Great news! Now that we’re getting six seasons, hopefully, Dan Harmon will treat us to a movie.
As soon as I saw a photograph of an African soccer ball, stitched together from old rags in the geometric patterns so familiar to us, I wanted to tell its story.
And so last July my filmmaking crew traveled to a village outside of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we shot this Op-Doc. Although the country did not qualify for the World Cup, people there – as in most of Africa – are mad about soccer. They play it everywhere. And because soccer balls like the ones common on American fields are a rarity in much of Africa, the sport is often played with homemade balls, like the one in this video.
The country has lost more than five million people to an intractable conflict that has terrorized the region for nearly two decades. Despite living through one of the world’s most brutal wars, children there still play with passion and joy – regardless of what kind of ball they are using.
We are now preparing to head to the World Cup in Brazil, where we’ll film a very different ball in a very different setting. Yet the joy of playing the game is universal.
Full disclosure: This clip comes from a new documentary, ‘Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play’ that my co-worker, John Fox, is putting together. It’s based on his book, ‘The Ball: Discovering the Object of the Game‘.
With its paint-by-numbers plotting and open acknowledgment that nothing onscreen makes sense (everyone thinks the cops are too old to pass for college dudes, and Schmidt’s girlfriend’s roommate, a witheringly sarcastic young woman played by Jillian Bell, demands that Schmidt “tell us about the war, any of them”), “22 Jump Street” is the sort of film that the Lego guy might watch alone in his nondescript little Lego apartment while eating Lego snacks from a Lego bowl and smiling desperately. But instead of being bored with itself, the film is lively, at times ecstatically silly. It has some of the greatest split-screen gags I’ve seen—the best of which, an extended drug trip, is “Duck Amuck” sublime—and even when it’s not highlighting its movie-ness, your mind is racing to predict what clichés it’ll skewer/indulge next. The final credits sequence listing all the sequels that the “Jump Street” team will make in the future feels like Lord and Miller’s way of telling wisecracking viewers, “Don’t try to out-funny us, because there’s no joke you can make that we aren’t making already, and besides, none of them were that clever to start with.” The movie is post-entertainment entertainment. The joke’s on everyone.
Two recent stories regarding the business practices of Google and Amazon have nothing to do with one another, yet absolutely seem 100% related on a macro level.
The first is Amazon and how they are scrubbing Hatchette Books from existence to extract more favorable terms:
Amazon, under fire in much of the literary community for energetically discouraging customers from buying books from the publisher Hachette, has abruptly escalated the battle.
The retailer began refusing orders late Thursday for coming Hachette books, including J.K. Rowling’s new novel. The paperback edition of Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” — a book Amazon disliked so much it denounced it — is suddenly listed as “unavailable.”
In some cases, even the pages promoting the books have disappeared.
Which, Farhad Manjoo puts into proper perspective as the worst possible outcome for Amazon customers:
f it doesn’t already, Amazon may soon control a monopolistic stake of the e-book market and its tactics are sure to invite not only scorn from the book industry but also increased regulatory oversight.
But the more basic problem here is that Amazon is violating its own code. To win a corporate battle, Amazon is ruining its customer experience. Mr. Bezos has long pointed to customer satisfaction as his North Star; making sure customers are treated well is the guiding principle for how he runs Amazon.
Now Amazon is raising prices, removing ordering buttons, lengthening shipping times and monkeying with recommendation algorithms. Do these sound like the moves of a man who cares about customers above all else?
As Winter 2012 became Spring 2013, traffic remained flat and we all took big pay cuts to make ends meet. Google sunsetted their beta program MetaFilter was in and we went back to the standard Google Adsense ads which did pretty well and revenue improved a bit. Over the course of 2013, a series of messages from the Adsense team hit me with varying degrees of severity. We were temporarily banned from the system due to some text questions talking about sexual health (questions from users that include terms for body parts etc., but Google interprets that as the site being “adult”) and had to greatly beef up our ad display blocking by subject matter. Late last year, I was told that despite the past decade of Google’s Adsense pages suggesting ads should match your site, different background colors were now required to better discern ads from content, resulting in another large decrease.
For the last year and a half, MetaFilter’s revenues have continued to decrease and traffic has slipped a bit as well. Additionally, mobile web traffic has grown substantially (especially at certain times: nights and weekends we see 60-70% of all traffic on mobile/tablet) and ad performance on mobile is much less effective, where mobile pages only make about 1/3 to 1/10th as much as a desktop page. On average, every 3-6 months for the past year and a half we’ve seen additional ~20% drop-offs in traffic and revenue, and that’s been a challenge to deal with.
MetaFilter basically depends on Google search for traffic and Google ad revenues to fund its business and both have mysteriously gone away, which Google won’t share. Or, as Marco Ament points out:
Google owns the ad-driven web: their search brings all of your pageviews, and their ads bring all of your income. You’re just along for the ride, hoping to stay in Google’s good graces — an arbitrary, unreliable, undocumented metric that changes constantly. (Google’s only “open” with the trivial, unprofitable parts of their business. Search and ads are closed, proprietary, and opaque in every possible way.)
Those that produce content on the web have largely been reduced to do so for free to drive the business agendas of large technology companies. It’s increasingly the same way with Facebook brand pages and will probably be that way on Twitter.
Pay to play is one of the oldest business schemes in the world. It worked for the mafia, drug cartels and it also works for technology companies.
I have lost all concept of the relative popularity of bands. It used to be easy. All you’d have to do is see which bands had chart-topping hits and which albums were selling hundreds of thousands of albums a week. Now? Now, I have no idea and I’m constantly surprised.
Any given week I typically have the following reaction: wait, the Black Keys have reached arena status? When the fuck did that happen? Some bands you think are huge play small clubs and vice versa. It is nearly impossible to figure out the music industry hierarchy anymore.
Priceonomics recently published a very long, leaked list of the fees some of the world’s favorite bands and pop stars charge for a concert appearance. The list comes from a third-party booking agency, Degy Entertainment, which specializes in booking college shows and so while the list might not be entirely accurate it does, finally, paint a relative picture of which bands are more popular than others.
Why does this sort of thing matter? Ultimately, it doesn’t. But it is interesting for music nerds.
It’s something I think about constantly while watching ‘Nashville’, for instance. How does Juliette Barnes’ popularity compare to Taylor Swift? Is Rayna James on the same level as Faith Hill or is she more like a slightly more popular Neko Case? The show never really addresses these comparisons and why it’s so important for Juliette Barnes to need the good graces of the Nashville industry when she could just move to LA or Austin or Portland especially if she were Taylor Swift popular and not Carrie Underwood popular.
Fuck. “Marvel and Edgar Wright jointly announced today that the studio and director have parted ways on ANT-MAN due to differences in their vision of the film. The decision to move on is amicable and does not impact the release date on July 17, 2015. A new director will be announced shortly.”
Wright was a large part of the reason this project was so exciting. It’s too bad Marvel seems to be walking back on its efforts to hire interesting filmmakers with distinctive voices to direct their movies. That was one of the things the studio seemed to do right.
As Devin Faraci says, “Good luck to whoever they hire to Brett Ratner this one.”
Look, you might not be excited for this one, but I sure as shit can’t wait for August to roll around. It’s also worth thinking about this movie in relation to this list about Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD TV show, which just wrapped its first season with a string of strong narrative episodes born out of the big reveal for Captain America 2. The article hints that the show’s season two direction will have strong ties to GotG. [via latimes]
On May 10, Brazilian artist Paulo Ito posted this mural on the doors of a schoolhouse in São Paulo’s Pompeia district. Less than a week later, it has become an international sensation, drawing huge attention on Facebook. It has also taken off in Brazil—a post on the popular Facebook page TV Revolta has been shared and liked more than 40,000 times.*
I first saw the image when The Nation’s Dave Zirin posted it on Twitter. The portrait of a weeping, starving Brazilian child with nothing to eat but a soccer ball is so simple and evocative that you don’t need to know much about Brazil to wrap your head around it. All you have to understand is that despite massive gains made over the past decade, poverty levels are still appallingly high, and the World Cup is costing the nation billions of dollars that could be spent elsewhere.
“People already have the feeling and that image condensed this feeling,” the São Paulo-based Ito told me in an interview today. He says he’s never created anything so popular in his 14 years as a street artist, and was surprised by the powerful response. “The truth is there is so much wrong in Brazil that it is difficult to know where to start,” he explained via Facebook chat. “I didn’t mean [to say] nobody is doing anything against poverty,” he said of the mural. “But we need to show the world or ourselves that the situation is still not good.”
“For three years, Apple and Samsung have clashed on a scale almost unprecedented in business history, their legal war costing more than a billion dollars and spanning four continents. Beginning with the super-secret project that created the iPhone and the late Steve Jobs’s fury when Samsung—an Apple supplier!—brought out a shockingly similar device, Kurt Eichenwald explores the Korean company’s record of patent infringement, among other ruthless business tactics, and explains why Apple might win the battles but still lose the war.”
When we stopped at the first red light after leaving the hospital, I broke two of my most important marital promises. I started acting like my wife’s doctor, and I lied to her.
I had just taken the PET scan, the diagnostic X-ray test, out of its manila envelope. Raising the films up even to the low light overhead was enough for me to see what was happening inside her body. But when we drove on, I said, “I can’t tell; I can’t get my orientation. We have to wait to hear from your oncologist back home.” I’m a lung doctor, not an expert in these films, I feigned. But I had seen in an instant that the cancer had spread.
PET scans are like that, radioactive tracers that travel around the body and measure how much work different cells are doing. And cancer cells are very active workers. The scans are like the ground seen from the air at night. When there is no cancer they look like Idaho, all quiet. Really bad news looks like downtown Chicago or Phoenix.
It was a warm night for early June, the beginning of the winter in Argentina. People crowded the sidewalks, returning from work, stopping for dinner. All the everyday stuff that fills our lives, neither adding particular meaning or taking it away. We pulled into the garage with the narrow entrance; our tires squeaked on the newly painted floor. Ruth was silent. I was silent. I knew. She didn’t.
Actually, she probably did.
My wife was dead eight months later. We were back in New York. In our home. During our winter.