Eyewitness review a compelling and complex crime show remake

USAs new anthology series based on a Norwegian small-town crime drama is dragged out a bit longer than necessary but is a deceptively substantial take

Theres a certain type of film-making the washed-out colors, the bleak autumn landscape, the small towns with big problems which are always about five minutes away from a downpour or maybe just five minutes after the end of one that suggest a TV drama set in the Pacific north-west.

To be even more specific, it usually indicates an American remake of a Scandinavian show. Remember The Killing? Sadly, I do too.

Eyewitness, a new anthology series, has that look and is a remake of a popular Norwegian show. But its actually set in Tivoli, New York, not far from Manhattan. The setting isnt the only thing thats different. It is a visually compelling and narratively complex (if a bit derivative) take on the small-town crime genre.

The big crime here is a drug-related multiple murder in a cabin on the heroin smuggling route from the city to points north. What should seem like an open and shut case of a drug deal gone wrong is complicated by a number of factors: one of the dead men was an FBI informant and the killer was somehow caught up with a nearby kingpins 17-year-old daughter.

But the biggest complication is that Lukas (James Paxton, son of Bill) and Philip (Tyler Young), two closeted high school students who stole away to the cabin for some intimate time together, witnessed the whole thing.

Lukas, the son of a local bigwig, refuses to let Philip talk about the crime not because he doesnt want to get involved but because he doesnt want to tell anyone what he and his friend were doing there.

To lend that level of coincidence that always infects a rural crime thriller, Philips new foster mother is the local sheriff. Helen (Julianne Nicholson) is a bit of a hard-ass, with observation and deduction skills that come in handy when trying to piece together a crime. Shes not so good at trying to make a skittish gay teenager trust her.

Helens investigation is thwarted by an FBI agent, Kamilah Davis (Tattiawna Jones) but aided by her wisecracking partner Tony (Matt Murray). That might be the big draw, but the story between the two teens is much more emotionally engaging.

In one of the better-observed stories about gay teens searching to make sense of their newfound sexual urges, the push and pull between Philip and Lukas is fascinating if painful to watch.

Lukas says at one point: I dont want to be that guy, my father doesnt want me to be that guy, no one wants me to be that guy. Though a bit trite, it perfectly encapsulates his feelings while showing he cant resist spending more time with Philip, not only as lovers but also as companions. The two almost seem to despise each other, even as they cant pull themselves away.

The other high point is Nicholsons performance. Though she has been on TV before, most notably in the quickly forgotten Red Road, it seems like an actress of her caliber should have landed a role this meaty before. She brings a great nuance to Helen, hard-edged but sympathetic.

Thankfully, her character is not the sort of very talented jerk that is usually at the center of a procedural. With her brittleness and dedication to her job, Helen is the type of character that would usually be played by a man. Her bland, well-meaning husband Gabe (Gil Bellows) is often left with little to do but care for the children.

While the investigation is dragged out a little bit longer than necessary over the 10 episodes, the ambient pleasures of watching Nicholson and her two young co-stars are enough to keep anyone plugging through the more boring stretches.

The show, adapted for American television by Adi Hasak (Shades of Blue) with the first two episodes directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), offers a deceptive substance lying below the surface. Eyewitness will not only fool viewers into thinking its set in the Pacific north-west, but also that it is more conventional than it truly is.

  • Eyewitness premieres Sunday 16 October at 10pm ET, on USA.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/oct/16/eyewitness-review-tv-show-usa-norway-remake-crime-drama

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Review: Balmuda The Toaster

For reasons that never became clear to me, my brother-in-law Gregory emailed over the summer suggesting that I review a toaster called the Balmuda available only in Japan and Korea. His subject line was persuasive. It read: “The Perfect Toaster.”

Balmuda The Toaster

8/10

Wired

Beauty and consistency in a toaster. Helps preserve the moisture in whatever you’re toasting. It’s whimsical and cute, which is a good thing.

Tired

It’s not yet available in the US, and if you do get your hands on one, caveat emptor; you’re an ocean away from customer support or a valid warranty.

How We Rate

  • 1/10A complete failure in every way
  • 2/10Sad, really
  • 3/10Serious flaws; proceed with caution
  • 4/10Downsides outweigh upsides
  • 5/10Recommended with reservations
  • 6/10Solid with some issues
  • 7/10Very good, but not quite great
  • 8/10Excellent, with room to kvetch
  • 9/10Nearly flawless
  • 10/10Metaphysical perfection

I’d done some research on toasters a year prior and found the industry to be something of a confused sea: neither the brand nor the amount of money—from dirt-cheap to ludicrous—spent on a toaster guaranteed quality. It’s also not a space rife with innovation. The toasters we’re using today and the ones manufactured a generation ago are pretty similar, though the ones we’re using now tend to be chintzier.

Toaster ovens are their own special category separate from traditional slot toasters, and, thanks in large part to the distance between the heat source and the toast itself, they’re not renowned for making great toast. In fact, toaster-oven toast tends to be dried-out toast. This one, dubbed Balmuda The Toaster (about $220), seemed like it should be lumped in the toaster oven category, but Gregory’s subject line nagged at me. I also watched a video where, before toasting, water is poured into a slot into the top of the oven before toasting, effectively converting the Balmuda into a mini steam oven, a hack designed to keep what’s being cooked from drying out.

Getting my hands on one required some effort. I emailed Gregory, who lives in Seoul, and asked if he could contact Balmuda and get them to send a unit my way. Akin to vacuum manufacturer Dyson, Balmuda the company is known in Japan for creating design-forward items like fans, air filters, and electric heaters. One week later, the thing arrived looking like an upscale appliance from the Apple Store on Tatooine. It was surprisingly beautiful and more than a little bit cute. What really stuck out was the itty-bitty plastic mug that looked like it was pimped from a Holly Hobbie Oven set. I poured the water in a trap door in the top of the machine and watched the water reappear in a built-in slot in the front of the toaster.

First Bake

Did I mention that all of the instructions were in Korean and Japanese or that I read neither? No matter. There were plenty of pictures and online videos and someone in Korea had handwritten helpful things like “toast,” “cheese toast,” and “croissant” next to their pictures in the manual. (There are also straight-up oven settings, but those aren’t going to drive a purchase decision on this device.) I plugged the machine in, put in some lovely croissants and twisted the timer dial to get things going. The timer sang a happy little tick-tick-tick as it counted down and made a “Ta-Da!” sound when it was done. When I tried to heat the croissants, lights around the dial blinked and indicated things should have been happening inside, but when I peered in the window, I noticed a particular lack of toaster glow. The croissants emerged warm but not hot and the water level was unchanged.

Toward the end of the cycle, the steam stops and there’s a burst of power to the heating elements, giving the bread a last-moment nudge toward toasty perfection.

I rifled through the manual then asked my editor: “We aren’t 220 volts like Korea, are we?” Two lines lower, the cover of the manual read “FOR USE IN KOREA ONLY. NO QUALITY ASSURANCE FOR OVERSEAS USE.”

Two days later, an incredibly heavy box arrived on my doorstep. Nested inside were two more boxes, each one smaller and somehow heavier feeling. Finally, I pulled out a car-battery sized transformer. Intense in its ugliness, it cast the odor of uncured plastic in a five-foot radius around it. A yin to Balmuda’s cute yang, it nevertheless got the toaster working.

I’d bought a loaf of shokupan, a sort of extra-thick Wonder Bread cousin that’s really, really big in Japan. I put two slices inside the Balmuda, selected the toast setting and turned the timer to four minutes. The top and bottom heating elements alternated on and off, as if saying hello to one another. Steam emerged from little vents in the side of the door.

Ta-da!

I opened the door to toast that was evenly browned on both sides, save for the thin white strips on one side where the oven grate blocked the bottom element’s radiant heat. I pulled out the butter and my friend Rene’s “Just Peachy” jam.

For a little while my wife Elisabeth and I just reveled in toasty goodness. Only toward the end of my slice did I stop to think that I should be a bit more scientific in my carbo loading. I grabbed my trusty red Cuisinart Metal Classic 4-Slice Toaster and did a two-unit head-to-head shokupan toast-off. Honestly, the toast they produced wasn’t incredibly different. The Balmuda took a whisker longer to get to the same degree of doneness, but the evenness of toasting, particularly comparing sides of the same piece of toast was more consistent. I also noted a bit more tender chewiness in the Balmuda slice.


Balmuda

There’s innovation under Balmuda’s hood, but after you’ve poured the water in the slot, it’s familiar. Set the mode: toast, cheese toast, croissant, or French bread, twist the timer to your preferred time, and it starts counting down. On toast mode, the heating elements come on: top, bottom, top, bottom, alternating their way up to an oven temperature of about 320 degrees Fahrenheit, and holding steady there through the middle portion of the cooking, warming the bread until, as the Japanese-to-English Google Translate suggests, the exterior “takes on the color of a fox.” Toward the end of the cycle, the steam stops and there’s a burst of power to the heating elements, giving the bread a last-moment nudge toward toasty perfection. In my tests, I found that the middle “fox” phase was really like the “get the bread hot and steamy” phase, and the blast at the end created the majority of the nice caramelization.

The taleggio melted through, going ever so slightly bubbly while the top of it started browning. The top edges of the bread took on a lovely dark crispiness.

As for the other settings, cheese toast concentrates more heat on the top of the bread, croissant mode warms it throughout with only a short crisping-heat blast at the end. French bread mode leaves the crisping out completely. One person I’ve talked to waxed about how impressive the steam is for resuscitating stale bread or croissants. While true, it feels peculiar to recommend purchasing something for its capacity to refresh bakery items from the day-old bin.

Next, I swapped the shukopan for a loaf of fresh-sliced sourdough from Seattle’s James Beard-nominated Columbia City Bakery. The bread had a lovely soft, springy texture and an appealing tackiness. Here, the differences were more apparent. Again, there was the pleasing chewiness in the Balmuda slice, while bread pulled from the traditional toaster leaned toward a cracker-like crispness at the edges. What I realized with these slices was that the Balmuda’s magic was that it preserved more of the bread’s original springiness, encasing it in a crisp exterior, while the traditional toaster’s work felt more subtractive, trading moisture for crunchiness. Regardless of the machine, the slices were so good that I forgot to butter them.

My previous toaster research had led me to toaster repairman Michael Sheafe who had counseled the “second batch test,” which boils down to checking for consistency between the first and second batches of toast. Cheap toasters inevitably give inconsistent results, as the first batch is a cold start and the second begins with a hot machine, but in my tests, the Balmuda was impressively consistent.

A day later, I bought a hunk of taleggio from the supermarket, cut it into thick slices which I set on the sourdough, switched the dial to cheese bread mode and turned it on. The taleggio melted through, going ever so slightly bubbly while the top of it started browning. The top edges of the bread took on a lovely dark crispiness. While it didn’t feel like some sort of technical miracle of toast, it did remind me of some of the best things about fondue.

The Joy of Toast

It got me thinking about what we like about toast and how much of it is based on texture. We want a pillowy interior, an exterior so crispy that it’s audible when bitten through, and some satisfying chewiness. The Balmuda works on accentuating and preserving these qualities. It’s some pretty good thinking, cleverness that in my book qualifies this toaster in the “smart kitchen” category, even though it doesnt need an app.

Is it so good that it’s going to make you want to bring your existing toaster to Goodwill and take the plunge? No. Not quite. Are you going to think twice about plunking down more than $200 if it ever comes out in the United States? Yes you are.

Then again, you could plunk down that much anyway; the clear-sided, quartz-heated Magimix by Robot-Coupe Vision Toaster, a critical favorite, is $250.

The thing that really pushes me over the edge to where I’d think about it once my Cuisinart kicks the bucket, is that unlike so much other stuff out there, the Balmuda makes me happy. There’s the way it resembles an artist’s prototype, good-looking enough that I stuck it on a bookshelf one night when my wife and I had company because I wanted it to be a conversation piece. I like the tick-tock of the timer and the ta-da! when it’s done. There are also the little curls of steam that waft out of vents in either side of the door. There’s that goofy feeling you get when you catch yourself watching the elements go on and off, literally watching your toast… toast.

That said, as a food writer, restaurant critic, and a cookbook author, I’m constantly looking for the little things that turn the quality up a whisker, quietly transforming a good meal into a memorable one. What this can be is always a variable: farm-fresh ingredients, tasting and seasoning at every step of the cooking process, the use of fat and acidity to heighten flavors, or attention to texture, to name a few.

Is Balmuda The Toaster the perfect toaster? That depends on you. Is something better because it brings you a bit of joy when you use it or just look at it?

It’s a slippery slope. Saying something makes you happy when you use it could lead to people putting Hello Kitty stickers on the steering wheels of their 16-year old Subarus and expecting their day to get better. Then again, considering how well the Balmuda works, maybe it will.

Update: This headline of this article was changed to note the fact that the toaster is made in Japan.

Food writer Joe Ray (@joe_diner) is a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of The Year, a restaurant critic, and author of “Sea and Smoke” with chef Blaine Wetzel.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/2016/10/review-balmuda-toaster/

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Hamilton’s America review loving documentary entertains and frustrates

In-depth look at the hit Broadway musical has an impressively starry lineup but doesnt give us a truly behind-the-scenes peek at the creative process

Now that Lin-Manuel Mirandas Hamilton, the hip-hop biography of Alexander Hamilton, has won its Grammy and its Pulitzer and its many Tonys, its place in the cultural firmament is assured. Tickets to the show at the Richard Rodgers theater, which seats only 1,319, are notoriously difficult to snag and more than worth their weight in gold. So theres a ready-made audience for the PBS documentary Hamiltons America, which screens on 21 October under the aegis of Great Performances: everyone wants to be in the room where it happens.

But this is a desire that the documentary only intermittently satisfies. Handsome, admiring and assured, it sets out to describe both the story of Hamilton the musical and the story of Hamilton himself, an intertwining both gratifying and frustrating.

The documentarys producers, RadicalMedia, had a hunch that Hamilton would be a success and began filming Miranda in 2014, months before rehearsals began. Miranda, ponytail in various stages of growth, is an enthusiastic and unpretentious host. Sometimes he speaks directly to an unseen interlocutor; at other times he asks the questions, interviewing those who have inspired him, from Stephen Sondheim to Nas, from his father to Barack Obama. (Mirandas fathers description of his immigrant experience is poignant and pointed.)

The best sequences juxtapose Miranda and the shows stars with historic settings the women of the cast visiting the home of an aunt of the Schuyler sisters, one of whom Hamilton married; Leslie Odom Jr and Miranda strolling along Maiden Lane in New York and executing an impromptu shoulder shuffle; one beautiful scene of Miranda writing in Aaron Burrs bedroom, mouthing words with his eyes closed, headphones clapped to his ears. Also featured are a few choice bits of backstage banter and freestyling, which mostly serve to whet the appetite for more. Unfortunately, theres almost no rehearsal footage or any sense of how the show was built from the script up. The filmed excerpts are beautifully shot, though tantalizingly brief.

When it comes to the history of Hamilton himself, the approach is dutiful, with predictable archival images and talking heads. Some of these heads are more incisive than others. Ron Chernow, on whose book Hamilton based the musical, is of course a welcome presence, as is the historian Joanne Freeman and Senator Elizabeth Warren, who offers a nuanced critique of Hamiltons elitism. But the likes of Jimmy Fallon and George W Bush dont offer much illumination, though Bushs analysis of Hamilton is interestingly self-serving: Thats the way history works. Sometimes it takes a while for people to give you credit.

Is any of this more rewarding than a filmed version of the show in the style of NT Live would be? Not really. Michelle Obamas hyperbolic encomium, that Hamilton is the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life, is fun to hear. But wouldnt it be better to listen in on the art itself or at least tell the story of its creation more specifically? The producers of this engaged and often astute film have in no way thrown away their shot, but they might have taken more particular aim.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/oct/17/hamilton-america-review-documentary-lin-manuel-miranda-radicalmedia

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Review: Lenovo Yoga Book

The Lenovo Yoga Book is a credit to its namesake, both in that it celebrates flexibility and leaves me feeling a little out of sorts.

Lenovo Yoga Book

6/10

Wired

A truly beautiful little gadget. Incredibly adaptable. A better stylus and digitizer than you’d expect for the price. Makes a stab at the future.

Tired

The Halo keyboard is barely usable. Being pretty good at a lot of things is no substitute for being great and something.

How We Rate

  • 1/10A complete failure in every way
  • 2/10Sad, really
  • 3/10Serious flaws; proceed with caution
  • 4/10Downsides outweigh upsides
  • 5/10Recommended with reservations
  • 6/10Solid with some issues
  • 7/10Very good, but not quite great
  • 8/10Excellent, with room to kvetch
  • 9/10Nearly flawless
  • 10/10Metaphysical perfection

Its hard to describe what the Yoga Book exactly is, because it wants to be many things. Its a tablet, surely, with a crisp 10-inch display, remarkably solid speakers, and extra software heft onboard to enable superior streaming. But then! Fold it open, and on the half of the device where the keyboard usually resides is a digitizer, complete with a stylus. You can plop an included pad of paper atop that half to take physical notes, with real ink, that show up digitally as well.

And then! That same half of the Yoga Book doubles as a Halo keyboard, with flat, capacitive touch keys. Its like typing on buzzing glass. Did I mention it comes in both Android and Windows varieties? It does.

Thats a lot of device to stuff into a 1.5-pound gadget. Forget a 2-in-1; were looking at four or more uses in a single package. All at the completely sane prices of $500 for the Android version, or $550 for Windows 10. Its innovative, its gorgeous, and its incredibly adaptable. But its attempts to be everything make it hard to recommend to everyone.

Lets start with the good: The Yoga Book is gorgeous. Truly. Its one of the nicest-looking gadgets Ive spent time with, its magnesium-aluminum alloy shell all sleek and sturdy and lux. And while the watchband hinge that enables it to open 360 degrees isnt new for Lenovo, its worth applauding here again. The Yoga Book bends smoothly, and holds steady at any angle.

And as a pure tablet, the Yoga Book works pretty darn well. Or at least, as well as Android 6.0 will let it. Androids a terrific mobile operating system, but still doesnt quite work in a large format. Lenovos added some software tricks to help it feel more PC-like, but those also dont help much. Theres a feature that minimizes apps to fit more onto a screen, but go-to downloads like YouTube arent compatible. Theres also a decent amount of Lenovo bloatware packed in, some of which you can uninstall, some of which you cant.

Still, the Intel Atom processor inside seems up to most tasks, despite being a bit outdated. (I didnt test a Windows unit, but Im curious how well it holds up there). And because you can fold the Yoga book all the way around, holding it in tablet mode feels like holding a slightly thicker tablet than usual.

If you just wanted a tablet, though, you wouldnt be buying the Yoga Book. Youre here for the tablet-plus experience, which ranges from pretty good to gobsmackingly frustrating.

The digitizer experience works just fine. Press the pen button on the Halo keyboard or on the display and it turns into a drawing board, which Lenovo calls the Create Pad. Its responsive, adequately pressure-sensitive, and its compatibility with a magnetized pad of physical paper makes for a more comfortable note-taking experience than using the stylus alone. I cant shake the feeling, though, that this is also a case where more versatility also means more complications. Switching from the digital stylus head to the real-ink head can be frustrating, an once youve thrown the Yoga Book, stylus, and notepad in your bag, have you really saved much time and space at all?

For the organized, early adopting digital note-takers and mobile scribblers of the world, the answer may absolutely be yes. If you belong to that clan, youll get plenty out of the Yoga Book. If not, youll wish you just had a regular tablet. And in either case, you probably shouldnt expect to do much typing.

Until now Ive avoided talking about the Halo keyboard, but we have to discuss it at some point, since its such a large reason why the Yoga Book exists. Ditching physical keys is what allows for the Yoga Books thinness, and enables its claims on the future. Its a nice thought—though Lenovos not the first to try it—but in practice, its crazy-making.

Heres a small sample of my attempt to type this review on the Yoga Book itself:

My first thought hda been to wriet my Yoga Book review using the Yoga Book. People do thta, right? iPhone rdviews written on iPhones, after alli got about there sentenecs in bfeore I gqve it up: thqts hoz long it took ,e to s,oehoz szitch ,y keyboqrd to french:

Insetad, i folded the Yoga Bookmaround and went back tmotewting it as atablte. That seemed more funl at lersat.

Lenovo says the Halo keyboard will learn how you type and adjust in kind, and Im sure after a few weeks I would learn how to use it and it would learn how to use me and wed meet in a workable middle. But of all the learning curves we have to experience in this life, typing should be a one-time deal.

The overall experience is lacking, but here are a couple of specific gripes. The trackpad is very small and close enough to the space bar that youll inadvertently press the latter many times. The layout is scrunched, which is a byproduct of any tablet-sized keyboard, but one made especially frustrating without the placement reassurance of physical keys. I somehow switched the settings to French multiple times during my typing sessions. Mon dieu!

I respect what Lenovos trying here. Its too rare that a company attempts to leapfrog into the future. For that alone, the Yoga Book deserves applause. In terms of actual usage, though, Im not sure that it manages to solve the problems it sets out to without creating an equal number in return.

Can it do more than a tablet alone? It can, but at the cost of not being the best possible tablet. Can it replace your computer? The Atom processor and funky keyboard mean no, not likely. Ultimately, its like winding up with a platypus when all you really wanted was a beaver or a duck. The exception is if you enjoy digital sketching and note-taking enough that you want the option handy at all times, but not so much that youd spring for a dedicated accessory. Thats a narrow frame of appeal to contort into, but hey. Thats what Yoga is for.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/2016/10/review-lenovo-yoga-book/

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Spiritualized review celestial narco-balladry hits exquisite heights

Delivering his 1997 slab of experimental majesty Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, Jason Pierce blends fragile ballads with cataclysmic freakouts

When most of us turn to intoxicants during a major breakup, we generally wake up with a smashed smartphone full of cry-texts, a reduced number of Twitter followers and a restraining order. It takes the rarefied vision of Spiritualizeds Jason Pierce to emerge clutching one of the most dazzling works of drug-ruined desolation ever recorded.

Intricately entwining his love of roots blues, religious spirituals, free jazz, krautrock drones, Busby Berkeley strings and celestial narco-balladry, Pierces 1997 masterstroke Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space was a raw-hearted slab of experimental majesty that seemed caught in the pain of the moment as indie legend has it, the album documents how Pierce, allegedly addicted to heroin at the time, lost his partner and bandmate Kate Radley to the Verves Richard Ashcroft. Almost 20 years on, however, it still demands regular event-status performances, befitting its standing as arguably the greatest symphony of the rocknroll era. Sorry, Muse.

The decades have loosened its collar. Given the luxury of two hours, an orchestra and a gospel choir mirroring its last full performance here in 2009 Pierce, sitting stoically stage left, lets the albums alternating ballads and noise pieces ebb, flow, flounder and expand, indulging its cataclysmic freakouts and prolonging euphoric crescendos, forever chasing that exquisite first high. The opening title track swells around its harmonic gospel reworking of Elviss Cant Help Falling in Love like a 10-minute goosebump. Come Together, basically a White Album middle-eight fed amphetamines and tortured at length, stretches the sorry tale of Little Johnny who dulled the pain but killed the joy until he sounds like hes bungee-jumping into the seventh circle. The horn section cant wait to get throttling geese during the scree jazz jam at the end of Electricity.

The clash of fragility, grandeur and violence that Spiritualized would refine on subsequent albums is at its starkest here. Witness the moment where the glistening I Think Im in Love collapses into a spent heap after its funky climactic battle between confidence and doubt I think I can fly, warbles Pierce; probably just falling, sneers the choir then is swept up by flocks of cinematic strings on All of My Thoughts.

Staggeringly
Staggeringly affecting lullabies Spiritualized. Photograph: Mark Allan

Between slabs of free-form noise cower staggeringly affecting lullabies for the lost: an oceanic Cool Waves; opulent country lament Stay With Me; and spaghetti western funeral scene Broken Heart.

Pierce has often dodged the albums salacious implications, claiming much of it was written pre-split and even arguing that lines like love in the middle of the afternoon, just me, my spike in my arm and my spoon werent about drugs, which is a bit like the Wurzels claiming that any farming inference drawn from their music is purely down to the medias tiresome obsession with arable.

Yet a spirit-lifting encore, including Pentecostal hand-waggler Oh Happy Day, marks Pierces emotional distance from the record today, closing the book on a modern concerto for future ages to reconstruct.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/nov/09/spiritualized-review-barbican-london-jason-pierce-ladies-and-gentlemen

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Review: Google Pixel

I write about gadgets, which means everyone asks me what laptop or dishwasher or whatever to buy. I struggle with this, because the answer often starts with,“It depends.” Unless youaskabout a phone. In that case, I usuallysay get an iPhone.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Android. But the phones can be… frustrating. Clever features too often seem overwrought or poorly designed, or they’re buried beneath 15 Verizon apps on the homescreen. The iPhone is the Default Phone, the one you buy when you want a phone, not a project.

The Google Pixel changes that. It offers the look and competence of an iPhone, with a truly great camera and loads of innovative software and services. It changes my answerto the question I hear most often: What phone should you get?

You should get a Pixel.

Talk To Me

Google’s new phone arrivesThursday, starting at $650 for the Pixel and $770 for the Pixel XL. You can get itin blue, black, or silver, with 32 or 128 gigs of storage, from Google or from Verizon. You should buy it directly from Google, and soon. Most models already are backordered.

Not long after I got my Pixel XL, I flewto Colombia for a week’s vacation. It was a very Google-y getaway: I had a Project Fi SIM card, I kept my itinerary in Google Trips, and, given what Verizon charges for international data on my iPhone 7, I relied entirely upon thePixel because Project Fi gives standard rates in most countries.

Google Pixel

9/10

Wired

Google Assistant is the first voice assistant that really works. You can’t take a bad picture with the Pixel. So what if it looks like the iPhone? The iPhone looks great, and so does the Pixel.

Tired

Every phone should be waterproof, and this one isn’t. Good as it is, Assistant’s hardly flawless.

How We Rate

I’ve always loved Android because it felt so much more alive and connected than iOS. The sharing menus are smarter and more prominent, apps refresh in the background so they’re always up to date, and widgets and notifications are useful and interactive. But iOS was always so much simpler, with shallower learning curves. It’s dictatorial, but painless. The Pixel’s software doesn’t totally close that gap. It’s still too easy to clutter your homescreens with multiple versions of the same icon, and it’s still too hard to find cool features like the thing where you can swipe down on the fingerprint reader to see your notification shade. But the Pixel is the mostcoherent and cohesive Android ever.

I’ve always been an iPhone guy, honestly. I’ve used just about every flagship Android phone ever made and always returned to Apple. That’s partly because I bought an iPhone 4S in 2011 and signed up for iMessage, and leaving iMessage is a monumental pain in the ass.But mostly I liked having a phone I didn’t have to think about. The iPhone always offers great hardware, a good camera, fantastic apps, and data security. I don’t want to worry about my phone, or spend my time tinkering with it. My phone’s too important to risk any extra effort, or worse, unreliability.

But I’m switching. For real. I’m turning off iMessage, re-buying apps, and warning friends that I probably won’t get their texts for a few days. I am a little worried about Google’s long-term commitment to this new hardware push (and the customer support that comes with it), given itspropensity for killing productsthatdon’t get billions of users. But I’m totally in love with the Pixel. I love this camera, I love Google Assistant, I love that I’ll get to use it with a comfy VR headset, I love that I finally get a version of Android that is both powerful and attractive. I love that there’s a kickass Android phone that (probably) doesn’t explode.

The immediate joke everyone, including me, made on Twitter after the Pixel launch was that Google made an iPhone. Well, that’s true. As it turns out, an iPhone running Android is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/2016/10/review-google-pixel/

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Michael Moore in TrumpLand review part dingus, part holy roller aiming to help Clinton

The Fahrenheit 9/11 director has spent the past 11 days putting together this film to explain why, though he voted for Sanders in the primary, he is going for Clinton now

Despite some reassurance from polls, many are still worried about Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton. Some deal with this anxiety through prayer, others get on the internet and rage. If you are Michael Moore, you go and shoot a movie and have it debut in New York City 11 days later to tremendous international fanfare.

Moore, the most famous thing from Flint, Michigan besides Grand Funk Railroad and poisonous water, understands more than most just how appealing a fuck you vote for Trump would be. In his new emergency film, Michael Moore in TrumpLand, he thinks his way inside the head of a dejected working-class citizen from, as he puts it, one of the Brexit states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or Ohio. All states that could still swing to Trump and lead to to an upset victory.

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Art installation All-Seeing Trump outside the IFC Theater in New York showing Michael Moore in TrumpLand Photograph: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

It was in Ohio that Moore hastily put on the one-man show that the film records, a mix of a TED Talk and Spalding Gray-esque monologue in which he thinks through his misgivings about Hillary Clinton but ultimately works himself up into a froth of support. TrumpLand is a fascinating document, but undeniably awkward in presentation. A few of his jokes land, but Moore is hardly Chris Rock or Louis CK. Hes more like a good public radio DJ who can slip in an above-average zinger now and then.

Whats a little cringeworthy, though, is the repeated use of audience reaction shots. Every talking point is met with an assertive head nod, tissue-dabbed cheek or virtuous applause. Its like that Monty Python clip of the old ladies clapping, but twice as hilarious, unintentional though that may be.

Moore does get serious, and when he does, his Holy Roller for the ethical culture set schtick works. Moores feminist bona fides seem legit. His stage is dressed with photos of college-aged Hillary Rodham, and he plays a clip from her commencement address from Wellesley College. He argues that this is the real Clinton, not the woman who stood by a serial adulterer or who is too cosy with Wall Street. (Moore, who voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary, has been extremely critical of Clinton for this last point.) He compares her to Pope Francis, who remained silent during the years of the Argentinian junta, but who, once elected, unleashed a new era of liberalism in the Holy See.

Its a ridiculous argument, but that isnt the point. Moore doesnt want to tear Trump down so much as he wants to build Clinton up, and however much of a dingus he may be (some of his jokes really dont work), he is sincere in his optimism and empathy. Thats something that you just cant fake. When Moore talks about his mother, and the current sea change in the conversation about rape culture, he builds a strong case that is totally pro-Clinton, not anti-Trump. And, yes, there is a whole riff about the Vince Foster conspiracy theories, suggesting that Hillary is some sort of ninja assassin, that got a few belly laughs out of me.

Michael Moore in TrumpLand is not, unfortunately, likely to sway many voters. For all his good intentions, Moores unique blend of greasy palmed populism and hard-left truthbombs isnt what it takes to get a Trump voter to turn his or her dormant brain back on. The movie also takes a good long while to find its rhythm, which is very much a problem when its only got a 73-minute running time.

Youll have as much luck telling Michael Moore what to do as as someone in a Make America Great Again baseball cap, though, and if spending a few weeks before election day putting this together is what he thinks will work well, I guess Im With Him.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/oct/19/michael-moore-in-trumpland-revew-trump-hillary-clinton-film

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