(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter — more)
Last night I was awoken several times by what sounded like the end of the world outside our window. Massive winds and pounding rain made it sound as if San Francisco might be in the midst of being swallowed up by the sea. Perhaps a fitting segue into today…
D Day. DT Day? DJT Day? I won’t use “our long national nightmare has begun” but only because I’m trying to keep an open mind here. I’d love to be able to keep my head down and just keep doing what I do day-to-day, but I’m just not sure how realistic that is going forward. So instead my goal and mindset is to try to find the upside to every downside I think we’re likely about to see.
I firmly believe every downside does have an upside if you look hard enough. That thesis may be about to be tested… We’ll see.
At least today gave us this gem.
Top of Mind
Farewell, President Obama and staff — and thank you for everything.
Mike Fleming Jr. catches up with director Michael Mann about the re-cut of his Muhammad Ali biopic Ali. Of note:
…because Ali had a one-time approval of the script…and he said the thing that was really important to him was he didn’t want hagiography. He didn’t want idolatry or any kind of sugarcoating. Imagine the amount of flattery that he received through the years. I understood that but I also wanted to know why. He said something really profound: that he was proud of the mistakes he made. He thought he had recognized not all of them but some of them and that he’d fixed some of them and had come to peace with them. And he just walked through life with a sense of, I am who I am and you’re diminishing me if you sugarcoat or fictionalize it.
No punches pulled. I’d expect nothing less. Meanwhile, Mann on our current golden age of television:
Well, the landscape is always changing. I mean take a look at the television that’s getting done. This stuff is spectacular, evolving to where you wonder where movies end and television begins. It is becoming a hybrid. So it’s a luxurious time to be making movies because there’s so many different platforms and modes of presentation so that you can do the strongest possible thing to make something work and let the narrative itself dictate what’s the best way to present this.
Interesting that Mann seemingly would still consider it “making movies” to make some of these long-form television shows. Speaking of…
MANN: There are two things I want to do. I’ve got a Western that Eric Roth wrote called Comanche, and I’ve got a science fiction thing I want to do.
DEADLINE: That’s one you and Roth have talked about for a decade that is as epic in scale as The Revenant. You are finally going to get to make that?
MANN: We’ll see. The sci-fi I can’t talk about. I’m sworn to secrecy. I mean if the right thing presents itself and we’re working on a slate of four different things in television. If the right thing presents itself and the right opportunities. I also like the fact you can do eight hours, 10 hours. It’s completely flexible.
A Michael Mann science fiction film? Done in long-form, for television? Sold.
Andrew Ng, Baidu’s chief AI scientist (formerly at Google), talking to Victor Luckerson:
I think 2017 will be the year of the conversational computer.
Agreed. Meanwhile, on the state of AI:
Just as the Industrial Revolution freed up humanity from a lot of repetitive physical drudgery, I think AI will free up humanity from a lot of mental drudgery.
That’s an interesting way to frame it. As is this:
I’ve been using this analogy that AI is the new electricity. About 100 years ago, electrification transformed agriculture, transportation, manufacturing. Industry after industry was transformed by electricity. I think AI is now in a similar position to transform industry after industry.
Kim Renfro spoke to some folks close to George R.R. Martin to see just what the hell is taking so long with The Winds of Winter:
“He feels that once he has outlined it, once he has explored all the details of the story, all the beats of the story, he can’t go back and revisit it,” Linda told INSIDER. “He can do general notes about characters […] But once he goes and puts it all into a cohesive story, then he says ‘I’ve done it, I can’t revisit it because I’m going to be bored.’ He experiences the story as he writes it and he wants to be able to surprise himself to some extent or get new ideas along the way.”
I can both see and respect that. But jesus, man, the entire Game of Thrones television series, and thus, the entire plot, is going to be out before Winds of Winter… And there’s still one more book to do after that!
Speaking of Game of Thrones, here’s a fun one from The Economist’s 1843 magazine (from last summer, so not entirely up-to-date).
A few more nuanced thoughts on the way forward for content…
(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter.)