My Eminem Top 10 List

I like Eminem’s music, but I’m not a super-fan. When he first burst onto the hip-hop scene, I enjoyed his funny stuff, but mostly liked it because it was the popular thing to do. As him and I grew older, I listened to him less and less.

I decided to make a personal top 10 list since he has put out a lot of different songs over a vast period of time.

  1. When I’m Gone – Curtain Call
  2. Rap God – The Marshall Mathers LP 2
  3. Love the Way You Lie – Recovery
  4. Forgot About Dre – (Dr. Dre) 2001
  5. My Band – (D12) D12 World
  6. Not Afraid – Recovery
  7. Guilty Conscience – The Slim Shady LP
  8. The Way I Am – The Marshal Mathers LP
  9. Fast Lane – (Bad Meets Evil) Hell: The Sequel
  10. Greatest – Kamikaze
  • Honorable Mention – Square Dance – The Eminem Show
  • Fan Favorite – StanThe Marshall Mathers LP
  • Best of the Worst – Shake That – Curtain Call

I made an Apple Music playlist of these songs, if you’re interested.

 

Beard Blog Tech Reviews: Apple HomePod

The gadget you don’t need until you have one

HomePod: The iPod that lives in your home

HomePod

The latest product from tech giant Apple is their own take on the very popular “lady in a cylinder”. The HomePod aims to fill the gap where the competition lacks in areas such as sound quality, ease of use, and aesthetics. I’ve spent the last month with the HomePod, testing everything I could.

It Packs a Punch

The Apple HomePod is a small cylindrical device that is about the size of a two liter soda bottle, with the top cut off. It’s covered in a thick mesh that feels soft but also sturdy at the same time. Inside, the HomePod packs a large upward facing subwoofer and seven tweeters around the bottom circumference. In between those there is a six microphone array for hearing your voice as well as to fine tune the sound based on the surroundings. The speakers and microphones are controlled by a stripped-down version of the fourth generation Apple TV. The processing power allows you to shout anything at it and it responds very quickly. 

High Fidelity

I don’t consider myself an audiophile, but I enjoy high quality music when I can get it. When I listen to music over bluetooth in my car I can hear the lower quality compared to playing over USB. That’s about the extent of my sound quality identifying experience. The HomePod does a great job of producing great sound in a small package. It sits next to my forty-eight inch, nine speaker sound bar, and the HomePod has noticeably better sound.

The music stopped and I thought “there’s no way she heard that.”

The sound output fills my living room with high fidelity music so well that you would think I have a 7.1 surround sound system setup.

Apple’s Music

The HomePod only knows one music service and that’s Apple’s own Apple Music. That means the HomePod cannot play music from Spotify, Tidal, Google, or any other music service out there. You can play songs from Apple’s giant library, your own iTunes library, or songs you’ve previously purchased from iTunes, so there is a lot of variety. If that is not enough for you, you can still stream whatever you like from an iOS device to the speaker, just like you AirPlay to an Apple TV. The benefit of using Apple Music on the HomePod is you don’t need your iPhone or iPad to play it. In fact, if you turned off all your devices, it will still be able to play music from Apple’s streaming service. If you’re thinking of getting a HomePod, switching to or signing up for Apple Music is definitely worth it.

Hey Siri

Beyond playing great music, the HomePod packs the same helpful assistant as iPhones and iPads. Her name is Siri and she is very willing to help you any way she can. The HomePod doesn’t have a screen or a way for you to interact with anything, so Siri is limited. Speaking “Hey Siri…” into the air turns her attention towards you as she hangs on your next words. I’ve had moderate success with asking Siri random questions. I’ve been using Siri for a long time so I know how to ask her things and what she can and can’t do. Here are some things I asked my HomePod that resulted in the correct answer on the first try: What is 60g in oz?; What is the scientific name for a sloth?; How many tablespoons are in 20oz?; Who is Michael B. Jordan?; Who sings purple rain?

Contrary to your iPhone, Siri on the HomePod doesn’t know who you are. Whomever sets up the HomePod initially can choose to allow some details to be passed through the Apple account, but it’s still very limited. The nice thing about this is anyone that can yell “Hey Siri!” can control the HomePod. This can also cause some disagreements between people who want to hear two different songs.

One of my favorite HomePod activities is when I wake up with a random song in my head, I can shout out loud and have it played

One place where the HomePod excels over the competition is how well it can hear you. Even at whisper with music playing the HomePod picks up the “Hey Siri” command. I was in my kitchen cooking with the exhaust fan on, the HomePod was about twenty feet away with a wall between us. The HomePod was playing something from Apple Music when I said “Hey Siri skip” at a volume that a person next to me would struggle to hear. The music stopped and I thought “there’s no way she heard that.” The next song began to play and I was taken aback by how well it could hear my over all the noise.

The Kit of Home

Another way Siri on the HomePod is helpful is by controlling HomeKit devices. These are smart home devices that are compatible with Apple’s home ecosystem. I have structured the smart devices in my home around this ecosystem allowing me to take full advantage of Siri for automation and control. By shouting at the HomePod I can close my garage doors, turn up the heat, turn on/off lights, and trigger scenes I have setup. homepod The HomePod also acts as a HomeKit bridge that allows you to (if you don’t already have an Apple TV) access your HomeKit devices from outside your home network. 

Who should buy one?

If you’re deeply invested in Apple’s ecosystem (which is easy to do) with a subscription to Apple Music, HomeKit compatible devices (Philips Hue bulbs fit this bill), like listening to music in your home, and use an iOS device; the HomePod is definitely for you.

It’s going to be hard to find a lot of people that meet those criteria, which is Apple’s fault, but at the same time it helps get more people into their ecosystem.

One of my favorite HomePod activities is when I wake up with a random song in my head (which happens almost every morning) I can shout out loud and have it played, and it sounds great!

Measuring the Competition

Apple is late to the “lady in a can” game, which seems to be their modus operandi as of late. There is plenty of competition in this space and surprisingly the first mover here was Amazon with their Echo line. Amazon has released nine products with their Alexa assistant before the HomePod shipped. Google now has three different types of devices that use the Google Assistant for your home. Amazon, Google and Apple’s devices all have the same functions; play music, control smart devices, and try to answer your dimwitted questions.

Which one is the best? That’s a hard question to answer for everyone, and each person you ask might have a different answer. The best one for you is which system you’re invested in. Do you have Apple products throughout your home or are you more in the Google ecosystem? Amazon has the advantage of being the cheaper solution and throwing their products at consumers every way possible. It’s more likely you know someone with an Amazon product in their house than the other two.

HomePod

Apple’s HomePod is another great first generation product. A lot of people are comparing it to the the original Apple Watch, which is fair. Both of those devices are late entries to a new market for Apple and so far, both have been received very well. My time with the HomePod has been great and I don’t regret the purchase at all. I’m looking forward to the near future where Apple makes smaller/cheaper versions of the HomePod that I can stick in various places in my house.

In summary, John Gruber put it best when he wrote, “What AirPods are for your own ears, HomePod is for your home.”.

 

Read more of my tech reviews here!

Beard Blog Movie Review: The Shape of Water (2017)

Academy Award Winner: Best Picture – 2018

shape of water
The beast and the beauty

The Shape of Water is a fantasy love story about an amphibious god and a mute woman, taking place during the Cold War era. It’s a very simple movie that seems to draw some inspiration from The Beauty and the Beast tale. 

The Shape of Water is filled with glorious scenes of cinematography and color.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, and Octavia Spencer. Sally Hawkins plays a mute middle-aged woman named Elisa who lives alone and works the night shift at a Navy research center near DC. Her neighbor, played by Richard Jenkins struggles with both his sexuality and his art career. Elisa and her neighbor Giles find comfort in each other during various struggles in this film.

Michael Shannon plays an eccentric antagonist who is set to torture and kill the amphibian man.

The Shape of Water is filled with glorious scenes of cinematography and color. The story is a little weak in the fact that we have no idea why the government wants this thing or what Elisa’s backstory is. There’s a lot of moving parts put into this two hour movie, but by the end, we’re left wanting more information about what just happened.

It’s easy to see what The Shape of Water won this year’s best picture award, but all in all it proved to be a weak year in terms of everlasting classic movies.

Who should see this movie? Fans of fantasy love stories, people who like the previous work of Guillermo del Toro, and if you want to see what the best movie of the year is.

Who shouldn’t see this movie? People who can’t grasp the fact of a “human” loving a “beast” and children because of sexual content.

Score

8 / 10 – A great movie overall, still not convinced it was this year’s best. After watching The Shape of Water you might find yourself saying “That was weird…”.

Read more of my movie reviews

Spoilers

 

Caution! Spoilers ahead.

Continue reading “Beard Blog Movie Review: The Shape of Water (2017)”

Beard Blog Oscars Predictions – 2018

The Beard Blog Academy Awards Predictions

This is definitely a strong female year.  Most of the great movies from this past season feature strong female performances and even a female director.

I have chosen my favorites from this past year and given out my own “awards”:

Beard Blog Outstanding Performance Awards:

Director:

  • Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
  • Jordan Peele – Get Out
  • Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game

Actress:

  • Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
  • Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
  • Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
  • Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
  • Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water
  • Jessica Chastain – Molly’s Game

Actor:

  • Michael Shannon – The Shape of Water
  • Tom Hanks – The Post
  • Idris Elba – Molly’s Game
  • Ansel Elgort – Baby Driver

 

90th Academy Awards:

Best Picture:
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actor:
* Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

Best Actress:
* Francis McDormand – Three Billboards…

Best Supporting Actor:
* Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards…

Best Supporting Actress:
* Allison Janney – I, Tonya

Best Director:
* Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Molly’s Game

Best Original Screenplay:
Three Billboards…

* = correct prediction

See my movie reviews here

The Eternal Jukebox

My Last Ten Albums, Ever

eternal-jukebox

Music is Important to Me

A co-worker and I were having a music discussion around how satisfying it was to have physical media when we were younger. This co-worker and I often have analytical conversations around movies, music, and technology. Most of the time we fall on the same side of the arguments. The latest confab got me thinking…. What if something in the world destroyed the ability to access music so effortlessly like we do today. Since I was about nine years old, music has been something I enjoy listening to everyday. Whether I’m sad, happy, or indifferent, music is always there to appease me.

There Are Some Rules

Music streaming is gone, iTunes has shutdown, Sam Goody is gone for real, and all you have left is one jukebox. This magical jukebox can play any ten albums for as long as you live, as many times as you like. Before all the music is destroyed you have to quickly pick ten albums to fill the jukebox. 

“Today we have 50 million songs at our fingertips which is great and potentially life changing…”

These ten albums should be the ten albums you could listen to for the rest of your life. They shouldn’t be the best ten albums ever made, that’s always subjective. Your favorite ten albums could also be a mistake since you might be missing out on music that makes you feel all sorts of emotions. Ten albums are all you get, forever.

Because this is a artistic exercise, our eternal jukebox cannot play “greatest hits” or other types of compilations.

Eternal Jukebox Library

Here’s my list, these ten albums will forever be in my mystical eternal jukebox.

  • Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – E. 1999 Eternal
  • Dirty Heads – SWIM TEAM
  • Ed Sheeran – X
  • Hootie & The Blowfish – Cracked Rear View
  • John Mayer – Continuum
  • Ma$e – Harlem World
  • Michael Jackson – HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I
  • Nelly – Country Grammar
  • Sam Cooke – Ain’t That Good News
  • Sublime – Sublime
  •  
    Honorable mention: Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

    Continue reading “The Eternal Jukebox”

    Artificial Intelligence: The Downfall of Humans

    Us humans are programmatically extinguishing ourselves out of existence

    ai-brain

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the latest buzzwords you hear in the media, but it’s been around for a long time. AI is defined as intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast natural intelligence is displayed by humans and other animals. Even the simplest of machines or activities can have AI. Think about the last time your received coupons in the mail for a grocery store or department store. Using AI, that company determined the set of coupons you should receive to increase the probability of you visiting to their store or website. It’s straightforward and sometimes helpful, but that’s just the tip of this very large iceberg.

    When I think about artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomous machines I get excited for what the future holds. At the same time I start to ruminate about what all of this will mean for the future of us mortals. If we continue to build machines that learn, think, and live on their own, without our interaction, we could be creating our own extinction. 

    “The key for that machine to be successful is knowing what is right, wrong, fake, real, or useful. “

    Humans are currently the most advanced and smartest race on the planet Earth. Most of us have compassion, foresight, and morals which lends us to save inferior organisms like plants and animals. The plants and animals also offer us the resources we need to survive. Machines that aren’t based on needing plants, animals, or humans will have no use for those objects. Last time I checked, the advanced computers and machines using AI today don’t have any compassion or ideologies to prevent them from one day purging the Earth of humans.

    Creating an Artificial Existence

    Let’s start to perceive how AI evolution would occur that might force us humans out of continuation. Humans have created complex machines that can think for themselves as well as learn new ideas. Because humans are so diligent, most of the world’s information is procurable digitally on the internet. A high-powered machine could easily graze through all the information on the internet and learn everything, thus making that machine the smartest being in existence. The key for that machine to be successful is knowing what is right, wrong, fake, real, or useful. This machine, that I’m going to call BAE (Ben’s Artificial Existence), after years and years of studying old and new enlightenment, would be more powerful than anything we’ve seen to date.

    Let’s assume BAE has learned all the factual bits from the internet. BAE now knows how to speak, read, and write in every documented language on the planet. It also knows how to build anything (provided it’s blueprints were available on the internet). Lastly, with all the programming language information available (especially on the subject of AI) BAE is now a world-class artificial intelligence and machine learning expert. Because BAE is smart and is, presumably, self-aware it now has the means to upgrade itself. BAE can make phone calls (in any language), open bank accounts, trade on the stock markets, take over other machines; the list goes on and on. After a while BAE could start to reprogram other machines, creating a botnet army. BAE could also invent new technologies to make itself and it’s army untouchable. Before we know it, BAE has millions of machines that are self-sufficient, self-aware, and no longer have a use for the human race.

    Now let’s crawl back up out of that rabbit hole. All of this seems far fetched and is a lot like the plot of the movie ‘Transcendence’. The way people are advancing technology and all the information we have out there, it does seem that someday it could be possible. It’s also entirely possible that there are a few intelligent and prudent humans who can program compassion, sacrifice, and self-worth into machines. In that case we would have the ultimate personal assistant / companion.

    Humans aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, at least not from machines taking over the world. In reality, it seems humans will destroy ourselves before something else.

    Beard Blog Movie Review: The Post (2017)

    To publish, or not to publish.

    In the early 1970s The Washington Post has to decide whether they owe it to the nation to publish secret White House documents or forever be controlled by the government.

    post
    The Washington Post

    Meryl Streep stars a Kay Graham, the first female newspaper publisher, as she navigates through one of the most important times in media / White House relations. The New York Times uncovers a report written by a former member of the Department of Defense that details the why the United States could not win the Vietnam war.

    Tom Hanks co-stars as the editor of the Washington Post who desperately tries to get the papers published after the NYT was barred from doing so.

    This movie is not that deep, not that complicated, and if you are up on American history, you already know the outcome. That being said, the acting in The Post is superb. Streep and Hanks show off their seasoned skills and Steven Spielberg shines through as usual.

    The Post starts off slow giving us background information on how this whole thing came about. It isn’t until about half way through when it pulls you into the suspense.

    This is one of the year’s best movies, but I wouldn’t call it the best. True to history stories can be entertaining and rewarding, but most of the time they are just average.

    Who should see this movie? People who like American history especially dealing with Vietnam-era details, Fans of Streep, Hanks and/or Spielberg, and lovers of dramatic-suspenseful stories.

    Who shouldn’t see this movie? People who find true stories or political dramas boring and viewers who may not fully understand the relationship of the media to the White House.

    Score

    8 / 10 – The Post tells the story of the Pentagon Papers very well and Streep & Hanks make it entertaining to watch.

    See more of my movie reviews here

    No Spoilers

    If you want to know what happens, read this Wikipedia article.

    Oscar Nominations 2018

    The 90th annual Academy Awards airs Sunday March 4, 2018 on ABC

    Here are my picks for this years Oscars. These are not my predictions (those will come later). These are my votes as if they let me into the Academy.

    Oscars

    *Unfortunately, I have not see all the films listed below as of writing this (which could change), so I only voted for those I have seen.

    My picks are highlighted in gold.  Visit the links to see my reviews.

    • Best Picture
    • Actor in a Leading Role
      • Timothy Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
      • Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
      • Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
      • Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
      • Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq.
    • Actress in a Leading Role
      • Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
      • Frances McDormand – Three Billboards…
      • Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
      • Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
      • Meryl Streep – The Post
    • Actor in a Supporting Role
      • Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
      • Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards…
      • Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
      • Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World
      • Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards…
    • Actress in a Supporting Role
      • Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
      • Allison Janney – I, Tonya
      • Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
      • Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
      • Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water
    • Directing
      • Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
      • Jordan Peele – Get Out
      • Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
      • Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
      • Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
    • Writing (Adapted)
      • Call Me by Your Name – James Ivory
      • The Disaster Artist – Nuestadler & Weber
      • Logan – Frank, Mangold, and Green
      • Molly’s Game – Aaron Sorkin
      • Mudbound – Williams & Rees
    • Writing (Original)
      • The Big Sick – Gordon & Nanjani
      • Get Out – Jordan Peele
      • Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig
      • The Shape of Water – del Toro & Taylor
      • Three Billboards… – Martin McDonough

    Beard Blog Movie Review: I, Tonya (2017)

    ”It wasn’t my fault.”

    The true story of how Olympic ice skater Tonya Harding became one of the most well-known people in the world, for all the wrong reasons.

    tonya
    Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding

    I, Tonya is told from the perspective of Tonya Harding through recreations of interviews over the last 40 years. She always maintains her innocence and we get to see the (supposed) true story of what really went down.

    Being a young kind in the early 90s, I wasn’t fully aware of everything that had happened between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. Up until seeing this film, I always believed the narrative that Tonya smashed Nancy’s knee with a lead pipe of some sort. This was incorrect, and I’m glad to know the truth.

    This film’s writing is stellar and makes me feel like I’m getting the whole life experience of Tonya Harding. Better than the writing is the acting. Margot Robbie is phenomenal as Tonya; she is perfect for this role. Allison Janney steals the show with her tough love, foul-mouthed, hard working persona. I know Janney is getting a lot of press for this role, but I still think it’s underrated.

    The other acting is passable by themselves, but without Robbie and Janney this movie would never leave the cutting room floor.

    Before seeing I, Tonya I thought there would be less actual ice skating and more about her life outside of skating. I was wrong and that’s not a bad thing. Turns out, I, Tonya is a biopic that paints Tony Harding in a very good light.

    This movie may also help victims in a abusive relationship see how things really look from the outside. Hopefully anyone going through that can find a way to get help.

    Who should see this movie? Ice skating fans, people who follow(ed) the Harding/Kerrigan story, and viewers who like a good biopic with dark comedy.

    Who shouldn’t see this movie? Viewers who do not like profanity or domestic violence, people who hate ice skating, and those who can’t find the humor in this story.

    Score

    8.5 / 10 – I, Tonya is a fun, emotional, and riveting tale of one of the biggest news stories from the 90s.

    See more of my movie reviews here

    Spoilers

    Caution! Spoilers ahead.

    Continue reading “Beard Blog Movie Review: I, Tonya (2017)”

    Beard Blog Movie Review: Molly’s Game (2017)

    Deal with her.

    Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut is the true story behind skier turned poker criminal Molly Bloom. The film is based on the book by Molly Bloom of the same name and it’s referenced throughout the movie as it takes place after the books release. 

    Molly bloom
    Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom

    “I don’t recall a point during the whole movie that I was waiting for something to happen.”

    As always with Sorkin films, there is a lot of intense, descriptive dialogue and Molly’s Game is no different. Idris Elba and Jessica Chastain are great on the screen together as they argue why Molly is not the real criminal. 

    The story is told in sort of a flip-flop fashion with the scenes cycling between early in Molly’s life and then after her book was published. This allows the story to be told from Molly’s point of view while her legal issues get worked out on screen.

    I don’t recall a point during the whole movie that I was waiting for something to happen. The next scene is beautifully woven into the story as to not leave you hanging. It’s a long movie, but goes by very quick.

    Can’t wait to see more movies from the great Aaron Sorkin. This is one of the few films I can’t wait to watch again.

    Who should see this movie? Fans of Molly Bloom’s story/book, fans of crime and gambling movies, and those who like Aaron Sorkin’s writing style

    Who shouldn’t see this movie? People who find it hard to keep up with Sorkin’s writing style, movie-goers who aren’t into real-life drama tales, or those who can’t sit through a 2.5 hour film.

    Score

    9 / 10 – Molly’s Game is a well-written, well-acted, true story with all the high stakes of an action movie.

    See more of my movie reviews here

    Spoilers

    Caution! Spoilers ahead.

    Continue reading “Beard Blog Movie Review: Molly’s Game (2017)”