Posts with «arts & entertainment» label

Netflix fires employee for leaking data about controversial Dave Chappelle special

Netflix has fired an employee, alleging they shared confidential, commercially sensitive information about Dave Chappelle's new standup special, The Closer, with media outlets, Variety reported. 

The employee is accused of leaking data that appeared in Bloomberg about how much Netflix paid for a handful of shows and standup specials, including The Closer and previous Chappelle contracts. According to Bloomberg, Netflix spent $24.1 million on The Closer, compared with $23.6 million for his 2019 show, and just $3.9 million for Bo Burnham's Emmy-winning special Inside. Squid Game, the biggest series debut in Netflix history, cost the company $21.4 million, the report said.

“We understand this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company," the company said in a statement to Variety.

Netflix employees and external equality groups — including GLADD and the National Black Justice Coalition — have called for The Closer to be removed from the streaming service, arguing it contains hateful transphobic and homophobic rhetoric. In the special, Chappelle doubles down on his previous transphobic comments and defends the bigotry of anti-trans feminist JK Rowling. As of now, the special is still available on Netflix.

"With 2021 on track to be the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States — the majority of whom are Black transgender people — Netflix should know better," David Johns, executive director of the NBJC, said to CNN. "Perpetuating transphobia perpetuates violence. Netflix should immediately pull The Closer from its platform and directly apologize to the transgender community."

Netflix executives have said little publicly about the controversy, though CEO Ted Sarandos reportedly said in an internal memo that The Closer was too popular to remove.

The fired employee was a leader of the company's internal trans resource group, and was helping to organize a walkout in protest of Netflix's handling of the Chappelle special, The Verge reported. The walkout is planned for October 20th. The former employee is Black and pregnant, and actually spoke out against leaks with colleagues, arguing that they could hurt the walkout, according to The Verge.

Earlier this month, Netflix suspended a trans software engineer who tweeted her disapproval of the Chappelle special. The employee was reinstated a day later and Netflix said the suspension was due to an unrelated matter.

Clubhouse has a new high-quality audio option for musicians

Clubhouse has proven to be a big hit with musicians, helping them try out material on an audience and even create viral hits. Now, the site is becoming more useful to bands and singers with a new feature called music mode, the company announced in a blog post

The new mode appears in the three-dot menu under "audio quality," with a new selection called "music." Clubhouse didn't reveal any of the audio specs, but said it lets users broadcast with high quality in stereo. "You’ll also be able to use professional audio equipment for your performance, like external USB microphones or mixing boards," it wrote. Users will also be able to add the mode to pre-recorded Clips, "so any snippets you share from performers using music mode will also sound great," according to Clubhouse.

The new feature is the second boost to sound quality over the last couple of months. Late in August, Clubhouse added spatial audio to create more immersive audio chats, making speakers' voices come from different parts of the room.  

Along with the music mode, Clubhouse rolled out a couple of new tweaks, moving the search bar to the top of the feed and allowing users to wave at each other through the search bar, on iOS to start with. The new features will roll out to iOS first, "with Android as a fast follow," the company wrote. 

Roblox will offer layered clothing and facial gestures for more realistic avatars

Roblox wants to make its avatars look less blocky and more realistic, and it has announced a couple of visual updates meant to achieve that goal during its annual developers conference. One of those changes is layered clothing, which it's been working on since at least 2020. It allows any type of character model to be outfitted with layered clothing items. TechCrunch explains that the feature ensures clothing items will fit avatars and will drape around them naturally, whether they're human- or dinosaur-shaped. At the moment, players can only access the feature in the beta version of Roblox Studio's avatar editor, and it's unclear when it'll be more widely available.

Here's a preview of what 3D Layered Clothing will look like within the Roblox Avatar Editor.

— Bloxy News | #RDC2021 (@Bloxy_News) October 14, 2021

Roblox CEO David Baszucki said during the keynote:

"Self-identity is a crucial pillar of the metaverse, and the ability to precisely customize your clothing to your unique avatar is paramount in personal expression"

Roblox has also announced a feature called Dynamic Heads that can provide facial animations for avatars. The animations could link with facial tracking, so the character's mouth can move in time with its words. TechCrunch says the feature was made possible by the company's acquisition of digital avatar startup last year. 

It'll be a long time before facial animations become an official part of the game, though — Roblox has only given developers access to it right now, so they can play around with it and test it out. "These releases represent important stepping stones in a long line of innovations to improve the expressiveness and combinatorics in the metaverse," Daniel Sturman, Chief Technology Officer for Roblox, wrote in his recap for the event.

Roblox has thousands of ways to express yourself. Dynamic Heads is a first step towards reactive facial expressions that make conversations feel as real inside the #metaverse as they do outside it.

— Roblox (@Roblox) October 14, 2021

In addition to the experimental avatar features, Roblox has announced that it's giving creators a new way to earn money, as well. Creators will be able to put up items they designed for sale for a limited time, turning them into collectibles with higher value than the other goods they're selling in-game.

Microsoft to shut down LinkedIn in China over 'challenging operating environment'

LinkedIn will shut down the Chinese version of its service later this year. The company cited "a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China" as the reasons for closing the local edition of its social network for professionals.

"While we’ve found success in helping Chinese members find jobs and economic opportunity, we have not found that same level of success in the more social aspects of sharing and staying informed," LinkedIn said in a statement. As such, the company isn't abandoning China completely. It's working on a standalone job board app called InJobs, which won't have a social feed or any way to share posts or articles.

LinkedIn agreed to adhere to state restrictions and block certain content when it launched in China in February 2014. However, some signs of trouble bubbled up this year. In March, the company prevented new Chinese users from signing up for a spell while it made sure it was abiding by the countries' laws. A couple of months later, China said 105 apps were violating data collection laws, including LinkedIn.

The Microsoft-owned service was the last major US social network that was still officially operating in China. The country banned Signal and Clubhouse earlier this year. Facebook and Twitter have been blocked there since 2009, and China barred Instagram in 2014.

Twitter tests ads in the replies to tweets

Don't be surprised if your Twitter feed is cluttered with more advertising than usual. The Vergereports that Twitter is testing a format that displays ads in the replies to a given tweet. As Revenue Product Lead Bruce Falk explains, those involved in the test will see ads under the first, third or eighth reply to a tweet. The experiment is worldwide and applies to both Android and iOS users.

Falck said the ad format produces value and "aligns incentives for creators and advertisers." However, he also acknowledged that it wasn't a surefire concept. Twitter would spend the "coming months" testing the frequency, layouts and other aspects of the ads to see how well they perform and affect the community. This could be helpful for advertisers, of course, but it might also lead to more compensation for Twitter users.

This probably isn't the sort of Twitter test you'd want to see, but it's not surprising. Twitter has been eager to find new sources of revenue for both itself and its most prolific users, ranging from Blue subscriptions to Tip Jar donations. Ads in replies could not only improve Twitter's bottom line, but attract creators used to making money from sponsored Instagram and TikTok posts.

Starting today, we’re trying something different and testing a new ad format in Tweet conversations. If you’re a part of this test (which is global; on iOS & Android only), you’ll see ads after the first, third or eighth reply under a Tweet. 🗣️

— bruce.falck() 🦗 (@boo) October 13, 2021

The 'Lower Decks' season two finale is Star Trek at its best

This post contains spoilers for season two, episode 10 of 'Star Trek: Lower Decks.'

Last week I posited that seasons one and two of Lower Decks together would make up one story arc of the show. Given this week’s finale, it looks like we’ll be dealing with the consequences of the Pakled threat for just a bit longer. But when an episode is this good, I’m perfectly fine with being wrong.

Especially when this installment just encompasses so many of my favorite things about Star Trek. It’s not just the delightful appearance by Captain Sonya Gomez — you might remember her as the ensign who spilled hot chocolate on Captain Picard way back in season two of The Next Generation. And it’s not because of the first on-screen appearance of cetacean ops, a concept hinted at in various blueprints but never actually mentioned with any real seriousness.


It’s the general plot of the episode, where the entire crew must work together to save the day. I’m a real sucker for teamwork scenes, like the final battle in The Undiscovered Country or, more recently, when the crew of the USS Discovery had to disguise themselves as their mirror universe counterpart. Star Trek has been described as “competence porn” by many online, in how it depicts people who are insanely good at their jobs and work together well.

The first two seasons haven’t always showcased the crew at their finest. We’ve seen Boimler and Mariner lose the Klingon diplomat they were supposed to be escorting, Freeman get into a pissing match with the captain of another Starfleet vessel, and the crew fail its (rigged) assessment test spectacularly. At times the show is very much like The Office, more interested in the personal lives and antics of its employees than the actual business at hand.


However, even The Office would occasionally remind you that the staff of Dunder Mifflin were good at their jobs, particularly Michael Scott. Michael was a terrible manager, but one hell of a salesman. And this episode of Lower Decks put the spotlight on Carol Freeman, whose fine work over the past two years is being rewarded with a promotion to a better ship. The USS Cerritos is a California-class ship, a real workhorse of a vessel that doesn’t get a lot of respect. That the Cerritos even became important at all is completely due to circumstance in encountering and surviving the newly empowered Pakleds. But it’s given Freeman a lot of time in the spotlight, with her tasked a few episodes ago with negotiating a cease-fire with the Pakled government. (It was a ruse, but that’s not her fault.)

Last week I thought this episode would wrap up that storyline, given that we now know the Pakleds were getting help from a Klingon captain, one who is no longer alive thanks to the actions of a lower-decker. Instead, this episode focuses on Freeman’s possible promotion, her senior staff’s reaction to it, and the futures of our lower decks ensigns.


This is all happening against the backdrop of a first contact mission. The USS Cerritos mostly specializes in second contact missions — we’re told this in the very first episode. That means they come in and handle all the annoying administrative stuff after flagships like the Enterprise come in and establish initial relations. Now, the Cerritos gets to take part in the more important first impression, but only as backup to the USS Archimedes.

Sitting on the bench ends up serving the Cerritos well when a solar flare plus an unstable planetoid ends up disabling the Archimedes and putting it on a crash course with the planet below. Freeman is ready to sacrifice herself in order to save the other ship, but Rutherford and company have a better plan, one that can prevent fatalities on both vessels. But they’ve only got 20 hours, so the whole crew has to chip in. That means Ransom piloting, Billups supervising the hull removal, and Tendi giving Mariner a much-needed pep talk. The latter might not be necessary to the functioning of the ship, but it is important to the show because it pushes the two women toward the emotional resolution they need.


We also get to meet the crew of cetacean ops, two beluga whale lieutenants named Kimolu and Matt. But it’s Boimler who has to save the day, because the clamp they need to release isn’t made to be turned by flippers. (I really appreciate the accessibility joke here, because Starfleet has often been cited over the decades as an OSHA nightmare.) Needless to say, the crew succeeds (this isn’t a movie, after all, so we’re not losing the ship). After the bravery shown by the entire crew of the Cerritos, particularly Boimler and Rutherford, it’s hard to imagine that season three won’t start off with a few promotions.

But first, there’s the matter of Freeman’s transfer, which she has decided to decline in favor of staying with a crew that has proven itself capable of being truly excellent. Unfortunately, that Pakled storyline comes to bite us all one more time, leading us into the show’s very first cliffhanger, and the very first season-ending cliffhanger in the new Kurtzman-era of Trek programs.


Star Trek: Lower Decks had a lot to prove when it debuted last year: It was the first animated show since the ‘70s, and the franchise’s first attempt at a primarily comedic series. It also had to overcome the initial impressions of it as being akin to Rick and Morty or Family Guy. The quality of the first season started a bit rough but improved as time went on, ending on the fantastic action-packed episode, “No Small Parts.” Season two’s “First First Contact” ups the game in several ways, not just in its element of danger but also in how the show is willing to use big storylines to push the characters forward as the seasons progress.

Apple TV+ will now have two series about unethical shrinks

On November 12th, The Shrink Next Door will debut on Apple TV+. Oddly enough, the Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd vehicle is one of two upcoming shows centered on unethical psychiatrists coming to the streaming service. This week, Apple announced a 10-episode order for Shrinking, a new series that will star Jason Segel as a therapist who tells his patients exactly what he thinks. Ted Lasso co-creator Bill Lawrence and star Brett Goldstein, who plays Roy Kent in the popular comedy series, will write and produce the new show alongside Segel.

It’s an interesting move for a company that, despite some recent successes, is one of the newer players in the streaming space and still building out its lineup while seeing what works. As ever, the company’s approach seems to be to give established talent the runway to create what they think people will want to watch.

David Fincher's next Netflix project is VOIR, visual essays about cinema

Sadly, we're note getting Mindhunter season 3. After a short tease yesterday, Netflix just revealed its next project from renowned filmmaker David Fincher: VOIR, a collection of visual essays about the love of cinema. The short teaser doesn't tell us much, sadly. But according to writer and film critic Drew McWeeny, who's working on one episode of the series, VOIR will feature standalone explorations about different aspects of movies. 

From executive producer David Fincher…

VOIR, a new documentary series of visual essays celebrating cinema, from the mind of one of film’s modern masters.

Premiering at AFI Fest and coming soon to Netflix.

— NetflixFilm (@NetflixFilm) October 13, 2021

"We’re not trying to sell you anything, and we’re not interviewing anyone about what Marvel movies they’re doing," McWeeny wrote in his newsletter, Formerly Dangerous. "We’re each tackling a totally different idea, something that intrigues us or upsets us or that has to do with our connection to the movies."

Much like Love, Death and Robots, the animated sci-fi series from Fincher and Tim Miller (Deadpool), VOIR episodes will range from 10 to 30 minutes. The series is also co-created by David Prior, the director of the recent cult horror hit The Empty Man. Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos, The duo behind the excellent YouTube series Every Frame a Painting, Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou, are also listed as directors. VOIR will premiere at LA's AFI Fest in November, and Netflix says it'll be heading to the streaming service soon.

A live-action 'System Shock' TV series is on the way

Nightdive Studios’ immersive sim franchise System Shock franchise is being turned into a live-action TV show. You'll be able to watch it on the upcoming streaming service Binge, which is also working on a show based on Ubisoft's Driver.

More details about the System Shock TV show will be revealed in due course. It will tell "a harrowing story of Citadel Station and its rogue AI that subjects the crew to unimaginable horror," Binge said. The service, which is set to launch next year, didn't reveal when the series will premiere.

Meanwhile, Nightdive is working on a System Shock remake. The game was supposed to arrive this past summer, but it's now scheduled to debut by the end of 2021.

System Shock joins a long list of shows and movies based on games that are in the pipeline. Among them are Twisted Metal, Firewatch, Disco Elysium and a ton of Netflix projects, like League of Legends series Arcane. Rumors are also floating around that Epic Games might be making a Fortnite movie.

Elsewhere, Sony is supposed to release the Uncharted film in February at long, long last. Has, uh, anyone happened to see a trailer lying around somewhere?

Facebook introduces new policies to protect public figures from targeted harassment

Facebook is introducing new policies to safeguard users from online bullying and harassment. In a post attributed to Head of Safety Antigone Davis, the company said it will take down mass coordinated harassment campaigns targeted at individuals at heightened risk of offline harm. It will do so even if the content people post wouldn’t normally violate its safety guidelines. Additionally, Facebook says it will remove objectionable content in whatever form it takes, be that direct messages, comments or posts. As part of the same policy, the company will remove state-linked networks that work together to silence and harass people.

Had the above policy been in place in the past, one situation where Facebook may have enforced it was when Taylor Swift’s Instagram account was bombarded with snake emoji following a dramatic breakup with electronic producer Calvin Harris. Speaking of celebrities, the company has also put in place new protections to safeguard public figures from sexual harassment and appearance shaming. To that end, it plans to remove profiles, pages and groups dedicated to sexualizing those individuals. It will also target “severe sexualizing content,” including photoshopped images and drawings.

“We made these changes because attacks like these can weaponize a public figure’s appearance, which is unnecessary and often not related to the work these public figures represent,” the company said. Facebook will also provide additional protections for individuals who become famous involuntarily. Those may include individuals like journalists and human rights activists. 

Facebook has repeatedly faced pressure to do more to prevent bullying and harassment across all of its apps, but particularly on Instagram. In the aftermath of the Euro 2020 final, which saw three Black players on the English national team face a flood of harassment after England lost to Italy, Instagram Head Adam Mosseri promised the company would introduce new features to protect users. “Racism and hate speech have no place on Instagram,” he said at the time. “It is not only honestly fucked up to see people treated that way, but it breaks how Instagram works.”