night showcased four episodes, which were remastered in 4K from the original 35mm camera negative.

To be clear, this is content — television content, no less — that is 25 years old, somewhat remastered, and repurposed to make millions of dollars from super fans. Did I mention it was network television content, so it was free, when it aired, of course. There is so obviously something to this notion of “graduating” to cinemas, even with content not necessarily geared for it. I expect a lot more of this as cinema morphs.

Twitch Wants to Go Beyond Fortnite

Tiffany Hsu:

More people watch live streams on Twitch than anywhere else, according to a report from StreamElements. In the past three months, 2.7 billion hours of live content was viewed on Twitch, compared with 735 million hours on YouTube and nearly 200 million hours on Facebook Gaming.

“Every day, there’s more people on this than there are on most cable networks, and during peak events, there can be over a million people in just one category,” said Ben Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie Group. “This is the continued evolution of what video can be in a connected world.”

I’m fascinated by the notion that Twitch, a site built for game streaming, is increasingly owning all live streaming, beating out Twitter, Facebook, and yes, even YouTube — despite all of those massive players putting a lot of resources into the space. In the television era, the idea of “live” co-existed in the same space as recorded content. But whereas YouTube continues to more or less own recorded content online, live has broken off as a different beast. (And, unfortunately, I mean that with the very negative connotations too.)

Twitch also has agreements with sports leagues, including the National Basketball Association and the National Football League, to stream games, sometimes with commentary from Twitch users. This year, the platform announced similar deals for wrestling and women’s hockey.

Live-streamed sports commentary on Twitch, which allows viewers to interact with the commentator, represents a shift away from traditional game broadcasts, said Anthony Danzi, the company’s senior vice president of sales, during a presentation at the Advertising Week conference in New York on Monday.

“It’s a tell about the future of TV,” he said.

I love the idea of using the platform for user-generated commentary on top of other content. Again, this is something I’ve long-wished Twitter would do more with.

Apple’s 3rd-Party AR Play?

Benjamin Mayo relaying a Ming-Chi Kuo report:

Kuo says Apple will partner with third-party brands to release the first headsets, whatever that means. The device would mainly be driven by the CPU, GPU and network connectivity of a wirelessly connected iPhone.

This makes almost no sense to me. I’m not saying it’s wrong, it’s just… weird. It’s well known that Apple has had a massive team working on some sort of AR glasses for some time now. And each iteration of iOS brings more hints in software of what’s to come. So is this the ROKR move (working with a partner before going it on their own)? Or is this working with third-parties as a sort of “beta” period for their own product and intentions that they don’t want to reveal just yet? Perhaps because it would be driven by the iPhone either way?

No matter the case, there are real risks here for a market as nascent as AR. If Apple’s first attempt, even one with a third-party, flops, we’re going to hear a lot about how “AR is the new VR” in that regard. And the best way, it would seem, for it not to flop is for Apple to do it themselves. Even if the first iteration is little more than an iPhone extension device, just like the early Apple Watches. So yeah, this report is weird.

(The iPhone SE 2 though? That I’m all about. Though I fear it will be too much iPhone 8-like, and not enough iPhone 4 or even 6-like. Just give us the damn “iPhone Mini” already, Apple. The demand is there.)

‘Breaking Bad’ Returns

Lots of good tidbits (without spoilers) in Rebecca Keegan’s chat with ‘El Camino’ (still refusing to call it ‘El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie’) star Aaron Paul and creator/director Vince Gilligan:

In 2010, ‘Breaking Bad’ was at a crossroads: With the show averaging about 1.5 million viewers a season despite being a critics' darling, AMC informed Sony and Gilligan that the series could end with season three. When Sony began shopping ‘Breaking Bad’ to competitors — quickly finding a taker for two more seasons at FX — AMC reversed course. Netflix, meanwhile, was aggressively licensing shows for its nascent streaming service, and content chief Ted Sarandos made a syndication deal with Sony for ‘Breaking Bad’. Originally, the arrangement was for the series to start streaming on Netflix after its fourth season finished on AMC, but, with the show's future uncertain, Sony accelerated the plan, and new fans began discovering and bingeing ‘Breaking Bad’ on Netflix in time to catch some of the fourth season and all of the fifth and final season on AMC. When season five premiered in 2013, the audience had more than doubled from its previous outing. "We felt that it was a virtuous cycle, where we were introducing the show to new fans, who were then going and experiencing new episodes on AMC, and then when we would launch a new season, we would again see another wave of new folks coming," says Netflix VP original content Cindy Holland. Since news of the movie broke in August, Holland says, viewership of ‘Breaking Bad’ on Netflix is up, some from rewatchers and some from newcomers to the series. "We were a natural home for the movie," Holland says. "It wasn't a really long conversation. It was a simple, 'Yes, please.' "

I didn’t know that story about how the show almost moved from AMC to FX before AMC found their sanity. Also, of course Netflix was ahead of the curve here in realizing what Breaking Bad mixed with binge watching would become. Fitting for a show of this nature, of course. And interesting that it’s noted or alluded to multiple times here that Gilligan didn’t forget the players that led to the show’s success, and chose to go with them this time around again (the movie will air on AMC next year).

Netflix also brought the theatrical component, which was crucial to Gilligan. "Every time we'd put out a new season of ‘Breaking Bad’, we would have a premiere in a big movie theater," Gilligan says. "We would watch this quote-unquote television show. I mean, I guess quotations aren't needed. It is absolutely a television show. But we would have this wonderful, very limited, one-time opportunity to watch our television show on a big screen with giant stereo speakers thumping, the image filling 40 feet across. I always thought, 'This thing, it looks like a movie. It doesn't look like a show.' I really want to be able to share that with fans." As with its other theatrical releases, Netflix will exhibit the film in independent theaters for a very limited period.

Yes, this makes a lot of sense to me. Speaking of cinematic ideals, this is awesome:

‘Breaking Bad’ was particularly cinematic television, with its wide-angle shots of the stark New Mexico landscape, expressive lighting and deliberate pacing. At one point during the series, Gilligan and his cinematographer, Michael Slovis, made an unsuccessful pitch to Sony and AMC to shoot ‘Breaking Bad’ in the CinemaScope format that Sergio Leone had used to shoot Clint Eastwood's ‘Dollars’ Trilogy. On ‘El Camino’, Gilligan got his wish — ‘Better Caul Saul’ DP Marshall Adams shot the movie on the ARRI Alexa 65 camera used for ‘The Revenant’ and in a 2.39 wide-screen format that seems designed to showcase a gunslinger's squint across the desert.

El Camino premieres tomorrow on Netflix (and yes, in some theaters).

A Phone ‘Tick’, a Camera ‘Tock’

My thoughts on the iPhone 11 Pro Max. A ridiculous name. A great camera.

It's Time to Buzz the Tower

Surface Duo, Surface Duo Duo, Apple Films, Apple Plus Plus, Feige Star Wars, Top Gun 2

Microsoft Surface Duo Will Be a Dual-Screen Android 'Device'

Lauren Goode:

Never mind that it doesn't run Windows but Android, the most widely-used smartphone operating system in the world. When you ask Panay what this thing is, this device with a seam and two side-by-side screens that fold closed like a soft Moleskin notebook, he immediately says, “It’s a Surface.” The company’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, underscores this distinction, saying Microsoft is not entering an existing device category; instead, it’s trying to create a new one.

But there is no doubt that this is a phone. And not just any phone but the long-rumored Surface phone. Though it won’t ship for a year, its mere existence is a big deal for Microsoft. It’s also a riddle.

I don’t get it. Look, I’m all for thinking-outside-the-box and coming up with new and interesting technology, but this just seems… weird? Like a product conceived in a lab, rather than one solving a problem. Like a product born of the old Dr. Ian Malcolm adage: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.”

Holding the Surface Duo is like holding a shell of the past crammed with a not-fully-realized future. It’s as thin and light as a pocketable notebook, the paper kind, but from every angle it gleams with screen and glass and shiny hinges. Like the Neo, it shouts “Surface!” because of its large logo, etched in glass. I know it’s a phone—it works like a phone, it is littered with Android apps—and yet I can’t imagine making many phone calls from it, or going for a run with it, or, in its current form, using it as my only camera on vacation.

In fact, the most recent version of the Duo doesn’t have a rear-facing camera. The way it’s currently designed, taking a picture would require the person using it to open the Duo, unlock the Duo, and flip its front-facing camera to the back of the device. I question this, more than once. Panay says it’s still early days, that the camera may change, that he’s nervous to reveal this so far in advance because it exposes the design to competitors.

It sounds like a phone minus the key parts of a phone and a tablet minus the key parts of a tablet. Again, I know they’re saying this is a new type of device. And I know Apple has said that for years with the iPad. But the key to the iPad are the apps tailored to run on it. Are any apps going to be tailored to run on this?

That’s the main question, I suspect! And I’m not sure Android — it runs Android!! — will help them much in this regard. Weird.

A First Look at Surface Duo

Now that I’ve shit all over the idea of this device, here’s Tom Warren who sat down with device lead Panos Panay:

Panay says Microsoft has been working on the Surface Duo hardware for three years, so this isn’t an immediate reaction to Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, Huawei’s Mate X, or anything else. The company has opted for two separate glass displays instead of folding plastic, and it’s clear Microsoft thinks this is the way forward until foldable display technology is really ready. Panay says the hardware won’t change between now and when the device launches, although there’s a Snapdragon 855 processor inside right now that could be upgraded to Qualcomm’s latest next year.

Not only is it clearly true that this wasn’t a reaction to the Galaxy Fold, this general concept — two separate screens that fold together, rather than one screen that folds — seems like a much better idea, at least for the foreseeable future. Samsung was trying to be too cute and too clever and paid the price, quite literally.

There are still cool things you could do with two screens that fold together, I imagine! The key is could, see: above and below:

But that’s why the company announced the Surface Duo and Surface Neo a year before they’ll ship. Microsoft needs developers to support its dual-screen ambitions, and it wants to get the Surface Duo and Neo devices out there so that apps can be created for when they arrive in late 2020. “I don’t know if we did the right thing or wrong thing, but we do want to inspire developers,” says Panay. But what he will say is that “The hardware won’t change at all,” between now and when the device ships next year.

I was quick to make fun of this timetable — and it is a little silly — but at least they apparently have the right reasons for doing it. They need developers on board with this product or it’s DOA.

Apple Plans to Bring Feature-Length Films to Theaters

Tripp Mickle and Erich Schwartzel:

Rather than see the theatrical strategy as a moneymaker, Apple is more interested in the prestige and brand-building that can come with a glitzy theatrical release, according to people briefed on its plans, a strategy similar to that of Amazon Studios. Like Apple, Amazon has focused on character-driven movies largely abandoned by major studios, producing big-budget features in the vein of “The Avengers” or “The Fast and the Furious.”

Apple has pitched itself as a place where artists can share their stories with the world, putting pressure on it to define a theatrical-release plan for producers and directors, said agents and Hollywood advisers. They said a strategy would help the company woo content creators who still want to see their work on the big screen. and be taken more seriously as a player in film.

It is going to be so weird to see Apple movies in theaters. It feels pretty far afield of what it is that they do. (Then again, iTunes/Apple Music/etc.) It is even weirder that they’re not interested in doing this to be extremely profitable. (Then again, iTunes/Apple Music/etc.) That said, the anti-Netflix model here makes sense. As does the type of film they’re going after — the type that sadly isn’t really for theaters, anymore. All that matters in these early days of the streaming wars is attracting the best talent and thus, the best content. Apple has had some issues with this early on. So it’s time to pull out some more carrots…

Speaking of Netflix, their theatrical attempts are going… oddly? To Broadway! As Brent Lang reports:

However, Netflix’s business model, which calls for a shorter than usual “exclusive” theatrical run, means that major chains such as Regal, Cinemark, and the aforementioned AMC refuse to show the movie. It will screen solely in cinemas for 26 days, in venues such as iPic and the Alamo Drafthouse, before debuting on the Netflix. Most movies screen for roughly 90 days before bowing on home entertainment platforms.

The Belasco will screen the film from November 1 to December 1, marking the first time the Broadway theater has welcomed a film. The film will be released globally on Netflix on November 27, 2019.

Martin Scorsese can’t be happy, but I, for one, will absolutely go see this at Alamo Drafthouse, just to support the theater chain not being so ridiculously shortsighted in their windowing demands. Also because it’s just a great experience for what is apparently a great film.

Music Labels Wary as Apple Tries to Bundle Subscriptions

Speaking of Apple TV+, here’s Anna Nicolaou and Patrick McGee:

Apple’s hopes of creating a super-bundle of media content for one flat monthly fee have run into early opposition, with some record labels nervous about the prospect of offering their music for a lower price.

The iPhone maker has recently approached the big music companies about bundling together Apple Music and Apple’s upcoming television service, but the two sides have not yet discussed a pricing formula, said people familiar with the negotiations. Talks are at an early stage, they added.

Obviously, Apple is going to do this — yes, the start of “Apple Prime” — and obviously the music labels are not going to be happy about this. Direct compensation aside, it could serve to further “cheapen” the perceived value of music if not handled correctly. I’m honestly just sort of surprised that Apple even asked the labels for permission here (it feels like a certain someone would not have). Perhaps they have legal obligations, but come on, this is happening.

Marvel's Kevin Feige Developing New Movie for Disney

Kim Masters:

So far, the four Star Wars films produced for Disney have grossed almost $4.5 billion. But while Feige has presided over a mostly seamless rollout of one Marvel hit after another, reinvigorating the Star Wars franchise has not been a smooth process. Gareth Edwards was effectively sidelined as the helmer of the troubled 2016 film ‘Rogue One’, with Tony Gilroy shooting the third act. The film went on to become a hit, generating strong reviews and $1.1 billion worldwide.

In June 2017, Kennedy fired directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller during the production of the prequel film ‘Solo’ amid concerns about their improvisational style. Ron Howard stepped in to finish the film, which grossed $392.9 million and became the first Star Wars pic to lose money. In September 2017, ‘Jurassic World’ filmmaker Colin Trevorrow was dropped as director of ‘Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker’ and replaced by J.J. Abrams, who successfully relaunched the franchise in 2015 with ‘The Force Awakens’. Disney chairman Bob Iger conceded in a recent New York Times interview that the studio had made mistakes. “I just think that we might’ve put a little bit too much in the marketplace too fast,” he said.

There is a lot going on here.

First, is this really just a delicate way to sub-in Feige for Kennedy as the on-going shepherd of the Star Wars franchise? All the statements say more or less “no” but definitely not as forcefully as they could. Alan Horn’s statement in particular is interesting — it reads a lot like Kennedy is moving on to other projects, like Indiana Jones, without explicitly saying this because a number of the Star Wars projects she greenlit are in production already.

Second, there is being stretched thin, then there is Kevin Feige. Perhaps they’re waiting to reboot the Fantastic Four yet again until they can used Feige as the model for Mister Fantastic? Seriously, how much can this guy realistically have on his plate? Is he going to give up the next phase of the MCU to someone else?

Third, assuming this isn’t just a thinly veiled way for Feige to take over all of the Star Wars universe for Disney, how many various Star Wars projects do we actually need? I’ve been skeptical of the over-saturation claim — I just think Solo wasn’t a great movie, and more importantly, wasn’t needed — but is Disney trying to push the bounds ever farther here with the Johnson project, the Benioff/Weiss project, The Jon Favreau show, Ewan McGregor’s thing, etc?

Maybe Feige just really wanted to do a Star Wars movie? And lord knows, with the mind-boggling success and execution of the MCU, he can do whatever he wants.

And since we’re on a movie kick, I had meant to link to the trailer for Top Gun: Maverick several weeks ago. And so I will now, mainly because there are at least a hundred ways this movie can go violently wrong, and yet the trailer looks… good?!

Last week I wrote about why not only is it okay to revisit The Matrix franchise, it’s a good thing given the bitter taste most of us were left with. That’s obviously not the case with Top Gun. It seems likely that the original wrote checks that the sequel can’t cash. But, having a solid trailer is a good first step.

Links to the Past

IG ‘Threads’, NBC ‘Peacock’, ‘NCAA Football’, Photo Text Search, Matrix 4, Windows 95

I’m finally nearly almost through a bunch of rather random links I had saved to share over the past several weeks, at which point I’m going to experiment with sharing things a bit more in real time (except for the occasional great read that may be timeless, of course). For now, continue to enjoy the random.

Instagram’s Forthcoming “Threads” App

Here’s a scoop from Casey Newton from over a month ago:

Screenshots reviewed by The Verge show an app that’s designed to promote constant, automatic sharing between users and the people on their “close friends” list on Instagram. Opt in to automatic sharing, and Threads will regularly update your status, giving your friends a real-time view of information about your location, speed, and more. At the moment, Threads does not display your real-time location — instead, it might say something like a friend is “on the move,” according to sources familiar with the matter.

You can also update your status manually, with statuses appearing in the main feed along with messages. It’s the latest effort to automate status sharing using mobile phone sensors and one-tap status sharing. (An app called Status tried something similar in 2014, and Danny Trinh’s Free app took another approach in 2015.)

As I originally quipped on Twitter, Path lives! I find it fascinating how many people I come across to this day that miss Path, the more intimate, mobile-first social network. And, in fact, I think people miss it even more these days because of the times in which we live. Path seems to be one of those unfortunately great examples of a service that was just a bit too early.

So can Instagram reboot the idea with their massive network? We’ll see. My guess would be that it won’t work — at least not as they intend — because Instagram wasn’t built for this purpose. I think IG Stories works because at the end of the day, the product is still about sharing images. Sharing other things, even when you already have the concept of “Close Friends” (which I use not actually for close friends but just for anyone I’ve actually met, since I have a public profile — except for you, you’re totally a legit close friend), seems too tangential to the mission. But I guess it’s good that it’s a separate app in that regard. Also, Peach!

NBCUniversal’s ‘Peacock’ Could Spell Trouble for Hulu

Julia Alexander:

‘This is Us’ is a perfect example of how complicated the streaming wars are going to get for consumers and why Hulu may start to feel less necessary. Under the agreement between NBCUniversal and Disney, which now fully owns Hulu, NBCUniversal properties will continue to run on Hulu for the next five years, but they’ll also run on Peacock. Shows like ‘This is Us’ will effectively be split between the two services. Older episodes will run on Hulu (at least for the next five years), while new episodes released post-deal will run on Peacock. That means to watch all of ‘This is Us’, people will have to subscribe to two services. Or start looking at pirating.

I continue to think about this last part quite a bit. It’s becoming more clear by the day that consumers are going to have no idea where or how to find what they want to watch. So the hope would be that they default to watching whatever is “on” (whatever is served to them on the various streamers). Or that they subscribe to 6 or 7 different services (at least!). But even then, we likely are going to need some unifying UI to make this system actually usable. You know, like the cable guide ;)

‘NCAA Football’ Is Still Alive… on the Internet

Michael Weinreb:

Burhans is not now, nor has he ever been, an employee of Electronic Arts, the video game giant and creator of NCAA Football, which last published a new version of the title in July 2013. He has never been paid a single cent for his labor, nor have any of the other handful of editors with whom he works. But for the past several years Burhans and his group have tasked themselves with keeping ‘NCAA Football’—which was discontinued in the wake of Ed O’Bannon’s antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA and EA, a case that sought compensation for the commercial use of student-athletes’ names and likenesses—alive on the internet.

Burhans and his fellow editors work off of the shell of ‘NCAA Football 14’, the final version of the game, which feels increasingly outdated with each passing year. Their avocation involves updating the game’s rosters before a given season, and then posting links to those rosters on the gaming website Operation Sports. This means re-creating every player (up to 69 per roster) on more than 100 FBS teams, down to their eye color and face mask design.

I used to love NCAA Football, the video game. More than Madden. So much so that I would buy and download various mods to get the real names/rosters each year as well. It’s amazing that these guys are still doing this for a game (the last version of the game) which is five years old.

They rely on research. They spend hours digging through recruiting websites, searching for player images on Google, and finding the statistics of incoming freshmen. They have a scale that allows them to convert 100-meter dash times into 40 times. And many of the editors adhere to a ridiculously detailed rating system that Burhans created, which utilizes analytical scales to make subjectivity virtually impossible. The formula is so complex that A.J. refers to Burhans as “A Beautiful Mind,” though Burhans tells me he “sucked at math,” and never went to college. “I went full-blown nerd when I created my scales,” he says.

Love it. It’s just the cherry on top that the main guy is a Michigan fan as well. #GoBlue Aside: I’m very curious to see if the latest news around California signing into law the bill that allows college athletes to profit off of things such as their likeness, changes the equation for games like NCAA Football. Do I smell a comeback?

Google Photos Can Now Search for Text in Images

Abner Li:

Photos will now also look for text that appears in images. This allows you to search for words and bring up all results where that phrase physically appears, no matter how small or if it’s at an angle. It performs particularly well on screenshots, but also works on any text that appears in an image.

This both works and is amazing. It feels like this has been drastically under-hyped. I don’t know about you, but I now take pictures of everything for memory purposes, if nothing else. And a lot of times that includes things with text. Being able to search such images by such text is an absolute game-changer. And it will only get more so over time.

'Matrix 4' in the Works with Keanu Reeves and Lana Wachowski

Borys Kit:

“We could not be more excited to be re-entering The Matrix with Lana,” said Toby Emmerich. “Lana is a true visionary—a singular and original creative filmmaker—and we are thrilled that she is writing, directing and producing this new chapter in The Matrix universe.”

"Many of the ideas Lilly and I explored 20 years ago about our reality are even more relevant now,” said Wachowski. “I’m very happy to have these characters back in my life and grateful for another chance to work with my brilliant friends.”

A legit “woah”. I understand why people hate it when old classics are pulled off the mantle and dusted off, but when said classics ended with sort of a thud, it’s a no-lose situation. Reeves and Wachowski have a real chance to course-correct after the lackluster second and third films (though — while it has been a while since I’ve seen it — my guess the second film, Reloaded, has aged better than the third, Revolutions). The first film is so good, that it deserves the shot. Carrie-Anne Moss will be back too!

Inside, Outside

Some thoughts on the Downton Abbey movie — which is very good! — and how it points to a potential future for streaming and beyond.

I was there at launch (well, at a local CompUSA in Cleveland, Ohio) and remember this well. This video is amazing, it feels like it’s from 100 years ago.

If You Only Knew the Power of the Dark Mode

Dark Modes, Cinema Ads, Deep Impacts, Aging Capitalism, and Dark Sides...

The Dark Side of Dark Mode

Adam Engst wrote this a few months ago, well before the launch of dark mode on iOS, which just rolled out with iOS 13:

Unfortunately, Apple’s marketing claims about Dark Mode’s benefits fly in the face of the science of human visual perception. Except in extraordinary situations, Dark Mode is not easy on the eyes, in any way. The human eyes and brain prefer dark-on-light, and reversing that forces them to work harder to read text, parse controls, and comprehend what you’re seeing.

It may be hip and trendy, but put bluntly, Dark Mode likely makes those who turn it on slower and less productive. Here’s why, if you adopted Dark Mode purely because Apple promoted it as the new hotness, you should think hard about switching back to the Light Mode that your eyes and brain prefer in System Preferences > General.


To summarize, a dark-on-light (positive polarity) display like a Mac in Light Mode provides better performance in focusing of the eye, identifying letters, transcribing letters, text comprehension, reading speed, and proofreading performance, and at least some older studies suggest that using a positive polarity display results in less visual fatigue and increased visual comfort. The benefits apply to both the young and the old...

Overall, it’s a nice feature to have. But it’s not beneficial for reading in most circumstance — and it’s actually detrimental, in many. Still, in an age where so many apps/sites have so much white space, it’s nice to browse without the blinding white light pouring out from our hands constantly.

Regal and Cinemark to Run Ads Closer to Feature Films

Dade Hayes:

Previously, the pre-show complement of ads had ended before the stated showtime, at which point trailers would begin to play. National CineMedia said the new agreement means its “pre-feature program” of ads will now play up to five minutes past the scheduled showtime. In other words, a showtime of 8PM can now feature on-screen ads playing until 8:05.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Overall, I find the movie-going experience in the UK to be superior to the US — perhaps mainly because they all serve booze. But without question, the one element that is far worse are the endless ads that run before the films. It’s honestly enough to make you show up late, hoping to miss them.

“What we feel will be very unique will be the creative” approach of the platinum spots. The expectation, he added, is for “something special and something that consumers even look forward to. … This is a very valuable piece of real estate.” Lesinski effusively compared the way platinum ads would play in theaters to the way ads play during the Super Bowl.

“Look forward to” — yeah, okay. This is total bullshit, of course. And it will backfire as it further degrades the movie-going experience. Between the tickets and the concession stands, we already pay a lot of money to go to the movies. Now we’re going to be paid to be advertised to, to be a captive audience. Guess where that won’t happen? At home.

Granted, movie trailers are ads too, but they’re highly targeted to the right audience. This is just looney. And AMC, of all companies, is the sane voice here!

Last Day of the Dinosaurs' Reign Captured in Stunning Detail

Maya Wei-Haas:

One of the most striking finds is the rate at which material was re-deposited after the impact. The asteroid strike excavated miles of ocean floor, vaporizing rock and water in a flash. A ripple of shockwaves inside the crater sent solid rock flowing like liquid to form a towering peak, which then collapsed outward to form the peak ring. Just tens of minutes later, a jumble of debris piled onto the peak ring in a layer some 130 feet thick. Some of this material came from a sheet of melted rock that splashed into place within minutes as the peak collapsed.

Then, as the ocean rushed back into the yawning molten gap, pockets of steam burst forth, flinging up more fragments of rock. Within an hour, the crater was likely covered in a churning vat of rocky oceanic soup, periodically sloshed by the collapse of the crater’s steep wall.

It’s wild how much detail — in some cases, down to the minute — they’ve been able to deduce from the rocks.

The New Threat to Capitalism

Steve LeVine:

Most of us know that global wealth surged starting in the 19th century. What is less publicized is that the explosion was accompanied by similar breakout in population, and economists connect the two — when population grows, GDP has tended to rise with it.

Shrinking, aging: But now, population growth across numerous countries — especially in the West — has stalled. By 2040, demographers say, the number of countries with shrinking populations will rise almost 50% — to 67, from about 46 now. At the same time, by 2050 about a quarter of the world population will be 60 or older.

Why that hurts capitalism: Fewer people mean less buying; older people also buy less than younger people. Hence, economies are likely to stagnate, then shrink — a challenge to capitalism, which is predicated on growth in GDP, profits, and wages.

A stark way to frame the future in a way. But it’s clearly the trend. You have to imagine that something breaks the mold of the past, but it’s unclear what. What if growth just has to stop mattering as much in a world that is in a state of greater equilibrium?

Rey’s Dark Side?

Speaking of dark mode… This post doesn’t exactly contain spoilers, but more speculation about what the latest trailer for The Rise of Skywalker could mean… And an interesting theory about what the cave scene in The Last Jedi could ultimately mean…

A couple recent 500ish posts…

Apple’s “Boar on the Floor” Mistake

A few thoughts on why it’s starting to feel like Apple is blowing it on the content side of the Apple TV equation…

That “I’m Already Paying for It” Feeling

And some quick thoughts on the immediate brilliance of Apple Arcade…

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