A Link to the Past

Yep, three days in a row of newsletters! Just want to grind through some experiments content/format-w
M.G. Siegler
A Link to the Past
By M.G. Siegler • Issue #88
Yep, three days in a row of newsletters! Just want to grind through some experiments content/format-wise here. Appreciate everyone humoring me with these humorless, behind-the-scenes updates 😀
Over the past couple of days have honed things a bit, but want to try a few different link formats this time. Have also thought about numbering them – mainly for readability/scan-ability/complete-ability (thanks for the idea, Jake) – but also don’t want it to seem as if I’m “ranking” the links in some way. So holding off for now. 
One other, bigger, thing I’m considering: publishing the work that will eventually go on 500ish Words here, first (in this area, of course). Still just a thought. But I like the idea of giving the folks I have the most direct relationship with – you all, my newsletter subscribers, who allow me into your inbox! – early access. 
Happy Friday, all! 🍻

Francis Ford Coppola
On Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration
This interview by Ariston Anderson of the legendary director isn’t new (it’s from 2011), but it’s still great. Some key parts:
An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before? I always like to say that cinema without risk is like having no sex and expecting to have a baby. You have to take a risk.
That is certainly one way to put it. And:
What’s the most useful piece of advice you’d give a student?
The first thing you do when you take a piece of paper is always put the date on it, the month, the day, and where it is. Because every idea that you put on paper is useful to you. By putting the date on it as a habit, when you look for what you wrote down in your notes, you will be desperate to know that it happened in April in 1972 and it was in Paris and already it begins to be useful. One of the most important tools that a filmmaker has are his/her notes.
I love this idea – not just date, but place.
Is it important to veer away from the masters to develop one’s own style?
I once found a little excerpt from Balzac. He speaks about a young writer who stole some of his prose. The thing that almost made me weep, he said, “I was so happy when this young person took from me.” Because that’s what we want. We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that’s how you will find your voice.
And that’s how you begin. And then one day someone will steal from you. And Balzac said that in his book: It makes me so happy because it makes me immortal because I know that 200 years from now there will be people doing things that somehow I am part of. So the answer to your question is: Don’t worry about whether it’s appropriate to borrow or to take or do something like someone you admire because that’s only the first step and you have to take the first step.
What a great way to think about it.
What is the one thing to keep in mind when making a film?
When you make a movie, always try to discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words. Every time I made a film, I always knew what I thought the theme was, the core, in one word. In “The Godfather,” it was succession. In “The Conversation,” it was privacy. In “Apocalypse,” it was morality. The reason it’s important to have this is because most of the time what a director really does is make decisions. All day long: Do you want it to be long hair or short hair? Do you want a dress or pants? Do you want a beard or no beard? There are many times when you don’t know the answer. Knowing what the theme is always helps you.
I think this works in professions beyond film as well. It’s similar in concept to a “North Star” – but being able to distill what you’re doing down to its most fundamental core strikes me as insanely valuable in anything you do.
I know a quoted a ton, but there are so many other good parts. Go read the whole thing. 
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Retro Gaming
The Sega Genesis Retro Lump of Coal
Scott Stein:
Unlike the no longer available NES Classic, Genesis Flashback feels half-baked. The review unit we got was lightweight and flimsy-feeling. The controllers feel like cheap Funcoland knockoffs, with a floppy d-pad and hard-to-press hollow-feeling buttons. They use AAA batteries, and have to be unscrewed to put the batteries in. I’d rather have wires.
The system we used also had some construction issues. The power button, which slides back and forth like the original Genesis, got stuck and slid partway under the housing of this early review unit, bending the case out a bit at the seam. This isn’t encouraging.
The menu and interface are hard to navigate, too, and the whole design feels more like an emulator box than something that feels actually official. It’s all… a little low-rent, especially when compared to the stellar overall feel of the NES Classic. Which is funny, because I didn’t even think the NES Classic was all that stellar when I first played it. In comparison, it’s a first-class ticket.
What a disaster and disappointment. And it gets worse:
All of the games felt plagued with slower frame rate and had audio that sometimes sounded crackly or choppy. I played over and over again: not just with the Genesis Flashback, but side by side with an actual original Sega Genesis that a colleague brought into the office. I played next to the NES Classic. And I played some of the amazing Sega Genesis ports available on the Nintendo 3DS under the “3D Classic” label – Sonic and Sonic 2 in particular.
I could see a difference. The Genesis is fast! It’s meant to scroll smoothly. Games like Sonic were all about speed, smooth speed. On the Flashback, graphics look crisp but frame rate feels consistently choppy… choppier than it should have been. Ports shouldn’t look like that. But they do here.
I suppose we can take solace in the fact that while Nintendo badly screwed up the NES Classic in terms of supply/demand (yes, some people still insist this was on purpose), at least they didn’t release a piece of junk. 
Hopefully Atari learns from this with the Ataribox (which is different from the retro Atari system made by AT Games, the people who made this Genesis nightmare – the Atari one sounds much better, but I imagine Atari itself can do even better still.) 
Switch Outlook Is Sign of Bottleneck
Speaking of Nintendo, while their earnings this past quarter were good, there’s more than a little concern about – surprise – their ability to meet demand for the Switch before it’s too late and the demand dies down.
Giphy Break
Sports-ish Stuff
Jeff Carlisle on a debate underway in Major League Soccer; should they have a promotion/relegation style system – similar to what European soccer has – or will that stop the league from attracting good owners?:
But the pro/rel component remains a non-starter. Would it make the end of the MLS regular season more compelling? Without question. Such a system would also add a layer of accountability to teams as well. There are also host of negatives on the business side, however. What the game needs right now is investment in terms of stadiums, players and youth academies, just to name a few. The willingness on the part of owners to build that kind of infrastructure would lessen considerably if there were a risk of relegation.
MLS is also in the midst of an expansion-bidding process with entry fees starting at $150 million. In all likelihood, the introduction of a pro/rel system would give prospective ownership groups and communities – some of whom are contemplating providing public land for stadiums – reason to have second thoughts.
“No owner with deep pockets is going to say, ‘I’m going to line up all my sponsorships, and then get relegated,’” said Colangelo. “No sponsor is going to come in and be the kit sponsor if you can relegated in a year or two. Right now the system just isn’t built for the risk.
It sounds like there’s no way this happens, but it would be amazing if it were implemented. The easiest way to stop the "tanking” phenomenon is to have the worst teams be sent down to the minor leagues, as it were. Meanwhile, you promote the best “minor” teams to the pros. It adds such a meaningful dynamic to a season that would otherwise be completely uninteresting (if you’re not one of the top teams, overall).
But in the end, money gets in the way of everything interesting in sports.
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Eric Garcetti on Transportation and Homelessness in Los Angeles
The Los Angeles mayor talking to Bill Simmons:
So everything from Elon Musk, who we’re working with on new tunneling technology to speed it up, to, as we talked about, bringing public transportation to the airport and downtown. It’ll be a pretty transformed city. And Uber and Lyft were just the beginning. Connected cars is probably the quickest way to resolve traffic. Because when you think about it, a car about 95 percent of the time isn’t moving. So the idea you have to own your car then park it someplace, which is valuable real estate but takes away the city’s green space, increases the price of rents and stuff. L.A. is going to be a pretty transformed place and I think we’re going to lead the way. So no question we’re no. 1 in traffic, no. 1 in homelessness, but I think those are crowns we can lose.
Obviously, a lot of this is political posturing. But it sure sounds like he knows what he’s talking about!
Darko Milicic finds success in Serbia
If you’re like me, you’ll have a distinct memory of Darko being the number two overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, just behind LeBron James – and amazingly ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. What’s he up to these days? Sam Borden explores:
Cherries, though, are his vision. The financial return on cherries is tremendous, Darko says, and the market is wide open. When Darko talks about cherries, his eyes get wide. He gets passionate. He gets animated.
“I want to make these cherries,” he says during the only moment we are together when he sounds wistful. “I think it’s time.”
Fascinating glance into a very different path.
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M.G. Siegler
Links to stories around the internet that M.G. Siegler has thoughts on. Thoughts longer than 140 characters, otherwise he'll tweet them. Thoughts less than 500ish words, otherwise he'll write them.
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