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Creative Gambits and the Bitcoin Explosion

The MAD Monday Newsletter (January 4, 2021)

Obviously, it’s an excellent time to glance back at the year that was…but perhaps more than ever, it feels more important (and a little healthier) to really focus on what’s ahead.

So with that in mind, take a look at this time capsule for New Year’s 2021: a few trends and predictions worth knowing about for the year ahead.

♛ The Creative Gambit

By now you’ve probably heard of The Queen’s Gambit: it’s topping just about every year-end round up of media from 2020. You might also have seen this popular tweet (from Amy Charlotte Kean) running around the internet about the long and torturous process that eventually brought us the smash hit:

It is a brilliant bit of inspiration. As creatives, no doubt most of us harbor some secret inner dream-some project or idea (potentially outrageous) that we always come back to. Take this as your sign from the heavens: make 2021 the year you get your project out there.

Speaking of the ol’ Gambit, the series itself isn’t just good inspiration: it also raises some fascinating questions about the nature of creativity. In particular, the relationship between creative energy and mental health. Salon took that idea and ran with it, using the breakout Netflix series as a jumping off point to discuss how gifted children are treated and fostered. The result is a fascinating read.

🔮 Predictions Galore

It’s the most popular cottage industry of holiday season: predictions for the year ahead.

Of course, this year as we read those ever popular prediction lists we have a nagging thought at the back of our heads: how many people saw this year coming??

Not that it’s stopping anyone from trying. The Week put out a bold listas did AdWeek (the latter with a more creative slant).

Meanwhile, Wired has a more specific prediction: that 2021 will prove to be the year that Wikipedia is forced to really fight Fake News.

And finally, for a more open and creative look at the what-ifs ahead, try browsing the What If series from The Economist: it’s a collection of fascinating essays that explore what the world could be.

🕺🏼 Harry Styles – An Idol for 2021

After a year so difficult and full of turmoil, many of us are calling for a focus on kindness and decency in 2021…and low and behold, along comes Harry Styles with a music video perfectly aimed at that idea: Treat People With Kindness.

As The Cut puts it, the new video is just about Peak Styles: a perfect encapsulation of his appeal in this day and age. (Now would be a good time to revisit his now-iconic appearance on the Vogue cover in November.)

🤔 Can The Movies Come Back?

As the Hollywood Reporter just reported, 2020 marked a massive moment for Hollywood: for the first time in history, US domestic box office receipts fell behind those in China.

Naturally, the cause isn’t exactly tough to guess at: global box office take went down 72% as COVID-19 rocked us all. The big question will be, “what happens next?” As Comscore’s Senior Media Anaylist Paul Dergarabedian put it, “2021 will be arguably the most important year in the history of the big screen”.

Will we see theatres make something of a comeback, as people desperate for physical experiences reach out for the nostalgia? Or will streaming continue it’s absolute domination of the media market? We’ve already seen how companies like Netflix are changing the fundamental structure of the stories we consume.

In any case, as we look ahead, Esquire put together a top-notch list of movies to look forward to this year. If the theatre really does make a comeback, it’ll be those flicks leading the way.

💱 The Bitcoin Extravaganza

As of this writing, Bitcoin is hovering right around $30,000 USD. (If you want to date yourself quickly, try pegging the price of something as volatile as Bitcoin. It’s like writing about Blockbuster in 2011).

Here’s what’s interesting (from a creative standpoint): how does a once-fringe idea like cryptocurrency become a mainstream financial instrument. And once it does go mainstream, does it lose some of the mystique and appeal? (The latter is an important question today, as the US Government works to regulate crypto like the traditional finance industry).

The story of how Bitcoin (and crypto in general) gained wide-spread attention is a perfect example of how big ideas take hold. And to see just how things have changed, take a look at these two articles: one from the New Yorker in early 2011 (when crypto was a foreign concept for most)…and another from Forbes just this year. In just a decade, it’s remarkable how our attitudes to this once-radical concept have changed.

(And finally, for a sign of the times: read about how a 168-year-old printer is finding new life as a distributor of digital currency in Europe.)

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