May 2nd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

TV Writers Hit Pause, The Lonely Epidemic

When I was a kid, my parents had a strict family rule: No television during dinner. So we ate fast. At our peak, we could complete dinner in about seven minutes. Everything changed when Wheel of Fortune hit the airwaves. My parents flipped on the rule faster than Vanna White flipped letters. Today, when I look back our TV obsession, I realize we were ahead of our time. The internet dominates our lives, but TV dominates our attention (and most of our dinner party conversations). Maybe you’re a liberal elitist watching and rewatching episodes of Succession. Maybe you’re a rugged red-stater watching Yellowstone. Or maybe, like me, you’re a true American patriot who watches both. Whatever you’re choice of viewing, there’s more than ever to watch and it’s always waiting for you whenever you’re ready to press play — you can even leave the TV off during dinner and not miss a thing. Karl Marx called religion the opiate of the masses. But then again, Marx didn’t have cable. Scripts are the new scripture. As of today, our opiate supply is getting cut off. Hollywood writers have put down their pencils and stopped tapping on their keys. “The Writers Guild of America is on strike for the first time in 15 years, as writers will fan out on Tuesday afternoon to walk picket lines outside the major studios in LA … The guild has said that writers are facing an existential crisis brought about by the shift to streaming, with fewer TV episodes and lower residuals.” Late night talkshows will be the first place you’ll feel the strike, but things could get a lot more dire if a deal isn’t made soon, and the two sides are far apart on big issues. All I know is that if I run out of new TV shows to watch, I’m going to have a serious episode.

+ From Vox: Here are five questions about the WGA strike, why it matters, and what it might mean for you and for the future of entertainment.

+ Artificial intelligence is enriching (or infecting) everything these days, so this is a plot twist you should have seen coming. The looming threat of AI to Hollywood. “Artificial intelligence could be the most important part of a writers strike.” (I worry that when it comes to this topic, the writing is on the wall.)

+ “How did it come to this? About a decade ago, in the era of “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Veep,” TV writing seemed like one of the coolest, best-paying jobs a writer could have. As with the talkie boom of the nineteen-thirties, playwrights and journalists were flocking to Hollywood to partake in the heyday of prestige TV. It was fun.” Then everything changed, from the goal of streamers to the economics of what has become a highly leveraged business. The New Yorker: Why Are TV Writers So Miserable?


All the Lonely People

“The crisis deeply worsened when COVID-19 spread, prompting schools and workplaces to shut their doors and sending millions of Americans to isolate at home away from relatives or friends. People culled their friend groups during the coronavirus pandemic and reduced time spent with those friends, the surgeon general’s report finds. Americans spent about 20 minutes a day in person with friends in 2020, down from 60 minutes daily nearly two decades earlier.” The Surgeon General on the Dangers of Loneliness. Eleanor Rigby was ahead of her time.


Reaching Debt Taunt

“Biden’s request for talks followed a jarring new projection from the Treasury Department that the government could run out of cash to pay its bills in as few as four weeks without additional borrowing authority — an unprecedented event that could rattle world financial markets and tip the fragile U.S. economy into another recession.” Raising the debt limit has always been a given, even during the craziest moments of the Trump era. But now, even that’s changed. Here’s the latest on Washington’s latest showdown that shouldn’t be a showdown at all. WaPo (Free Article): Biden seeks debt ceiling talks, as U.S. faces possible June 1 default.


Take the Hinton

Yesterday, I led with the godfather of AI having second thoughts about the tech he helped unleash. I think it’s worth spending some more time understanding why Geoffrey Hinton is so worried. “Don’t think for a moment that Putin wouldn’t make hyper-intelligent robots with the goal of killing Ukrainians. He wouldn’t hesitate. And if you want them to be good at it, you don’t want to micromanage them—you want them to figure out how to do it.” Here’s a threat that could manifest itself even sooner. Imagine Putin using AI to do widespread sentiment analysis and then develop a series of stories and political messages perfectly designed to sway public opinion in his favor. Imagine an American politician using the same tactic to tarnish an opponent.


Extra, Extra

Vaxing Nostalgic: US to lift most federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates next week. “Vaccine requirements for federal workers and federal contractors, as well as foreign air travelers to the U.S., will end May 11. The government is also beginning the process of lifting shot requirements for Head Start educators, healthcare workers, and noncitizens at U.S. land borders.” That means Novak Djokovic can play in the US Open. And it also means a lot more traffic at the border. “The Biden administration will send active-duty troops to the southern border as it braces for what is expected to be a surge in migration.”

+ The Show Must Go Off: “Following a record-setting surge in efforts to change curriculums and ban books at schools nationwide, the education culture war has now reached the stage. The controversy in Cardinal is one of a number of recent instances in which school administrators have intervened to nix or alter school theatrical productions deemed objectionable — often because they feature LGBTQ characters or deal with issues of race and racism.” WaPo (Gift Article): The culture war’s latest casualty: The high school musical. Meanwhile, in the part of America where art is still allowed, we have this year’s Tony nominations.

+ What a Tale His Thoughts Could Tell: “Canadian folk music icon Gordon Lightfoot, whose evocative and poetic songs are etched into the musical landscape of Canada, has died at the age of 84.” If you’re interested in learning more about this Canadian legend, there’s a good doc on Amazon. Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind.

+ Change State: From intercepting dangerous asteroids to mapping supply chains to identify—and prevent—forced labor to creating animal-free egg whites, FastCo is out with this year’s list of organizations pursuing world changing ideas.

+ Pillar of Salt Lake City: “The adult content website P-rnhub blocked access in Utah on Monday due to new state laws requiring websites with adult content to verify users’ ages before allowing them to access the platforms.”

+ Have Bag Will Travel: “Thanks to his status as a United employee, he pays nothing for flights originating within the United States and just the tax for international flights. For other airlines, he pays a heavily discounted fare. ‘I can jump on any flight as long as there is a seat available,’ he said. His bags are perpetually packed.” The SFO worker who has traveled to every country in the world, including North Korea.


Bottom of the News

I know you couldn’t possibly be into such things, but Here’s What Absolutely Everyone Wore To The 2023 Met Gala.

+ Base on his Met Gala suit from last year, these are the shoes Steph Curry wore during his remarkable game 7 performance.

+ 2023 Was The Year Of The Milk Course At The US Barista Championship.

+ Outside has a cool list of The Ten Most Beautiful Hikes in the World. (And some are under a few hundred miles!)

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