Artists on Twitter have a request: stop quote-tweeting their work.
It’s all the more pressing now that Twitter has, temporarily at least, changed its retweet system to encourage users to quote tweets and add their own words on top, rather than simply boost someone else’s message. Artists say quote tweets take attention away from their profiles, making it harder for them to be discovered, while someone else gets the glory.
“When you’re quote tweeting an artist, it’s almost like saying ‘I feel like what I have to say about this piece is more important than the actual piece,’” RadiantG, an artist, journalist, and indie game developer, told The Verge.
Twitter made the change yesterday as part of an effort to “encourage more thoughtful consideration” of tweets — and presumably, to curb the spread of misinformation — around the US election. Twitter no longer plainly presents the option to retweet someone else’s post and instead jumps straight into the quote retweet interface. You can still post a straight retweet by not adding a comment, but the interface is designed to discourage it. Twitter said the change was “temporary” and would remain in place through “at least the end of Election week.”
⚠️PSA to All Artists⚠️
Twitter has made the *awful* decision to encourage quote tweets over normal retweets. This is going to be deeply damaging to our community. This change will affect livelihoods & incomes!
It’s a problem for artists who have found Twitter to be a particularly useful platform for getting discovered and getting work. Amalas Rosa, an illustrator whose work includes video game concept art, album artwork, and an in-progress graphic novel, said that most of her jobs have come through people finding her work on Twitter. “Especially this year,” Rosa said, “a lot of remote work is actually due to Twitter.” Radiant said that all of his commissions this year have come through Twitter.
That’s why it’s important to artists that they get the signal boost directly when someone wants to share their work. “It’s easy to go to our profile,” Rosa said, “but many people don’t check it out if it’s only a quote retweet that’s doing the numbers.” Rosa said she doesn’t mind when people quote-tweet her work, but she’s concerned the new interface will confuse people who might otherwise want to directly promote an artist.
In response to Twitter’s change, artists have been retweeting each others’ messages about the new system, with some posts gaining thousands of retweets. Several artists have annotated screenshots about how to skirt the new system and send a plain retweet. One artist even illustrated a diagram about how to avoid the quote retweet.
Twitter changed retweets!!
BUT you can still normal retweet! The default setting will be quote retweet! But if you don’t add any text or anything and just hit retweet it will show up as a normal retweet!
It’s annoying! But please keep retweeting! For artists 😀
Quote tweets were a sore spot even before this week’s update was put in place. Many artists already had “No QRT” (for “no quote retweet”) or a similar request in their name, bio, or location, Radiant said.
Twitter said it was aware of artists’ concerns, though the company didn’t indicate that it would make any adjustments. “We heard your overall feedback and understand that some of you, like artists who share their work on Twitter, value Retweets,” the company wrote yesterday. “You can still Retweet by not adding anything into the QT composer.”
While the change remains in place, artists will have to keep educating followers about best practices for supporting their work, Radiant said.
“We’re not telling you how to use the platform,” Radiant said. “All I’m saying is how to best support us.”
Just when we thought the drama surrounding Zack Snyder’s Justice League couldn’t get any weirder, it seems Jared Leto’s…. controversial take on the Joker will be appearing in the director’s cut of the 2017 superhero team-up when it hits HBO Max next year.
Leto, who infamously played the role of the Batman villain in 2016’s Suicide Squad, is reportedly joining the ongoing reshoots for the new Justice League cut, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
It’s not entirely clear what role Leto’s Joker will play in the re-edited film. Despite the controversy over Leto’s edgy interpretation of the villain, the character has only had a minor role (at best) in the live-action DC films. Leto himself has only appeared in a few scenes in Suicide Squad (although there are reports that his role in the film was cut down in post-production). Leto’s character was also referenced — but did not appear — in Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, released earlier this year, which follows Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in the wake of her breakup with the villain.
The news that Leto’s Joker will feature into Zack Snyder’s Justice League is also perplexing in a larger sense, given that Leto was never slated to appear in any of the original versions of Justice League — even Snyder’s original cut of the film from before he stepped down — outside of some vague, debunked rumors from the summer of 2016.
The fact that Snyder appears to be using the reshoots (which will also reportedly feature Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher, and Amber Heard) for his own cut of Justice League to introduce an entirely new character to the story could indicate more substantial changes from both his original version of the film as well as the final theatrical cut that director Joss Whedon finished back in 2017.
The history of the so-called “Snyder Cut” is ultimately a long and complicated one. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear: whatever the four-hour-plus Zack Snyder’s Justice League endsup being when it comes out next year, it’ll have grown beyond even Snyder’s original intentions for the film.
A state report on Foxconn’s Wisconsin factory depicts a project gone far off course. The report, issued this month by Wisconsin’s Division of Executive Budget and Finance and obtained through a records request, confirms that the company has not built the enormous Gen 10.5 LCD factory specified in its contract. It also says that the building the company claims is a smaller Gen 6 LCD factory shows no signs of manufacturing LCDs in the foreseeable future and “may be better suited for demonstration purposes.”
The report notes that Foxconn received a permit to use its so-called “Fab” for storage, which The Verge first reported this week. Furthermore, according to an industry expert consulted by the state, Foxconn has not ordered the equipment that would be needed to make LCDs. If the building were to be used as an LCD manufacturing facility, the expert notes it would be the smallest Gen 6 in the world and “would appear to be more of a showcase than a business viable for the long term.”
If any LCD-related manufacturing were to take place in the building, the analysis says, it would likely only be the final assembly of components produced elsewhere and imported to Wisconsin. Such a project would have a vastly smaller impact on local supply chains and employ nowhere near the 13,000 workers anticipated in Foxconn’s contract with the state.
Wisconsin Secretary of the Department of Administration Joel Brennan said in an interview with The Verge today that “clearly the Gen 6 that’s been discussed and built in Mount Pleasant is not similar to other Gen 6 fabs around the world.” Brennan said the memo was an effort to consult industry experts to better understand the scope of Foxconn’s current project and its potential impact on the state. “There was justified criticism of the [former Governor Scott] Walker administration for entering into this contract, and not really getting any outside experts for an industry that was new to Wisconsin,” Brennan said. “This is about making sure that we can use the best expertise that we have inside and outside state government so that we can make the best decisions possible.”
The report provides the fullest articulation of the state’s reason for rejecting Foxconn’s subsidy payments so far. Last week, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), which oversees the deal, denied the company its first installment of the nearly $3 billion refundable tax credits because it hasn’t built the “Gen 10.5 Fab” specified in its contract.
The project Foxconn has pursued instead, the new analysis says, would not have warranted the record-breaking subsidy package passed by then-Gov. Scott Walker, nor required the infrastructure state and local governments have built to support it. “Taxpayers fully performed their side of the agreement to date, while the Recipients have not,” the report says. In fact, “state taxpayers have spent as much if not more than” Foxconn has on improvements to the company’s supposed manufacturing campus. The Verge previously reported that state and local governments spent at least $400 million on the project, mostly on land and infrastructure the company will likely never need. Foxconn listed approximately $300 million in capital expenses at the end of 2019.
There is no foreseeable way that the Foxconn project will employ anywhere near the number of people it was supposed to under the contract with Wisconsin. At the end of last year, it employed only 281 eligible under the terms of the contract, rather than the 2,080 it was supposed to, or even the 520 it needed to employ to get tax subsidies. By the end of 2022, it was supposed to employ 13,000 workers. And those numbers are going in the wrong direction. The Verge’s investigation found that Foxconn recruited large numbers of local college students and foreign recent graduates on visas late in 2019 as it tried to hit the employment threshold needed to receive subsidies, only to lay off many employees once the deadline passed. The state report notes that Foxconn’s employment numbers have fallen this year, and “a pattern of hiring spikes at the year-end December job reporting deadline followed by drops in the following months” fails to meet Foxconn’s contractual obligation to maintain employment levels for several years.
The state has been warning Foxconn that its current project is ineligible for subsidies for over 16 months, but the company has so far declined to revise the contract. A settlement period this summer ended without an agreement. WEDC did not respond to a request for comment but has previously stated its openness to revising the contract to reflect whatever it is Foxconn is currently doing.
“I have expressed to you my commitment to help negotiate fair terms to support Foxconn’s new and substantially changed vision for the project,” WEDC CEO Missy Hughes wrote to Foxconn with the subsidy denial. “WEDC’s door remains wide open to support your business expansion in Wisconsin.”
Foxconn did not respond to a prepublication request for comment for The Verge’s investigation this week, but it later issued a statement denying it had hired employees only to get tax subsidies.
Regarding the company’s failure to build LCDs and two years spent veering from idea to idea (co-working, fish farming, building giant glass spheres), the company said “Foxconn’s progress in Wisconsin has been achieved despite man growing pains that includes the need to explore new business opportunities, adjust to changes in global customer requirements, and a constantly evolving global technology industry.”
As for the chaotic and toxic work environment reported by many Foxconn employees, the company said: “Many Wisconsin employees have found success embracing our challenges such as the assimilation of cultural differences, adapting to changing business needs, and finding ways to contribute to the company as their roles have evolve. The melding of cultures that has taken place in recent years is somewhat reflected in the documentary American Factory.”
The Verge reported that a Foxconn executive mandated employees watch the Netflix movie, in which a Chinese glass company’s foray into the Midwest founders amid culture clashes, and American management is replaced with Chinese leadership. Foxconn employees saw it as alarmingly similar to their own experience.
Foxconn said it remains committed to Wisconsin but that WEDC’s denial of subsidies “threatens the good faith negotiations” over a new contract.
A statement the same day from Foxconn founder Terry Gou, however, struck a more ominous tone, linking the future of the project to continued state support and, implicitly, to President Donald Trump’s reelection. “Foxconn will work as a partner with those who treat the company as a partner,” Gou wrote. “Foxconn will remain committed to the completion and continued expansion of our project and investment in Wisconsin as long as policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels remain committed to Foxconn and the very important technology development goals driving the company’s investments, as President Trump has done.”
Chase Sapphire credit cards have pivoted from travel to groceries in their latest Ultimate Rewards update, which makes sense as travel has ground to a halt and grocery spending is up 17% during the pandemic. The points you can earn for the new bonus grocery category is pretty good value—though not the best on the market.
Earn 2-3x points at grocery stores
Sapphire Preferred already offers 2x points for every dollar spent on travel and dining, while the fancier Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points for those same categories. Both cards offer one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. The new addition—a grocery store category—runs for a limited time, from Nov. 1, 2020, through April 30, 2021, with the following points breakdown:
Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders earn 2x on up to $1,000 in monthly grocery store purchases.
Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders earn 3x on up to $1,000 in monthly grocery store purchases.
As there’s a cap at $1,000 in grocery spending each month, you can earn a total of 2,000 points with the Preferred card and up to 3,000 points with Reserve.
According to The Points Guy’s latest valuations, each Ultimate Reward point is worth two cents, which means you’d be redeeming $40 and $90 in value each month. Not bad at all.
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An 80,000 bonus points offer
Concurrently, Chase is offering an impressive 80,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening a Preferred card (Reserve is offering 50,000 points). According to the Points Guy this could be as much as $1,600 in value.
Chasing bonus points isn’t always a good idea, however. You’ll want to factor in the annual fee for each of these cards—Preferred is reasonable at $95, whereas the Reserve is much more expensive at $550, as it has premium perks better suited to power users. Check out this Nerdwallet breakdown of the perks and see if your spending behavior aligns with what’s being offered.
Expanded ‘Pay Yourself Back’ feature
Chase also expanded the scope of its “Pay Yourself Back” feature, whereby card members can now redeem points in the Ultimate Rewards portal to pay off grocery purchases in their statements at a discount (25% for Preferred and 50% for Reserve).
The Chase Sapphire Reserve includes a $300 annual travel credit, but that’s not as obviously not as valuable during a pandemic, so cardmembers can now use their $300 annual travel credit towards gas and grocery purchases as well.
The Sapphire is regarded as one of the better travel cards, and the added grocery category is pretty good value, though it won’t beat the American Express Gold or Blue Cash Everyday if you’re looking for a dedicated card for your grocery purchases. If you do a lot of in-store shopping and still manage to travel, the Sapphire could be a good card for you.
We last checked in with Woebot when it was just a baby chatbot, operating within Facebook Messenger and sporting a $39/month price tag. But now the robot therapist is free, has its own app, and has proven surprisingly helpful on days I’m feeling shitty.
Woebot’s creators have crafted its personality well. The bot even has a life outside of this app, if you want to believe. In a mindfulness lesson it talks about how it likes to go fishing and feel the sun on its metal. Example scenarios feature fictional humans that Woebot knows from work or book club. (Woebot’s favorite book? I, Robot.)
What Woebot helps with
Every day, Woebot prompts you to check in. After you say hi, it will often start a little lesson on something you should know about mental health. I can see the ones I’ve already done—topics like social support, sleep, and identifying distortions in my thinking. The lessons are delivered like conversations, where you get a few lines from the bot at a time and you can tap a button to give a brief reaction or ask the bot to explain more.
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They’re obviously pre-written, but stepping through them in this way makes them more digestible than just reading an article. It also helps you feel like you’re friends with the bot. I know Woebot is not typing when there’s a little dot-dot-dot animation, I know it’s not capable of being my friend, but…I still enjoy its company.
Woebot’s founder told Gizmodo that its model is that of a choose-your-own-adventure self-help book, and that’s exactly how it feels. It’s useful and sometimes entertaining, but I wouldn’t expect it to take the place of an actual therapist. Recently I had a rough couple of days where I checked in with Woebot when I was feeling crappy and didn’t know what else to do. I began to get annoyed that the bot had plenty of ways to “challenge” my negative thinking. It kind of felt like I was coming to it for help and just being told that I felt bad because I was thinking wrong. A real human wouldn’t have made that mistake.
But miscommunications like that have been, honestly, rare. (I’ve been using the app regularly for about three weeks now.) In many conversations, the bot asks if I would like help or if I just wanted to share how I’m feeling. In some cases, asking for help gives me two options: I can challenge my thoughts, or get some suggestions on self care. Both have, at times, been extremely helpful.
The bot interacts with you through the chat interface, but little features accumulate in the screens hidden to the right and left. Right now, I can click an icon in the corner to access gratitude journaling, challenging negativity, and challenging stress. (I’m not sure if these are all the tools or if I’ll unlock more as Woebot and I get to know each other better.)
On another screen, I can see a graph of my moods over time, as recorded by the daily check-in. I can also read everything I’ve written in my gratitude journal. (Journaling consists of the bot asking me to name three things that have gone well for me lately.) It’s like a highlight reel of my own recent past. I can see now that I’ve told it about a workout that went well, an amazing sunset, and a day I got to sleep in, to name a few.
The Woebot FAQ has a few tips that aren’t obvious from within the app. Even when the bot is in the middle of conversation and only giving you emoji reacts as your options, you can tap the toolbox and “type a response” to enter a command. The command “undo” will undo your last action, and the command “delete my data” will send you information on how to do that.
It’s an understanding bot
One of the things I like best about Woebot is that I never had to tell it I want the anxiety pathway, or the depression pathway, or anything else specific. It just gives me hints that help if I’m worrying, and others that help when I’m sad. The company describes Woebot as “agnostic to diagnosis,” and operating according to a belief that “everybody struggles sometimes.”
Today when I checked in, the bot launched into a little GIF-adorned lecture on how mental health can impact your sleep, and vice versa. It was interesting, and the GIF was of a duckling falling asleep, but I don’t really have any trouble with sleep. After guiding me through setting a reasonable bedtime and giving me a rule about getting devices out of my bedroom, it asked if I was ready to commit to sticking to the rule and the bedtime for 30 days. There was an option for “I’m not ready,” which it applauded me for choosing, “because if you go into this half-heartedly and it doesn’t work, you might think that my tips aren’t helpful—or even that you’re beyond help.”
In the end, Woebot may not be a replacement for a therapist, but it’s impressively helpful, sensitive, and well written.
Note: Quibi is going to shut down, according to a report Wednesday, a decision coming less than seven months after launch. We’ll update this FAQ as details are confirmed.
Quibi is a mobile-first subscription video service in the US and Canada, and yes, this is yet another new streaming service vying for your money. But Quibi is a little different than the rest. Quibi is staking $1.75 billion on ultraexpensive, star-studded, short-form videos — all of which are brand new and designed to be watched on your phone.
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Quibi would be a risky bet even in normal times. But Quibi, which launched April 6, rolled out its a mobile-only concept just a couple weeks after the pandemic locked large swaths of the US population in their homes. People can watch Quibi at home on their phones, but Quibi’s bet on exclusively mobile, short-form video was based on the premise that people would gobble up these “quick bite” episodes while they’re out and about. After it launched without any support to watch Quibi’s programming on televisions, the company scrambled as users complained about not being able to watch its shows on the biggest screen in the house.
Quibi reportedly had about 1.5 million subscribers at the end of May and was on pace for less than 2 million paying subscribers by the end of the app’s first year, below its target of 7.4 million, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
But Quibi CEO Meg Whitman, the former chief of eBay and Hewlett-Packard, said before launch that Quibi was willing to change if customers demand it, which could include television-streaming support or release episodes in a bingeable bunch all at once like Netflix. (Quibi releases new episodes of each series every weekday.)
And as it struggled to sign up people in the numbers it hoped, some of those changes are becoming reality.
The most significant change is widening its device support beyond mobile devices. The company added support for Apple’s AirPlay in May to stream its programming on some TV screens, and earlier in June, Quibi updated its Android and iOS apps to cast to Google’s Chromecast and Chromecast-integrated TVs. In October, it added support for TV-streaming devices proper, releasing apps for Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Android TV.
Quibi also ramped up in the middle of a wave of new streaming services, as tech and media giants all rush to be the one shaping the future of video. That means Quibi will be competing for your subscription dollars against heavy-duty upstarts like Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, Peacock and HBO Max, as well as established players like Netflix. And of course, Quibi faces a Goliath in YouTube, the pioneer of online short video that draws in more than 2 billion viewers every month.
Still, Quibi believes its unconventional strategy — very expensive, star-packed programming released in 10-minute-or-less episodes that you can watch only on mobile devices like your phone — will hit a sweet spot. It has the backing of all the major Hollywood studios and a seemingly endless litany of film, TV, music and sports stars making shows. It’s also brought T-Mobile on board to offer free subscriptions to some wireless customers.
So is Quibi worth your time and money? Read below for the finer details.
OK, what is a lower-case quibi?
Quibi with a capital “Q” refers to the service, and all-lower-case quibi is the word the company invented for its short-form episodes, which all run about 10 minutes or less.
It’s a mashup of the words “quick bites,” since the videos are supposed to be bite-size morsels of video.
But don’t pronounce the end of quibi like the beginning of “bites.” If you can rhyme it with the word “alibi,” you’re pronouncing this made-up word totally wrong. You’re supposed to pronounce the end of quibi with a long e, like the end of “wasabi.” Obviously.
When is the release date?
Quibi launched April 6 in the US and Canada.
Quibi hasn’t publicized its specific international expansion plans, but said some other countries will be able to get Quibi’s ad-free US version if it’s available in their app store, without giving specifics. So if you live outside the US and Canada, check your Google Play Store and Apple App Store for the Quibi app to see what comes up.
However, Quibi’s leaders have said that Quibi was designed from the beginning to be a global service, with global rights to stream its shows. The company just hasn’t provided any timelines for when international expansion will happen.
How much does Quibi cost?
Quibi’s cheapest tier is $5 a month and includes advertising. Its ad-free tier is $8 a month. Quibi doesn’t offer annual subscriptions.
Quibi offered 90-day free trials for people who signed up anytime before May 1, though it was still available a few days after the deadline. It could save you as much as $24.
Now, Quibi’s standard free trial has narrowed to two weeks.
To compare costs, Netflix — the world’s dominant subscription video service, which never has ads — offers its cheapest subscription at $9 a month in the US, one dollar more. Disney Plus costs $7 a month in the US without any advertising, a buck cheaper.
And YouTube, of course, is free with ads.
In testing the Quibi app under embargo before launch, commercials were all so-called pre-roll ads — those that play before the show starts. And they were relatively brief. Quibi has said that the service will have about two and a half minutes of ads per hour.
And T-Mobile is offering a free subscription to Quibi’s ad-supported tier to wireless customers who have two or more lines on a post-paid plan, in a deal called Quibi on Us. After a year of free Quibi, qualifying customers need to choose between whether Netflix or Quibi is included free with their wireless plan — you can’t get both comped. (The Netflix deal is worth $9 a month, compared with Quibi’s monthly value at $5.)
T-Mobile said that you have to sign up by July 7 to get the deal and that it applies to people with two or more voice lines at standard rates on Magenta and One plans with taxes and fees included — along with discounted First Responder, Military and Magenta Plus 55 plans. Small business customers with up to 12 lines also qualify.
What devices can stream Quibi?
Originally, Quibi launch with support only for mobile devices like phones or tablets. No TVs. No web viewing. Basically, Quibi was designed initially to be watched in an app only on devices with screens that can easily rotate.
But since then, the company has widened the ability to watch on television screens. It added support for Apple’s AirPlay in May to stream its programming on some TV screens, and earlier in June, Quibi updated its Android and iOS apps to cast to Google’s Chromecast and Chromecast-integrated TVs. In October, it added support for TV-streaming devices proper, releasing apps for Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Android TV.
What product features does the service include?
Quibi is loudly touting its mobile viewing technology called Turnstyle. It lets a program dynamically react when viewers flip between portrait or landscape mode. That means that no matter how you’re holding your mobile device, the video will take up the full screen, rather than minimizing to a small section. For most shows on Quibi, that means the program was shot and edited to crop well when you flip to portrait, the most natural way to hold a phone screen.
But some programs are using Turnstyle in clever ways: A thriller series called Nest shows the filmed action of the story when you look at it in landscape — but when you rotate into portrait, you can see what’s happening on the character’s device while the story is playing out. So as a character watches the camera feed of her smart doorbell through her phone, you can choose to either watch the actress reacting to th
e footage as she sits on the couch, or you can watch what she’s seeing on her phone in real time.
Beyond Turnstyle, here are some of Quibi’s more routine product details:
Quibi’s highest image resolution is 1080p, so it lacks it Ultra HD or high-dynamic range formats that are very important for content you’d be watching on a television. Like most streaming services, Quibi has a ladder of lower resolutions that dynamically change to reflect whatever bitrate your device can handle.
Quibi is meant as a personal service, so it doesn’t allow a single account to have different profiles for different viewers.
As such, Quibi also limits every account to one simultaneous stream. That’s the same as Netflix’s $9 basic account, but other services like Disney Plus allow as many as four people to be streaming from one $7-a-month account at the same time.
Quibi has unlimited downloads to watch anything on the service offline.
How is Quibi releasing its shows?
Quibi has said it will have more than 50 titles available at launch. Every Quibi series will release new episodes every weekday until that series is complete — and some ongoing daily shows have episodes drop on the weekend too. CEO Whitman has said that Quibi won’t be rigid about this release strategy, either. If subscribers demonstrate an appetite to binge, Quibi would be willing to drop full seasons at once, similar to Netflix.
Quibi has three categories of programming: Movies in Chapters, Unscripted and Docs and Daily Essentials. At launch, Quibi will have the first three episodes of its Movies in Chapters and Unscripted/Docs series available for mini-binges. Across these three categories, Quibi has said it will be releasing more than three hours of new programming every day.
Brand new series debut on Quibi every Monday. In the first year, Quibi will have 175 original shows, totaling about 8,500 episodes.
Of its three categories, Movies in Chapters are the service’s scripted shows, typically big-budget projects with big-name talent to match. These are programs like Survive, a drama about a suicidal woman who finds a new will to live after surviving a plane crash, starring Game of Thrones‘ Sophie Turner. Another one is Most Dangerous Game, a thriller reimagining the classic short story starring The Hunger Games’ Liam Hemsworth.
Quibi is making 35 of these Movies in Chapters this year, and the company has said it will release one new episode of Movies in Chapter daily on the service.
Unscripted and Docs are Quibi programming that are, well, unscripted shows and documentary series. It covers a range of reality-style shows; game shows and competitions; talk shows; food, travel and culture docs; and a variety of other genres.
Quibi has said it will release five episodes in the Unscripted and Docs category every day.
Finally, the company will be dropping 25 so-called Daily Essentials every weekday. They focus on news and information, as well as lifestyle programming like a daily horoscope, a recap of the previous night’s late night shows and meditation videos. These are also shorter than Quibi’s other kinds of programming; Daily Essentials are five to six minutes. The company has partnered with the likes of NBC News, the BBC, TMZ, Telemundo, Polygon and the Weather Channel to make Daily Essentials, as well as developing some originally.
Daily Essentials will have new episodes at least every weekday. Some titles release more than one episode daily, like an NBC News snippets that land twice daily; and other titles will drop new episodes on weekends too.
I approached The Undoing, the new HBO limited series starring Kidman, hoping for a Big Little Lies fix, and David E. Kelley‘s psychological thriller didn’t let me down. Kelley was also in charge of the BLL adaptation. Kidman repeats her role as executive producer here. There’s a murder to untangle. And like BLL, The Undoing is based on a novel, in this case, Jean Hanff Korelitz’s You Should Have Known.
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In the six-episode show, which premieres Sunday, Oct. 25, Kidman trades the coastal ruggedness of Northern California for New York’s exclusive Upper East Side. The Academy Award-winning actress plays Grace Fraser, a successful therapist and quintessential Manhattanite who has a private Pilates instructor and loves to take long meditative walks around the city. She’s married to Jonathan (Hugh Grant), a children’s oncologist. The couple has a teenage son, Henry (Noah Jupe from A Quiet Place and Honey Boy), and the kind of impeccably decorated house in the city only two doctors could afford.
Part of what drew me to this story, other than the murderous ingredients, was getting to see the characters in a world before COVID-19. They converse with friends and acquaintances without a mask or distance. Going to the gym is a stress-free activity. Commuting to work is still a thing.
There’s also the luxury ingredient. Grace’s father (Donald Sutherland) has an apartment on 5th Avenue overlooking Central Park. The Frasers get invited to lavish black-tie parties. Kidman has a collection of long colorful coats even Scandal‘s Olivia Pope would envy.
The couple’s illusion of a perfect life gets shattered when the mother of one of Henry’s schoolmates shows up murdered. This is a show where the less you know, the better. Let’s just say the plot gets peppered at every turn with thrilling twists: paternity tests, treason, sexy police detectives, cunning lawyers, sociopaths, J. M. W. Turner’s paintings and even the hint of a haunted house.
“You’re constantly second-guessing everybody, their behavior and what they’re saying,” Kidman said during a virtual press conference about the show on Oct. 14. “No one’s really saying exactly what they mean. It’s meant to be that classic Hitchcockian thriller, where you’re not sure what the motives actually are.”
Director Susanne Bier plays on the Hitchcockian elements. The Danish filmmaker behind Bird Box and The Night Manager has a purposeful, and personal, way of framing characters and events, without getting in the way. She leaves her distinct stamp throughout the show, whether it’s through portraying an entrance to a New York criminal court building from a bird’s-eye view that recalls North by Northwest or a certain phone call that seems almost out of Rear Window.
Kidman is ready for her many closeups in this show. She’s perfectly believable as an upper-crust, complex, independent, professional woman struggling with the many emotions and unsavory facts constantly thrown at her.
“Everything that’s happened in 2020 has now sort of put a different lens on the series,” the actress and producer said during the press conference. “Seeing these worlds come apart is what’s fascinating to people. And the idea of being able to buy your justice and having this privilege they shouldn’t have.”
You may not be able to resist the temptation to compare how the Frasers live in the Upper East Side to how another family scrapes by in East Harlem. Or how the Frasers are able to afford the best possible lawyer, the very resourceful Haley Fitzerald (Noma Dumezweni.) But even with the gaping class divide, you can just devour The Undoing as pure escapist TV.
This is another one of those mystery novels turned shows — such as BLL, Sharp Objects or Little Fires Everywhere — with the right amount of bleakness and shock and a strong intelligent female lead. It’s an adaptation that urges you to keep binging episodes until you find out the killer’s identity, a journey that comes with just the right dose of unpredictability.
Changing careers can be both scary and exciting, and Preeti Chhibber experienced both emotions when she quit her job in publishing to become a full-time writer. Since taking the leap in 2019, Preeti has gone on to write a Spider-Man book, an Avengers book, and contribute to a Star Wars anthology. Her most recent work is called A Jedi, You Will Be—a picture book celebrating the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. I spoke with Preeti about her transition from full-time office job to full-time writer, the joys and challenges of writing about the pop culture she loves, and the added curveball of doing it through the COVID-19 pandemic.
I want to start with your career path. How did you get where you are now?
I worked in children’s publishing from like 2008 to 2019. That was my life, but I was also freelancing, because I’m a millennial. So I was working in children’s publishing, first at Scholastic, then a brief stint at HarperCollins, and then back to Scholastic. And all the while I was writing on the side at sites like Book Riot, Syfy Wire, Nerds of Color, and all these online geek culture publications, because I grew up on the internet.
So I was writing about things I like on the internet, and then I finally started getting paid for it. And that was great, but part of that was kind of a perfect storm of being in publishing, understanding how children’s books work, how the publishing industry works, all while getting to write about all my favorite pieces of pop culture, which included Spider-Man.
I got an email in late 2018 from Disney being like, hey, we’re looking for someone who can do a really quick turnaround on this Spider-Man tie-in novel for the next Spider-Man movie. My initial reaction was like, I can’t write a book. Prior to that, I had published just a short story in a YA anthology with HarperCollins. But a whole book? Spider-Man? Sure.
I was able to send them some ridiculous Spider-Man stories that I wrote for Syfy—which, I’m blessed to have a space where I can say that I have a really stupid idea and ask if I can I write about it, and my editor would say “yes, go for it, why not.” So I sent those clips and they said it was the perfect tone, that exactly what they were looking for—because this book is for 10-12-year-olds. And that’s kind of how it started.
I wrote that book in about six weeks, and when it came out I was like, this is what I want to do. I realized how much I enjoyed it, and I was in a space where I was getting enough freelance work that I figured if I could continue to freelance and write books at the same time, I could actually support myself doing them.
Of course, I had to leave New York. So I left New York and my full-time job in January 2019, and just started doing all this full time.
What’s the difference between how you structure your day now, as someone in charge of their own time, versus when you worked in a traditional office?
It’s actually remarkably similar, I think. I asked for a lot of advice from friends who who freelance full time, and the number one advice I got was to make sure you structure your time. Make sure you have a clear understanding of how you want to spend your time and your boundaries for when you’re going to stop working, because the trap people tend to fall into when you work from home—and I’m sure a lot of people are dealing with that right now—is that you end up working all the time because there’s no differentiation between office life and home life. It’s just all work life all the time. So I’m very strict about my hours.
In New York, when I was working full time at a company, I had hours when I had to be there: you get there by 8:30 a.m. or whatever and you leave around 5:30 p.m. or six o’clock, or later if you have to stay late. But now it’s very much like, OK, I get to my computer at about 8:45 a.m. and I try to be off by 5 p.m. or so, barring any calls, meetings, podcasts, or what have you. I try to be very good about the hours I spend in front of the screen and making sure that I’m not up at 10 p.m. on a Saturday trying to sit down to write. I don’t want to be in a position where I’m burning myself out by not structuring my day.
For my space, I like to sit at a table and I make sure I’m not in my room when I’m working. Having a dedicated space to work is very important. Having a set up is very important, which is what I had in an office. Now, the only difference is I don’t have to go somewhere for it. I just move to another room in the house.
What’s that set up is like? Do you absolutely need certain things in order to be productive?
This is actually kind of a learning process for me. I had this plan where I was going to take a year to live at home with my family and figure out how to live my life. I wanted to do it where there’s less pressure. And then COVID happened. And so I’m still here—which, again, I imagine a lot of people in the country are going through [something similar].
I’m in this position where I don’t have a permanent space or permanent office like in my ideal world. In my old apartment, I had a separate office where I could do work, which was so nice. Now it’s like, I have my laptop stand; I have my mouse and keyboard; I have my little letter holder to keep any important documents or whatever I need; I have a few empty book plates if I need to sign some books; I have stamps and envelopes and office supplies. But at the same time, I’m sitting at like a dining room table, and it’s a very strange experience.
I ended up ordering a folding desk so that I can move around and get privacy when I need. But I have to figure out a way to make it less chaotic, even though it’s just a temporary space. Trying to learn how to do that at home has been an experience.
Writing on pop culture can blur the line between work and procrastination. Can you talk about how you balance those things? What’s the difference between working and watching something for sheer enjoyment?
It’s so hard. I think it’s a lesson a lot of us are learning, and I’m definitely learning, [is] that not everything has to be monetized. You can have a hobby just to have a hobby. But that’s a hard thing to think about because I think our instinct, especially as millennials, is to be like, oh, I’m not using my time productively. And what what does that mean, “productively”? I find myself watching something or playing games or whatever it is, and being like, can I write about this? Like, how can I use this to inform the work I’m doing, versus being able to just sit back and enjoy it.
What I found is that with entertainment, it’s not something I’ve managed to do. I can’t stop my brain from being like, oh, you can use this as fodder when you have to write. Even when I’m not looking for it. I just wrote a piece for Polygon about a video game that came from an Indian development studio, and it’s one of the first of its kind. And I was excited about it because I was like, oh my god, this is the dream—it’s an adventure RPG with an Indian girl as the main character. And then I got an email asking if I’d be interested in writing about this, and I’m not going to say no. Of course I would like to write about it! And then all of a sudden finishing the game became work. It’s certainly a fun experience and I still enjoyed it, but it’s no longer just an escape.
How do you feel about that?
I’m in a very fortunate position where I get to write about the things I like. So it’s not something that I would ever stick my nose up at. It’s not something where I’m like, oh, god, it’s so overwhelming. I get to watch and play things, and then hopefully get paid money to talk about them.
But on the other hand, I’ve had to find some sort of hobby where it’s not something that I can immediately monetize. And what that’s been for me is something like cross stitching. I can cross stitch while a watch, and these little cross stitches are just in a pile in my like room and I’m not going to do anything with them. I might give them away, but they’re just for fun. And it’s not something where I’m thinking what can I do with this? Nobody wants my four-by-four-inch cross stitch.
It’s complicated. I don’t know if I’m the kind of person who could sit back and engage with any kind of art and entertainment and not want to talk about it or respond to it a critical way. Even prior to being paid for it, I was talking about this stuff. My friend likes to joke that I used to just start blogs over and over just to talk about the things I was enjoying. I can’t really fathom being able to sit back and ingest without any sort of response. Even in publishing—I got into publishing because I wanted to contribute to the literature that people were reading. I wanted to be a part of the process of creating art. And so, to me, It always goes hand in hand.
Is there anything you need before you can be productive writing?
I have a hard time starting my day without a cup of chai. It’s really, really difficult for me to get started without it. I’m trying to get into space where exercise can be that thing, but we haven’t gotten there yet.
That’s harder than the daily chai, huh?
That’s a lot harder than a daily chai. For now I think the daily chai is the thing getting me through the morning.
Are there any apps you use for productivity?
Oh, yes. I use Todoist every day. I love this app. I know when every deadline is for every single thing I’m working on it, and it yells at me when I haven’t done the thing and checked it off. It’s really nice to have because I have a very bad habit where I start a lot of projects at the same time, and I end up with four podcasts, several blogs, and all these things. Having one app that can delineate all the different ways I’m working is so important. I don’t often subscribe to apps, but I absolutely bought a subscription to this one and it has been incredible.
Who else would you love to know how they work?
I’m cheating a little bit because I know how they work, but I’m so impressed by Swapna Krishna. She’s my co-host on Desi Geek Girls and is one of the smartest, most impressive, most organized people I know. She’s the person I go to whenever I’m like, “how do I do this, please help me.” When I first started trying to balance freelance and author life, I was asking for her advice. I’m just always so amazed at how good she is.
There’s another person though who I don’t know exactly how they work, and that’s Greg Pak. It’s so incredible that he can put out so much quality work consistently but still also manage to be politically active and smart about the way he works. I just think that’s amazing.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The “Empire of Pain” and the family that profited from it scored a sick joke of a settlement with the Department of Justice on Wednesday, evading accountability for their role in the nationwide opioid epidemic.
The manufacturer of the synthetic opioid OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, agreed to pay $8 billion in a settlement with the DOJ over claims that its aggressive, deceptive marketing was deliberately designed to get patients hooked on the drug, even as it pretended OxyContin was totally safe. According to NPR, under the terms of the deal the company will plead guilty to three felonies—but company officials and members of the Sackler dynasty, Purdue’s owners, will get off scot-free as far as prison time is concerned.
The DOJ said that the deal wouldn’t prevent future criminal charges against current or former Purdue executives and that investigations are ongoing. But per NPR, the deal would “almost certainly derail” the state and local lawsuits, shelter the Sacklers from liability beyond the $3 billion pledged to the bankruptcy estate, and help Purdue and the Sacklers not disclose internal information to creditors in the company’s ongoing bankruptcy proceedings—like whether or not Purdue profits helped fuel the Sacklers’ other business interests. Accusations have already come out of the New York Attorney General’s office that the Sacklers may have funneled over $1 billion into bank accounts via wire transfers in an attempt to evade creditors.
OxyContin, which the company’s sales representatives aggressively pushed to doctors as non-addictive and posing a low abuse potential, generated $35 billion in revenue on its own. Purdue brought in at least $12-13 billion in profit for the Sacklers, including $4 billion between 2008 and 2016—though its unclear how much of that profit was derived directly from sales of the opioid painkiller, though OxyContin has been, by a vastmargin, its highest-selling product for nearly two decades.
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In the settlement, Purdue admitted that it lied to the Drug Enforcement Administration that it had an effective program in place to prevent shipments of the drug from being diverted to the black market; it also reported false information to boost the amount of OxyContin it was allowed to produce, and used health records software to drive new OxyContin prescriptions. Perdue additionally copped to having orchestrated a kickback scheme by lining doctors’ pockets to promote the drug via a speaking program.
As the Washington Post noted, the Sacklers agreed to pay out $225 million in a related settlement for demanding, as members of Purdue’s board of directors, that executives fix slumping sales in 2012. The DOJ said that Purdue sales reps complied by doubling down on marketing to “extreme, high-volume prescribers who were already writing ‘25 times as many OxyContin scripts’ as their peers.”
If approved, the settlement will transform Purdue into a public trust that will continue to manufacture opioids.
The settlement is fiercely opposed by the attorney generals of 25 states, who wrote a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr last week urging him to “avoid having special ties to an opioid company,” according to NPR. Another letter from 38 Democratic members of Congress reads: “If the only practical consequence of your Department’s investigation is that a handful of billionaires are made slightly less rich, we fear that the American people will lose faith in the ability of the Department to provide accountability and equal justice under the law.”
“We are further concerned by the ongoing discrepancy between the ‘justice’ billionaires receive versus the countless people of color whose lives have been ruined by the way the federal government penalizes drug use,” the Democrats added. “The federal prison population has risen nearly 800% since 1980 in large part due to the proliferation of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses that have had a profound and disproportionate impact on Black and Latino communities. Meanwhile, a settlement like the one reportedly being considered by your Department would allow a group of people who deliberately designed and marketed an addictive drug and caused the deaths of thousands of Americans to get off scot-free once again.”
The Democratic members of Congress also noted that the DOJ had let Purdue off the hook by slapping it with a fine of just $645 million for illegal marketing practices in 2007, after which the criminal conduct continued.
At the time, per the Journal, the Sacklers discussed how they could foresee themselves losing all their money if the right lawsuit hit:
A week after those guilty pleas, Jonathan Sackler emailed two other Sacklers and a longtime financial adviser, saying that an investment banker once told him, “your family is already rich, the one thing you don’t want to do is to become poor,” according to Justice Department filings.
David Sackler replied: “[W]hat do you think is going on in all of these courtrooms right now? We’re rich? For how long? Until which suits get through to the family?”
Ubisoft is merging its loyalty program, Ubisoft Club, and desktop app Uplay into Ubisoft Connect, the developer announced. In addition to a rewards program, it will introduce crossplay and cross-progression in games such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion.
The new hub will be available for free, but it requires a Ubisoft account. Ubisoft Connect “aims at giving the best environment for all players to enjoy their games and connect with each others whatever the device,” Ubisoft said. Players who use the service will be able to earn Ubisoft Connect XP for playing games and completing in-game challenges. Gaining XP will allow players to level up their Ubisoft Connect accounts, which will award a second currency, Units, that can be used to unlock various rewards for different games. Additionally, players will be able to see what their friends are up to and get news through the service’s Feed.
Ubisoft Connect will launch on October 29th, alongside Watch Dogs: Legion; the developer plans to include Connect in all “major upcoming” games. Other titles transitioning to Connect include For Honor, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Hyper Scape, Steep, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, and Tom Clancy’s The Division 2.
More information on how the service works and benefits is available in an FAQ.