Tom Bennett

Tom Bennett

170 thoughts; 12 streams
last posted Dec. 13, 2016, 9:03 p.m.
2

Software engineer, entrepreneur, filmmaker.

Eldarion co-founder and President. I've been involved with a number of startups since the early 90's. I built my first company in 1997 from scratch and sold it in 1999. I've been fortunate enough to have played around in multiple industries including music, film/TV and of course tech.

James Tauber and I met at a tech startup, but became fast friends over a film project and we've been something of a team on various projects ever since.

Nashua NH
Joined on Sept. 10, 2013, 2:07 p.m.
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Evan Rachel Wood, to me, is proving to be the most impressive actress I've seen in years. The range that she displays in her role as Dolores is nothing short of astounding. I can't wait to see what she does with the role in season 2.

Anthony Hopkins' performance has been one for the ages. I've been a fan for years, and there's not much that he's in that I won't watch. However, this role seems to have been written with him specifically in mind. To watch him perform the role of Ford is to watch a grand master of the art of acting. I can't imagine what working with him on this show must be like, but I'm sure that everyone who does work with him is beyond thrilled to have the opportunity.

I can't say all of the casting decisions were brilliant for the series, but I will say that the vast majority are.

So many of the other performances are so notable that you can tell everyone is bringing their A game to this party, and it's just been amazing.

33 thoughts
updated Dec. 13, 2016, 9:03 p.m.

There's a great college humor video about the basic plot breakdown for every season of Entourage. The video does an excellent job of making fun of the fact that each week the show boiled down to one of two pretty predictable outcomes "we're making the movie!" or "we're not making the movie!". As much as I loved and still love the series (I hated the movie), I've always felt that this assessment was dead on.

Silicon Valley can be broken down similarly, and I think Thomas Middleditch might even agree - he happens to play the Eric Murphy character in the college humor Entourage spoof :-) The basic formula for Silicon Valley seems to work out to either "the company is going to make it/the company isn't going to make it" each week. I'm guessing there's probably a coin toss at the end of the season to decide whether they want to go out on an up or down note, but these are essentially the basic outcomes that each episode revolves around. For this type of show, I'm fine with that because like Entourage, the stuff that happens each episode is what makes it great. The structure and outcome may be simple and somewhat predictable, but great writing and characters make it all work.

Overall, I think the show has improved quite a bit from season one. Like most good shows, this one took a season or two to find its feet. The characters are well drawn, its voice and style is well established and it does a really amazing job of what it always had down out of the gate which is lampooning the hell out of startup and tech culture.

20 thoughts
updated June 24, 2016, 12:55 p.m.

Richie is emerging to be more and more like Walter White, but less evil in many respects. I see him as being in the "empire" business, but I think he's accepted the consequences of his actions and is trying to do his best to deal with them and try to turn himself and his life around. He went through a very interesting arc in this first season and overall I like how he's come out at the end. He has a lot more work to do, but it felt as though things were turning for him if only slightly in the finale with the launch of his Alibi Records label.

The critics are panning the series - saying it's broken or not working. Perhaps there is some truth to some of it. I think that the plot line about Richie and his involvement with the death of "Buck Rodgers" is a little weak and not quite so believable. Overall I don't think there's anything in here that's completely implausible given how the record industry worked back then, and how dangerous and corrupt New York City was in the 70's.

The absence of Richie's wife and kids in the season finale was a little obvious. There was no followup with her at all in fact so that felt like a gaping hole. I don't know if mainlining coke would snap you out of a heroin induced coma the way it did with James Jagger's character. I figured with Mick Jagger as an EP and advisor on the show, he's probably seen crazier things than that in his 6 or so decades in the business so there's probably something to it.

In all, I think that despite some of its weaknesses, the performances are solid and the characters are starting to find their feet.

It's rare that a season one of anything ever really crushes it and this show, while great, didn't really crush it. It was deeply dark, and very depressing for a lot of it. For a while, part of why I felt it was so well done had to do with what I think was a great job of making you feel what Richie was going through for most of the season. I think it also did a really great job with production design and making you feel like you were back in the 1970's.

It does have me hooked in a big way, and while there was a lot of brilliance in it, I don't think that it's for everyone. There are problems to work out sure, but overall, I felt it was very well done and I'm going to follow it into season two.

8 thoughts
updated April 18, 2016, 3:31 p.m.

The film is running long by probably 15 or 20 minutes, so there's work to do in getting it ready for the next screening in Boston.

Thankfully, the hard work is done and what lies ahead is trivial by comparison.

31 thoughts
updated March 15, 2016, 9:19 p.m.

Went to see it again last night. I don't watch a lot of films in IMAX 3D, but after watching the film again last night in just a regular 2D 4k theater, the visual effects felt more real and didn't distract as much from the story. While I still left with some of the same concerns that I'd voiced earlier, I enjoyed the film quite a bit more the second time around. I also left with the feeling that 3D isn't something that I'll seek out much in the future. It seems as though it distracts me too much from the story.

6 thoughts
updated Dec. 22, 2015, 6:20 p.m.

Busy year for sure. Not too busy to though stream though. I need to get back to it!

20 thoughts
updated Dec. 10, 2015, 5:18 a.m.

The move to Premiere so far has been extremely quick. I was not only able to set my layout up to almost exactly mirror my final cut layout, but all of my keyboard shortcuts work the same.

Moving projects from FCP required just a simple XML export. Everything came in just fine, and I was cutting within 10 minutes.

The cool thing about premiere is not only do all my FCP skills translate directly, but I no longer have to transcode source material to ProRes first; I can drop media into the timeline directly, as is.

Loving it so far..

4 thoughts
updated Aug. 10, 2015, 2:23 p.m.

The Wrecking Crew

I remember hearing about this film being produced as early as 2004, and remembering that I couldn't wait to see it. I had, for the most part, forgotten about it, and missed it when it made its festival run in 2008, but interestingly as it turns out, it wasn't until this year that it made a theatrical run, a fact to which I was completely oblivious. It wasn't until a few nights ago when hunting for my next film to watch that the title popped back into my head and I found myself renting it on iTunes.

I've been sucked into a number of documentary films in the past couple of years that deal with music, but more notably, groups of musicians and producers who built empires in far flung places. Most of these people, while excellent musicians and producers in their own right, all seemed to have flown the flag of underdog at one time or another in their careers, but what they managed to achieve in terms of their contributions to pop culture is nothing short of incredible.

One such group, based in Los Angeles was known as "The Wrecking Crew", given the moniker because the established studio musicians at the time felt that the new crop of younger, hipper, rock oriented players would wreck the music industry. They achieved something decidedly contrarian to this prediction. Playing with such producing giants as The Beach Boys Brian Wilson and Phil Specter, this group of musicians played on some of the most memorable tracks of our time. They took music that otherwise would have come off as mundane had it been played as written and turned it into something special with their embellishments.

It really is a pretty fascinating look into the development of the LA music scene and the creation of some of the most recognizable music of an entire generation.

The film itself was, as produced, about average. There was nothing particularly special about its production techniques or shooting; it didn't have some of the flair of Muscle Shoals for example, but the content was well presented, and the revelations at times, at least for me, were striking. I for one had no idea that Glen Campbell got his start as a sessions player in this crew, or that a woman, Carol Kaye, was behind the signature bass lines of "The Beat Goes On" (Sonny and Cher) the "Mission Impossible" TV show theme, and dozens of other notable tracks as well.

Director Denny Tedesco gives the film a feel that comes off as a bit reverential at times of his father, Tommy, but his prominence as part of the crew and Denny's life makes that understandable. I don't think this detracts too much from what I perceive as the films intent of showing the people behind so much great music.

As most eras do however, it came to an end when into the late 60's and early 70's, fans became more aware of groups who actually played the music on the records that they were playing on stage when on tour. With a few notable exceptions, the era of the Wrecking Crew and those that preceded them were mostly working in service of the song, the era that followed was about the personalities of the band and the talents that they brought to bear not only in their live performances, but in their studio performances as well.

3 thoughts
updated July 7, 2015, 2 a.m.

ArsDigita, Greylock and Me.

For me, getting involved with James Tauber as a co-founder of Eldarion didn't require a whole lot of thought. While I was never much of a web programmer, I understood enough about what he was proposing to recognise the potential in his vision. In fact, my brief involvement as an investor in a company built around what was arguably one of the first open source web application frameworks had me extremely interested in Eldarion right out of the gate.

This web framework that I speak of was the ArsDigita Community System, or ACS, which is now known simply as OpenACS.

While it may not have been the first open source WAF, it certainly was among the first, and the business that ACS founder Philip Greenspun built up around it in the mid to late 90's was pretty amazing. In less than two years, he managed to grow the company from zero to about 20 million/year in revenue with no funding or support from outside investors.

Philip was nothing short of a pioneer with his work on building web communities and open sourcing a WAF like the ACS. His books and blog posts left quite an impression on me, and while I didn't head down a more web centric path until joining up with James on Eldarion, a lot of that experience and certainly looking back on it now as someone involved in a similar venture is something I find extremely valuable.

The other interesting thing is that it seems like lot of what Eldarion does from the qualification of the types of jobs that we take on, to our approach to open source follows principles very similar to those of AD. I think that James brought a lot of this into play naturally with his own style, but looking back at some of Philips old blog posts the way he ran AD sounds very similar to how Eldarion is run now.

The story of ArsDigita as a bootstrapped startup growing fast and furious with very little outside help is incredible in and of itself, but the whole ArsDigita story is a really interesting and cautionary tale of how involving VC's can alter the path of a company.

My part in the ArsDigita story was small but rather interesting.

After having sold my consulting firm in 1999, I decided to play around in the music business for a bit and was supporting an artist named Bobby Lee Rodgers, who was teaching in the guitar department at Berklee College of Music in Boston. One of Bobby's Boston area fans, Andrew Grumet, who was also a web programmer, offered to build and maintain a web site for Bobby.

I offered to pay Andrew something for his services, but being the great fan and person that he was, he wouldn't take any money for the site. He did, however, let me take him to dinner In Kendall Square as a way of saying thanks for the effort he was putting in. Over dinner, I asked about his day job, which turned out to be web programming at ArsDigita.

After hearing Andrew's stories about the crazy, meteoric success AD was having, I was instantly hooked and had to meet Philip.

We took a walk to AD's Cambridge offices after dinner and even though it was well past 8:00, Philip and a bunch of his programmers were still there working. Philip and I seemed to hit it off instantly. We had a great conversation where he explained the business he'd built around building and hosting sites based on ACS and how he traveled around evangilizing ACS and all the powerful things the open source platform had to offer for building database backed web sites.

When Philip told me that he'd spoken to a number of VC's that didn't seem to get his model of using open source to build and host sites for companies,, I offered to introduce him to some guys I knew at Greylock.

The meeting between AD and Greylock happened shortly thereafter and by all accounts, had gone very well. A month or so after meeting Philip, my contact at Greylock reached out to me to let me know that AD was getting a term sheet for a large equity deal that would include Greylock and General Atlantic.

In return for bringing them the deal, Greylock offered to allow me to invest in the 30+ million series A round.

At this point, I had recently sold my consulting firm, Lexington Software Associates, to a company named Interwoven. The LSA transaction was stock only, no cash, which by the way, I will probably never do again unless it's stock in a publicly traded company :-) Since the LSA sale was just ahead of the Interwoven IPO, I was still under lockup and couldn't sell any of the stock that I was awarded for the sale of LSA for six months after the Interwoven IPO. Apart from the money that I was making consulting, I didn't have much if anything in my savings as I'd drained it to fund LSA. Greylock was very accomodating however, and the deal was worked out such that the shares would be waiting for me once I was free of the lockup period and could sell my Interwoven shares to cover my AD buy.

I couldn't have been more excited to not only be involved with my first series A investment in a very promising company led by an extremely bright founder, but to also have invested along side a VC who was, and to this day continues to be, one of the top VCs in the country if not the world. "How could this possibly miss?" I remember saying to myself as I signed the stock purchase agreements with all their caveats and warnings about loss of capital...

The deal eventually happened, the company famously augered in and became a smoking hole in the desert, and millions in VC money, not to mention the relatively small in comparison, yet tidy sum I had invested, atomized in the ensuing conflagration.

I don't ever pout about the financial loss. I knew what I was getting into. I think I was much more upset to see such a promising business with such an ethical, articulate not to mention visionary founder evaporate so quickly. I didn't spend nearly enough time with Philip and AD as I would have liked. We had a number of very cordial email exchanges following our initial meeting and leading up to the deal, but never really met in person again that I can recall. It probably would have been a lot of fun to work at AD, which is something I should have explored.

Bringing what turned out to be a bad deal to Greylock didn't seem to hurt my standing there. In fact, James and I actually went to Greylock for some advice shortly after founding Eldarion. My contact there has always been pretty reassuring about the fact that they did their homework and knew what they were getting into. Had someone else referred them the deal, they probably would have done it anyway. Watching the whole thing unfold I will admit, has changed the way I view VCs as a financing mechanism. I don't have anything against them at all, and I do believe in using them, but with caution. The key is I think is, and really has always been to have as much leverage as you can going into a deal and use it to ensure the deal is crafted fairly and as much in your favor as possible.

Reading Philip's account of the internal power struggles and legal battles that followed the investment sometimes makes me wonder if my introduction of the VC's into the ArsDigita story was a sort of catalyst that lead to the failure of the company.

I think outcomes like the one AD experienced are extremely difficult to predict, but I think that being able to watch it all unfold from the sidelines as a stakeholder did teach me some very valuable lessons all of which were well worth the price of admission.

10 thoughts
updated May 27, 2015, 2:20 a.m.

In 2007, a friend of mine and I were doing small sketch comedy videos and posting them on youtube. One concept that he had was for a workout video by Libyan dictator Muamar Gaddafi that tought exercises that other despots might find useful for things like dodging laser designators, cruise missles and other threats modern day dictators might face. Shortly after posting it, the Libyan government protested it as being inappropriate and youtube took it down. While Kevin or myself never experienced serious threats from the Libyan government itself, the message from Youtube was loud and strong; never post this again or you'll face having your account shut off and be permanently banned. So I guess you could say that we were victims of state sponsored terrorist censorship before it was cool.

One part of me is admittedly upset to think that what amounts to an unbalanced, petulant child with a couple of nukes could pull off something on the scale of the Sony hack and actually block the release of a movie. Sony should have, at the very least, just posted the movie on youtube or something for free, or had someone "leak it" as a middle finger to Jung-un. Another part of me is thinking that all that really may have happened here is that we were all just spared the release of another really shitty comedy.

25 thoughts
updated Dec. 19, 2014, 6:45 p.m.

If it wasn't clear before from their recent moves in the DSLR space that Canon has all but left their DSLR video strategy for dead, this article provides pretty compelling evidence that the cries for better quality video and a richer video feature set have fallen on deaf ears.

I get that they're trying to push pros to their higher end, higher margin cinema cameras, but with all of the competition within the price range of their DSLR line, they may find a tougher and tougher time keeping their DSLR lines alive and competitive to a certain extent over the longer haul.

3 thoughts
updated Nov. 24, 2014, 3:47 p.m.

By the time I'd produced and directed the following music video, I'd for the most part stopped supporting Bobby Lee Rodgers directly as a manager, and financing source but I was still, and still am, very much a fan.

It was the first and only time I've had the chance to shoot a music video, and I only had 90 minutes to get the coverage I needed. Because of the short time frame, I had to rely on what little practical lighting there was in the club that it was shot in. Despite it being a little dark, I was happy with the result for the most part.

It's something of a shame that this was the only track from this record ever released on iTunes. There were a ton of great tracks and I had hoped to shoot at least one or two more videos for them.

8 thoughts
updated Oct. 24, 2014, 3:32 p.m.
33 thoughts
updated Dec. 13, 2016, 9:03 p.m.
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updated April 18, 2016, 3:31 p.m.
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updated Dec. 22, 2015, 6:20 p.m.
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updated Aug. 10, 2015, 2:23 p.m.
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updated March 15, 2016, 9:19 p.m.
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updated July 7, 2015, 2 a.m.
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updated Oct. 24, 2014, 3:32 p.m.
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updated June 24, 2016, 12:55 p.m.
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updated May 27, 2015, 2:20 a.m.
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updated Nov. 24, 2014, 3:47 p.m.
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updated Dec. 19, 2014, 6:45 p.m.
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updated Dec. 10, 2015, 5:18 a.m.

Streams by this user that have been favorited by others.

10 thoughts
updated May 27, 2015, 2:20 a.m.
4 thoughts
updated Aug. 10, 2015, 2:23 p.m.
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On being "gifted"

I have a problem with this notion of someone being labeled as having a "gift" just because they're good at something. Whenever I hear this, I get this picture of clouds openening up and a beam of light shining down on the womb of a young mother, infusing her fetus with magical powers.

I think that some people are born with better tools than others.; a better singing voice, a more inquisitive mind, a mind that excels at math, etc.

I feel like people who end up being exceptional at something are simply fortunate enough to have discovered their passion early and had the benefit of getting the support that was needed to indulge in whatever they're passionate about. To a certain extent these things are gifts, but I don't think that's what's implied when people toss the term around.

I also don't think that labeling someone as gifted pays any attention to the amount of work that it takes to really stand out as being exceptional at something. It's the whole "it took ten years to become an overnight success" discussion.

True, there are people who achieve success and a level of excellence sooner than others, but I would argue that ultimately, their excellence is still more about passion, hard work and perserverance than simply being "gifted".

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Evan Rachel Wood, to me, is proving to be the most impressive actress I've seen in years. The range that she displays in her role as Dolores is nothing short of astounding. I can't wait to see what she does with the role in season 2.

Anthony Hopkins' performance has been one for the ages. I've been a fan for years, and there's not much that he's in that I won't watch. However, this role seems to have been written with him specifically in mind. To watch him perform the role of Ford is to watch a grand master of the art of acting. I can't imagine what working with him on this show must be like, but I'm sure that everyone who does work with him is beyond thrilled to have the opportunity.

I can't say all of the casting decisions were brilliant for the series, but I will say that the vast majority are.

So many of the other performances are so notable that you can tell everyone is bringing their A game to this party, and it's just been amazing.

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Thinking on it more, Dolores may well have killed Arnold but not in the mercy killing/put me out of my misery manner suggested in the finale. I still think what we saw Ford describing may well have been backstory to cover up what really happened. But he was behind whatever happened to Arnold I'm sure.

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I had wondered for a while if Michelle MacLaren, one of the more prolific directors of Breaking Bad, would have been tapped to direct an episode of Westworld. So far it looks like she directed just s1e9 "The Well-Tempered Clavier", which was pretty great.

I think she did just an outstanding job with BB. Some of my favorite episodes were directed by her.

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Charlotte is a mystery. I can't say that I'm crazy about the actress playing her. It feels as though she's over playing the part to be honest. I also wasn't at all a fan of the actress playing Theresa. I think those two roles were terribly cast.

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Another possible clue that the Ford that was killed was a host is that during the scene where Theresa is killed in his secret lab, he refers to an older machine that is there rendering a host. My guess is that it's his double that was shot at the board meeting.

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I'm absolutely convinced at this point that Ford is not dead. Delores killed a host that was meant to look like Ford. I think what I see developing is that Ford is a firm believer in Asimov's three laws;

  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

  • A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

The only exception here of course to the first law is when said human is interfering with Ford's plans.

It really feels like the central conflict here is that Ford believes in control, whereas Arnold is about sentience and the evolution of machines into independent beings.

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The more I consider it the more I become convinced that Dolores didn't kill Arnold. I really believe that Fords account was simply backstory. His attempt to rewrite history and cover up his evil deeds. Just as he did with Theresa and Elsie.

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Slack conversation snippet from 11/30 where I had a theory that William would murder Logan:

tbennett [9:40 PM]  
Ok so MIB said that his wife thought he was terrible

[9:42]  
Theory; younger William (MIB) murders Logan which is MIBs wife's brother

[9:43]  
But the murder may or may not have been deliberate

[9:43]  
The reason that MIB kept coming back was to understand what could make him do it

So I can put that one in the "got it right" column even though I don't think that he kept coming back to understand what could make him do it. He was coming back to learn something about himself, yes, but more importantly the park. Specifically what the maze meant and whether or not it would take him, not the hosts to the next level.

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Ford did not have himself killed by Dolores. In an earlier episode - and I'll have to re-watch to be sure - but I'm sure he was working on a head or something that I think resembled him. It's all part of his grand illusion. Backstory is everything with him. His explanation of what happened to Arnold was probably meant to confuse the issue with Dolores to make her think that she killed him. It will probably come out in the end that it was him that killed Arnold, not Dolores.

The red wedding style ending was a little confusing. People did appear to get shot and probably did. His way of purging a board that was trying to control him perhaps? The question becomes how many people in the crowd were real and how many were hosts?

The locking down of the control center when things started to fall apart was a subtle homage to the 1973 film, which I thought was a nice touch.

The Ed Harris character gets shot but not killed. Maeve clearly had her code altered by Ford. I really don't think he'd ever let her leave. I don't think that Ford wants to relinquish control over much. I think he likes playing god and being in control. I don't know what the end game is, but I felt like the end was great - raised more questions, answered some, and set up all sorts of opportunities for season 2.

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I had a few things right it seems, but I'll hold off a few days musing on the finale in case there are actually people reading this stream other than me :-)

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Now I'm almost wondering if Logan is related to Ford in some way...?

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So it turns out that I've had little success deciphering things with this series. I think what threw me off the trail of Bernard being a robot was the convincing back story of his son and wife. There were ample clues to support his being a host in hindsight, I just hadn't considered that possibility. The one time that I did think that that this might be true was the way Theresa seemed to treat him like a host or say things to suggest that he was after they'd been in bed together. Not that she knew, it's just that something about it felt like it may have been a clue.

After this week's episode, we now know where the photo Abernathy found came from and I think the theory that William is the younger version of the Man in Black is probably true. We now know that the Man in Black is on the board of Delos, and we know that Logan has ties to the company and that William is set to marry Logan's sister. Perhaps that's how the MIB came to be on the board. I think that's probably the connection. The more remote possibility is that this is exactly what the writers want you to think and that there's something else afoot entirely. The reason I say this is that Dolores' "awakening" seems to be happening in the present; at a time when the reverie was introduced and host sentience is becoming a problem in the park. So the two appear to be happening at the same time, which makes the writing all the more clever. But Dolores' past could be the key to what's happening in the present and showing her past timeline with William at the same time will be key to understanding how everything intersects.

I'm now convinced that the event that happened 30 years ago may be what we're witnessing develop with William and Dolores. I think that Arnold had something to do with making Dolores go off narrative 30 years ago when he was fighting with Ford over making the hosts seem more conscious, and the situation apparently devolved into something ugly resulting in Arnold's death and involving Dolores.

One wilder possibility is this... That Logan and William are hosts that are part of Fords new narrative intended to recreate the events of 30 years ago to try and understand something more completely, or so that he could learn something about himself. Perhaps Ford is struggling with what happened to Arnold, and the narrative is for his benefit only. So I think that the possibility here is that Willam is a younger version of the man in black, but is a host, passing through the same time line as the Man in Black. It will be freaky as hell if those two paths do cross and that turns out to be true. One indication that it's not true f0r me at least, is that when Logan cut into Dolores' abdomen, it was more mechanical looking, suggesting the older technology. The comment that she'd been rebuilt so many times she's practically brand new supports the notion that Logan knifing her happened in the past, not the present. The other thing that burns this theory down is the photo; Abernathy clearly found it AFTER Logan revealed that he had it in the last episode, but that could be a false lead as well, meant to throw us off of the trail. He clearly is trying to understand the past. He mentioned something to Dolores in a previous episode as being "the only one who was there" when referring to Arnold's death.

There is however, another clue to support the theory that William is a host modeled after the MIB's younger persona. There was an episode that appeared to be happening in the present where the the security director was alerted to Dolores having strayed too far from Sweetwater. He then ordered someone from behavior to go out and track her down. When they found her, William vouched for her and said "she's with me". This alone may be the clue that for me says that William is not a guest but a host, modeled after the MIB's younger self, built and prepped by Ford as part of the new narrative he keeps talking about.

One of the things about hosts that I would assume to be possible is that they probably have the ability to record a lot of information about guests and their interactions with them. So it would be nothing for Ford to draw on all the data that had been collected on the MIB over the years and replicate a clone of his younger persona.

Another clue that may support that we're seeing in William, a younger version of the Man in Black in a past timeline is that the very sexy host in white that greeted William when he first arrived at the park appeared with the Man in Black in last episode. I'll have to go back and re-watch to see exactly what she said, but it's her and she's been repurposed in a new, very dark role. But that's not to say that her being repurposed into a narrative couldn't have happened in the present.

The finale I'm sure will be pretty intense. Really looking forward to it. The sticky notes and index cards on the wall of the WW writers room must be pretty interesting to try and follow :-)

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I'm guessing Bernard probably has something to do with the tracking device in the stray that was found. I'll need to watch ep 5 again more closely though. It explains some of his mysterious conversations with Dolores about erasing interactions with him etc. He's clearly keeping something from Ford.

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I haven't figured out the significance of the kid just yet. He appeared in an earlier episode with Ford in the desert and last night at Lawrence's blood letting with the man in the black hat.

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When Dolores talks about hearing voices, the voices that we've heard in previous episodes that supposedly talk to her sound as though they're coming from Bernard. It feels as though there are references that try to make you feel as though they're coming from someone else... Possibly Arnold? They keep saying that he's dead, but he may not be. Perhaps he modeled a host in his image or something crazy like that. No idea. Lots of tantalizing possibilities in Episode 5, but nothing conclusive yet.

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The interplay of the technicians working behind the scenes at West World seems a little overplayed or off somehow, like they're trying to lay down too many inside jokes and references too early. Something about those scenes has a touch of cheesiness to me that's mildly off putting.

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Today I began wondering where the photo that messed up Abernathy came from... A guest? A park employee? It was tough to make out who exactly might have been in it..

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Man in Black theory that William and MIB are the same person 30 years apart seems interesting and some clues are compelling, but the off loop behavior is happening in the present.

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The fact that Ford says he thinks the board would have wanted his latest narrative to be delayed indefinitely probably has to do with some sort of apocalyptic end to the world? Not sure but he does say he's not a sentimental person. So perhaps the narrative he's planning is meant to be a cautionary tale...?

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Should be clear that by connection I mean that he doesn't just know of Arnold and what happened to him, he knew one or both of them.. Personally or through a business relationship.

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Wondering if there is some connection between Ford, The Man in Black and Arnold. Strarting to think there may be.

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The Man in Black appears to be a very rich philanthropist in the outside world, evidenced by another guests comment about his "foundation".

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The Man in Black knows something that Bernard knows or at least he suspects the maze can set hosts "free".

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Starting to think there is a connection between Arnold and Wyatt...

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If finding the center of the maze will set Dolores free, is the game really for the hosts? The guests? Or both? There's at least one guest looking for it too... maybe there's something there for both...

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I don't buy the suggestion that Bernard is a robot as many fan theories suggest. It was pretty clear in one episode that part of his background was that he did experience the loss of a child. My feeling was that one way of his dealing with that grief and loss was throwing himself into understanding what shapes the thoughts and development of a host like Dolores. It's not entirely clear to me what, if anything Bernard has to do with her thinking differently. For now it feels like he's dealing with the effects of a change that Ford made to their programming which allows access to previous memories and the connection of those memories to a new set of gestures - a feature referred to as "the reverie" in the pilot episode.

Bernard seems as though he's on to the fact that this change is resulting in the out of loop behavior that they're now witnessing in hosts, but he seems to be struggling with how to deal with it properly without pissing off his mentor. He's also genuinely interested in this behavior as a scientist, and seems to really want to understand where it's come from and how it might evolve.

The black hat character played by Ed Harris is another mystery in itself. It seems almost as if he's on to what Ford has been talking about with regard to the details and introducing subtleties that lead to clues that bring guests to deeper meaning and potentially deeper levels in the game that Westworld clearly is. The amazingly compelling thing about the series is that it's becoming something of its own game - trying to assign meaning to the myriad of clues that are dropped each week and fit them into the bigger puzzle.

What is becoming clear to me though is that Ford knows that allowing the reverie into the equation has introduced a level of chaos into the system that he almost seems quietly aware would happen. It might be tied to what he's been trying to attain all along; playing god and trying to create truly sentient beings that are indistinguishable from people. What's not clear to me though is the deeper end game for him, because there is something considerably deeper and probably more sinister to him. It wouldn't surprise me at all if all of his years of work have simply driven him mad. His sinister overtones to Theresa in episode 4 of "don't get in my way" could also could be a ruse. He could end up being the only sane one on property and it will later be revealed to us that he knew exactly what he was doing all along. Not sure which it is, but it's one of the many elements that have me glued to the TV each week...

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When you're a kid, you don't always evaluate things the same as you do later in life. I watched the original 1973 film last night and was struck by the cheesiness of some of it, the poor dialog, plot holes and bad explanations for various elements of the story.

What really hit me as I was watching though was that James Cameron must have drawn considerable inspiration for his original Terminator film from the gunfighter character played by Yul Brynner.

What the HBO team has done is taken the seed of a brilliant concept and updated it in ways that not only make it more plausible, but make you think much more deeply about the directions that soft robotics and AI could go and the possible ways in which that technology could get away from us.

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I remember hearing about and reading about research in the field of artificial muscles as far back as the early 90's. Pretty interesting to see the advances that are being made these days in the area of "soft robotics". For the longest time I kept telling myself that true android like robots were probably not going to be possible in my lifetime, but now I'm not so sure that's the case. Will I see Westworld level technology in my lifetime? Probably not, but one never can tell.

https://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2016/07/artificial-muscle-for-soft-robotics-low-voltage-high-hopes

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Dr. Ford says in episode 2 that the guests return for the details and the subtleties; for the things that they'll see that they didn't notice before. The series itself is like that. I've been obsessively re-watching during the week and picking up new things each time. I read one review that talked about the show being layered and nuanced. They're not kidding. Very impressed so far.

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I kept coming back to asking myself last night the question of, if this was real, and if it was something I could afford to do, would I really want to?

With the nature of simulations going in the direction of more photo realistic and completely immersive experiences, would I even want to go to such a place to experience what ends up being an incredibly complex 3D gaming experience?

The answer I kept coming back to was yes... It seems that having the chance to interact with machines that were for the most part indistinguishable from humans would be incredible.

Something tells me that at the very least, within the next ten years I may be able to do something very close to this within a simulation. Seeing the strides that are being made with robotics and AI though, the whole thing may not be nearly as far off as one might think...

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Other aspects of the show that are really compelling to me is just the technology... I think they've take a really interesting direction in exploring the nature of reality and consciousness with machines, but I think that the notion that the "hosts" and other robots that inhabit the world are these incredibly complex robots which are essentially 3D printed.

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I was huge fan of the original film when it came out in the 70's. I've never read the book, but it's now on my list. The 70's film was something that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. The thought of a machine that wouldn't give up on trying to kill you seemed terrifying. I'd often wondered if the Yul Brynner character provided any inspiration for James Cameron's original Terminator film.

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I heard so much about HBO's new series Westworld in the months leading up to its release and for me at least, it's lived up to all of the buzz.

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There's a great college humor video about the basic plot breakdown for every season of Entourage. The video does an excellent job of making fun of the fact that each week the show boiled down to one of two pretty predictable outcomes "we're making the movie!" or "we're not making the movie!". As much as I loved and still love the series (I hated the movie), I've always felt that this assessment was dead on.

Silicon Valley can be broken down similarly, and I think Thomas Middleditch might even agree - he happens to play the Eric Murphy character in the college humor Entourage spoof :-) The basic formula for Silicon Valley seems to work out to either "the company is going to make it/the company isn't going to make it" each week. I'm guessing there's probably a coin toss at the end of the season to decide whether they want to go out on an up or down note, but these are essentially the basic outcomes that each episode revolves around. For this type of show, I'm fine with that because like Entourage, the stuff that happens each episode is what makes it great. The structure and outcome may be simple and somewhat predictable, but great writing and characters make it all work.

Overall, I think the show has improved quite a bit from season one. Like most good shows, this one took a season or two to find its feet. The characters are well drawn, its voice and style is well established and it does a really amazing job of what it always had down out of the gate which is lampooning the hell out of startup and tech culture.

twbennett favorited jtauber's stream Kel
2 years, 7 months ago
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Richie is emerging to be more and more like Walter White, but less evil in many respects. I see him as being in the "empire" business, but I think he's accepted the consequences of his actions and is trying to do his best to deal with them and try to turn himself and his life around. He went through a very interesting arc in this first season and overall I like how he's come out at the end. He has a lot more work to do, but it felt as though things were turning for him if only slightly in the finale with the launch of his Alibi Records label.

The critics are panning the series - saying it's broken or not working. Perhaps there is some truth to some of it. I think that the plot line about Richie and his involvement with the death of "Buck Rodgers" is a little weak and not quite so believable. Overall I don't think there's anything in here that's completely implausible given how the record industry worked back then, and how dangerous and corrupt New York City was in the 70's.

The absence of Richie's wife and kids in the season finale was a little obvious. There was no followup with her at all in fact so that felt like a gaping hole. I don't know if mainlining coke would snap you out of a heroin induced coma the way it did with James Jagger's character. I figured with Mick Jagger as an EP and advisor on the show, he's probably seen crazier things than that in his 6 or so decades in the business so there's probably something to it.

In all, I think that despite some of its weaknesses, the performances are solid and the characters are starting to find their feet.

It's rare that a season one of anything ever really crushes it and this show, while great, didn't really crush it. It was deeply dark, and very depressing for a lot of it. For a while, part of why I felt it was so well done had to do with what I think was a great job of making you feel what Richie was going through for most of the season. I think it also did a really great job with production design and making you feel like you were back in the 1970's.

It does have me hooked in a big way, and while there was a lot of brilliance in it, I don't think that it's for everyone. There are problems to work out sure, but overall, I felt it was very well done and I'm going to follow it into season two.

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I think the reason I'm so compelled to watch even though it's so depressingly dark at times is because Richie has a quality that you can't help pull for and hope that he'll either catch a break or redeem himself. You get these little glimpses of him and his brilliance and why he made it and you keep wishing that things will turn for him... At the risk of offering up spoilers they never really seem to turn, even though you get the feeling that someday they might.

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I remember watching Breaking Bad and thinking how dark it was.... This is darker in a much more compelling way.

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It does a really interesting job of weaving real life bands and their members into the story lines similar to the way that Entourage did, except of course, they're not the actual people, but pretty damn accurate representations of people like David Bowie, Young Led Zep, Alice Cooper and John Lennon.

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The film noir quality of the show is amazing as well and so perfectly reflects the darkness of the story and its characters.

Thoughts by this user that have been liked by others.

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Silicon Valley: Place or State of Mind?

There was a Fred Wilson blog post the other day that was in response to a Marc Andreessen tweestorm defense of Silicon Valley. In the post, he argues that Silicon Valley is "a mindset that is infecting large swaths of the global economy."

I find that view pretty easy to agree with and accept, but I have to say that I'm much more comfortable with the mindset than I am with the actual place. For me, there are other cities that I think fall into a similar category and that have very similar attributes.

In my nearly 30 years in tech, I've spent a lot of time either working for or with companies in Silicon Valley (SV). While the scale of the fervor around SV has waxed and waned over the years, one immutable perception of it has sort of been etched in my brain about it which is, that it's really no different in many ways to Hollywood, Nasville or any other place that's come to be regarded as a mecca for something.

Having worked to some extent in music and film, and extensively in tech, it's very easy to see the similarities among the three.

The best concentration of talent can be found in these "jeweled cities".

This is universally true in my experience. Thousands of extremely talented people flock to these jeweled cities for a variety of reasons, but not just because they're looking for their pot of gold. I would say that one of the more common reasons is simply because they want to be surrounded by lots of interesting work and other very talented people. Who wouldn't?

A great concentration of talent does not always result in either quality or original product.

In the film and music business, the term "sell out" is very often associated with Hollywood and Nashville. This is because a lot of people who go there feel that they need to sacrifice their artistic integrity to the Gods of Commerce in order to "make it". This sadly, is by and large true. People often find themselves taking jobs that they don't like or producing work that is unfulfilling just to pay the bills, which is understandable. Many more people just spend their time chasing the flock rather than trying to follow their own muse and develop something truly unique.

The unfortunate reality is that investors, whether they be in tech, music or film, have an aversion to risk. If you can convincingly position or pitch yourself as "the next" Taylor Swift, Steven Spielberg or Snapchat, you're probably more likely to get a meeting or even a deal than if you're pitching something that's completely out of the box and disruptive. I'm sure there would be a raft of people that would object to this assertion and claim the opposite it true. I'm not claiming that this mindset and behavior is an absolute, but I feel that it is closer to the norm.

This is not to say that originality can't or doesn't shine in these places. It does, and it often does shine very brightly,, it's just that when a crowd of people are shining mirrors in your face, it can be tough to tell which is the brightest.

Regarding the quality front, I know this one from personal experience in the tech space from at least three separate dealings with SV based companies. Perhaps the biggest example was when my first company was acquired in 1999 by a then SV and Wall Street darling just before its IPO. I was asked to run a portion of the field organization post acqusition and found the quality of the product to be so terrible, that I couldn't even bring myself to stay for the year it would take to vest the remainder of my shares. This is by no means to suggest that the quality of work in general in the Valley is terrible. That's not my point, my point is simply that being there with all that great talent doesn't guarantee a quality product.

You'll find a lot more failures than successes, but successes are almost always bigger.

There's a very simple mathmatical certainty that just comes from the sheer numbers of people flocking to these places; there's just not room for everyone to make it and more people will fail than succeed.

What adds to the buzz, allure and long term success of these jeweled cities is that when they do produce a hit, the effects can be far reaching and the rewards and impact huge. Just look at Google and Apple.

Some of the biggest disruptions and successes come from outsiders.

When Mutt Lang, the long time producer for big name rock acts such as AC/DC and Def Leppard took a little known country artist named Shania Twain under his wing and started producing her, the resulting wave of hits and the new sound he produced turned Nashville completely on its head. Lang's vision and sound paved the way for acts like Faith Hill, The Dixie Chicks and Taylor Swift to name a few. Country music was now no longer just the sound track for a blue collar, middle aged, predominantly male crowd. The revolution that Lang, a complete Nashville outsider started, opened up an entirely new market and demographic. The longevity of this shift was demonstrated to me last year when my production partners in New York revealed to me that the Country Music Channel demographic was now trending predominantly toward teenage girls.

It's important to note that while Twain was originally signed by a Nashville label before she met Lang,, it wasn't until Lang, the outsider, produced The Woman In Me that she began to achieve huge commercial success.

Facebook came from a kid in a dorm room in Cambridge Mass as did Dropbox and a host of others. It's difficult to know if Zuckerberg or Houston could have found the same success had they started in SV, but the fact remains they didn't. There's no question that their moves to SV helped propel them, but their ground breaking ideas were more the product of SV the state of mind vs. the location.

Even when the success comes from an outsider, the jeweled cities usually end up with the credit.

Invariably, through the lens of time, the fact that some of these major successes and disruptions came from outside the walls of the jeweled city becomes lost or murky and the city often end up with the credit. This only serves to fuel their mythic power and allure.

Since both Zuckerberg and Houston moved their efforts to SV so early in their development and took funding from mostly SV based VC's, the vast majority of the credit over time I'm sure will go to SV, even though they both benefited more from suckling the breast of SV than being nurtured in the womb of SV.

Stanley Kubrick, who came from New York and spent very little time in LA and produced the vast majority of his work in London, is to this day still viewed as a "Hollywood" icon.

Once Nashville realized that Mutt Lang wasn't some sort of rabid dog, and the freshness of his innovative approach overwhelmed the industry, the established Nashville crowd had no choice but to embrace, praise, and then start to try and emulate his sound wherever they could.

What's the point?

Someone once told me, "the clothes don't make the man." I think that you could also say in the context of this discussion, that the place doesn't make the artist or entrepreneur.. Certainly these places can and do inspire and influence, and they undoubtedly produce winners. I just think that people should understand that you don't necessarily have to be in one of those places to produce amazing work and achieve brilliant success. For some, they prove to be more of a distraction than the ideal location to hone their craft.

Kubrick was once asked why he chose to work in London as opposed to Hollywood. His reply was:

"Because I direct films, I have to live in a major English-speaking production center. That narrows it down to three places: Los Angeles, New York and London. I like New York, but it's inferior to London as a production center. Hollywood is best, but I don't like living there. You read books or see films that depict people being corrupted by Hollywood, but it isn't that. It's this tremendous sense of insecurity. A lot of destructive competitiveness. In comparison, England seems very remote. I try to keep up, read the trade papers, but it's good to get it on paper and not have to hear it every place you go. I think it's good to just do the work and insulate yourself from that undercurrent of low-level malevolence."

I think that there's more than a kernel of truth and wisdom in this that can also be applied to Nashville, and of course, Silicon Valley and I think it supports the idea that the state of mind for any of these jeweled cities can be an effective and sometimes safer construct than the actual place.

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Music, Film and Eldarion

James Tauber once described his vision for the way team Eldarion comes up with ideas as being analogous to a group of great Jazz musicians improvising over a tune.

He's referred to our joint development ventures as "co-productions" based on the "studio model" of development, which is similar to the way a film studio will work with a writer or director to turn their great idea for a film into an actual film.

Both of us being a musicians and filmmakers, these analogies sit very comfortably with us. I have to say as well that the creative lens through which we look at the company makes it a great deal of fun to be involved with. Perhaps the most fun I think I've ever had with any company.

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You only have to be right once.

Saw a tweet today from someone claiming to be a startup marketer that read "don't worry about failure, you only have to be right once."

That sounds like something a gambler would say. People who achieve lasting success are typically right a hell of a lot more than once.

Failure is about getting a lesson. Success is about how well you apply those lessons.

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By the time I'd produced and directed the following music video, I'd for the most part stopped supporting Bobby Lee Rodgers directly as a manager, and financing source but I was still, and still am, very much a fan.

It was the first and only time I've had the chance to shoot a music video, and I only had 90 minutes to get the coverage I needed. Because of the short time frame, I had to rely on what little practical lighting there was in the club that it was shot in. Despite it being a little dark, I was happy with the result for the most part.

It's something of a shame that this was the only track from this record ever released on iTunes. There were a ton of great tracks and I had hoped to shoot at least one or two more videos for them.

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The advantages of being (mostly) self funded.

While Eldarion has taken a couple of small angel rounds over the years that we are grateful for, we are for the most part, self funded and that gives us a lot of latitude when it comes to how we operate the company.

For example, Gondor.io is a PaaS offering that came from our need to host our apps. We were able to productize a solution that we'd come up with to solve our own problem, and turned that into a revenue stream.

Thought Streams was born out of trying to solve a problem that we had tracking thoughts and ideas over time, and was something we felt that others might want to use as well.

In both cases, we never had any intention of either of these solutions trying to compete with things like Heroku or Twitter.

In both cases, we simply put something together that solved a problem for us and shared it with the world.

The longevity or fate of either platform is not in the hands of investors or board members telling us we need to find our market, pivot or fold. We're doing these things because they worked for us first then found a following in a broader sense. As long as they continue to work for us and the people outside of Eldarion who choose to benefit from them, we'll keep them going, growing and evolving.

It's about the simple notion that if we're having a problem and we've got a solution, let's share it and see if others can benefit from it as well.

We can do this because we find ourselves in the fortunate position of not being slaves to overly demanding investors or a board, to playing the startup game, or clinging to the hope that one of these things may turn into a unicorn.

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Really enjoying so much of the thoughtful and insightful feedback from nyergler and hasterbrot lately. Lots of great thoughts, ideas and suggestions. It's not lost on the team at all - keep it coming!