Wednesday, September 10th

In Case You Missed it: Big Announcements from Apple

In case you missed it, all eyes were on the Apple live stream yesterday. Well, when it live stream finally worked. It wasn’t the smoothest start.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

Anyway, the new iPhone comes in two models, the 6 and the 6 Plus with retina HD displays of 4.7″ and 5.5″, respectively. The sleeker, curved models are a departure from the classic boxy shape and are improved with ion strengthened glass, faster processing and graphics, and battery life with considerably longer talk time and slightly longer data time. It has faster wifi and if you have T-Mobile, you can make calls on the wifi. Sustained processor performance means the phones will be better for gaming, if that’s your thing. The M8 processor measures relative elevation, so you can track flights of stairs.

iPhone 6 camera

I’m always amazed at how great the cameras are in the iPhones and we’re getting improvements there, too. The new autofocus system will be twice as fast and the new sensors have larger pixels. The two versions offer different stabilizations. It has better face, blink, and smile detection, improved details like sharpness and contrast and will let in 81% more light. You might as well throw out your old camera, because this one rocks. The video capabilities are kicked up, too. We’re all going to have fun with the slo mo.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus can be preordered on September 12th and will be available September 19th.

iPhone 6 prices

iPhone 6 Plus prices

Other cool things

Apple Pay is a virtual wallet that looks to replace your credit cards. Since the phones are so much larger, you might need the extra room in your pockets/purses anyway. It stores credit cards, but not their numbers. Apple can’t see your credit card numbers, what you bought, or what you paid. (Merchants won’t see your numbers either.) It’ll work with major credit cards and lots of merchants like Whole Foods, Macy’s, Sephora, Uber, and all the places I like to spend money.

The new Health app is a dashboard of health and fitness data, which is becoming increasingly more popular and important to everyone. (And I think that’s just groovy, baby.) Track things like your cholesterol, calories, blood sugar, heart rate, exercise, and whatever else you want. Health Kit is a tool that makes that data shareable which means you can send info directly to your doctors, nutritionists, and more.

Apple Watch

This is where Apple really blew it out of the water. The sleek design of the watch with the revolutionary interface is like being caught between the past and the future. The interface is controlled by the crown, or wheel, just like winding an old-fashioned watch, but you can detect someone else’s heartbeat. This is so sci-fi romantic, I could die.

There are tons of styled straps and two sizes for larger and smaller wrists, with the main body coming in sport edition, 18k gold, and a polished stainless steel. You need an iPhone to use it. In addition to things you’d expect like calendars and music capabilities, you can send messages and text analysis makes asking questions fun and easy. Kind of like those notes you’d write in grammar school. Do you like me? Yes or No. Even more childlike, you can customize animated emoji. Send a smiley face, or touch it to make it smile and wink.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch has integrated maps and navigation, two-way messaging, and sketching abilities. There’s social media, travel apps, and tons of other third party apps that would be handy on your wrist as well as plenty of fitness tracking. You can unlock your hotel room door with it. And of course, use Apple Pay. They aren’t messing around with this no wallet thing. And because Apple products play so nicely together, you can use the watch as a remote for Apple TV or your iPhone camera. Out early in 2015, the watch prices start at $350. I can only imagine what the 18k gold one costs.

While the iPhone is a necessity for many of us, the Apple Watch is like candy. I want some, might not get some, but I’ll still want it. No doubt it will be a very profitable revenue stream as the cult of Apple fans will race to get them. As always, Apple doesn’t take any shortcuts and they continue to be creative, innovative, and brilliant.

*Photos from Tech Crunch.

Tuesday, September 2nd

Top Ten TV Intros

True Blood

If I had a TV show, I’d care deeply about the opening credit sequence. A great show doesn’t necessarily need a sequence. Plenty don’t have them at all. But personally I think there’s no better way to hook an audience and build excitement for the show. The creativity, passion, and budget in the intro are often indicative of the quality of the show. Without further ado, here’s my top ten list of of TV intros.

10. Arrested Development / I love the quick set-up of the show’s premise and the fun graphics. And I’m a sucker for Ron Howard. It’s short and sweet. Perfection.

9. Fresh Prince of Bel Air / If I ever get called onstage and am forced to rap, this will be my song. I love the bright 90s neon esthetic and this reminds me of being a kid. My sisters and I used to sing this together in the living room and mimic Will Smith rolling his head around at the end.

8. The Sopranos / Obviously there’s some Jersey pride with this one and most of my family can pick out personal landmarks in the opening. The gritty highway imagery is beautiful in its ugly reality and is made poignant with glimpses of the Statue of Liberty and Twin Towers. And while the debate about whether Tony Soprano is still alive, sadly, James Gandolfini is not. I love that this opening features just him and no one else in the cast.

7. BoJack Horseman / This is the newest show on the list and has only been out for a week at the time of writing, but it captured my heart right away. The lounge-y theme song was written by Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney and the animated scene is so LA. It’s a good preamble to the subtle darkness that lies within the show.

6. Treme / The show was a total love letter to New Orleans, so it’s no surprise that the opening features powerful real-life photos from the city and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The photos changed in each of the four seasons and reflected the progress of the city, becoming a little less dark each season. The fantastic music is by New Orleans jazz musician John Boutté.

5. Cosby Show / By all accounts, having the characters dance in the intro should be cheesy and terrible, but damn it, those lovable Cosby’s pulled it off season after season. We watched the kids transition from little kids to the awkward years, to teenagers doing trendy dances, to adults. Cliff was always a little silly, Claire always classy.

4. Mad Men / The silhouette of Don Draper immediately became the iconic image of the show. The dreamy opening is mysterious and a bit swanky, just like the show. It may be the best 30-second representation of any show without showing any actors. Simply put, it is brilliant.

3. True Blood / The opening is edgy, sexy, a little disturbing, and Gothic southern. The music, the fast cuts, the smears of real blood on the film…it’s so well done. It’s a bit more serious than the campy show. The elements of birth and death were included in an overall theme of evil and redemption, with violence, nudity, and lots of other stuff that make us uncomfortable. In the case of True Blood, the opening was the best part of the show, which exhaled its last tired gasp a couple weeks ago before finally succumbing to its own true death.

2. Northern Exposure / This opening makes me happy in its cheerful simplicity. The moose wanders through the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska and we get to experience an outside glimpse at the businesses where much of the series takes place: the doctor’s office, the bar, the general store, etc.


1. Six Feet Under / It wasn’t hard to land on Six Feet Under as the number one title sequence for my list. I believe this opening to be the most beautiful and meaningful. There’s something comforting in the way that death is represented in the wilting flowers and lone tree (among other images) with artistry and elegance. It’s the real death we all know, not the glamorous movie violent deaths that we can write off so easily. Funeral homes, coffins, grave stones. Things we all have to encounter and never want to think about. The haunting music was written for the show by celebrated composer Thomas Newman and it won two Grammys. Years after the show went off the air, this opening still feels just as powerful and compelling.

So those are my top ten. I have many others that I love that I couldn’t squeeze into such a small list. Which of your favorites did I miss?

Tuesday, December 10th

Pop Music in 2013

I love pop music

Countdown to the end of the year! It was a blink-and-you-missed-it year, but here’s a little something to remember it by. Check out Daniel Kim’s masterful pop mash-up of the best (and worst) of 2013.

For me, I’ll hold on to the Pharrell and Macklemore moments and try to forget about the Miley Cyrus and Ke$ha moments. What were your favorite pop moments of the year?

Wednesday, March 27th

Wrong and Weird

The title of the movie is Wrong. And it’s just weird. The closest comparison I can make to another movie is Napoleon Dynamite. Only weirder and more somber.

The basic premise is that main character, Dolph, wakes up one morning to find his dog missing. Right from the get-go, Dolph is strange, his neighbor is strange, his gardener is strange, and every other character and situation are strange. From beginning to end.

WRONG-EXCLUSIVE-JackOfficeReading

Some weirdness takes place for comedic or emotional effect. The rest is sheerly for the sake of it, like the constant, pounding rain in Dolph’s indoor office. Like everything else, it is never explained or addressed. We are just supposed to accept the indoor rain.

WRONG-EXCLUSIVE-JackOffice2

There are some familiar faces, if that adds to the legitimacy of the film for you.

WRONG-EXCLUSIVE-MasterChangBook

WRONG-EXCLUSIVE-JackAndAlexis

There’s a bit of mystery, magic, delusion, and I hate to overuse the word “weird,” but it’s simply the best description.

I don’t want to get into any details, because discovering the surreal quirks as each scene unfolds is likely the only enjoyment you’ll get from this movie. It’s part of the collection of films the Alamo Drafthouse owns, so there are plenty of opportunities to see it in Austin if you go in the next couple weeks.

I’ll leave you with this clip and you can decide for yourself whether you want to see it. Maybe surrealism is your thing.

Friday, March 22nd

Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica

What will we do when The Office ends in a couple months?

Monday, February 4th

Supa Bowl

Did you watch the Super Bowl last night? I did, sorta. I watched the halftime show and commercials and messed around on Twitter the rest of the time. The thing I was most interested in was Justin Timberlake’s performance at the DIRECTV party Saturday night. Not much video available yet, but here’s a peek at what went on.

Oh, to have attended that show. But at least I got to attend Beyonce’s halftime show from my living room.

All the high energy dancing and fierceness that we want to see from Beyonce. Loved the Destiny’s Child reunion on stage and appreciated that Beyonce gave them both a turn in the middle. Beyonce always looks flawless and gives a great performance. And after the presidential inauguration lip-synching scandal, it was guaranteed that she would sing live for the show and bring her A-game. It was Alicia Keys that really won me over though, with her understated, note-perfect anthem, her piano on the field with her.

Overall, the commercials were much better this year than in previous years. I watched as many as I could in advance because I love commercials that much, but there were still tons I hadn’t seen yet. Here are the ones I found to be the most notable.

Star-studded

Mercedes-Benz. Selling one’s soul to the devil for a luxury car? Great concept.

Samsung Mobile. The next big thing. Love the casting. Really love the tagline.

Got Milk? This national campaign has been going on for years and has utilized so many celebrities. This extended version was done on such a grand scale, how can you not love it?

Best Buy. I was really looking forward to this one. What a disappointment. Amy Poehler deserved better material than this.

Touching 

Budweiser. Not gonna lie. This one made me cry.

Dodge Ram Trucks. God Made a Farmer. Voiced by Paul Harvey, this was simply beautiful.

Funniest

Volkswagen. I’m always watching the VW commercials closely, because they were historically so good at advertising. Before they got bad, that is. When I was an advertising student in college we talked about VW a lot, and their campaigns were truly groundbreaking. Companies like Apple and Target have employed similar methods, but VW was first. Anyway, this one cracks me up.

Toyota RAV4. This “wish granted” commercial features the car quite a bit for such a kooky, nontraditional car ad. Brilliant.

Doritos. This fan-made commercial is my favorite of the night. I’ve already watched it more times than I want to admit.

Um, what? 

Calvin Klein. This was an absurd ad to air at this time and I loved it. I’m not sure if it was targeted more towards women or gay men, but it created plenty of buzz on social media.

Taco Bell. Viva Young might be a funny concept, but this wasn’t done well. I’m not sure what age group the young target is here, but only the truly immature would find this comical. It’s mostly just an overused cliche.

GoDaddy. I’m glad I changed my hosting a long time ago. I don’t mind their normal sexist Super Bowl ads, because it creates buzz and works for them. They are HUGE compared to other hosting companies. But this is so poorly done and so gross that it offends me. Not as a woman, but creatively. It’s just garbage.

Pistachios. This ad starring Psy is another part of this wacky campaign featuring bizarre celebrities. It’s silly and well, nutty. Perfect.

Most fun

Coca Cola has such a polished advertising legacy. They always get it right, whether they are doing sexy commercials, funny, family-oriented, edgy, you name it. This two-part ad is just pure fun and let viewers determine the outcome of the race.

Oh, yeah. And the Ravens won. So happy for Baltimore!

Friday, January 11th

The Incredible Bruno Mars

Ugh. Have I talked about how good the new Bruno Mars album is? I can’t even take it. Like his first album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, the newly released Unorthodox Jukebox contains ten songs, with one reggae number, a couple upbeat tunes, and a slew of romantic ballads. His lyric writing has improved a bit since the first album. His style has evolved in that he and his band are dressing more casually, trading in the retro suits for regular clothes and his pompadour has given way to a small afro.

Bruno Mars

And that voice. Damnnnnn. Just keeps getting better.

Listen to this live version of “When I Was Your Man,” one of the best songs on the new album.

Bruno! Come to Austin!

Thursday, December 27th

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Yessss! My precioussss is back. I’ve been waiting years for The Hobbit to hit theaters. Did you see it yet? Do you need a reminder of what it’s all about? Here’s the trailer:

I haven’t read The Hobbit since I was about twelve, so I barely remember the story. And since it’s being split into three movies, I have even less of a grasp. I purposely stayed away from all news, reviews, and spoilers of any kind. It was almost like a brand new story for me. Almost.

Being a fan of The Office (UK), I loved that Martin Freeman plays the young Bilbo Baggins. He’s so likable and is kind of hobbity looking anyway. Perfect. It was so good to be back in The Shire. Just as green and lovely as I’d remembered.

Bilbo Baggins

Now, if you are into dwarves (and who isn’t?) this is the movie for you. Remember how gruff and brave Gimli was in Lord of the Rings?

Ha ha. Funny. Well we get thirteen dwarves and they. are. AWESOME. They are like little Ron Swansons, all macho facial hair and bravado. I’ll have to watch a few more times to learn them all by name, but I can tell you that I love them all. Dwarf-lover, right here, yo.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit

Thorin

I’m not going to spoil the movie for you, as my policy is to only spoil TV shows. Just go see it. On the big screen. Even if you claim not to be into the whole Tolkien thing…do it. We are very lucky to be living RIGHT NOW while these movies are happening. Don’t squander this good fortune.

My takeaway is that The Hobbit is less sophisticated in storyline and execution than Lord of the Rings. Still dark and scary, but less so. It’s a little silly and maybe more kid-friendly. There are more “creature scenes” with lots of time devoted to trolls, orcs, goblins, and of course, Gollum.

The Hobbit Troll

It’s interesting that Peter Jackson ended up doing all the movies. I wonder if he would have done The Hobbit first, had he known. Personally, I’m glad to have them in this order, the more complicated story coming first. It’s clear that LOTR was Jackson’s true passion project.

If I have to give a criticism, and this is the common complaint, it’s that it was just too long. In order to stretch the book into three movies, the scenes feel extended beyond what is natural. I’m not complaining, because I’m happy to get as many movies as I can out of this franchise, but this could have been done in two movies.

Friday, October 12th

What’s the deal with Texas barbecue?

The Salt Lick

The Salt Lick is so famous that it almost seems silly to blog about it. But it would be sillier to ignore it, right? And the truth is, I love it there and go at least once a year. Or twice. It’s a spot I like to bring my guests from out of town and it’s always a hit.

You can’t beat the setting. The drive to Driftwood is long enough to feel like a journey, but short enough to not require much advance planning. The 15-ish mile road trip lands you in a homey expanse filled with trees, a long twig fence and that awesome barbecue smell.

The seating capacity is HUGE, yet there can still be a pretty long wait on weekend nights. They keep the masses entertained with live music, snacks, and plenty of comfy spots to sprawl out with your friends. You can bring coolers of beer or buy beer there, which comes in a bucket of ice.

The Salt Lick

The Salt Lick

Once you’re finally inside, things move quickly. You order some combination of meats and sides and your food arrives in minutes. They are constantly cranking out mass quantities of their few standard dishes. So all your waiting is done outside. Once you order, Bam! It’s ready.

The Salt Lick

The Salt Lick

The Salt Lick

The main plate gives you choices of three of the four meats and all the sides. The meat choices are brisket, sausage, ribs, and turkey. (I always skip the sausage.) The sides are all ridiculous. Cole slaw and potato salad, neither of which are mayo-based. The beans are even good. I could just come for the sides. But damn, the turkey. So moist and wonderful.

The Salt Lick

The Salt Lick

They’ll also bring you thick Texas toast, and fresh onions and pickles to make little barbecue sandwiches.

Pickles and bread

And even though you’re full, there’s always room to share a blackberry cobbler a la mode. Because it’s too good to pass up.

Blackberry Cobbler

If you haven’t seen Adam Richman’s visit to The Salt Lick, it’s worth a watch. They get into the barbecue particulars like the wood, the smoke, the dry rubs, and burnt ends.

Barbecue is serious business in Texas. Everyone has an opinion and there is a lot of barbecue knowledge among the foodies in Austin. I’m not so passionate, and I’d certainly never attempt to cook anything like this, but I am so happy that places like this exist.

Thursday, September 20th

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Have you checked out Jerry Seinfeld’s new web series? I am totally obsessed. The premise is right there in the title. Jerry picks up a fellow comedian and they go get coffee, bullshitting and making each other laugh for roughly eleven minutes. Each episode features a different classic car, and Jerry gives a few fun facts about the car in the opening. I assumed they were all gems from his famous car collection, but only a couple actually were his. The rest were rentals.

I’ve also loved the Seinfeld outtakes where Jerry breaks into laughter while shooting. This series feels like that all that time. Plus, there are lots of beautiful shots of coffee and espresso. It makes me crave a really good cup.

Alec Baldwin is a favorite of mine. He and Jerry have lunch and banter with the waitress. All the episodes are good, but the one I’ve embedded here features Larry David. The rapport he and Jerry still have together is so great. I believe they are comic soul mates, and this is as close to a new Seinfeld episode as you are going to get.

Enjoy. You can catch the rest of the episodes here. Check out Ricky Gervais, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Colin Quinn and more.

Ricky Gervais and Jerry Seinfeld in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee