“The Simpsons” predicted its own takeover by Disney 20 years ago

Disney will acquire most of 21st Century Fox in a blockbuster dealworth $52 billion, the two companies announced today. Disney will get Fox’s TV and film studios, its cable TV networks (FX and National Geographic), and its stake in Hulu, which gives the Mouse House a controlling stake in the streaming service.

The deal will transfer the ownership of a number of popular films, television series, and character rights to Disney. Among those properties is the most beloved animated series of all time, The Simpsons.

And as it has often done, The Simpsons saw the big news coming long before anyone else.

In a 1998 episode of the series, “When You Dish Upon A Star,” The Simpsons joked that 20th Century Fox, the company’s movie studio, had fallen under the umbrella of Disney. A scene takes place at the Fox studio lot, where a sign can be seen that reveals the company is now “A Division of Walt Disney Co.”

You can watch the full scene here in Spanish. (The English version isn’t readily available online, but the prediction is a visual gag in the first seconds of the clip.) In the English version, director Ron Howard, voicing himself, goes to pitch a movie to his frequent collaborator, producer Brian Grazer:

The Disney prophesy is just one of several foretold by Matt Groening’s legendary comedy series. In 2000, for instance, the show predicted Donald Trump’s presidency.

The fate of shows such as The Simpsons is still to be determined. Fox will retain control of the Fox broadcast network (which broadcasts The Simpsons) but how the channel will move forward without the TV production company that fuels it is unclear.

It’s possible that The Simpsons, already renewed for at least a 29th and 30th season, could end up on a different network. That’s one development the show didn’t see coming.

Article originally posted by qz.

Jeffrey Tambor quits Amazon series “Transparent” amid sexual misconduct allegations

Actor Jeffrey Tambor says he didn’t sign up for this. The actor, who plays Maura Pfefferman on the Amazon series Transparent, is leaving the show after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced against him earlier this month. Tambor issued a statement to Deadline on Sunday, denying allegations that he made inappropriate comments and advances towards trans actress Trace Lysette and a former assistant and trans actress Van Barnes.

“What has become clear over the past weeks, however, is that this is no longer the job I signed up for four years ago… I’ve already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue,” Tambor said. “Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don’t see how I can return to Transparent.”

After the allegations were first aired, rumors surfaced that writers were considering writing Tambor out of the lead role in the award-winning show for its next season. It seems that is now a reality.

This isn’t the first sexual harassment scandal Amazon Studios has faced. Last month, studio chief Roy Price resigned from his post after The Man in The High Castle executive producer Isa Dick Hackett accused him of propositioning her.

It’s also not the first resignation by a star actor that will result in major script rewrites. Earlier this month, sexual misconduct allegations against Kevin Spacey led Netflix to cut ties with the star of House of Cards. Shooting for the show’s sixth and final season was halted as a result. Spacey will also be cut from the Ridley Scott-directed film All The Money in the World, set for a December release. His scenes will be re-shot by Christopher Plummer.

Article originally posted by qz.

Photos Of Taylor Swift’s Ever-Changing Image Over The Years

Taylor Swift has earned a reputation for switching up her style.

The “Old Taylor” ― the country singer with long, curly hair who wore bedazzled ball gowns on the red carpet ― is dead. The “New Taylor” is here, and she’s got a thing for chokers, platinum hair and edgy looks all around.

Check out Swift’s incredible style evolution over the years:

    • 2006
      Michael Buckner via Getty Images
      At the Academy of Country Music Awards on May 23, 2006, in Las Vegas.
    • 2006
      Rick Diamond via Getty Images
      At the 40th Annual CMA Awards in Nashville.
    • 2007
      Jeff Kravitz via Getty Images
      At the 2007 CMT Music Awards in Nashville.
    • 2007
      Ethan Miller via Getty Images
      At the Academy of Country Music New Artists’ Party for a Cause on May 14, 2007, in Las Vegas.
    • 2007
      Bryan Bedder via Getty Images
      At the 41st Annual CMA Awards on Nov. 7, 2007, in Nashville.
    • 2008
      Gregg DeGuire via Getty Images
      At the 50th Annual Grammy Awards on  Feb. 10, 2008, in Los Angeles.
    • 2008
      Rick Diamond via Getty Images
      Performing during the 42nd Annual CMA Awards on Nov. 12, 2008, in Nashville.
    • 2008
      Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
      At the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 7, 2008.
    • 2008
      Ed Rode via Getty Images
      At the 42nd Annual CMA Awards on Nov. 12, 2008, in Nashville.
    • 2009
      Jason Merritt/TERM via Getty Images
      At the 44th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on April 5, 2009, in Las Vegas.
    • 2009
      Bryan Bedder via Getty Images
      Performing on NBC’s “Today” on May 29, 2009, in New York City.
    • 2009
      Tony R. Phipps via Getty Images
      At the 2009 CMT Music Awards on June 16, 2009, in Nashville.
    • 2009
      Steve Granitz via Getty Images
      At the 51st Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, 2009, in Los Angeles.
    • 2010
      Kevin Mazur/AMA2010 via Getty Images
      At the 2010 American Music Awards on Nov. 21, 2010, in Los Angeles.
    • 2010
      Vittorio Zunino Celotto via Getty Images
      At the Roberto Cavalli fashion show on Sept. 27, 2010, in Milan.
    • 2011
      Royce DeGrie via Getty Images
      At the Wonderstruck fragrance launch on Oct. 28, 2011.
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  • 2011
    Royce DeGrie via Getty Images
    At the annual Nashville Symphony Ball on Dec.10, 2011, in Nashville.
  • 2012
    Frederick M. Brown via Getty Images
    At the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 6, 2012, in Los Angeles.
  • 2012
    NBC via Getty Images
    At “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on Feb. 20, 2012.
  • 2012
    Gregg DeGuire via Getty Images
    At the 47th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards on April 1, 2012, in Las Vegas.
  • 2013
    Mike Marsland via Getty Images
    At the Brit Awards on Feb. 20, 2013, in London, England.
  • 2013
    Gregg DeGuire via Getty Images
    At the 2013 Billboard Music Awards on May 19, 2013, in Las Vegas.
  • 2013
    Steve Granitz via Getty Images
    At the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan.13, 2013, in Beverly Hills.
  • 2013
    Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images
    At the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 25, 2013, in New York City.
  • 2014
    Kevin Mazur via Getty Images
    At the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 24, 2014.
  • 2014
    Karwai Tang via Getty Images
    Performing at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show on Dec. 2, 2014, in London.
  • 2014
    Anthony Harvey via Getty Images
    At the 2014 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on Dec. 2, 2014, in London.
  • 2015
    Jeffrey Mayer via Getty Images
    At the 2015 Billboard Music Awards on May 17, 2015, in Las Vegas.
  • 2015
    Jon Kopaloff via Getty Images
    At the 57th Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, 2015, in Los Angeles.
  • 2015
    Karwai Tang via Getty Images
    At the 2015 Brit Awards on Feb. 25, 2015, in London.
  • 2015
    Jason Merritt/TERM via Getty Images
    At the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 30, 2015, in Los Angeles.
  • 2016
    Steve Granitz via Getty Images
    At the 58th Grammy Awards on Feb. 15, 2016, in Los Angeles.
  • 2016
    Alberto E. Rodriguez via Getty Images
    At the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscars party on Feb. 28, 2016, in Beverly Hills.
  • 2016
    Jesse Grant via Getty Images
    At the iHeartRadio Music Awards on April 3, 2016.
  • 2016
    Larry Busacca via Getty Images
    At the Met Gala on May 2, 2016, in New York City.
  • 2016
    Mark Davis via Getty Images
    At the 64th Annual BMI Pop Awards on May 10, 2016, in Beverly Hills.
  • 2017
    Larry Busacca via Getty Images
    Performing onstage on Feb. 4, 2017, in Houston.


An Indian recruitment startup is using artificial intelligence to become a “Google for people”

Belong, a Bengaluru-based startup, is creating a “Google for people,” as co-founder Rishabh Kaul describes it.

The three-year-old recruitment firm is part of a new crop of companies using technology to simplify hiring processes, from sorting resumés to scheduling interviews. Belong, however, goes well beyond all that.

It scours the internet to unearth publicly available information on any and all possible candidates, including scanning their Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, LinkedIn profiles, and more. “Earlier, a resume was just like a balance sheet—what you declare about yourself at a given point of time,” explained Kaul. “Now, you have a rich stream of constant data.”

After gathering copious amounts of information, the platform ranks potential hires according to their suitability for a role at a particular company—much like how Google tailors search results for each user’s query.

Belong stands out also because it seems to have cracked the code by selling its product to an impressive clientele. This list spans e-commerce behemoths Amazon and Flipkart, telecom provider Airtel, ride-hailing services Ola and Uber, and online grocer BigBasket, among others.

Talent hunt

Belong Founders
Sudheendra Chilappagari, Rishabh Kaul, Vijay Sharma, and Saiteja Veera. (Belong)

Founded by Kaul, Vijay Sharma, Saiteja Veera, and Sudheendra Chilappagari, Belong’s basic proposition is simple: using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to curate data from social media activity, and from niche platforms such as GitHubResearchGate, and Muckrack. “The technology acts like a magnet, finding different pieces of data on every white-collar person,” said Kaul.

The system scans all profiles with uniform precision to match every candidate to a company’s search requirements and previous hiring patterns. Where there is no precedent—say, if the company is setting up a centre for a new technology like the Internet of Things (IoT), or is expanding into an unexplored geographical region—Belong works with the employer to manually feed in ideal candidate profiles.

As companies approve and reject suggestions, the machine learning algorithm learns from the choices and fine-tunes the results further. However, Belong’s system does not eliminate candidates, it only re-orders them. So, while the grunt work is done by technology, the decision-making still lies with the human resources (HR) managers. “We want to make them (the managers) into Ironmen and Ironwomen, so we are being the Jarvis,” said Kaul.

The main cash cow for Belong, which has raised $15 million so far, is annual contracts. Kaul did not reveal how much it charges but said, “typically we need (companies) to hire at least 30 to 40 lateral people in a year for it to make return-on-investment sense.”

Between June 2015 and March 2016, Belong posted revenue of Rs83.2 lakh ($127,000), according to regulatory filings sourced by data platform Tofler. Overall, the company recorded a net loss of Rs6.41 crore ($979,000) during the same period.

Bigger and better

This technology-led process casts a wider net for talent and covers more volume in lesser time than humans can. Besides, it targets not just active jobseekers but even passive talent—those who haven’t even thought of quitting their jobs yet. And connecting with them is merely a matter of clicking a button.

 AI can save recruiters between 15-20 hours of work each week “Can a recruiter write a great email to a candidate to excite them? Yes,” said Kaul. “Can they do it for 500 people or send 3,000 emails? I don’t think so.” AI, though, can tailor messages for a multitude of applicants, saving recruiters between 15 hours and 20 hours of work each week while keeping things personal, Belong claims. The platform also tracks the right time to approach someone based on factors like appraisal cycles at their current company and how often they change jobs.

“We have made offers for highly complex roles in about 10-14 days on the platform,” Abhinav Asthana, CEO and co-founder of tech company Postman, which has recruited via Belong for over a year, told YourStory. At health-tech firm Practo, Belong improved the offer acceptance rate by 65% while Tavant Technologies reported a 55% hike in candidate responses.

As AI becomes smarter, it could even conduct first-round interviews virtually, ensuring “better utilisation of a recruiter’s time and resources,” N Shivakumar, business head of recruitment process outsourcing at Teamlease Services, told Quartz. Overall, it’d help shorten hiring timelines.

Automation also helps curb biases, Kris Lakshmikanth, founder of HeadHunters India, told Quartz. Belong removes political affiliations, religious views, sexual orientation, and other extraneous factors. (The company includes gender so recruiters can exclusively search for women to up diversity. No company can search for only men, though.)

While the algorithm struggles at times—if a person’s Twitter name differs from the real name or if multiple social media pages appear for someone—Belong’s intelligent filtering mostly improves efficiency and saves time. It, however, falls short with personable traits.

Cookie-cutter categories like college degree and technical skills are easy to track but AI is no match for experienced human managers with seasoned instincts when judging if a candidate will fit into the office culture or if they are a team player, HeadHunters’ Lakshmikanth added.

Still, Belong has made attempts to quantify ambiguous descriptors. “(To) make the word entrepreneurial into something mathematical that you can search for…the platform looks for people who’ve scaled something small into something big or people who’ve been with a company since founding,” Kaul explained.

Similarly, someone may be classified an early adopter based on when they joined Twitter. “In 2007, being on Twitter was a big deal. No one knew about it,” said Kaul, “This person would have been on the lookout (for new technologies) rather than someone who joined in 2013, by which time even Amitabh Bachchan had joined.”

And just like human HR managers get better over time, Belong is betting that the machines will too.

Article originally posted by qz.

Here’s what you need to know about digital transformation, straight from Microsoft Envision 2017

Over 4,ooo business leaders from around the world gathered in Orlando, FL from Sept 25 – 27 for Microsoft’s Envision Conference, a new flagship event for business leaders. Attendees and speakers discussed the digital transformation of business and strategies for competing in the future.

It’s a theme that’s fast becoming a profitable reality: according to a recent study, companies that demonstrate digital leadership and mastery generate an average of $100 million more in additional operating income annually.

Business leaders in fields ranging from healthcare to financial services took to the Microsoft Envision stage to discuss the four key areas of digital transformation—engaging customers, empowering employees, optimizing operations, and transforming products—and why change in these areas has proved essential to helping their own companies flourish.

Engage customers

Businesses today deal with customers empowered by connectivity and choice. Five out of six millennials engage with companies via social media networks, which has upended traditional modes of reaching a customer base. As numerous Envision speakers attested, in order to engage customers, put them at the center of business by leveraging data and UX insights. “Our whole product strategy is based on this consumer: what she likes, what she needs, what she wants, and we’re putting that consumer first,” said Danielle Weisberg, co-founder and co-CEO of theSkimm (the popular millennial newsletter.)

TheSkimm’s cofounders found success in knowing their audience and delivering exactly what it wanted: on-the-go news delivered in a shrewd, clever voice. “We’re really an audience company” said Weisberg.

Empower employees

Employees are the change agents in digital transformation. Companies must foster workplaces that prepare them for the future that their field demands, making them partners in the transformation process.

This isn’t just about reshuffling the org chart: industry experts believe a digital-ready workforce will determine which businesses thrive or fall behind.

Beth Comstock, vice chair at GE, explained in an Envision fireside chat how she’s embraced the GE mandate to “grow this company from within.” Comstock advises employees to set aside time for uncovering new ideas: “No matter what you’re doing in your company, you have to find a little bit of time for that discovery…you have to go out and find what’s new, understand where the trends are coming from.”

Optimize operations

Because of regular advances in IoT and cloud computing, operations can be a business’s most vulnerable sector. Companies that adopt current technology solutions in areas like CRM and enterprise resource management saw a 58 percent increase in operational efficiency, highlighting the importance of investing in this field.

At Towergate, the largest insurance intermediary in Europe, CIO Gordon Walters faced the challenge of a sprawling “fragile infrastructure”. His answer? “Why don’t we try to push as far as possible and…go completely to the cloud. It gave us real momentum.” At a session on migrating to the cloud, Walters explained how he now has no data centers, has reduced the number of IT applications Towergate was running from 2,600 to 222, and can offer seamless service at lower costs.

Transform products

The pace of innovation means that many businesses are only now envisioning themselves as software or digital companies, and shifting towards producing services in addition to producing things. The benefits to digital products promise to be huge, with 95 percent of the top 100 biggest enterprise software companies expected to have integrated cognitive technologies in their products by 2020.

“One of the questions that has to be asked and answered in digital transformation is: how can I take the data about my product and create a service that enables the data to be more valuable than the product itself?” said Microsoft Executive Vice President Judson Althoff in a keynote address.

“This isn’t just Microsoft’s opportunity, it’s our opportunity, with a capital O,” said Althoff. “The opportunity to harness digital transformation and economic opportunity and lift behind it is actually for all of us.”

Article originally posted by qz.

Larry David is the latest celebrity to apologize—for his bad jokes

Comedian Larry David last night, Nov. 11, offered a tacit apology for jokes made during his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live (SNL) last week, in which he made light of concentration camps.

David, who is Jewish, admitted his jokes lacked taste during an SNL skit in which he played US senator Bernie Sanders. The character, along with other impersonators of Democratic Party leaders, were speaking about how they would seize the national political narrative following the bruising defeat of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.

“And we are going to lace into people if they don’t say what’s politically correct, like these comics out there who think it’s okay to make jokes about concentration camps,” David said, giving his best Sanders impression. “That guy should rot in hell.”

David’s controversial monologue remarks were made as he bemoaned recent sexual harassment allegations out of Hollywood, including of Harvey Weinstein, saying: “I couldn’t help but notice a very disturbing pattern emerging, which is that many of the predators are Jews.” He went on to joke about pick-up lines in concentration camps, something that caught the ire of the Anti-Defamation League, which called the monologue “offensive, insensitive and unfunny all at same time.”

David’s acknowledgement of the controversy is juxtaposed against other Hollywood figures, including Kevin Spacey and Louis CK, who have issued apologies of their own for sexual harassment allegations.

Article originally posted by qz.

How writers make believable characters, according to the creator of Mad Men

In the sixth season of Mad Men, Nikki is on-screen for less than two minutes. In that time, we learn that she is a smug engaged person who disapproves of the white ad lunatics who employ her friend, Dawn, who she thinks is too subservient.

It’s not an Emmy-winning monologue, but the small moment demonstrates a bedrock of good TV and film writing. Last night at 92Y in Manhattan, Mad Men show runner Matthew Weiner, in conversation with White Teeth author, Zadie Smith, explained that the key to a full character is that she thinks she’s a star.

At the event, in which Weiner promoted his novel, Heather, the Totality, out yesterday from Little, Brown, someone from the audience asked how he creates such varied characters. “Every character has an ego,” said Weiner. “Every character has an agenda.”

It’s an old adage of acting, that there are no small parts, only small actors, but it seems easier said than done to bring those roles to screenwriting. Consider the Oscar-winning La La Land, in which three entire characters function only to tell Mia, Emma Stone’s character, to go to a party, or the gaggle of basketball or poker-playing men in rom-coms like Made of Honor, who exist solely to list pros and cons of the scheme for the female love interest.

In contrast, Mad Men, which ended in 2015 after seven seasons, is full of tiny roles written for characters we imagine will leave the screen, and then go on with a busy schedule or depressive line of thinking: A Heinz oven-baked beans executive who’s desperate to be cool and forget the war, or the secretary of four episodes who, on her first day, gets a coffee and a tea for her boss and says, hopefully, “I’ll just have whichever one you don’t want.”

Nikki, waiting for a late Dawn to arrive after work, is indeed just a basic “best friend” character, whose role is to highlight Dawn’s guilt and anxiety at work. But she has an entire lecture written on her face before she ever speaks, and her own married future to reconcile with.

Smith agreed, saying that her writing students create characters that are “kinds” of people, like “the kind of person” who plays tennis or wakes up early, people whose personalities are just a string of interests and activities. Instead, she suggests, what the viewer or readers sees should be just the tip of the iceberg of a character. That’s the approach that makes shows like Broad City work—the audience imagines that if we didn’t peep into the show, the central characters would go on, making up jokes for the sake of their own amusement.

Article originally posted by qz.

Christopher Nolan says the Netflix model is simply “not good business”

There’s nothing new about what Netflix is doing in film, says Christopher Nolan. What’s different is selling it to Wall Street as innovation.

The Dunkirk and The Dark Knight director, who has both slammed and praised the streaming service in interviews, likens Netflix’s model of sidelining cinemas by sending its movies to streaming first to the old straight-to-video releases that have long held a stigma in Hollywood.

Straight-to-video releases—movies released first on video tape without playing in theaters—have been around since the 1990s. Before Netflix obsoleted the video store, movies could turn a profit without ever hitting in theaters if enough copies were sold to video stores and rented to customers, who often choose 2-3 movies at a time based on their VHS covers, the descriptions on the back of the box, and the talent featured. Some movies were even commissioned to fill shelves at local video stores and chains like Blockbuster, of which now only a few remain. The movies were often low-budget and didn’t have mass appeal. Thus, they got a bad rap for being lower quality than theatrical releases.

Getting a movie in theaters became the marker of a good filmmaker; straight-to-video releases were merely a consolation prize. Nolan told Variety:

As a filmmaker, when I was starting out in the Nineties, your nightmare was the straight-to-video release. There’s nothing new about it—what’s different and new about it is selling it to Wall Street as innovation or disruption…

Netflix is stomping out that stigma now that talent like Brad Pitt, Will Smith, and Martin Scorsese are making movies for its streaming service. The company plans to release more films next year than most major US studios combined, and whether or not they play in theaters is not of great concern to it. Netflix has historically eschewed the industry convention of giving films at least 90 days in theaters before releasing them on streaming video or elsewhere.

Some of it films are released in theaters the day they hit streaming. Others never run in cinemas as all. Its argument is that its movies are made for and paid for by its subscribers, so why shouldn’t they get first dibs?

Nolan—a staunch supporter of the cinema as a place to appreciate film—argues that the classic distribution model, which distinguishes between theatrical, home-video, and TV releases, exists for reason. It makes Hollywood economics work. “Every other industry, whether it’s the car industry or whatever, controls when a product is launched,” Nolan said. “The idea that the film business should forget that and just throw everything together at the same time makes no sense. It’s not good business, and people will realize that eventually.”

Netflix investors, the stock has shown, will back the strategy as long as the streaming service’s subscriber base keeps growing. And some filmmakers, frustrated with the studio system, are taking to it too.

Nolan may not respect Netflix’s play, but he at least respects the game. He reportedly apologized via email to Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos after railing against the company during the press tour for his Dunkirk this summer.

“I said what I believe, but I was undiplomatic in the way I expressed it,” he told Variety.” I wasn’t giving any context to the frankly revolutionary nature of what Netflix has done. It’s extraordinary. They need appropriate respect for that, which I have.”

Article originally posted by qz.

Colbert Delivers Hardest Hitting Fake Interview With President Trump

President Donald Trump doesn’t do interviews with “fake news” outlets, aka people who ask him legitimate questions. So those of us who aren’t Sean Hannity have to make due with limited access.

Stephen Colbert decided simply to use Hannity’s recent time with the president to conduct his own interview, and it feels more realistic than the Hannity interview, to be honest.

Teen Son Of Radio Host Delilah Dies of Suicide After ‘Battling Depression’

Syndicated radio host Delilah Rene has announced that her teenaged son, Zachariah, took his life last week after “battling depression for some time.”

The self-proclaimed “Queen of Sappy Love Songs” shared the news on Facebook Saturday, and asked her 1.4 million followers for prayers for her son and “all suffering from this debilitating disease called depression.”

“He was being treated, counseled, and embraced fiercely by family and friends while battling depression for some time now” she wrote. “My heart is broken beyond repair and I can not fathom how to go on … but I have to believe he is at peace with the Lord and that God will get us through,” she wrote.

“I will be absent from the radio and on social media for a time as I grieve and try to process this loss with my family. … I’ll look forward to my return, as you all lift me up so very much!”

She updated her Facebook’s cover photo to show the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, which offers free, 24-hour emotional support for people in distress, as well as resources that provide aid.

Jason LaVeris via Getty Images
Radio personality Delilah Rene announced the tragic news on Saturday.

The mother of 13, 10 of whom are adopted, lost a son named Sammy due to complications from sickle cell anemia in 2012.

Sammy’s death came just two years after he was adopted from a Ghanaian refugee camp in West Africa, the New York Daily News reported.