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Tag: Netflix

The first post of pre-Christmas 2018: January

Thursday, 13 December, 2018

We’re kicking off the Rainy Day review of this year’s postings with an entry dated 3 January. The title was “New Year’s reading: CRISPR.” Here goes.

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We’re devoting time this week to the books that were the presents of Christmas past. On Monday, it was The Best of A.A. Gill, a gift from Noel Donnelly, yesterday it was Five Escape Brexit Island, put in the Rainy Day Xmas stocking by Ian McMaster, and today it’s Change Agent by Daniel Suarez, a gift to this blogger from himself.

At the end of March last year, The Hollywood Reporter posted an “Exclusive” story titled “Netflix Options Upcoming Sci-Fi Novel ‘Change Agent’.” So, before the publisher had stocked up on ink to print the novel, its author was laughing all the way to bank. Nice one! What’s all the excitement about, then? Well, Change Agent is thriller about genetic engineering that combines CRISPR with non-stop action in Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar. At the centre of the story is Kenneth Durand, an Interpol agent who’s given the face and body of a scary villain, thanks to some deft in vivo gene editing that threatens to eliminate the very notion of individual identity. In telling the yarn, Suarez creates a near-future world of cryptocurrencies, drones, surveillance, AR glasses, trade and terror. Snippet:

Early evening and Durand sat in the conditioned air of a private autonomous comcar as it merged into the close coordination of rush hour. His daughter’s wrapped birthday gift sat on the seat beside him. He leaned back and felt the stress of the day leave him.
In the distance he could see the glowing logos of synbio firms on the Singapore skyline. Licensed AR video ads played across the surfaces of several skyscrapers — although they were really only being beamed into Durand’s retinas by his own LFP glasses. The contract for his LFP glasses required exposure to specific layers of public advertising. At least he’d opted out of the low-end ads, but opting out of all AR advertising was prohibitively expensive.

Just the same, Durand frowned at the shoddy data management employed by the advertisers. He was clearly not in the target demographic for an ad gliding across the neighboring buildings, alive with images of Jedis, Starfleet officers, and steampunk characters: “Singapore’s premier Star Wars, Star Trek, and steampunk cosliving communities…”

Cossetted young professionals at the big synbio firms were a more likely demo for their product — single people with a couple million to blow on living in a theme park.

But by then the ad had shifted to CRISPR Critters. Gigantic, adorable neotenic cats cavorted from building to building, pursuing a virtual ball of yarn.

Durand decided to close his eyes.

He clicked off and followed other commuters down a narrow lane between old brick buildings. This MRT crowd skewed young — twenties and early thirties. Lots of expats. Well dressed and all talking to people who weren’t there. Snatches of conversation floated past him in Hokkien, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, English, Russian, Swahili, German, Korean — and more he didn’t recognize. They’d no doubt come to Singapore to make their killing. To work threads in a blockchain corporation or license their own cellular machinery. XNA programmers. Genetic engineers. Entrepreneurs. And they all had to have impressive CVs to get a work visa in the city.

Change Agent

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Tomorrow, here, the second post of pre-Christmas 2018: February.


Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology

Thursday, 5 April, 2018 0 Comments

The full title of Adam Alter’s book is even longer: Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Money quote:

“Facebook has an endless feed; Netflix automatically moves on to the next episode in a series; Tinder encourages users to keep swiping in search of a better option. Users benefit from these apps and websites, but also struggle to use them in moderation. According to Tristan Harris, a ‘design ethicist,’ the problem isn’t that people lack willpower; it’s that ‘there are a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job it is to break down the self-regulation you have.'”

Our age of behavioural addiction is still in its infancy, but we can no longer ignore the writing on the screen. Everything from family and friendship to rest and play is being crowded out by smartphones, e-mails, social networking and on-demand viewing. Understanding the nature of addiction is a necessary first step in defending our well-being, but it will be hard to beat our new habits when thousand of dopamine pushers “on the other side of the screen” are being paid huge sums to hook us.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked


Dieselgate

Monday, 31 July, 2017 0 Comments

Naturally, there’s a Wikipedia page listing scandals with the “-gate” suffix. Heard of Porngate? “Three members of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in India resign from their offices after accusations that they watched porn during government proceedings.” And what about Valijagate? “Venezuelan-American entrepreneur Guido Antonini Wilson arrived in Argentina on a private flight hired by Argentine and Venezuelan state officials carrying US$800,000 in cash, which he failed to declare.”

Then there’s Dieselgate (or Emissionsgate):

“International Council on Clean Transportation and West Virginia University caught Volkwagen cheating on emissions tests on about 11 million diesel cars by programming them to enable emissions controls during testing, but not control NOx pollution during real world driving.”

The suffix has spread so widely in two years that no one raised an eyebrow last week when Xinhua, the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China, headlined a story: “Strong Volkswagen Q2 profit despite ‘dieselgate’ cartel scandals.” Along with “dieselgate”, you will have noticed the word “cartel” there. Until recently, that term was more associated with Colombia than Germany. The Cali Cartel once controlled more than 90 percent of the world’s cocaine market. Its founders were the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers, Gilberto and Miguel, who broke away from Pablo Escobar and his partners, who ran the Medellín Cartel. When the car manufacturers in Wolfsburg, Stuttgart and Munich are being seen as shady operators running a racket designed to harm society along Colombian lines one begins to grasp how low their stars have fallen.

Tomorrow: The real enemy is Tesla, says the cartel.

Narcos


The Netflix Irishman of Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino

Thursday, 23 February, 2017 0 Comments

Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel… That’s what a $100 million budget can get you today. The big story, though, is that this star cast will be working on The Irishman for Netflix rather than one of the big studios and this indicates that something seismic is happening in the movie industry.

Anne Thompson of Indiewire, who broke the news of the deal, noted that The Irishman had long been planned as a Paramount Pictures production, but “Scorsese’s movie is a risky deal, and Paramount is not in the position to take risks. This way, he can make the project he wants.” And these projects involve serious money. STX Entertainment reportedly spent some $50 million for the international rights to The Irishman at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, which was very good news for Charles Brandt.

The Irishman The Irishman is based on Brandt’s best-selling book, I Heard You Paint Houses, about Frankie Sheeran, a killer who claimed he played a part in the legendary vanishing of the corrupt union boss Jimmy Hoffa. The book’s title, by the way, comes from the criminal slang for contract killings and the resulting blood splatter on walls.

Charles Brandt befriended Frankie Sheeran, who confessed to him that he’d been involved with the killing of Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975 and has never been seen since. Sheeran was an odious piece of work. He served with the US Army in Europe during World War II and experienced combat during the Italian Campaign, including the invasion of Sicily and the Battle of Cassino. He then took part in the landings in southern France and the Battle of the Bulge and admitted that he had been involved in several massacres of German POWs. He also claimed to have had inside information about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. According to Sheeran, Jimmy Hoffa wanted Kennedy dead, as Bobby Kennedy, the US Attorney General, was “persecuting” him. The killing of Kennedy was a Mafia hit, said Sheeran, who maintained he’d transported three rifles to the alleged assassins. Fact or fiction? Netflix is betting $100 million that people will want to watch, thanks to CGI, a youthful De Niro play Sheeran and Pacino star as Hoffa.


Netflix does design

Tuesday, 24 January, 2017 0 Comments

“A chair is the first thing you need when you don’t really need anything, and is therefore a peculiarly compelling symbol of civilization. For it is civilization, not survival, that requires design.” — Ralph Caplan

The art of design is the theme of Abstract, an documentary series from Netflix that starts on 10 February. The eight episodes will profile a designer at the top of their discipline: architect Bjarke Ingels, automotive designer Ralph Gilles, illustrator Christoph Niemann, interior designer Ilse Crawford, graphic designer Paula Scher, photographer Platon, stage designer Es Devlin and shoe designer Tinker Hatfield.

“So that’s our approach. Very simple, and we’re really shooting for Museum of Modern Art quality. The way we’re running the company, the product design, the advertising, it all comes down to this: ‘Let’s make it simple. Really simple.’ Apple’s design mantra would remain the one featured on its first brochure: ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.'” — Steve Jobs

NEWS: Apple’s Mac Pro, Touch Bar MacBook and original Air designer, Matt Casebolt, will now be designing Teslas.


The Vimeo deal with the Weed Guy

Monday, 17 November, 2014 0 Comments

The New York-based video-sharing website, Vimeo, is ten years old this month. Different yardsticks can be used for measuring its tenacity and its success. The 170 million unique visitors a month, for instance, and then there’s the reaction of the censors. Vimeo is blocked in China and in Turkey, too. In May, Tifatul Sembiring, Indonesia’s Communications Minister, announced the banning of Vimeo, citing the country’s anti-pornography law. Coincidentally, the ban followed a global wave of acclaim for Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary, The Act of Killing.

With 70 percent of Vimeo’s audience residing outside the US, the company is rolling out new feature to enable filmmakers “subtitle their work in dozens of languages,” says Bloomberg. And it’s taking a jab at the Netflix behemoth. High Maintenance is a tentative step towards capturing a sliver of the streaming audience. In essence, Brooklyn immigrants and natives call upon the services of the Weed Guy to help them manage the stresses of borough life. Ecologically correct, he delivers by bike and helps his clients handle their crises, with an air of Stoicism and an eye for the main chance. Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, the pair behind the series, have the talent to advance Woody Allen’s observations of neurotic New Yorkers to the gluten-free, hipster level.