Today in Entertainment: The 24-hour wait for 'Hamilton' tickets; exploring Disney's Pandora

Los Angeles Times

Teachers snag "Hamilton" tickets for history students Hollywood's art-lovers came out to fete Jeff Koons at the MOCA gala Hollywood's art-lovers came out to fete Jeff Koons at the MOCA gala Interviews with Russian President Vladimir Putin, conducted by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone, will air in a four-hour documentary that is set to air on Showtime on four consecutive nights beginning June 12. "The Putin Interviews" is culled from a series of a dozen interviews conducted by Stone with assistance from producer Fernando Sulichin. The most recent interview was recorded in February, after the U.S. election and President Trump's inauguration. The film will touch on allegations of Russian interference in the presidential election, the Kremlin's role in Syria and Ukraine, as well as the increasingly adversarial relationship between the United States and Russia, Showtime said in a news release. "If Vladimir Putin is indeed the great enemy of the United States, then at least we should try to understand him," Stone said in the announcement.


A Deep Reinforcement Learning Chatbot

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We present MILABOT: a deep reinforcement learning chatbot developed by the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA) for the Amazon Alexa Prize competition. MILABOT is capable of conversing with humans on popular small talk topics through both speech and text. The system consists of an ensemble of natural language generation and retrieval models, including template-based models, bag-of-words models, sequence-to-sequence neural network and latent variable neural network models. By applying reinforcement learning to crowdsourced data and real-world user interactions, the system has been trained to select an appropriate response from the models in its ensemble. The system has been evaluated through A/B testing with real-world users, where it performed significantly better than many competing systems. Due to its machine learning architecture, the system is likely to improve with additional data.


"Tech People Are the Last People I Would Trust to Regulate Speech"

Slate

The minute after I watched the first episode of The Wire, I found myself asking: Is this the best show ever to be on television? So of course I've followed David Simon's work through his post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans series Treme and later his '70s-porn-era New York City drama The Deuce. Like me, Simon once paid his rent primarily as a journalist, but he leveraged his newspaper years into creating TV drama that, if anything, was as good as (or maybe better than) the best journalism I'd seen until then--capturing crime and social problems with a consistent recognition that our real-life heroes, like our real-life villains, have a gift for being their own worst enemies. On Twitter, Simon has won a unique reputation as a prolific hurler of baroque insults targeting those he believes are poisoning the social media platform. After the 2016 election, people in my feed would tag me regarding Simon's tweets comparing both Twitter trolls and genuinely monstrous people like Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to Hitler, Nazis, fascists, and the like. Some clearly hoped that, as the creator of Godwin's law, I might render a verdict against him as a Godwin's lawbreaker, but I had already written that informed, knowledgeable Nazi comparisons won't earn my criticism. At its best, I saw Simon's frequently colorful exercise of his First Amendment rights as high-quality performance art.


Reporter Forgery: DER SPIEGEL Reveals Internal Fraud

Der Spiegel International

Shortly before the end of his journalistic career, misery and glamor crossed paths in the life of Claas Relotius. On the evening of Monday, Dec. 3, Relotius, who had worked for DER SPIEGEL for seven years and had been employed as an editor for the past year and a half, was called onto a stage in Berlin. The jury for the 2018 German Reporter Award was once again of the opinion that he had written the best feature story of the year, this one about a Syrian boy who lived with the belief that he had contributed to the country's civil war through a graffito he had daubed onto a wall in Daraa. The jurors praised the article for its "unparalleled lightness, intimacy and relevance that is never silent regarding the sources on which it is based." The truth, however -- a truth that nobody could have known at that point in time -- is that his sources were anything but clear. Indeed, it is likely that much of it was made up. Quotes, places, scenes, characters: All fake. That misery came in the form of an email, one which, as chance will have it, arrived some 17 hours before the glamor of the awards ceremony, at 3:05 a.m. The message came from a woman named Jan, short for Janet, who was doing media work for a vigilante group in Arizona conducting patrols along the border to Mexico. She asked Relotius -- who two weeks earlier had written an article ostensibly about this vigilante group in the darkly dazzling DER SPIEGEL report "Jaeger's Border" -- what exactly he was up to. How, she wanted to know, could Relotius have written about her group without even bothering to stop by for an interview? She found it very strange, she wrote, that a journalist would write stories without gathering facts locally. The story "Jaeger's Border" would prove to be Relotius' undoing. It was one fabricated story too many, because this time, he had a co-author, who sounded the alarm while also collecting facts to counter his fiction. That co-author, Juan Moreno, has been traveling the world as a reporter for DER SPIEGEL since 2007. In the dispute with and surrounding Relotius, Moreno risked his own job, at times even desperately seeking to re-report his colleague's claims at his own expense.


John McLaughlin, pioneer of raucous political punditry on TV, dies at 89

PBS NewsHour

McLaughlin died Tuesday at the age of 89. NEW YORK -- John McLaughlin, the conservative political commentator and host of the namesake long-running television show that pioneered hollering-heads discussions of Washington politics, has died. McLaughlin died Tuesday morning, according to an announcement on the Facebook page of "The McLaughlin Group" series. No cause of death was mentioned, but an ailing McLaughlin had missed the taping for this past weekend's show -- his first absence in the series' 34 years. Since its debut in April 1982, "The McLaughlin Group" upended the soft-spoken and non-confrontational style of shows such as "Washington Week in Review" and "Agronsky & Co." with a raucous format that largely dispensed with politicians.