4 reasons why ‘The Incredibles’ is Pixar’s best movie — and one of the best superhero movies of all time

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When a Disney/Pixar "March Madness" bracket started making the rounds on the internet recently, I was compelled to fill it out.

It pitted classic (and some new) animated Disney movies against Disney-owned animation studio Pixar.

Some of the match-ups were near impossible (you want me to pick between "Inside Out" and "Finding Nemo?"), while others were a little too easy ("Toy Story 3" vs. "The Good Dinosaur").

But one thing was always clear in my mind: "The Incredibles," about a family of superheroes, is Pixar’s best film.

It has tough competition. While Pixar has had some misses in recent years, it is still known for high-quality animated films, from "Toy Story" to "Up" to "Coco."

But for me, "The Incredibles" stands above them all as a near-perfect movie (and one of the greatest superhero movies of all time) about family, responsibility, and teamwork. I fell in love with it when I saw it in a theater at 11 years old and still love it to this day.

After 14 years of waiting, a sequel finally comes to theaters in June from the director of the first movie, Brad Bird — but it has a lot to live up to.

Below are 4 reasons why "The Incredibles" is Pixar’s best movie:

SEE ALSO: All 30 Steven Spielberg movies, ranked by how much money they made at the US box office

It captures the best aspects of classic superhero stories — while also being ahead of its time.

"The Incredibles" isn’t just Pixar’s best movie — it’s also one of the best superhero movies of all time. It captures the essence of classic superhero stories, while also introducing concepts that would be touched on in future ones.

"With great power, comes great responsibility" is Spider-Man’s famous creed, and the characters of "The Incredibles" embody this as well. As a family of superheroes, Bob and Helen Parr, a.k.a. Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, must drill into their kids’ heads that their powers are a major responsibility and shouldn’t be taken lightly, which can be said for a lot of things kids will encounter growing up. By the end of the film, the Parrs finally realize that if they want their kids to take their powers seriously, they have to learn to trust them with those powers, too. 

And the fact that it focuses on a family of superheroes also evokes a Fantastic Four-like quality — meaning it’s basically the best "Fantastic Four" movie ever made.

But "The Incredibles" was also ahead of its time.

In the beginning of the film, superheroes are forced to retire by the government when public outrage over the heroes’ unchecked power reaches new heights. If it sounds familiar, it’s similar to what happens in Marvel Comics’ "Civil War" event, and then in the 2016 movie "Captain America: Civil War," where the government passes legislation that forces superhumans to register their identities.  

It’s a thrilling action movie …

"The Incredibles" has by far the best action sequences of any Pixar movie, which admittedly doesn’t exactly make it "better" than any of them on its own, but it does give it an edge. 

The action in "The Incredibles" puts you on the edge of your seat.

Take the nail-biting plane crash sequence, for instance. Helen is flying a jet to the island that Bob is trapped on, and discovers that the kids, Dash and Violet, snuck on board. The villain Syndrome launches a missile at the plane, and the moments that follow are simply thrilling. When Violet can’t project a force-field over the plane, Helen has to scoop them up and parachute down to the water below, and all the while Bob can only listen in terror as he believes his family was just killed.

 

… but also a relatable family drama.

I already touched on how "The Incredibles" deals with themes of family, which isn’t new to Pixar stories. But "The Incredibles" was the first of the bunch that felt like it was truly relatable for any age group.

The movie was Pixar’s sixth animated feature, after "Toy Story," "A Bug’s Life," "Toy Story 2," "Monster’s Inc.," and "Finding Nemo." What do all of those movies have in common that "The Incredibles" doesn’t? They all focus on non-human characters.

Nothing against toys, bugs, monsters, or fish, but "The Incredibles" was the first Pixar movie with human main characters, ones you could truly identify with whether you’re a parent or a child. The other movies captured feelings we could identify with — whether it was nostalgia for childhood or the anxiety over losing a loved one — but "The Incredibles" dealt with mature themes and delivered them in a way more people could connect with. Sure, they were superheroes, but they were also flawed characters.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Here Is How Conspiracy Theories Spread Like Wildfire On The Internet

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how conspiracy theories spread

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There was once a time when conspiracy theories were only spread late at night over a bag of weed and a case of beer. It was the same scenario across the country. Some old hippie in a Led Zeppelin t-shirt, getting blazed out with a group of youngsters, would start in on wild-eyed tirade about how the federal government has been bamboozling the American people since before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Area 51 and aliens might be the first topic of discussion, followed by the moon landing hoax and the Kennedy assassination. But as the youth in the room brushed off these potential conspiracies, perhaps even poking fun at the old stoner for riding the wave of paranoia to the bitter end, the subject matter would go deeper and darker into the roots of the so-called American dream.

At some point, the old guy would pull out a dollar bill and show the kids the Eye in the Pyramid, the Maltese cross and all of the other bizarre images in the note, suggesting that the real power controlling the nation is a Satanic order. “Ever hear of the Illuminati?” he might ask, gradually getting the kids to second-guess their apprehensiveness toward these tales.

But since the creation of the Internet, which spawned the global obsession for fish-face selfies, digital cries for attention and droves of opinionated distractions powered by the force known as social media, conspiracy theories can now spread like a vicious plague in a matter of days.

Old hippies are no longer necessary to distribute government plots and other wicked schemes to put a tight leash on We the People. All that is needed is the “share” button and a society of pop culture sucking fiends to dole out fear and overwhelming doubt to the masses. Some might even say that the Internet is the most ingenious addition to the world of conspiracy theories. In a society of headline readers, where billions of people are making determinations into what is factual and real based on four or five words, it seems to have become less important to distinguish between fact and fiction.

It is for this reason that conspiracy theories are becoming more prevalent than ever before.

Unlike the time when old hippies really had to sell the drama of citizens being scammed and screwed by Uncle Sam and his misfit cronies, researchers now say it is easier to convince the public of hair brained ideas because the majority is quick to buy into tales that tickle their ideologies.

Previous studies have suggested that conspiracy theorists are “monological” believers, meaning that their belief, in say, the moon-landing hoax enables them to easily swallow other potential conspiracies. This type of believer is likely destined to go to his grave convinced that the Department of Defense has alien consultants; that the CIA killed Kennedy; and that the Busch Administration organized a “terror campaign” to blow up the World Trade Center. Now matter what conspiracy theory floats to the surface, someone categorized as “monological” is quick to jump onboard without much persuasion.

But come to find out, the term “conspiracy theorist” is far-reaching concept. The nature in which a supposed plot is swallowed without much juice to wash it down really just depends on the individual’s belief system. Groups are always on the hunt for ammunition to support their respective agendas. Christian zealots are on the prowl for messages that fit into theirs, just like anti-drug and gun advocates and national industry — any cluster of folks with a specific set of interests is quick to believe and spread information, regardless of the facts, if it is packaged in a way that supports their beliefs.

“It is commonly believed that conspiracy believers tend to be the kind of people that connect every conspiracy to everything else – like the typical tinfoil hat wearing stereotype,” lead researcher Colin Klein from the Australian National University told Science Alert. “You have to realize it’s not just people who are crazy and distrust everything. We found that there are those people, but they are the tip of a much larger iceberg.”

Researchers say conspiracy theories can now go viral when a wide range of people and organizations get involved. A prime example would be the latest hypothesis surrounding the Parkland School shooting. The idea that the survivors were actually trained actors attracted the interest of parents, students, anti-gun groups, pro-gun groups and the mainstream media.

“The most successful conspiracies were the ones where everyone can get something out of it,” Klein said.  “Each gets what they need, and each contributes to the larger whole.”

Although nowhere near as interesting as the possibility that the federal government faked the moon landing, the potential conspiracies surrounding the Florida tragedy are still showing up in the news. The latest suggests that David Hogg, the student activist (and survivor) pushing for gun law reform, was not even at the school at the time of the shooting. Similarly, some people believe the Sandy Hook massacre was an elaborate hoax.

Researchers say conspiracy theories are really just about cherry picking what is needed from the story to support overreaching beliefs.

“Ultimately, we doubt that there needs to be any particular set of psychological motivations which characterize conspiracy theorists,” the study authors wrote. “Some are irrational. Some are irate. Some are epistemically unlucky. Some are racist. Some are skeptical. We should not say that conspiracy theorists have overarching belief systems that encompass and unify a wide variety of different narratives. Instead, it may be the other way around: it is conspiracy narratives that are all-encompassing, pulling in a diverse group of people who may have little in common with one another, each of whom can find what they need in a fragment of the larger tale.”

At least that’s what they want you to think.

Mike Adams is a freelance writer for High Times, Cannabis Now, and Forbes. You can follow him on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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Open music gear: Bastl Instruments schematics on GitHub

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Music gear and modular maker Bastl Instruments have been dedicated to DIYers and open source hardware since the start. But today they’ve done a major dump of circuits that tinkerers will want to check out.

Open hardware is in Bastl’s DNA. The founders from Brno, Czech Republic got their start with the Standuino, an Arduino clone, some years ago, and some assorted projects they built atop that. Using those boards, they presented workshops and jam sessions, teaching electronics, sound, and improvisation. Standuino was followed by Bastl Instruments and new desktop products, then modular, and worldwide recognition followed.

The thing about doing open source hardware, though, is that it forces you to clean house – a bit like inviting somebody over to dinner. So while Bastl Instruments have always been committed to open source hardware, this week we get not just code, but schematics, too.

Here’s their announcement:

Attention to all nerds & designers ! We did put a vast majority of our schematics to one repository on gitHub 🚀 all under CC-BY-SA license. We believe in the power of open source – all our code is on git already. At this point, we do not want to publish HW production files (eagle or gerber) since there is a vital ecosystem in place here in Brno that lives by producing our instruments. End of message.

https://github.com/bastl-instruments/bastlSchematics

This doesn’t quite qualify as open source hardware under a strict definition, as that requires production files. But those definitions aren’t really meant for the music tech community, specifically, who are used to deriving their own modifications from schematics. (I’ll update the CDM guide to open source hardware and software and content soon, just as I get asked about it a lot. I think what matters isn’t so much abstract ideals as helping people to communicate effectively and apply licensing that suits them.)

I spoke to Václav Peloušek from Bastl about the move.

“I actually feel really lucky that I could look at other people’s schematics online,” he told me. “And through that, I learned most of what I know, so I always felt obliged to give the knowledge back.”

Schematics are enough to learn from or even make your own modified versions, while still supporting Bastl’s hardware makers and employees by buying their products, made in Czech.

(If you’re wondering why they qualified that with “a vast majority” of the schematics, Václav explains that they left out the messiest ones!)

Back when Bastl/Standuino got started, schematics looked… like this. Courtesy Václav Peloušek at Bastl.

Apart from those primitive examples, putting together a repository like this takes a lot of time. Peter Edwards, creator of the softPop synth for Bastl (and a long-time hardware engineer), echoes this. “All of this free info takes real work,” he says. “Good schematics look good because someone spent time and made decisions on absolutely every aspect.”

So it’s a pleasure to have all this in one place.

By the way, I’m still totally committed to our own MeeBlip open source hardware project. We’ve discontinued existing synth models, but we’re hard at work on something new. And this illustrates something, too – the discontinued models will never really die, so long as our code and schematics remain online. You can also take a look at this to see how you would release completely open hardware, including production files and associated licensing:
https://github.com/meeblip

And go follow Bastl, as more is coming!

https://github.com/bastl-instruments/

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The coolest things I saw at the 2018 New York Auto Show

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New York Auto Show Cool Stuff 2018

  • The New York International Auto Show runs through April 8.
  • It’s a spectacle of new cars, old cars, and concept cars.
  • I toured the show floor during media days.

The New York International Auto Show opened at the Javits Center in Manhattan last Friday and runs through this Sunday, April 8. 

It signals the end of the US car show circuit, which kicked off last year with Los Angeles and wound through Detroit, Chicago, and Washington before landing in the Big Apple (with a detour to CES in Las Vegas).

I spent a few hours walking the show floor during media preview days, to take in the sights and seek out cool stuff. And drink a lot of espresso. 

Check it out:

SEE ALSO: Here are the 24 cars you need to see at the 2018 New York Auto Show

FOLLOW US: On Facebook for more car and transportation content!

Before I even got to the show floor, I was met by some classic cars.

That’s a 1931 Duesenberg Model J — yep, it’s a "Doozy" (a "Duesey," more accurately).

The Lamborghini Miura is a beloved beauty, with a design by the legendary Marcello Gandini.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Spotify’s missing money-maker is artist-to-fan messaging

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Streaming royalties are too expensive for Spotify to thrive as a public company just playing us songs. Spotify’s shares closed down 10 percent today during its NYSE trading debut. Luckily it controls much of the relationship between musicians and their fans on its app, poising it to build a powerful revenue and artist loyalty generator by connecting the two through native advertising and messaging that doesn’t stop the music.

Spotify already has a wide range of ad experiences built for traditional brands, from audio ads to display units to sponsored sessions where users get ad-free playback in exchange for watching a commercial. But none of these ad units are designed to help musicians grow their audience within Spotify, even if they can be bent to that purpose.

Spotify could win big by following Facebook’s roadmap.

Back in 2007, Facebook already had ads that led offsite. Think of these as Spotify’s existing audio and display ads. But when Facebook built Pages that let businesses reach you through the News Feed, it also launched ads that let them promote and grow their Pages within Facebook. Unlike the stock banner ads you see all over the web, these ads were native to Facebook, targeted with its profile data, and they used social referrals about Pages your friends interacted with to rope you in. These gave entities on Facebook a paid way to grow their popularity inside the platform.

This is Spotify’s opportunity.

Spotify’s existing ad units are designed for brands, not musicians

A few years ago, Spotify’s user base was too small for artists to focus on spending money there to get popular. But Spotify has grown to the size where it’s replacing top 40 radio, and over 30 percent of listening now comes from its recommendations and algorithmic playlists like Discover Weekly. The record labels now need Spotify to have a hit. Between that influence and it’s stature as the biggest on-demand music streaming service, Spotify has the leverage to offer artists the best tool to boost their fan base. Whether artists want to build a following on Spotify, sell collectors’ items, or fill premium front-row seats at their shows, Spotify could hook them up.

The no-longer-a-startup has already built the groundwork for this with the launch of its Spotify For Artists analytics dashboard app last year that shows a musician’s top songs, and the demographics of their fans including their location, gender, age, and what else they listen to. Spotify’s proven the power of this data with its Fans First email campaigns that let artists reach their most frequent listeners with access to concert ticket pre-sales and exclusive merchandise. It claims the emails see a 40 percent open rate, and 17 percent click-through rate — way higher than the industry standard.

But if Spotify built new surfaces for artists to reach out directly to fans within its apps, it could become the destination for record label marketing money. Since these artist ads and messages would all drive users deeper into the app rather than away from it like brand ads, Spotify could charge less than traditional ads and make them affordable to labels on a budget or musicians paying out-of-pocket.

Here are some ways Spotify could create native artist-to-fan marketing channels:

Sponsored songs on its algorithmic playlists could expose fans to artists in the most natural way possible, or turn one-time listeners into loyalists. Wherever there’s recommendations, there’s room for paid discovery. Listeners could easily skip the track or switch to a different playlist, but might end up falling in love with the band, and diving into their catalogue. It’s the equivalent of Facebook’s in-News Feed native ads, but with a musician promoted instead of a business’ Page. Spotify was actually spotted testing what was effectively a sponsored song in mid-2017 above the start of some playlists. While there was an opt-out option within the app’s Settings that’s since disappeared, Spotify has at least considered this idea.

Spotify was spotted testing what was effectively a Sponsored Song back in mid-2017

Promoted Artists could use a similar model to Google’s AdWords sponsored search results. When users search for an artist, they could be shown similar artists who’ve paid to be promoted in the search typeahead or results page. Spotify could also insert a box within the profile of another artist you’re browsing below their top tracks. Spotify already lists a slew of related artists in text, but could highlight one that pays, perhaps showing one of their songs that could be instantly played.

Featured Artists could give artists that pay a special slot on Spotify’s browse page. With so many recommendations here, it’d be easy to insert a sponsored section without feeling interruptive.

Sponsored Visualizations could make better use of your screen while you listen. Rather than just staring at the album art and playback controls, Spotify could let artists pitch fans their other music, tickets, gear, or social media channels. Spotify could also fill this space with entertaining silent video clips, photo slideshows, and biographical info as I suggested as a differentiator in 2016, and similar to how lyrics site Genius started doing with its Stories this week. Given users are currently listening to the artist, they might be primed for these experiences. Spotify has already tested letting artists show GIFs during playback, and has partnered with Genius to show Behind The Music factoids, but this is real estate that could help artists earn more money as well as entertain fans.

Direct Messaging

The most ambitious and audacious way to let artists reach fans would be a special artist-to-fan messaging channel. Spotify got rid of its in-app inbox and messaging feature for sending friends songs a few years ago, instead pushing users to share music via their chat app of choice. But similar to the Fans First email campaigns, Spotify could create a special artist-to-fan messaging section in its app that could alert users to new releases and playlists as brand advertising, or even push tours and merchandise as more direct performance advertising.

Spotify could give all artists a certain volume of messages they could send for free or let them reach out just to the top 1% of fans a certain number of times per month or year. Then artists could pay to send more messages beyond the limits. Alternatively, it could just charge for any use of messaging.

Done wrong, the above options could feel like Spotify gouging artists to reach their own fans. But done right, users might actually enjoy it. These connections wouldn’t be too far off from following an artist on other social media, but where people are already listening. Finding out about one of your favorite band’s new albums, tours, or t-shirts might feel less like an ad and more like an inside tip from the fan club.

Spotify might be able to get away with showing some of these different experiences to users who’ve subscribed if they don’t get in the way of music listening. Swinging to the other end of the opportunity spectrum, the company could just give away all these experiences to artists, boosting their loyalty to Spotify and getting them to promote their presence there instead of on competing streaming services like Apple Music.

If Spotify doesn’t figure out a way to improve its margins with additional revenue drivers, it may have a tough time surviving as a public company. If it becomes too profitable from just music streaming, the labels can always try to increase their royalty rates. Spotify might hope that more artists work with it directly, cutting out the middlemen, but the record labels still provide some important marketing, radio promotion, and distribution services that artists need. Meanwhile, startups including United Masters (which raised a $70 million Series A from Google parent Alphabet and Andreessen Horowitz) adnd subscription crowdfunding platforms like Patreon want to usurp the record labels and become the way artists earn more before Spotify can.

This New York Times’ chart shows why musicians feel screwed, even though it’s labels keeping their money not Spotify

Creating ways to connect with listeners could offer Spotify a way to combat the enduring narrative that it’s screwing over musicians. If Spotify can prove these artist-to-fan messaging options earn them more than they cost, it could be seen as the streaming service that’s actually trying to help musicians make a living.

Recorded music has become primarily a promotional tool for all of a musician’s other revenue monetization methods since the dawn of the MP3. Streaming’s on-demand structure and no-extra-cost-per-play nature turns the curious listener who’s only heard of an artist or just likes one single into a diehard fan who shells out the big bucks every time their favorite act is in town.

As we shift to an experiential culture where our possessions are digitized and its our interests that define us, people want to feel closer to the creators they love. Artist-to-fan messaging could bring the whole life-cycle from discovery to affinity to real monetization beyond the royalties all within one green and black app.

For more on Spotify going public, read our feature stories:

 

 

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