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Adam Sandler shines in Noah Baumbach’s fraught, funny film about the warring insecurities of sad adults

By K. Austin Collins
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The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) , the new family comedy written and directed by Noah Baumbach, opens with anger. Danny Meyerowitz (Adam Sandler), a failed musician and stay-at-home dad, is trying to park, but the spaces are too small—this is New York City—and other cars keep trying to beep him out of the way. It’s a recipe that calls for a heady dose of Sandleresque fuck-yous and frustrated huffs and puffs. It’s an occasion, too, for helpful interjections on the part of his 19-year-old daughter, Eliza (Grace Van Patten), a budding filmmaker and newly anointed Cindy Sherman obsessive who knows better than to stand in the way of her father’s silly rage.

She’s right to stay out of it. Danny, we eventually learn, is a pretty frustrated guy. He’s a recently divorced, unemployed 40-something about to move back in with his dad, Harold, a notable but obscure sculptor who’s not shy about expressing his disappointment in his three adult children. There’s the aforementioned Danny; Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), who works a nondescript position at Xerox; and Matthew (Ben Stiller), who has done quite well for himself as a business manager in L.A., but who’s nevertheless a failure in Harold’s eyes for chasing the money. “I would’ve thought we had more artists in the family,” Harold, played by Dustin Hoffman, says to Danny and Jean at dinner one night, over a shark stew prepared by his alcoholic fourth wife Maureen (Emma Thompson). It isn’t a passive-aggressive dig in the least.

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Just kidding! Welcome to life with the Meyerowitz clan, in which old resentments still seethe in the present, and in which no one—not Danny, Jean, or Matthew, and certainly not Harold—has lived up to their own idea of their potential. You wouldn’t, for example, call Harold a “failed” artist, per se. He’s got that one piece in the Whitney Museum … somewhere. No one can find it, but it’s definitely there. And the closest thing he’s had to date to a career retrospective is a coffee-table collectible Danny and Jean printed up on their own dime, from a company that makes hardbound photo books from the pictures you send it. Harold’s moment was in the ’70s, when his kids were kids, which is why he looms so large in their frenzied, insecure, fucked-for-life adult imaginations as an artistic success. Now, at the encouragement of Matthew, Harold is on the verge of selling his house and all of his sculptures to a perfectly nice gay couple that plans to donate his life’s work to retirement homes across the country. His three kids, meanwhile, are now middling adults, each unhappy in their own way. As Baumbach’s humorously fraught movie shows, there are few things more bitter than the warring insecurities of sad adults.

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Let’s roll back judgment on network effects and start by understanding the various components of “network effect” sausage-making.

Union Square Ventures has a good definition of network effects in its post “ Investment Thesis @USV ,” and its criteria can be summarized as follows:

Inter-connectivity: Engaged users: User experience: Network effects: Defensibility: Monetization:

In order to properly evaluate the network effect puzzle, we need to look at the ecosystem along three key dimensions:

Network effects criteria Ecosystem components Players and actors

Buterin wrote a long post titled “ On Bitcoin Maximalism, and Currency and Platform Network Effects ,” where he eloquently dived into the numerous factors surrounding the network effect topic. I agree with the substance of that article, though I’m proposing a more granular inspection of network effect factors (as depicted above).

The second dimension relates to the targeted ecosystem components, and I see them comprised of:

Currency liquidity Consensus engine Blockchain platform services End-user applications

The third dimension includes the various players and actors, whether they are based on the bitcoin blockchain or another one, the bitcoin currency or another one, or a fully independent platform.

We could place all of this in a matrix, as depicted below, and if you evaluate your favorite players and actors inside each intersecting box, you will find there are a few holes, plenty of opportunities for improvements, and a lot of works-in-progress.

But wait, there is more to the makings of network effect. You also need to count on:

Even if you evaluate bitcoin proper (because it has revealed itself the most, so far), you will find that it is ahead as a liquid cryptocurrency (though, with an undesirable volatility), has a stable consensus process, and has a developing blockchain platform environment, but its future evolution may face a few blind spots pertaining to its scalability, and it still lacks a large number of engaged/active users that depend on it, on a daily basis.

The flip side of the bitcoin singular supremacy argument is that the bitcoin network doesn’t need to replace the Internet because the Internet already is that global network . All what bitcoin (or another cryptocurrency player) has to do is to overlay itself on the Internet with its own set of services, and to achieve network effects within those services and applications, based on their own merits. There is a strong case to be made for keeping bitcoin (or any other blockchain) as a thin platform and to not bloat it excessively — rather, let it enable a multiplicity of use cases on top of all of that.

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Mesulam, M. M. The cholinergic innervation of the human cerebral cortex. , 67–78, doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(03)45004-8 (2004).

Mesulam, M. M. Cholinergic circuitry of the human nucleus basalis and its fate in Alzheimer’s disease. , 4124–4144, doi: 10.1002/cne.23415 (2013).

Mesulam, M. M., Mufson, E. J., Levey, A. I. Wainer, B. H. Atlas of cholinergic neurons in the forebrain and upper brainstem of the macaque based on monoclonal choline acetyltransferase immunohistochemistry and acetylcholinesterase histochemistry. , 669–686 (1984).

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Grothe, M. . Reduction of basal forebrain cholinergic system parallels cognitive impairment in patients at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. , 1685–1695, doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhp232 (2010).

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