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‘Utopia’ Showrunner Gillian Flynn On Being The ‘Ultimate Fan,’ Her Love Of Antiheroes, And How Tech Geniuses Can Be Rock Stars

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Bestselling novelist Gillian Flynn takes her readers to the darkest, yet most (guiltily) invigorating places with tales of female antiheroes, and her work’s appeal couldn’t be more evident than Hollywood’s eagerness to adapt her novels thus far. From the David Fincher-directed Gone Girl to HBO’s Emmy-nominated Sharp Edges and the Charlize Theron-starring Dark Places, all three projects proved that Flynn’s got an enduring place in pop culture. She comes by it honestly, given her decade-long run as an Entertainment Weekly writer and her film-professor father, so the transition from novelist to scribe for Steve McQueen’s female heist movie, Widows, felt organic. Now, she’s showrunning (and writing) a U.S. remake of the U.K.-born Utopia series for Amazon.

Utopia is a strange beast. On its face, the story follows a conspiracy about two graphic novels that supposedly predict outbreaks of deadly diseases, including a pandemic that may or may not have something to do with John Cusack’s scientist character. Below the surface, a gaggle of comic-book junkies attempt to unravel the conspiracy and save the world while homicidal parties will do anything to nab the graphic novels. And in the middle of it all is a young woman who calls herself “Jessica Hyde” (Sasha Lane), which happens to be the name of a character inside the graphic novels.

Yes, it’s confusing, but the set up is meant to draw readers into what’s essentially a conspiracy thriller that just happens to include details of a pandemic. Flynn didn’t plan for the show to arrive in the middle of an actual pandemic, but here we are, and she was gracious enough to dig into the depths of her own fandom while discussing Utopia.

You used to be a TV critic for Entertainment Weekly, and now you’re writing and showrunning TV. Does your previous experience inform your screenwriting process?

It definitely does. I think it makes me very disciplined as a writer because, being on the other side, it doesn’t let me say, “Oh, this is good enough.” I tend to rewrite and rewrite, and I know that the ultimate result may not please everyone, but at least if I, as the writer, can get to a point where I’m satisfied with it, then I feel like I can make peace with it. It also helped me to spend all those years looking at TV and having it become organic, in a way, in my system, and spending time figuring it out.

Distilling a season of The Wire into the EW-length reviews ain’t easy, I imagine.

Yeah, not easy! And t’s easy to figure out why a show is really great, and it’s easy to figure out why a show is really bad, but for me, the most useful thing was figuring out if a show doesn’t quite click. When it’s so close, but it doesn’t quite work, and trying to figure out that puzzle. So, it helped me to look at whether each [Utopia] episode worked and then, as a whole, to really be able to view it that way.

With Utopia, you obviously gestated and filmed the whole season before our current situation. It wasn’t intended to be timely, but how do you think that will affect how people watch it?

That’s a great question as far as how it affects people on how they will watch it. I think it’s a show that was never intended to be a pandemic show in that it’s not a medical procedural or trying to be Outbreak. To me, at its core, it’s a conspiracy thriller and a paranoia thriller, and this is one of the plotlines, so it’s certainly intended to be viewed in that way.

John Cusack’s character, Dr. Christie, does not appear in the U.K. version of the show. You added him, and well, he feels very Elon Musk-y…

Yeah. [Laughs]

What kind of vibe did you want him to carry?

Kind-of exactly that. He was a character that I created, and I thought if we’re talking about pandemics and vaccines, I wanted this biotech/pharmaceutical giant as one element of it. John and I had a lot of conversations about that idea of the scientist or tech genius as rock stars. We know what Bill Gates looks like, or Elon Musk, and that idea of genius combined with media savvy, which definitely to me is his character at its core.

Christie has that wild line, too: “What have you done today to earn your place in this crowded world?”

That was something that, yeah, I wrote that line, and that was when I figured I had Christie. If everything kind-of emanates from that, and it can go from, depending on who’s saying it and from what circumstances, it can go from very heartwarming, this kind-of litany at the dinner table when we first see him. Everything from when his kids are like, “I shared my lunch! I biked to school!” to much darker implications, depending on who’s hearing it and who’s saying it.

You are known for your antiheroines, and you’ve described how you wrote the infamous Cool Girl passage of Gone Girl in a “fugue state.” You climb inside your creations’ heads. When a character like Jessica Hyde already exists, like in the U.K. Utopia, how do you go about making her your own?

You know, Dennis Kelly had created this great character, and I liked the idea that she was this sort-of wild warrior child, in a way. And to me, having been steeped in all sorts of hero stories growing up and loving those, that type of quest, I was playing with that idea but using an antihero to carry it forward. To me, she’s the person who asks those existential questions that we all ask, like, “Why am I here? What am I supposed to do? What is my purpose?” You hear characters say that a lot in the show. But being led by an antihero and someone that you can’t necessarily trust and wouldn’t trust with your safety.

And she’s out there, just claiming to be Jessica Hyde. I’d be skeptical, too!

Certainly, our core group of nerdlings need her but also know that she could, on a bad day, sharpen a toothbrush and stab them through the heart. I liked being able to play that, and I love antiheroines because I just don’t think that there enough of them. I’ve always loved books and movies when you have those divided loyalties, like at the end of Silence of the Lambs when you see Hannibal Lecter escaping and moving off into the crowds. You’re sort-of delighted about it and thinking, “Wait, I’m rooting for Hannibal, who I’ve seen do horrible things.” As an audience member, I’ve always loved that feeling of being unsettled in where your loyalties are.

You mentioned the term “nerdlings,” so what does Utopia say about that kind of pop-culture fandom?

I’m the ultimate fan. Obviously, I spent ten years at EW, and what I loved most about it is that most of my friends are still fellow writers that I came up with. I’ve always had a great love for people who just love their shit. Whatever it is, whether it’s someone who loves the same thing I love, or someone who is really into putting together model train sets. I appreciate people who get glee from things and get really into things. My dad was a film professor who also made his living as a comic book collector, so that’s what we did on the weekends. We’d go hustle the flea markets for certain issues, and it was a treasure hunt, and also going to conventions. I’m one of those people that loves to dress up and to really get into that. I go to Comic-Con and am a huge renaissance festival person with my full outfit. It’s that playing-make-believe element that I really enjoy. I like people who want to talk about what they love.

I am always curious about people who collect comics, and whether they prefer the single issues or graphic novels. If you went and hunted single issues, then there’s a chance you may have even been bagging them up all nicely in plastic?

Oddly enough, having spent my childhood watching comics being bagged up and not being able to touch them, I’m actually kind-of a dash of the opposite. Part of me knows now to open the package of the toy and to preserve everything, but the other part of me? I really like to play with the thing and have it. So I’m the opposite. I will admit to buying one version of a thing to keep it nice and another version because I want to use it.

It’s about time to say goodbye, and we haven’t even talked about conspiracies. Are there any that you secretly, or even jokingly, embrace?

Things that I want to believe in, certainly. My daughter and I have a very elaborate mythology about fairies that we spend hours creating, and my son’s into D&D, and we role play that around the house. That fantasy element is something that I always really want to believe in. But as far as the conspiracies go, to me, it was just a really good time to do a conspiracy thriller. I took my cues from all those amazing, post-Watergate conspiracy thrillers. Like Parallax View, and when I was pitching this, I called it a cross between Marathon Man meets Goonies, which I felt was pretty correct. And I think now we’re in a time period when conspiracies are so rife, and you can stay — through social media and your news feeds — you can go in and stay in a rabbit hole. I thought it was an important time and a resonant time to look at what that does to us as a society.

Amazon Prime’s ‘Utopia’ streams on September 25.

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The Advantages of Online Casino Welcome Bonuses

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When it comes to online gambling, the industry is thriving in 2020. Although casinos are banned in many countries, people still find ways to enjoy their favorite games of chance. However, considering the level of competition on the market, it may be difficult for a beginner to find a good online platform and take advantage of all offers. In this article, you will learn the benefits of casinos’ welcome bonuses.

What Is a Sign-Up Bonus?

As we have already established, the industry is growing rapidly and companies are desperately looking for new ways to attract customers. A welcome bonus is often used by online casinos to get new leads and players in the future. However, the best casino bonuses can be easily used to the player’s advantage. Here are the main reasons you should not neglect this offer.

  1. It saves your money

Quite obvious, right? Well, this is the main reason why you should always use welcome bonuses in online gambling: it is always better to not risk your own money. It is especially true for beginners. Since they have no experience, it is fairly common for beginners to lose their initial investment and be done with gambling for good. However, if you use your welcome bonus as a way of getting the basics skills, the chances of success will rise significantly.

  1. It allows you to try several games

Another common issue beginners face is a lack of understanding of which types of games they want to try: slots, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, etc. If you use your sign-up bonus, you will be able to play several games and choose the ones you like better. Moreover, you can take advantage of a welcome bonus on several online gambling platforms. That way you will try out even more options.

  1. It will make future gambling more profitable

Besides beneficial sign-up bonuses, good online casinos usually have great loyalty programs. For instance, the company may double up to five first deposits on the platform. If you invest 100 USD, you will get 200 USD to your account. More money — more games — more chances of winning.

Although a welcome bonus is a great way of upping your gambling game, there are a few things you should pay attention to. Firstly, a good bonus does not equal a good platform. Before choosing a casino, make sure that the company is legal and trustworthy. Since there are many scams right now, it is essential if you want to save your money. Moreover, check the available deposit/withdrawal methods and their terms.

We hope that this article has shown the true power of online casinos’ welcome bonuses and how you can use them to your own advantage. Follow our tips while choosing a platform and enjoy the best gambling experience.

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3 Key Mistakes to Avoid When Playing Blackjack

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Blackjack is the most popular casino game in the world. The card game, sometimes referred to as ‘21’, accounts for an average of 31 percent of all casino table traffic – this is consistent both online and in physical casinos. For reference, the second most popular is roulette (24%) followed by poker (21%).

It’s easy to understand blackjack’s popularity. It’s a simple game to grasp and offers players a mix of luck and skill: luck in the cards that are drawn, skill over how those cards are dealt and a player’s eventual hand. Compare that to roulette, which is based entirely on luck, and poker, which has a huge skill element to it.

However, while the beauty of blackjack is in its simplicity, there are also a number of complexities to the game, and as is the case with almost anything in life, you learn more from mistakes than successes.

With that in mind, here are three key mistakes to avoid when playing blackjack that can significantly increase your chances of winning, while limiting your losses.

Choosing the Wrong Table

Before a single card is drawn, being at the wrong table – whether live or online – is the first mistake to avoid.

First of all, each blackjack table will have different minimum bet requirements so avoid choosing one that is out of your budget. For instance, if you choose a table with a $100 minimum bet and your budget is $200, you might only play two hands.

Secondly, check the payout odds on the blackjack table. These are typically 6:5 and 3:2 and will affect how much gets paid out when you hit blackjack and land other bonus wins. Where possible, choose a 3:2 table as it pays out higher.

Thirdly, choose between a virtual and a live table. This is not so much a mistake to avoid but more comes down to personal preference. Virtual tables allow players to play against an automated computer, so you can play at your own pace, while live tables are usually quicker paced as human dealers are keen to move the game along.

When to Hit and Stand

As a general rule, most blackjack players know to hit when the hand is 12 and to stand when the hand equals 17. However, there are plenty of variables to consider that could influence when to hit and stand. Getting these right can really boost your chances of beating the house, while getting it wrong could prove costly.

One key move to implement is to always hit on a soft 17 – when the two cards are an ace and a six. This means that if you draw a 10 or picture card (jack, queen, king), then you convert your hand into a hard 17. It also gives greater flexibility if you draw a smaller value card as the ace can be used as a one.

While many players adopt a strict ‘never bust’ policy, meaning they always stand when their hand equals 12 or more, this can be ill-advised as it depends almost entirely on the dealer going bust.

Instead, analyze the value of your two cards compared to the dealer’s first card and weigh up the risk factor in drawing another card before the dealer draws their second. As a strict rule, if your first two cards equal 17 or more, then stand – anything else can be hit depending on the situation.

When to Split and Double

If you are playing in a blackjack tournament, either online or live, learning when to split and double can make all the difference to your chances of success. The same also applies to individual games of blackjack.

Click here to check the best tips on blackjack tournament strategies: https://extra.betamerica.com/casino-news/blackjack-tournaments-rules-strategy-and-where-to-find-them/

Splitting is when you split two cards when dealt the same value cards, so a pair of eights for example. Doubling is when you are given the option to double your bet after being dealt your initial two cards.

While it can be tempting to split and double at every opportunity to increase your winning, doing at the right time is the key.

It is not recommended to split when:

  • You are dealt two picture cards or two 10s
  • You are dealt two 9s
  • You are dealt two 5s
  • The dealer holds a 10 or picture card

It is best to split when:

  • You are dealt two 8s
  • You are dealt two aces
  • The dealer holds a 5 or 6 (as this is the highest probability of a bust)

Similar to knowing when to hit and stand, take a brief moment to assess the dealer’s drawn card compared to your own two cards and determine whether the probabilities are in your favour.

Likewise, knowing when to double down – when not to double down – can change the complexities of your blackjack game. A simple rule to know when to double is if your two cards equal 10 and the dealer’s card is between 2-9. Additionally, if you hold an ace, you can consider a double as these have the flexibility of playing as 11 or 1. But if the dealer’s card is an ace, ignore the double.

Conclusion

Blackjack may be a simple game but there are some important strategies to keep in mind next time you head to the virtual or live table. The game itself is still rooted in luck so there are never any guarantees to long-term success. However, by keeping these three important rules in mind, you can at least avoid making avoidable mistakes.

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Top 5 Entertainment Activities for College Students

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The life of college students is sometimes too complicated. They have to face tons of homework assignments that steal their time. Many students get stressed because of continuous learning. They seem to forget how to relax. If you’re a busy student, you should remember that you’re still young and shouldn’t waste this precious life stage. You can undertake some entertainment activities sometimes. Take your friends and organize funny games to unwind and let off some pressure. We asked writing experts from a professional essay service Smart Writing Service to share their ideas and provide you with top-5 entertainment activities for college students you may like. 

Who Are You?

Students, especially freshmen, don’t know each other perfectly. They may be taken by surprise when some of them tell something quite unexpected about their hobbies, preferences, and so on. If you want to know other students better, suggest playing a game called “Who Are You”.

Form at least three teams. If there are many folks, you can form more teams. Choose a speaker of the game. It may be even one of your teachers or professors. All groups will be given topics to discuss. The speaker is supposed to announce a new topic every few minutes. You may discuss and answer the following topics:

  • What is the greatest challenge you are facing?
  • What do you like or hate most about yourself?
  • What is your greatest value in life?
  • What emotions do you express easily?
  • What is the most valuable thing in friendship?
  • Who you want to become in five years?
  • What is your major objective for next year?
  • Is there something you want to improve about yourself?
  • What motto do you try to live by?
  • Where would you like to travel?
  • If you were to study abroad, what country would that be?

Students should write their answers on index cards. The speaker should gather the answers of every student and shuffle them. Afterward, he/she redistributes them randomly to students. Each person should guess whose card he/she is holding. Play this game after you spend some time together and already know at least something about one another.

Sentence Completion

Another fun activity is “Sentence Completion.” Most people like it because it’s commonly accompanied by laughter and good mood. It’s necessary to prepare a list of sentences. Those sentences should have a beginning, but with no end. Every student should finish the sentence he/she gets. Oftentimes, students give funny answers. At times, they are quite serious, and we can learn something important about other students. Here are several sentence beginnings you may choose:

  • Before I came to college, I was interested in…
  • When I was a child, I wanted to become…
  • The best moment I remember most about high school is…
  • My favorite pet is…
  • The things I value most are…
  • Five years from now I hope to be…
  • My greatest personality trait is…
  • My favorite subject at high school was…
  • If I could change one thing in the world, it would be…
  • My greatest fear is…
  • After I graduate from college, I…

The Reception Line

You may likewise try another entertaining activity for college students. It is called “The Reception Line.” Gather all the mates eager to participate. Divide yourselves into two groups. If you form more, it won’t fit the rules of the game. Each person talks to the person in front of him/her until he/she must move. The person at the end of one line goes to the end of the other line. This method makes it possible to meet new people. Thus, students will learn more about each other. You can make shifts every next topic or set a limit. For example, the pair should discuss 5 topics and afterward move to change partners. Here are some interesting topics to discuss:

  • Where would you like to travel?
  • What motto do you try to follow?
  • What is your favorite movie?
  • What music do you like?
  • What is your favorite hobby?
  • Why did you choose this college?
  • What do you like about college life the most?

Take Sides

You can likewise suggest a game, which offers only two options. It’s called “Take Sides.” Create a list of questions with two answers. Students should obligatorily choose one of them. Afterward, you may discuss the answers. Let everyone explain his/her choices. Thus, you’ll learn more about each other, and it will bring you closer. Here are several suggestions:

  • Watermelon or banana?
  • Sweat or bitter?
  • Short trips every weekend or a journey around the world for three months?
  • Partying or hiking?
  • Listen or speak?
  • Rock or pop?
  • Morning or night?
  • Superman or Batman?
  • Robocop or Terminator?
  • Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings?
  • Los Angeles or New York?
  • Liberal or conservative?
  • American football or ice hockey?

My Most Embarrassing Moment

You can likewise tell each other about the most embarrassing moments. It’s important to be honest and don’t imagine a story that never took place. All the participants should agree on this term. Commonly, it is a very entertaining activity. Students tell funny stories they’ve been through. It commonly makes them closer.

These activities for college students are very simple to follow. They are really entertaining. Mind that we have mentioned only 5 of them. However, you can try a hundred activities more. Use our examples to have fun and relax. They may inspire you and your friends to look for other entertaining activities.

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