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    For decades, personality psychologists have noticed a striking, consistent pattern: extraverts are happier more of the time than introverts. For anyone interested in promoting wellbeing, this has raised the question of whether it might be beneficial to encourage people to act more extraverted. Evidence to date has suggested it might.

    For example, regardless of their usual disposition, people tend to report feeling happier and more authentic whenever they are behaving more like an extravert (that is, more sociable, active and assertive). That’s a mere correlation that could be interpreted in different ways. But lab studies have similarly found that prompting people, including introverts, to act more like an extravert makes them feel happier and truer to themselves.

    Before we all start doing our best extravert impressions in pursuit of greater happiness, though, a team of researchers led by the psychologist Rowan Jacques-Hamilton at the University of Melbourne urge caution, writing in a paper at PsyArXiv: “Until we have a well-rounded understanding of both the positive and negative consequences of extraverted behavior, advocating any real-world applications of acting extraverted could be premature and potentially hazardous.”

    To get to the bottom of things, the team conducted the first ever randomized controlled trial of an “act more extraverted” intervention but, unlike previous research, they looked beyond the lab at the positive and negative effects on people’s feelings in daily life.

    Dozens of participants were allocated at random to either the “act like an extravert” condition or to an “act unassuming, sensitive, calm, and modest” control condition; the idea was that this control condition would encourage the adoption of behaviors representative of several of the other main personality traits, such as agreeableness and emotional stability.

    There was also a second control group that completed some of the same measures but did not follow any instructions to change their behavior from what it naturally was.

    The true aims of the study were concealed from the participants and they didn’t know about the conditions they weren’t in. For the extravert and first control groups, their challenge was to follow the behavioral instructions they’d been given for seven days straight whenever interacting with others in their daily lives (though not if doing so would be inappropriate for the situation they were in).

    The participants completed baseline and follow-up surveys about their feelings and behavior. Through the seven-day period of the study they also answered in-the-moment psychological surveys six times a day whenever prompted by their smartphones. Their phones also gave them periodic reminders to alter their behavior according to the experimental group they were in.

    For the average participant, being in the “act like an extravert” condition was associated with more positive emotions (excited, lively and enthusiastic) than those reported in the calmer control group–both in the moment, and in retrospect, when looking back on the week. Compared with the second control condition, in which participants behaved naturally, benefit from extraverted behavior was seen only retrospectively. On average, participants in the ‘act extraverted’ condition also felt greater momentary and retrospective authenticity. These benefits came without any adverse effects in terms of levels of tiredness or experience of negative emotion.

    “Thus,” write the researchers, “the main effects of the intervention were wholly positive, and no costs of extraverted behavior were detected for the average participant.” The advantages were to a large extent mediated by participants acting more extraverted more often–though, interestingly, not by being in more social situations: i.e., by changing the quality of their social interactions, not the quantity of them.

    But the story does not end there, because the researchers also looked specifically at the introverts in their sample to see whether the apparently cost-free positive benefits of the “act extraverted” intervention also manifested for them. Although previous research has suggested that both introverts and extraverts alike benefit just the same from acting more extraverted, this was not the case here.

    First and unsurprisingly, introverts did not succeed in increasing their extraverted behavior as much as other participants. And while the introverts in the “act like an extravert” condition did enjoy momentary gains in positive emotion, they did not report this benefit in retrospect at the end of the study. Unlike extraverts, they also did not show momentary gains in authenticity, and in retrospect they reported lower authenticity. The “act extraverted” intervention also appeared to increase introverts’ retrospective fatigue levels and experience of negative emotions.

    Jacques-Hamilton and his team said that these were perhaps their most important findings–“dispositional introverts may reap fewer well-being benefits, and perhaps even incur some well-being costs, from acting more extraverted.” They also made an important point that strong introverts might not desire to experience positive emotions as frequently as extraverts.

    However, the idea that introverts could gain from learning to be more extraverted, more often, is not dead. Not only because this is just one study and more research is needed, but also because those acting more extraverted did, after all, still report more positive emotions in the moment than the control group asked to maintain calm. This group’s failure to report more pleasure in retrospect could, after all, reflect a memory bias–perhaps mirroring earlier research, which showed that introverts do not expect that acting extraverted would make them feel good.

    Also consider this: the one-size-fits-all extraversion intervention provided little guidance on how exactly to achieve the aim of acting more extraverted. It’s possible that a less intense version, together with support and guidance to make any behavioral changes become habitual (and therefore less effortful), could help even strong introverts enjoy the benefits of acting more extraverted. “By allowing more freedom to return to an introverted ‘restorative niche,’ a less intensive intervention might also result in fewer costs to negative affect, authenticity and tiredness,” the researchers added.

    This is an adaptation of an article originally published by The British Psychological Society’s Research Digest.Aeon counter – do not remove This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

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    For 18 seconds, the new Bacardi spot looks like a pretty standard booze ad.

    Then “The Myth of the Sun Angels” sets itself apart when the director credits flash onscreen, revealing, “A film by Michael B. Jordan & Paul Hunter.”

    Paul Hunter is a renowned music video director and cofounder of the commercial production company Prettybird. The other guy you might know from small flicks like Black Panther and Creed.

    The campaign launches Bacardi’s new premium rum collection, and Jordan, in an exclusive conversation with Fast Company, says the project came about through a relationship with Bacardi that started last year when he attended No Commission, the brand’s art platform created with Swizz Beatz and The Dean Collection in Miami.

    “Many people don’t know this, but [Jordan is] actually a self-professed ‘Rum Guy,'” says Roberto Ramirez Laverde, VP of Bacardi North America. “In fact, he helped open the new Lower East Side rum bar, Las’ Lap. When it came time to produce the first ad campaign for our premium collection, we knew he was the perfect person to get behind the camera to tell our story.”

    As a recent Vanity Faircover story pointed out, Jordan has multimillion-dollar endorsement deals, his own production company, and a new marketing and consulting startup in the works. So he considers this Bacardi ad another form of on-the-job training. Shorter projects like this, with tighter production time, allow directors to try things without the weight of all the bureaucratic machinery surrounding a feature film.

    “It allows you to try new shots, take some creative and technical risks, that can teach you things that you can then apply to longer-form content,” says Jordan, whose feature debutThe Stars Beneath Our Feet, is in development. “For me, we used a lot of crane shots, which was something I learned a lot about in this process, just controlling a crane and a jib. It’s a lot more going on than just being the actor in front of the camera. Positioning, movement, blocking, timing, and continuity that was crucial to some shots. So I had a chance to get some at-bats with all of this, to take a few swings at, so it was fun.”

    Another big lesson was honing his ability to make adjustments in real time. “Being able to get in there, move stuff around, give notes, in the moment was something I found really useful and paid a lot of attention to this time around,” says Jordan.

    While he doesn’t appear in front of the camera in your standard, hold-the-bottle-and-smile spokesperson role, make no mistake, this is a celebrity ad. It’s just that Bacardi is getting creative in how it enlists its creative spokespeople. For Jordan, the quid pro quo is the opportunity to flex some creative muscle behind the camera to create something he hopes transcends being just another ad.

    “Brands are getting more creative because they are working with a more diverse set of directors, artists, and creative collaborators,” says Jordan. “I think that’s really smart. You don’t want people to feel like they’re being sold to. If you can be creative, and make it feel natural, that’s an advantage. You don’t want to insult the people you’re trying to market to. You need to be smart with it.”

    In October, Jonah Hill was on the Bill Simmons podcast (a pod Jordan has appeared on multiple times), and they were talking about the idea of directors and actors doing commercials becoming more common. Hill said he’d rather see an artist use commercials to fuel their art, than not do commercials, and then take on mediocre projects for the money. Hill said, “I’d rather see Damien Chazelle make a Samsung commercial and then be able to make his art than see him direct Fast & Furious 11.” Jordan agrees. “It’s getting harder and harder to make films, and it seems like there are opportunities to take more creative risks in other places, rather than trying to put it all in a feature [film],” he says. “I do agree with that, as a director, to be able to do some commercials, rather than take on mediocre projects that don’t hit as hard.”

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    Back in 2013, Kurt Luther spotted a photo of his great-great-great-uncle in a Civil War photo exhibit, a feeling he later described as like “closing a gap of 150 years.”

    Luther, now the director of the Crowd Intelligence Lab at Virginia Tech, decided to use his expertise in crowdsourcing, human-computer interaction, social computing, and facial recognition to help others. He launched the Civil War Photo Sleuth (CWPS) Facebook page, where anyone with a Civil War-era photo could upload the image. Then, Luther’s facial recognition software would map their faces, while sleuths could mine the imagery for clues about rank or military unit from the soldier’s uniform or setting.

    The work has expanded with the launch of the official CWPS website in August 2018 by Luther; his students at Virginia Tech; Ron Coddington, an editor at Military Images; and Paul Quigley, head of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies. The site offers its online community of Civil War enthusiasts access to get in touch with their inner Sherlock Holmes and try to identify some of the subjects in their ever-growing database of photos using free software tools for image analysis—including what Luther describes as “state-of-the-art face recognition technology and a powerful search engine.”

    While the program is not new, it’s always nice to hear about facial recognition software being used for something other than creepy, overreaching government surveillance.

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    With online sales already breaking records this holiday shopping season, it’s easy to overstate Amazon’s dominance over the e-commerce landscape. But when it comes to helping shoppers overcome their indecision, many seem to think Walmart does a better job.

    A new survey of 1,000-plus American consumers found that 64% said Walmart offers the best advertising to help them decide which gifts to buy, which is slightly better than the 61% who said the same of Amazon. That’s a pretty key sales skill at a time when consumers are faced with endless choices. Target, Best Buy, and Macy’s rounded out the top five retailers on the survey.

    The results are perhaps not surprising, given that the same survey also found that TV advertising still dominates the holiday influence sphere. When it comes to informing consumers about actual holiday sales, 47% of respondents said they discovered deals via television, versus 44% who said they discovered them through online retailers, and 34% on Facebook.

    In other words, old habits die hard, which is probably why Amazon decided to ramp up its TV advertising this holiday season.

    The shopping survey was conducted by Propeller Insights on behalf of PR firm Bospar. You can read more about the breakdown of respondents here.

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    One of Bill Ware’s various jobs in recent years was as a part-time insurance salesman. In that role, he has helped people prepare for unexpected hardships—burglaries, falling trees, car accidents, medical emergencies, and even death. But Ware recently faced the unexpected himself when his income took a dive.

    Early this year a tax consultancy that works to resolve problems with the IRS and state agencies hit a trough and, in April, he says, the consultancy suddenly cut his income by 60%. Soon after, as the credit card bills piled up, he realized he needed to take action.

    The back-up plan for the African-American resident of Sherman Oaks with a ready smile and shaved head involved saddling up as a Lyft driver. Ware settled into a pair of four-hour daily shifts, one in the morning and another in the evening—and squeezed in his other work in between.

    The primary expense for most Californians, especially renters, is outsized housing costs.

    Today, his weekday working hours often run from 8 a.m. until around 10 p.m., plus several additional hours spent driving on Saturdays. Such a schedule isn’t easy for anyone, but Ware—despite his youthful looks—will soon turn 63.

    To keep this schedule from breaking him, he takes a couple of short pauses each day when he settles onto a chair, couch, or bed and repeats one of several soothing meditative mantras to relieve the tension gathering inside him.

    Then he gets back into traffic to pick up new fares. “I’m hustling,” he explains, “because I have to hustle.”

    “After all of my expenses, there is nothing left”

    Ware’s brutal routine is his response to the sharp drop in income and to rising costs in his life that, try as he might, he can’t seem to catch up to.

    He struggles to avoid late fees on bills, and battles with businesses like his cell-phone provider, as when a special offer expired and the monthly tab on a trio of family phones jumped to $220.

    The gig with Lyft brought new expenses as well. His gasoline bill soared to about $400 a month; his alternator recently went out. He needs to buy new tires, even though he got a new set just last year. And driving for a ride-share company requires special, more expensive auto insurance that for both Ware and his wife’s cars will add up to nearly $5,000 annually.

    He acknowledges a few luxuries, depending on your perspective. Ware, his daughter, and his wife—who is a meditation instructor and an actress—treat themselves to a healthy diet from Whole Foods despite the cut in income. And while their daughter earned a scholarship to a private school, they still pay several hundred dollars in tuition each month—one of the few investments in the future they make right now.

    [Image: Capital & Main]

    But the greatest weight isn’t linked to today’s spending; it is the debt on various credit cards that became a problem after his huge income reduction. Now he pays the credit-card bills based on which one threatens to cause him the most financial pain in the form of high-interest debt.

    “It is one thing after another,” Ware says, while waiting for the oil to be changed on his car. “After all of my expenses, there is nothing left.”

    In L.A., nearly 3 in 5 tenants are “cost-burdened”

    One difference between Ware and many other people in his circumstances is that he feels relatively lucky. The primary expense for most Californians, especially renters, is outsized housing costs. Ware’s family isn’t paying some outlandish portion of their income on housing.

    He and his wife may work four jobs between them, but they represent the typical Californian renters in that they pay about 25% of their average income on the two-bedroom San Fernando Valley apartment where their family lives. Their building is rent-controlled, and newer neighbors pay several hundred dollars more for similar apartments, while moving elsewhere would likely lead to a monthly increase of $400, Ware says.

    In Los Angeles, nearly 3 in 5 tenants are “cost-burdened,” meaning they pay more than 30% of their income on rent, and statewide, 3 million households pay at least that much, with 1.5 million spending at least half of their earnings on housing.

    [Image: Capital & Main]

    Paying too much rent can have an adverse impact on residents’ current and future prospects, as it can prevent them from addressing health problems, saving money, starting a business, or even preparing for retirement.

    In the case of Ware, even with a typical rent, he is having trouble keeping up.

    The not-so-golden years

    Ware may feel fortunate, but relatively high rents are eating up money that he might otherwise have been able to save up for other things.

    The typical renter in California has nearly 20% less of their income to spend on other things, or to save for retirement.

    We are long past the era when people turned 65, were feted for their long-standing dedication to a single company, and received a watch and a farewell toast. Retirees in the old days tended to die much younger, of course, but they were far more likely to receive a pension until they passed on.

    These days, people often believe they can work until they choose to retire. But most people stop working much earlier than expected, whether due to personal or family health problems, their skills aging out, or simple discrimination against older employees.

    In fact, more than half of workers between the ages of 55 and 64 who are laid off, fired, or quit are unable to find relevant work opportunities, according to a multi-year Health and Retirement Study by Michigan’s Institute of Social Research.

    Such people—sometimes referred to as “involuntary retirees”—frequently do not have the savings to get by after they can no longer work, especially if they haven’t been able to build up equity through homeownership. In many cases, their retirement plan is essentially what they will earn from Social Security.

    How high rent handicaps innovation

    When rent consumes too much of people’s incomes, argues University of Southern California sociologist and economist Manuel Pastor, it handicaps innovation.

    If rents go up but incomes don’t, tenants generally go into debt, tighten their belts elsewhere, or both—meaning that they don’t spend money on other things that are more likely to bolster a truly dynamic economy.

    Pastor cites two common reasons for rising prices. When it comes to consumer goods, people are willing to pay more for something like a new phone or a car that delivers improvement, whether real or perceived, over previous models.

    Rent, by contrast, is often different: A new light rail line, a burgeoning arts district, trendier restaurants, cool cafes, the opening of a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, or construction of fancier homes and other development nearby can all help trigger a surge in rents of untouched homes or apartments.

    But the biggest factor in much of California these days is that there simply aren’t enough homes or apartments being built in particular neighborhoods and price ranges to respond to demand.

    California’s vacancy rate stands at a little more than half the national number, so there are far fewer empty apartments available. The result: There is less housing available to take pressure off intense demand.

    This leaves too many people to compete financially for a limited number of homes and apartments, which makes it easier for owners to convince potential renters they need to pay more. “The landlord can do nothing, and the rent can skyrocket,” Pastor says, leaving less to spend on the dynamic economy created by entrepreneurs and innovators.

    There are, he notes, additional external drivers of high rents. California attracts about half of the nation’s venture capital, and this plays a role in the cost of housing in particularly expensive parts of the state like the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, and much of the Westside of Los Angeles, by allowing employees with large salaries at these companies to buy or rent top-dollar housing.

    Growing inequality is another factor. California is, by some measures, the fourth most unequal state in the country—after New York, Louisiana, and Connecticut. This means that thriving industries such as tech, which deliver enormous salaries, make it enticing for developers to knock down cheap housing and replace it with costlier new structures that target the higher end of the rental market.

    Other elements of the globalized economy also play a role in driving up prices in desirable areas. Wealthy people—especially from Asia—now commonly store vast financial holdings in real estate investments in places like Downtown Los Angeles, Pastor explains, because investing in a condo and letting it sit empty is expected to be “better than the return on a T-bill.”

    Priced out of his hometown

    Rising rents are hardly a new phenomenon across Los Angeles, or much of California.

    Ware grew up in a rough-and-tumble Venice neighborhood known locally as Ghost Town. But in the 1990s, the search for affordable housing pushed him eastward to the Adams area of Mid-City—which was then, he recalls, an almost exclusively African American and Latino area. It wasn’t an area he expected to gentrify—ever. Later, he moved to the San Fernando Valley to get closer to a wider array of job prospects, and eventually went into insurance.

    As a Lyft driver, he now rolls through the neighborhoods where he used to live. Homes in Ghost Town—which is just a few blocks from the uber-trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard—frequently sell for millions of dollars and rent for $10,000 or more to tenants drawn to Silicon Beach with its scruffy-chic aesthetic and new amenities.

    Even Lyft trips through Ware’s old Mid-City neighborhood highlight the changing housing tides within Los Angeles, with median single-family homes selling for well over $1 million, with an analogous increase in market rents. One clear sign of that transformation, he says, is that he now drops off Caucasians who live in the Adams-Crenshaw area he used to call home. “I didn’t know any [white people] were there at all,” he says. “A lot of people moved there.”

    As Ware drives around the city, he hopes his insurance career—and finances—will recover. Until then, he will continue to face off with Los Angeles’s clogged streets and freeways, even as his passengers rate his cordiality and efficiency. And he will do his best to keep his cool.

    He knows this schedule involves sacrificing more of the future to the present; he just doesn’t know how long he’ll need to continue. “I am,” he laments, “going to be working for a while.”

    Capital & Main is an award-winning publication that reports from California on economic, political, and social issues. Read more of Capital & Main‘s Priced Out series here. Please join Capital & Main’s Facebook group on the cost of living in California to discuss problems and practical solutions.

    Follow Eric Pape on Twitter @ericpape, and let him know if you have a powerful story about the human impact of high prices in the Golden State.

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    Most people looking for a job put it on hold in December. That’s generally because hiring slows down during the holiday season as people take vacations and lose time to seasonal events, and companies do other year-end activities like budgeting and employee evaluations.

    December may not be when you’ll land a lot of interviews for permanent work, but it’s still a time of opportunity. If you know you will be seeking a job in the new year, you should take the month to get as ready as you can for the new year and the return of normal hiring rhythms.

    Of course, if you’re out of work, you should not put your search on hold for December. Work on all of these things while you keep looking, because a hiring slowdown isn’t a hiring stoppage. And if you’re employed but ready to move on, these are good ways to get ready.

    1. Get your resume in order

    It’s not enough to just update your resume. You also need to research whether resume format for your industry has changed. For example, in journalism a one-page resume was the standard throughout the 1980s and 1990s. At some point in the 2000s that changed, and multiple pages became not just appropriate, but expected for more senior-level people.

    In addition to making sure you have your resume copyedited and checked for other errors, it’s important to make sure it’s current. Talk to hiring managers or other people in your field who have recently gotten hired to find out what’s the current norm.

    2. Get your references set

    Very few people like surprises. Your references may all agree that you’re a wonderful person and an excellent worker, but they probably don’t want a surprise call asking about you.

    Let your references know that you plan to start a job search and that you’re using them as references. This will have them expecting calls and give them a chance to opt out–maybe they will be traveling out of the country, or maybe they don’t think they can say anything nice about you.

    3. Use some vacation time

    Vacation policies vary by company. Some carry vacation over into the new year, and some pay you for unused time if you decide to leave, while others do neither.

    December is a popular month to take time off, and in some cases, even companies where unused time does not carry over will allow you to book January vacations using 2018 time. If you have unused days, see if you can use them early in 2019, which can give you time to search for a job and go on interviews.

    4. Polish your skills

    Consider the type of job you’ll be applying for and examine your skill set. Maybe there’s something you know how to do that you’re a little rusty at. Take an online refresher course or do something that lets you show during an interview that you worked on that area. Even just starting the process can make a big difference to prospective employers.

    Being rested and ready will pay off

    While December can be a hectic month, it also tends to be a time when most workers in fields that aren’t retail-related get time off. Use that time both to prepare for your job search and to recharge your batteries.

    Do things like setting up email alerts for certain job titles and bookmarking company careers pages you want to track. Make sure you have interview outfits ready to go and that you have nicely printed copies of your resume and references. There’s only so much you can prepare, but doing what you can will make it easier once the job market picks back up in the new year.

    This article originally appeared on The Motley Fool and is reprinted with permission. 

    More from The Motley Fool:

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    Back in 1993, Tom Selleck predicted our future. Okay, he narrated a prediction of it.

    AT&T’s “You Will” campaign was the first time we caught a glimpse of what’s become our reality 25 years later. Tablets, smart watches, GPS, on-demand entertainment, and more were all in there, before many of us even had an internet connection at home.

    To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the campaign, AT&T made a short film on the making of “You Will,” talking to the marketers, director David Fincher, and others about how they were able to so accurately predict so much of the technology that’s commonplace today in 2018. Then-creative director Nick Scordato, from agency N.W. Ayer & Partners, says they didn’t have to go far: New Jersey, home to Bell Labs.

    The 11-minute film isn’t all nostalgia. It also features AT&T Labs president and CTO Andre Fuetsch sitting around a table with a new collection of futurists to talk about what the next quarter century might look like. The predictions include using augmented reality to put all the information we need right in front of our eyes so we’re no longer looking at screens; architecture, roads, and other infrastructure that is full of sensors that can make our cities, homes, and work spaces more efficient and sustainable; living AI assistants, and much more.

    AT&T Communications chief brand officer Fiona Carter says “You Will” captivated people’s imaginations because it showed us a future that seemed inconceivable in a pre-digital, pre-internet world. “This campaign showcased what would matter in people’s lives, the inventions necessary to make those things happen, and how AT&T would help bring those to fruition through the work of our Bell Labs team and their more than 115-year legacy,” she says.

    Today, Carter says the AT&T Labs and AT&T Foundry teams carry on that legacy, and that the company hoped the campaign’s 25th anniversary would showcase some of the thinking going on within AT&T right now. “We wanted to combine insights from these AT&T experts with a group of futurists and thought leaders from entertainment, media, the arts, and academia who could explore our future,” says Carter. “How and where will we watch a movie? Will AI allow a relative from the past to teach my daughter how to play baseball? Will 5G and edge computing make the internet as invisible but as vital as the air around us? Will I still ‘go to the store’?”

    All questions to be answered later. But one AT&T prediction we’ll make, considering the company’s own ongoing evolution? We’ll soon be seeing ads on HBO.

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    FuboTV may be an underdog among live TV streaming services, but it’s also the first to go international with FuboTV España. For €3.99 per month, the service includes 13 live TV channels, many of which are available over the air. This is, however, the first nationwide over-the-top streaming service in Spain to offer Movistar Series, which broadcasts U.S. content from CBS, The CW, NBC, HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, and Starz. CEO David Gandler told Reutersthat the company picked Spain for its high piracy rates, but is considering other markets as well.

    While both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have turned to international markets for growth in recent years, other U.S. streaming services have been slower to follow. Hulu, for instance, says it’s looking at going overseas, but not until after Disney gains a controlling stake in the service next year. Other live TV streaming services haven’t talked about international expansion at all, perhaps because it requires working with an entirely different set of networks.

    For Fubo, the expansion underscores the idea that it’s a nimbler enterprise than its media, telecom, and tech giant rivals, though it remains dead last among live TV streaming services with roughly 250,000 subscribers. Sling TV and DirecTV Now both have around 2 million customers apiece.

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    Over the weekend, New York Times reporter Jenna Wortham had a question for New Yorkers on Twitter: What is the most “that’s so new york” moment?

    My personal favorite was this pigeon, who clearly mugged a guy:

    But the story that really got New Yorkers talking was this extremely sad one-act play in which someone was trying to add a little Christmas spirit to their bleak New York story, overpaid for a Christmas tree, presumably tried to get it home on the subway, but then hit the turnstile, and just said, the hell with it.

    The image seemed to both annoy New Yorkers (the access door for wheelchairs, bikes, and strollers is right there!) and spark their imagination of the unfortunate series of events that led someone to simply abandon their Christmas dreams in a grungy subway station.

    Others suggested that it was an ambulatory tree–like the Ents in Lord of the Rings–or just another example of typical New Yorker behavior:

    Of course, the silver lining of this festive holiday tale is that whoever came to the subway station next got a free tree! It’s a Christmas miracle, New York style, until a pigeon mugs you on the way home.

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    If you want to make sense of the world, you need to learn more about it. That’s prevailing theme behind every single one of billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates’s biannual book lists, which he releases like clockwork each summer and holiday season.

    Gates’s top five fireplace reads for 2018 just went live on GatesNotes. But anyone who reads between the lines on this year’s selections will see that in addition to being “pretty eclectic” and “highly giftable” there’s a broader narrative that runs among them: Learning can’t happen without realizing that everyone (including you) has biases that affect where you’re seeking out knowledge or how you make decisions.

    The selections include a memoir from a highly accomplished woman who grew up isolated among conspiracy theorists but self-educated her way out (the one woman author on the list, an only slightly better ratio than before), a deep dive into what happens if you outsource life-and-death battlefield decisions to artificial intelligence, and a nonfiction detective-like investigation into how a much ballyhooed tech CEO allowed egotism and deception to destroy one of America’s biggest and ultimately overrated and fraudulent tech companies.

    That list ends with two especially introspective tomes. One is step-by-step analysis of many modern factors that cause unnecessary worry and anxiety. And, for those who’ve read all of these rational think pieces in order, there’s a mind-over-matter offering: A guide to meditation and mindfulness.

    Educated, by Tara Westover

    [Image: Penguin Random House]

    In this memoir, Westover relates what it was like to grow up as a Mormon survivalist in rural Idaho and eventually discover and have to teach herself more about the wider world. More broadly, the book is about those who “remove themselves from society because they have these beliefs and knowledge that they think make them more enlightened,” Gates writes. “Their belief systems benefit from their separateness, and you’re forced to be either in or out.” Westover’s own journey eventually led to college, where she learned to seek out and rely on research that is proven and well-sourced.

    Army of None, by Paul Scharre

    [Image: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.]

    A veteran and military expert who helped draw up the current U.S. policy on autonomous weapons explores both the positive and apocalyptic  scenarios of using robots in war. “While this use of A.I. holds great promise for reducing civilian casualties and keeping more troops out of harm’s way, it also presents the possibility of unintended consequences if we’re not careful,” Gates writes. That’s because anytime you cede control to a machine, there are unexpected trade-offs. “We need many experts and citizens across the globe to get involved in this important debate,” he adds.

    Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou

    [Image: Penguin Random House]

    Blood testing company Theranos reached a valuation of $10 billion before investigative journalist John Carreyrou exposed the crazy truth that it’s product simply didn’t work. At the same time, the ruse lasted for years because CEO Elizabeth Holmes was so charismatic that few questioned her operation’s underlying processes. “Bad Blood is also a cautionary tale about the virtues of celebrity,” Gates writes. “Holmes pushed a vision of what Theranos could be, not what it actually was, and people suffered as a result.”

    21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Yuval Noah Harari

    [Image: Penguin Random House]

    The tech world favorite explores why we’re hard-wired to worry so much, and what to do about that in our current age of anxiety. As Gates explains, our primitive survival instincts are now hijacked: “[M]odern life does present plenty of other reasons for concern: terrorism, climate change, the rise of A.I., encroachments on our privacy, even the apparent decline of international cooperation.” The trick is really to confront those fears with logic, something the author does by breaking out and examining the real threats behind many of these triggers. “It’s to know which things to worry about, and how much to worry about them,” Gates adds.

    The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness, by Andy Puddicombe

    [Image: St. Martin’s Griffin]

    The cofounder of meditation app maker Headspace spent time as a monk, and the book grounds lessons in research and works like a do-it-yourself manual to get started. “If you’re thinking about trying mindfulness, this is the perfect introduction,” says Gates, who considers the practice of meditation great for improving focus. “It’s also helped me step back and get some ease with whatever thoughts or emotions are present.”

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    The global smartphone market grew by just 1.4% last quarter according to Gartner, which estimated 389 million total smartphone shipments in Q3 2018. Much of the year-over-year growth came from Huawei, which shipped 52 million phones and edged out Apple (with 45.7 million shipments) for the second quarter in a row. Fellow Chinese firms Xiaomi (33.2 million shipments) and Oppo (30.6 million shipments) also posted strong growth.

    Samsung, meanwhile, remains the leading smartphone vendor with 73.4 million units shipped last quarter, but that’s down from 85.6 million units in Q3 2017. The company is hoping to fend off its new Chinese rivals by bringing more cutting-edge features to mid-range phones, while also betting on new high-end tech such as foldable screens and more cameras.

    As for Apple, the company’s peak smartphone plan includes selling pricier hardware (like the $1,100-and-up iPhone XS Max) and extracting more money from services. Along that line, Apple will no longer share device sales numbers in its quarterly earnings reports, starting with the next one.

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    Michelle Obama is getting real on her Becoming book tour.

    The former First Lady was discussing the struggles of women trying to have it all, balancing work life, and excelling in every aspect of life at home and in the workplace. “That whole ‘so you can have it all,’? Nope, not at the same time,” Obama said, according to The Cut. “That’s a lie.”

    Onstage at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday night, Obama took particular umbrage at the notion of “leaning in,” an approach espoused by the currently embattled Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in her 2013 book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. “It’s not always enough to lean in,” Obama said. “Because that shit doesn’t work all the time.”

    The crowd was reportedly quite surprised to hear Obama blurt out a curse word, and she quickly apologized: “I forgot where I was for a moment!” she said. She didn’t take back what she said about Lean In, though, balking at the idea that women can have professional success and personal fulfillment by simply facing their fears and working harder than everyone else. It’s a recipe for burnout and completely ignores the barriers that women of color and in lower economic classes face.

    Obama isn’t the first woman to note that the idea doesn’t work for everyone. The Memo’s Minda Harts argued in Fast Company that Sandberg’s Lean In manifesto “ignored the systemic obstacles that women of color face,” while others have suggested (satirically) that some women would prefer to “Lean Over,” instead. At this point, even Sandberg has realized some of her book’s shortcomings. Obama’s statement may be the final nail in the lean-in coffin, so go ahead and lean out, ladies.

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    The numbers are in. Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which aired yesterday on ABC, had its lowest ratings ever. It was seen by 3.3 million viewers, down from 5 million last year.

    This may come as a surprise to Ed Razek, the CMO of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company and one of the architects of the show. In an interview with Vogue last month, Razak talked proudly about the show, which features a cast of tall, skinny supermodels wearing nothing but underwear and angel’s wings. For years, Victoria’s Secret has faced criticism about its body negativity and its overly sexualized branding, but Razek kept making the case that the brand still had its finger on the pulse of culture.

    Among a litany of insensitive comments, Razek said:

    Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world, and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute, including the competitors that are carping at us. And they carp at us because we’re the leader. They don’t talk about each other. I accept that. I actually respect it. Cool. But we’re nobody’s third love. We’re their first love. And Victoria’s Secret has been women’s first love from the beginning.

    From comments like this, it does not seem like Victoria’s Secret has fully come to terms with how young people feel about the brand. In addition to the show’s low ratings, women are not buying the brand’s products. Sales are down and it is losing market share to startups like ThirdLove, Knix, and Lively, which are targeting millennial women with brands that are much more focused on comfort, inclusivity, and female empowerment.

    To make matters worse, Halsey, the singer who headlined this year’s show, criticized the event with a viral Instagram message. She said she was offended by Razek’s comments above, about trans models. “As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have no tolerance for a lack of inclusivity,” she wrote.

    View this post on Instagram

    ‪???????????? @GLSEN –‬

    A post shared by halsey (@iamhalsey) on

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    The “Yellow Vests” protests in Paris have been called the worst riots to hit the French capital since the turbulent 1960s, with NBC News reporting more than 100 people injured and 412 arrested in protests this weekend.

    Here’s what we know about the protest movement:

    • Their name has a specific meaning: The protest movement, known as “gilets jaunes” in French and “Yellow Vests” or “Yellow Jackets” in English, takes it name from the high visibility vests typically worn by construction workers operating near traffic. French drivers are required to keep the vests in their cars in case of emergency, and they’ve been worn by protesters seeking to draw attention to their demonstrations.
    • They sprung up quickly: The movement reportedly arose more or less spontaneously around the middle of last month, as a protest against an environmentally motivated raise in gas taxes. Since then, people have joined the movement over economic struggles faced by middle- and working-class French people under President Emmanuel Macron.
    • They’re decentralized: The protests are chiefly organized using social media rather than being led by any formal, organized parties, unions, or other groups. Protesters reportedly come from all over the political spectrum and from across France, including many suburbanites and rural dwellers fed up with rising prices and stagnant wages. The ad hoc structure has made negotiating with protest leaders a challenge for government officials.
    • They’re spreading: The protests are supported by 72% of the French population, according to a Harris Interactive poll. The Guardianreported Monday that protests continue to spread across the country, with French high school students also taking to the streets and blockading their schools.

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    First Starbucks banned porn, now Tumblr is, too.

    The company announced today that adult content will not be allowed on Tumblr, “regardless of how old you are,” beginning on December 17. The new policy comes just days after Tumblr was understandably removed from Apple’s iOS App Store after child pornography—which is illegal on Tumblr and all platforms run by humans with souls—slipped through the platform’s filters and was caught by Apple. Now, Tumblr is banning all adult content, which it defines as including “photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs, and illustrations—that depicts sex acts.” (No word whether furniture porn counts, but breastfeeding-related posts and gender confirmation pics are fine.)

    Tumblr has been a bit of a safe haven for adult content since it was founded in 2007. While the company has tried to shield such content from public view through Safe Mode and more stringent search filters, anyone who had the will could usually find their way to a trove of NSFW material. In 2013, 11.4% of Tumblr’s 200,000 most visited domains were adult.

    Since Verizon’s Oath took over Tumblr, however, it has struggled with how to deal with the massive amount of porn on the site. In 2013, Tumblr issued new guidelines for handling adult content on the site, and the company unveiled a “safe mode” in 2017 to protect viewers with delicate sensibilities, but reportedly was considering removing porn entirely. The incident that led Apple to remove the Tumblr app from its store was apparently the tipping point. Now, after December 17, any explicit posts will be flagged and deleted by algorithms.

    Tumblr is notifying users via email who have posted adult content that their content will be set to private, so that it can’t be reblogged or shared on Tumblr. Users can choose to attempt to appeal the decision. Users who run adult blogs can export their content before the change takes place.

    Tumblr blogs that have been labeled as “explicit” will still be allowed, but have a set of new rules they must follow in order to stay on the site. Written erotica, nude art sculptures, and illustrations are also still allowed on Tumblr, and it’s still TBD how Tumblr’s moderation team will decide what crosses the line.

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    When climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe first started teaching at Texas Tech in 2005, in the very conservative town of Lubbock, the first question a student asked after a class on the carbon cycle was: “You’re a Democrat, aren’t you?” Hayhoe answered that she was a Canadian. But it was an early introduction to a reality that still exists today. Whether you believe in human-caused climate change has more to do with where you fall on the political spectrum than how much education you have.

    As of a survey earlier this year, almost all liberal Democrats (95%) think climate change is happening; only 40% of conservative Republicans do. Even fewer conservatives think that climate change is caused by humans or are worried about the consequences. Hayhoe, who still lives and works in Lubbock, laid out her approach to how to talk to climate skeptics at TEDWomen.

    Katharine Hayhoe [Photo: Callie Giovanna/TED]

    Start from then heart

    The first step is “to start from the heart, start by talking about why it matters to us–to begin with genuinely shared values,” Hayhoe said. “Are we both parents? Do we live in the same community? Do we enjoy outdoor activities–hiking, biking, fishing, even hunting? Do we care about the economy or national security?”

    Hayhoe is also an evangelical Christian–probably a rarity among climate scientists, but another point of connection she can use in some conversations, as she talks about the responsibility she feels to care for the planet and the poorest people living on it, who will be most impacted by climate.

    Find common values

    “If you don’t know what the values are that someone has, have a conversation, get to know them, figure it out, what makes them tick, and then once we have, all we have to do is connect the dots between the values they already have and why they would care about a changing climate,” she said. “I truly believe after thousands of conversations that I’ve had over the past decade, and more, that just about every single person in the world already has the values they need to care about a changing climate. They just haven’t connected the dots, and that’s what we can do through our conversation with them.”

    Don’t focus on fear

    Despite the terror of living in a time when wildfires and hurricanes and droughts are already becoming more extreme “Fear is not going to motivate us for the long-term sustained change,” she said. Instead, focus on examples of solutions that are already happening, from the spread of cheap wind power in Texas to cheap pay-as-you-go solar power in Africa. Despite the daunting size of the challenge of shifting to a zero-carbon economy, it’s critical to look to these positive examples and not succumb to despair.

    “What we need to fix this thing is rational hope,” Hayhoe said. “Yes, we absolutely do need to recognize what’s at stake. Of course we do, but we need a vision of a better future, a future with abundant energy, with a stable economy, with resources available to all where our lives are not worse, but better than they are today.”

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    Jim Gaffigan is a funny, successful comedian. His success is due, in part, to his wide-ranging appeal. Gaffigan can drop in and do a guest set at some dingy Brooklyn bar on a Tuesday night and be greeted warmly, then do a family-friendly headlining show at Madison Square Garden the next night.

    So it’s kind of a surprise that Amazon’s algorithm would suggest viewers follow up Gaffigan’s latest special by checking out the comedy of Owen Benjamin.

    Actually, it’s kind of amazing that Amazon would associate with Benjamin at all.

    For those blissfully unaware, here’s a primer on Benjamin: About 10 years ago, he was a rising comic with promising prospects. He’d appeared on MTV’s Punk’d and the movie The House Bunny, was on his way to a Comedy Central half-hour special, and had filmed the lead role in All’s Faire in Love, opposite Christina Ricci, to whom he would become (briefly) engaged. This era ultimately ended up being the pinnacle of his career. Things never quite broke his way as a mainstream comic or film actor, but Benjamin eventually found a lot more traction with a very specific audience: the alt-right.

    At some point around the dawn of the Trump presidency, Owen went all in on trolling the mainstream that spurned him, and he’s since become the opposite of Jim Gaffigan: someone only beloved by the kind of person who feels terminally chafed by not being able to say the n-word.

    To wit, some of Benjamin’s greatest hits:

    He advocated for slavery to return, but just for one specific black man.

    He started posting multi-hour rants on YouTube about why feminism is bad but guns are good.

    He got suspended from Twitter for talking about David Hogg’s genitals.

    He named his latest tour “Height Supremacist” and promoted it with a poster depicting himself as Hitler. (No, you don’t get it–he was doing it ironically. So it doesn’t count. You should learn more about when depicting oneself as Hitler does and does not count before you let it trigger you.)

    I’m a “height supremacist” and I ain’t ashamed to tell the world. I’m Adolf for tour tix and…

    Posted by Owen Benjamin on Wednesday, November 7, 2018

    Also, he got dropped by his agency after a video of his standup set about the insanity of transgendered children–classic comedy goldmine!–circulated widely.

    It’s this last point, Benjamin’s animosity toward any parent raising a trans or non-binary child, that brought to Twitter’s attention Amazon’s decision to carry Benjamin’s special. The alt-right darling hasn’t just been trolling people whose lifestyle makes him uncomfortable through his comedy, he has apparently also taken to outright harassment. It seems Benjamin has taken to calling comedian and podcast godfather Jesse Thorn a “child molester” because of his transgender child.

    As of this writing, Thorn’s fans have taken to tweeting at @PrimeVideo, asking why they’re giving Benjamin a platform. Will the monolithic company continue to promote his special after receiving these complaints? If Bezos’s response to the petitions begging Amazon to stop advertising on alt-right hot spot Breitbart are any indication: yes.

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    A few weeks ago, NASA’s InSight touched down on the Elysium Planitia, a flat expanse on the equator of Mars, set to kick off a new era of scientific exploration. The little solar-powered lander has already started sending photos home, including a photo of a Martian sunset. As the Twitter feed of the Physics and Astronomy Zone notes, Insight’s photos make us the first humans in history to get to see a sunset on Mars. It’s pretty incredible to think about (as is the fact that Mars is now a planet populated entirely by robots, which could certainly stump any intelligent life that make its way there—or perhaps inspire a sequel to Wall-E.)

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    On November 1, around 20,000 Google employees walked out of work to demand systemic change in how the company handles workers’ rights issues such as sexual harassment and gender and racial discrimination.

    And on November 29, the prospect of a much-longer walkout arose when outspoken engineer Liz Fong-Jones started a strike fund. The inciting point was the company’s latest scandal: a report that a group of Google managers had ignored the company’s usually rigorous privacy review process in order to jam through a project to build a censored, snooping search engine for China, code-named Dragonfly.

    Liz Fong-Jones [Photo: courtesy of Liz Fong Jones]
    Fong-Jones promised that if employees together pledged $100,000 for a strike fund to help support workers while picketing, she would match it with $100,000 of her own. Within about three hours, Googlers met her challenge, and the fund currently sits at about $250,000.

    “I’m aiming to raise money for the strike fund,” Fong-Jones tells me, “so that people feel empowered to speak up about issues in the future, whether they be security and privacy-related or workplace conditions-related.” Though currently on sabbatical, the engineer is still very engaged in Google matters–with a prolific activist Twitter feed that often makes news headlines (and has 14,000 followers).

    “I’m coming around to the notion that that strikes are feasible in Silicon Valley, that picketing can be tremendously successful, as we saw in the Google walkout,” she says. “Perhaps the friction involved in going on strike is lower than the friction involved in quitting, as long as [strikers] feel that people are going to have their back.”

    “If I hadn’t [started the fund], there’d be people that would potentially be willing to put in, maybe 5% of their salary or half of their bonus, that didn’t know to talk to each other,” she says. (Employees informed her of their pledges via Twitter direct messages.)

    A quarter million dollars might not go far if a sizeable chunk of Google’s more than 80,000 global employees (plus contractors) decide to walk. But just a small number of people in key positions can seriously impact the company, says Fong-Jones. And the most vocal segment of employees is perhaps also the one with the greatest influence: engineers.

    Fong Jones is consulting with the worker advocacy organization on labor rights and laws, and how to administer the strike fund and a possible strike. But having given an ultimatum to soon leave the company if certain reforms from the first walkout aren’t enacted, she says shouldn’t be the one to plan a strike. Aside from refuting the latest story about Dragonfly, Google has not replied to my questions about a possible strike and how it might respond. Fong-Jones says she hasn’t heard anything, either.

    The tipping point

    Fong-Jones, a transgender woman, has mainly focused on promoting diversity, inclusion, and tolerance as an internal employee advocate–and eventually, one of 15 whistleblowers who took the story of staff bullying to the press. But it was the latest reports about Drgonfly that convinced her employees had to take the next step in protest.

    Related: The inclusion advocate–Liz Fong Jones

    Dragonfly was first revealed by the Intercept in August. But a November 29 article was especially galling. The Intercept reports that management even threatened the few people working on Dragonfly with being fired if they so much as mentioned it to anyone.

    (“We strongly dispute the allegations made in [the] story last week,” a Google PR representative told me by email, linking to a tweet by the company’s director of security and privacy, Heather Adkins, refuting the article.)

    On November 27, about a dozen employees signed a letter demanding that Google scrap Dragonfly. Fong-Jones didn’t work on the letter, but she added her name shortly after it published, along with hundreds of other employees. By December 3, over 700 people had signed the letter. Five hundred eighty list their title as “engineer,” and 29 list “program manager.”

    Just going public on a petition is a risky move in an industry that employees fear is starting to take note of troublemakers. But several engineers and scientists have risked much more by resigning in protest. About a dozen left in April, in opposition to Google providing AI services for the Pentagon’s Project Maven drone program. (In August, research scientist Jack Poulson became the first reported to resign over Dragonfly.)

    About 4,000 employees also signed an internal letter opposing Maven. Management eventually dropped plans to renew the defense contract, as well as competition for a $10 billion cloud-computing project for the Pentagon.

    The day of the Dragonfly letter, Fong-Jones announced that she would resign in February if the company didn’t appoint a rank-and-file employee to the board of directors–one of five demands of the original walkout. “I think that the employee representative on the board is a mechanism of ensuring all the other ones are met,” she says. “I would certainly run for it if it were a matter of elections,” she says of the potential seat.

    But Fong-Jones has come to recognize the value for employees taking a middle position between signing a petition and resigning a position. “When you quit, you are sending a message to the company,” she says, noting the huge cost of recruiting and onboarding a replacement.

    “At the same time, you’re also depriving the company of your internal voice,” she says. “You are giving this company an opportunity to get rid of its most vocal organizers by simply denying demands until they quit, and then there’ll be no one left to organize.”

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    Netflix’s future strategy on releasing films in theaters doesn’t seem to be any more resolved after conflicting comments from actor Robert DeNiro and Netflix’s chief creative officer Ted Sarandos in the last day.

    On Sunday, De Niro, star of the upcoming Netflix film The Irishman, directed by Martin Scorsese, told reporters at the Marrakech Film Festival that The Irishman will receive a theatrical release prior to its Netflix run. “In the beginning, they will show it on the big screen–we’re talking about big venues where it would play, where it should play–and what happens after that, I’m not sure.”

    “We’ve talked about it with Netflix,” the actor went on. “They are going to do a presentation of our film the way it should be, in a theater.”

    Fast forward to Monday: Sarandos used an appearance at UBS’ 2018 Global Media and Communications Conference in New York, to reiterate his belief that movies should be seen on Netflix.

    He said that the existing 90-day window that theaters insist on before films move on to streaming platforms is “not consumer friendly.” More pointedly, he added, “I don’t think emotionally it’s a different experience” to watch a movie in a theater versus on Netflix. Though he added, “We’re not trying to hurt theaters in any way.”

    Recall that just over a month ago, in late October, Netflix abruptly announced that it would be releasing three Oscar hopeful films this season for brief, exclusive runs in theaters before their debuts on Netflix. The chosen films and filmmakers were Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma; the Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs; and Susanne Bier’s Bird Box.

    The move was a milestone for the streaming company, which has been steadfast–and vocal–about its insistence that its films be released only on Netflix, or, in cases of awards contenders, on the same day-and-date on Netflix and in theaters. 

    Although Netflix had not given any additional clues as to how it would proceed with future releases, the comments in the last two days suggest that the battle between die-hard cineasts and executives at the Silicon Valley-based company will continue.

    Scorsese has reportedly pressed Netflix for a theatrical release, and with super agent Ari Emanuel behind him, one can assume that that pressure has mounted since news of the Cuarón screenings. 

    In order to line up talent like Cuarón and Scorsese–and Steven Spielberg, who has said he will never make a movie for a streaming-first platform–Netflix is going to have to keep bending on its stance on theatrical releases. Its concessions with Roma, Buster Scruggs and Bird Box suggest that it’s willing to be flexible. The question now is, just how much more flexible is it willing to be? Especially considering that a top executive like Sarandos is maintaining that there is no emotional difference in the experience of seeing a film in a theater versus in your living room, comments that would make most directors, particularly prestigious ones, shudder. 

    How the Oscar race plays will surely affect this debate. Should Roma win Best Picture–it’s considered one of the frontrunners–Netflix will be able to make the case that even a three-week run in theaters allows a film its full awards glory. If it doesn’t, Cuarón and his handlers will surely complain that a better distribution strategy would have helped the film win.

    Save us a seat on the aisle, because this fight is definitely one to watch.

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