Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Signing up for a free trial is great as you are able to try out a new product or service, or view content that you’re interested in, all without having to pay a cent for it.  Until you check your credit card that is and discover charges for services that you never wanted in the first place, all due to the fact that you forgot to cancel your free trial in time.

Thankfully, there’s a solution in place.  A new app known as Free Trial Surfing that lets you sign up for a free trial without any risk at all.  That’s because you’ll be signing up with a fake credit card that masks your true identity.

As Tech Radar explains, “It uses a virtual credit card number and invented name to let you get a taste for an app’s quality, and then automatically cancels the account before the main billing period kicks in.

Developed by British app creator Josh Browder, the service is working alongside an undisclosed bank, with the virtual cards registered to Browder’s company. As a result, the app is able to forward emails from a service provider to a user without exposing the user’s own email – handy if you do eventually want to use the service in question as a paid subscriber.”

In theory, this app sounds almost too good to be true.  Surely, the companies providing these free trials may eventually want to fight back against this blatant subversion by eliminating the free trials all together.  So it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out.  But until that happens there’s nothing to prevent people from taking advantage of free trials, just like they always have, albeit with zero risk this time around thanks to Josh Browder and Free Trial Surfing.

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Is the Free Trial Surfing app the Greatest Idea Ever?

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If you miss a sporting event you can catch up by watching the highlights on SportsCenter.  If you haven’t read a book but want to be able to talk about it you can get the Cliff’s notes version.  But what recourse do you have when it comes to catching up on movies or TV shows?  Short of binge-watching there is nothing you can do.  No substitute for actually putting in the time.  But what if you don’t really care about watching an entire show or movie?  What if you aren’t interested in hanging on every word of dialogue and don’t care about missing minute details?  What if hunting for Easter Eggs, chatting in forums, and spending every waking second of your day coming up with fan theories isn’t for you? What if all you want to do is catch up on the fly?  Quick and easy.  Down and dirty.  In that case, what options do you have?

For now, nothing.  But I am hoping to change that.  What I’m envisioning is a way for people to watch the equivalent of movie highlights.  A reverse trailer of sorts that gives away the entire plot in two minutes or less. Spoiler alerts be gone.  The spoiler is now the whole point.  Armed with the knowledge of what happened in Phase One and Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe you can now safely dive into Avengers End Game and the rest of Phase Three without having to sit through the Incredible Hulk or thirty other movies.  Millions of man hours would be saved.  Relationships allowed to blossom.

I honestly feel like this idea has a lot of merit.  Just think about it.  Considering how much content there now is from regular movies and network TV shows to binge worthy series on dozens of streaming services it is nearly impossible to stay on top of all the latest comings and goings in the world of pop culture.  To avoid information overload what we need are better content search engines or recommendation services that help us quickly find relevant content.  Or better yet, a way to watch content faster.  Similar to speed reading or listening to podcasts at two times the speed, watching reverse trailers could become a relevant life hack for people too busy to sit down and watch a full length film.  And it could be a real god send for people who only care about one or two aspects of an inter-connected series.  Take the CW’s Arrowverse for example.  I love The Flash and still admire Arrow but have zero interest in watching Super GirlLegends of Tomorrow or Black Lightning.  Which is problematic when the characters from one show appear in another during annual crossover episodes.  If I could watch highlights of the shows I don’t care about and only focus on the ones I do that would save me a ton of time and significantly enhance my life.

Reverse trailers could even go hand in hand with another movie related idea I’ve recently encountered: Film Tapas.  Instead of sitting down to watch an entire movie you instead make a night out of watching twenty or so movie trailers in a row.  Similar to how you only eat small samples of food at a Tapas restaurant, during a film tapas you’d only sample various movies, not watch the whole thing.  Considering that a lot of people say that watching the previews is the best part of going to the movies then it may make sense that Film Tapas could become a stand alone thing.  Especially if reverse movie trailers that give away the plot is what’s on the menu.

All in all, this technology wouldn’t just change the game, it would create a whole new one: a way to game the Hollywood system that has been meticulously engineered with an endless stream of sequels and remakes specifically designed to bleed our pocketbooks dry and consume our every waking moment. After all, the Godfather saga didn’t refer to the movie, it referred to what you had to go through to watch the entire trilogy.  No longer.  The time has come to take back control of our time.  To make it easier for movie fans to stay on top of everything happening in Hollywood the way that sports fan can stay on top of their favorite teams without having to watch every minute of every game.  The time has come for reverse trailers.

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Are reverse trailers the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Algorithms already recommend shows for us to watch on Netflix, songs for us to listen to on Spotify, and products for us to buy on Amazon but when it comes to reading good old fashioned books we are often on our own.  Sure, Amazon does make recommendations but those are just surface level recommendations.  Customers who bought this book also bought this book.  Or here are some other books by this same author.

But what if there was a way to make recommendations based on more subtle clues?  Such as you have an affinity for books with an orange cover so here are some more books with orange covers. Or here are some other books with strong female protagonists.  Well, in the near future that level of recommendation may be possible.  But that’s not all.  We may also have books that are interactive, gamified, and filled with all sorts of technological tricks that increase reader engagement.  And we’ll have all those thanks to a company called OverDrive.

According to Futurism:

“[CEO Steve] Potash envisions a slew of ways to improve books with AI, like smart assistants that take on the persona of an author, AR content that drops readers inside the historical scene they’re reading about, or games built into books that help students learn new words and concepts.

In the meantime, OverDrive is trudging ahead with backend AI systems, that either help libraries buy books that are more likely to circulate or help teachers find books that actually teach the lessons that they want to work into their curricula.”

These ideas aren’t exactly new.  They’re just hard to pull off.  And I wonder if they are even necessary.  Our imaginations already transport us to the historical scenes that we’re reading about and audio books already let authors talk directly to their audience.  But at the same time anything that increases reader engagement and gets more kids excited about reading is probably a good thing.  If there are ways to gamify reading that can let books compete with video games than that could be a real game changer.  Literally.

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Is OverDrive the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt has had quite the career.  After getting his big break on 3rd Rock from the Sun he has gone on to snag some pretty impressive roles in Hollywood blockbusters likeInception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Looper.  But it’s what he’s doing for his next act that could have the longest lasting impact: creating a production company turned tech company with the big idea that it can save creativity.

That may sound grandiose but the motivation is actually pretty simple.  Over the last decade or so creativity something that has been falling victim to a declining culture, one that has been overrun by an all-consuming 24/7 attention grab economy where formulaic click-bait is continuously churned out by bloggers and YouTubers who use SEO to created targeted content reverse engineered for maximum effect.  It’s a vicious cycle that drowns out actual art, leaving society worse off for it. Where is where Hit Record’s new approach would come in: more collaboration, less self-promotion.

As Venture Beat puts it, “It’s worth diving into Gordon-Levitt’s thinking here. He strongly believes that social media and tech platforms are screwing up the incentives for creativity. If you’re focused on figuring out how much attention you can get, or what the box office numbers will be, or whether you’re going to get famous, your priorities are twisted. (Gordon-Levitt recommends everyone reads the book Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier.)

‘If what you’re going for is posting on YouTube, or Instagram, or platforms that monetize through the ad model, where they’re really just going for sheer volume and have the ability to manipulate people through ads, virality is the measure of success,’ Gordon-Levitt pointed out. ‘And I think this is exactly at the heart of what’s interesting to me about doing [HitRecord]. I think if that is your measure of success, you’re going to undermine a lot of what’s actually meaningful and joyful about creativity. And I’m actually concerned for the human race’s creative spirit, because so much of our collective creativity is now destined for these platforms that are monetized by this sort of attention economy model. And it twists one’s understanding of one’s own creativity, and what the value of being creative is.’”

As a creative who gets zero attention and who has virtually nothing to show for seven years’ worth of effort I am all for changing our priorities.  I’m never going change my style and write click bait stories.  Never going to sell my soul just to go viral.  Never going to drive myself crazy worrying about how many likes or comments I get.  Would I like to be famous? Sure.  Would I like to make a real difference in the world? Of course.  Am I going to change who I am to do that?  Never.

That’s why I hope Hit Record takes off.  Billed as GitHub for creatives it has a chance to build a burgeoning community that would restore some of the lost luster to the art of creativity. And if the platform is successful then maybe people like me, who create content just for the pure joy of it, can finally find a home.

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Is Hit Record the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Jason C. seems like a nice guy.  He’s a firefighter with a friendly disposition who selflessly always looks to help others.  But Jason hasn’t always had it easy.  He has sensitive skin and gets ingrown hairs making it difficult for him to keep up with the daily shaving requirements that being a firefighter demands.

I know that I should care about Jason.  Firefighters like him do tireless, thankless work to keep me safe.  And yet I don’t give a damn about Jason C.  At least not anymore.  How could I when he’s been torturing me for the last week.

You see, Jason C. is the first person I see every time there’s a commercial break when watching a game on the MLB app.  No matter the day, no matter the time, no matter the teams playing, braces wearing Jason C. is always there to remind me of how sensitive skin his skin is.  I’m an empathetic guy but there’s only so much that even I can take.  Gillette may be the best a man can get but getting subjected to hearing the same ad over and over again during every commercial break is not the best that a fan can get.

It may sound extreme to say but in my opinion this is borderline inhumane treatment.  A form of brainwashing pure and simple.  I get that we live in a capitalistic society.  That Gillette paid for this ad time fair and square.  And that I as a consumer have other choices.  But it doesn’t make what they are doing and what MLB is letting them do any less horrific.

Which is why we need to put restrictions in place.  If MLB isn’t going to air this commercial less and Gillette isn’t going to choose to run it less than we need to force their hand.  Pass legislation that puts limit on how often commercials can be run.

For instance, you could say that the same commercial can’t run in consecutive innings or that it can only run five times per game or ten times per day or whatever restrictions you want to put in place.  Because the way it is now (with the same commercial airing every inning, and as the first commercial of that break to boot) is not sustainable psychologically for viewers.  Plain and simple, it makes the games unwatchable and makes me want to use the app less which is the exact opposite point of the app’s existence.  Soon, viewers, fed up with getting force-fed, will start to leave in droves.

You would think that baseball, a sport that already saw a mass exodus of fans after the 1994 strike, would be especially cognizant of how they treat their fans.  And yet just the opposite is true as their app treats the fan experience as a complete and utter after thought.  Not cool MLB.  Not cool at all.

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Are advertising restrictions on the MLB app warranted?

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The other day I had dinner at Snakes and Lattes, an establishment that lets you play board games while you dine for a nominal fee.  One of the games that I wound up playing was my new all-time #1 favorite game: Patchwork.  A two player game where you compete to build a quilt out of oddly shaped Tetris like pieces while collecting buttons.  Believe me, it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds.

This got me thinking though.  If someone can make a board game about quilting then surely I could make a game out of something equally obscure, yet close to my heart.  A game about antiquing.

Here’s how it would work.  Each game would come equipped with multiple game boards depicting various settings where one might go antiquing.  There might be a house undergoing an estate sale, an actual antique shop, a garage sale,  a junk yard, a local swap meet, etc.  Whatever the case may be.

Each of these boards would be littered with random items and players would be tasked with collecting items from an assigned shopping list without going over budget as they navigate their way across the board with alternating dice rolls.  The key to the game would be to move about the board as efficiently as possible, to collect all the items on your list before your opponent collects all the items on their list.

Now here’s where things get interesting.  Also scattered throughout the board would be certain obstacles.  You may be forced to sell an item that you already collected in order to pay one of your bills.  Or your opponent may have an opportunity to swap out something from your collection for something that they don’t have a need for.  You may even be in a race to be the first to collect an item that you both need.  But have no fear.  If you pass by one of the conveniently located pawn shops you’ll be able to swap or buy back anything you need.

You’d also have an opportunity to use your creativity throughout the game.  Let’s say that collecting a bird feeder is on your list.  Instead of trying to collect the actual bird feeder on the board, you could instead find a few other smaller items, and assemble them into a bird feeder.  This ability to re-purpose items would be what separates the good players from the great players the way that triple word scores separate the wheat from the chaff in Scrabble.

Would this antiquing game be the Greatest Game Ever? Maybe.  Maybe not.  But surely it can’t be any worse than the game about gardening that I saw in Snakes and Lattes. In a world consisting of thousands upon thousands of obscure games, perhaps there’s room for one more.

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Is a board game about antiquing the Greatest Idea Ever?

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This year’s Super Bowl with its extravagant half-time show, million dollar commercials, and star-powered lineups headlined by Tom Brady was quite the spectacle.  But it wasn’t even the best event of the past week.  That honor belongs to a virtual concert held inside a video game in a stunt that could portend the future of entertainment.

The event, a Marshmello concert, was held within the widely popular Fortnite game for ten minutes, during which time weapons were banned.  A brief truce so that everyone could cut loose.  And as it turns out a lot of people wanted to cut loose with approximately 10 million players participating in the event, a new record for the number of concurrent players that were active within the game out of a total of some 200 million registered users.

As the Verge puts it, “Even if you’re not a huge fan of electronic music or have never heard of the EDM producer Marshmello, Fortnite’s live in-game concert was still a shockingly stunning sight to behold — it was also an unprecedented moment in gaming. It truly felt like a glimpse into the future of interactive entertainment, where the worlds of gaming, music, and celebrity combined to create a virtual experience we’ve never quite seen before.”

Although one that we are likely to see again.  Because now that the groundwork has been laid it’s likely that Epic will put on more concerts or other events within the framework of their game opening up unprecedented marketing and branding opportunities for all kinds of celebrities.  The Super Bowl is out.  Fortnite is in.

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Is a live concert inside of Fortnite the Greatest Idea Ever?

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