TV highlights: Erykah Badu hosts the 2015 Soul Train Awards on BET

28 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Erykah Badu Builds on ‘Hotline Bling’ Cover With Phone-Themed Mixtape.

Actor Mandy Patinkin narrates “The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs” (Showtime at 9 p.m.), which offers an in-depth look at the CIA and the often-controversial techniques the agency employs in the war on terror.

Obviously, “Hello,” Adele‘s first single off her album “25″ is everywhere, from “Saturday Night Live” to “Star Wars” spoofs on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” but the British pop superstar doesn’t own the word.It comes off Erykah Badu’s new telephone-themed mixtape But You Caint Use My Phone, and features a little rap and singing from Andre 3000, her ex-boyfriend with whom she had a child.Erykah Badu wasn’t kidding when she asked us to put our “Phone Down.” In an exclusive advance clip from this year’s Soul Train Awards, airing Sunday, host Badu demands that several distracted audience members in the front row — including Tyrese Gibson — put away their cells and focus on her. “Tyrese, you’re on your phone?” she asks the singer-actor. “You’re in the front row on national TV … and you’re on your phone?” This annoyance prompts Badu to perform her soulful new track as she scans the crowd for cell phones, retrieving every one she spots. “I can make you put your phone down/As we cruise through the city,” she sings. “You ain’t gonna text no one when you wit’ me.” The 2015 Soul Train Awards air Sunday, November 29th at 8 p.m. Andre’s contribution to the track went down particularly well, with one Reddit user commenting: “Man Andre just comes through like once a year with an 11/10 feature like clockwork it’s crazy.’

It’s her first major release since 2010’s New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh, and she’s promoted it with singles like her take on Drake’s “Hotline Bling” (now renamed “Cell U Lar Device” on the mixtape) and “Phone Down,” which she premiered with a Periscope broadcast. The 11-track project will be available exclusively via iTunes for one week, with streaming at Apple Music, followed by a wide download and streaming release on December 4th. The title references Badu’s 1997 classic “Tyrone,” and the entire mixtape focuses on “telephones and our own reliance on staying inter-connected,” according to a press release.

Sunday talk shows: “Capital Download” (WUSA at 8:30 a.m.) talks to Republican strategist Karl Rove; “Fox News Sunday” (Fox at 9) hosts former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, a GOP presidential candidate; “White House Chronicle” (WETA at 9) has G. A previously released cut off the mixtape, “Cell U Lar Device,” is a remix of Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” Badu wrote, produced and recorded the mixtape over 12 days. My son, Seven, who was 3, said, “What if somebody breaks in on us?” I said, “Don’t worry, I got something to throw at his head.” And he said, “What you gonna do, throw some money at him?” After December 18th, we’ll no longer get to watch Joel McHale savage the idiocy of reality-show celebrities, a vital public service he’s performed for the past 11 years. Phone will feature “several surprises,” including a few unspecified guests, and finds Badu combining elements of psychedelia, hip-hop, smooth R&B, jazz, art-rock and found sounds into a style she’s dubbed “TRap&B.” Badu also experimented with a tuning fork and Tibetan singing bowls, resulting in what she describes as a “whole new frequency.” Badu released her “Hotline Bling” remix in October, following it up earlier this month with “Phone Down,” another mixtape track.

King (R-N.Y.); “This Is America & the World” (WETA at 10 and WHUT at 7:30 p.m.) is on location in Benin, exploring the role of infrastructure in the West African country; “Meet the Press” (NBC at 10:30) hosts Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson; “Face the Nation” (CBS at 10:30) hosts Carson and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, another GOP hopeful. And if last week is any indication, the remaining episodes are going to be something to see; the host is already going down swinging with hilariously mean jokes about Charlie Sheen, Jared Fogle, and E! itself. After years of sticking with a 3.5-inch display and watching Android-powered competitors bite off a piece of the market with ever-larger screens, Apple relented ever-so-slightly with the 4-inch iPhone 5 and 5S, and then finally gave in to obvious trends with the much larger 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and massive 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. In a recent interview with Noisey, the singer praised Drake’s creativity and explained how “Bling” gave her a musical boost. “I’m writing all the time, but recently I got the bug back,” she said. “When it comes, it comes, and I can’t force it, but recently I got it back with ‘Hotline Bling’ and all the other things I’ve been experimenting with … I love Drake because he’s ever-evolving.

On Sunday night, Erykah Badu hosts the “Soul Train Awards 2015 ” (BET at 8), featuring performances by Boyz II Men, Brandy, Jazmine Sullivan and (here’s a throwback) Cameo. Big screens are all people really wanted in a phone; when they couldn’t get big screens from Apple, they bought big screens from Samsung, and when Apple finally put out big screens, Samsung’s sales tanked. He pays attention to what’s going on and then he embodies it.” First David Letterman retired, then Jon Stewart — and now, out of the blue, E! just canceled The Soup. Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds will accept the evening’s Legend Award. “A Salute to Downton Abbey” (WETA at 8), hosted by Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham), will get you ready for the show’s sixth and final season, which premieres Jan. 3. There’s no obvious reason to make it better; almost every major competitor has actually put out multiple high-end phones this year in an effort to compete and it still hasn’t been enough.

Director Ron Howard examines our fears about aging and the latest scientific studies on the subject in “The Age of Aging” episode of “Breakthrough” (National Geographic at 9). This week’s round-up dips into the raging arguments sparked by a couple of cable dramas that has been playing fast and loose with the whole “killing off beloved characters” concept. This is an S year for the iPhone, which means the basic physical design of the phone has remained the same while the internals have been substantially revised and made faster.

S iPhones may lack the punch of a new design, but Apple says they actually sell better and last longer in the marketplace than non-S iPhones — these are the phones that stick around. This year there are also two changes to the exterior: the glass screen is now stronger and more shatter-resistant, and the case is made of a tougher aluminum that will presumably be less prone to bending.1 These are welcome tweaks, but it’s too bad that the iPhone 6 design remains Apple’s least elegant design since the plastic blob of the iPhone 3G and 3GS, thanks to its slippery shape, camera bulge, and weird antenna lines. The 6S Plus feels particularly surfboard-y in comparison to the Galaxy Note 5, LG G4, and Moto X, which all manage large screens in less ungainly packages.

After a cliffhanger that saw The Leftovers’ main character Kevin Garvey drink poison and apparently die, the hero came back, slugging his way home through a purgatorial dreamscape full of familiar faces and religious symbolism. You get your choice of silver, space gray, gold, and now a very pink rose gold iPhone, but it feels like these phones were designed to be put in cases no matter what color they are. It was one feverish hour of TV, packed with allusive imagery and weird ideas — up to and including the premise that in this sideways universe, our hero’s been hired to kill (!) his Guilty Remnant nemesis Patti (!!), who’s now a presidential candidate (!!!).

It’s nothing major — I actually think the extra weight makes the 6S feel more substantial and easier to hold than the whoops-there-it-goes iPhone 6 — and what you get in return promises to make up for it. The iPhone 6S is the third major Apple product line to gain pressure-sensitive touch after the Apple Watch and MacBooks introduced Force Touch, and it is by far the most successful at integrating the feature into the natural flow of the interface.2 So what can you do? Showrunner Scott Gimple has an interesting defense of the drawn-out uncertainty over the character’s fate, saying that he and his writers were trying to create in the audience the same confusion the heroes were going through.

It’s just that this “un-twist” came after a string of episodes set more or less the same day, seen from different perspectives and locations — which made it feel a lot like the creative team was just toying with us, making us mourn for a month for no reason. At its worst, the crown jewel of the Shondaland empire can feel like a sputtering plot-twist-generator, jerking characters and viewers around almost at random.

It’s the same in Safari: pushing lightly on a link opens a preview, and pushing slightly harder actually opens the page.3 That preview-and-open dynamic — what Apple calls peek and pop — is really the key to 3D Touch. The entire system is the biggest step along a path Apple’s been on since iOS 7 — the idea that the interface should be about abstract layers of information, not simulations of physical objects.

After spending the first half of the episode trading cookie recipes and planning dinners for her boyfriend, a.k.a. the President of the United States, Scandal’s suddenly tamed lioness discreetly got an abortion. The point was clear: Even if the senate stunt was meant as political theater, it had personal meaning for the heroine — or for anyone who’d rather not be chained to traditional roles of wife/hostess/mother if she doesn’t want to be. From a technology perspective, the main part of 3D Touch is a network of sensors under the screen which track the distance between the cover glass and the backlight.4 When you push down on the screen, the distance between them changes, and the phone can do things based on how hard you press, with precise bits of haptic feedback from Apple’s Taptic Engine vibration system. Die-hard liberal Diane Lockhart took an assignment from one of her firm’s well-heeled right-wing clients, defending their right to post hidden-camera video of an abortion provider talking about selling fetal tissue. Perhaps most impressively, 3D Touch has accessibility built in — it can be activated by Assistive Touch, blind users can have VoiceOver read peek previews and quick action menus, and the force needed to activate it can be set to light, medium, or firm.

But it had ample mojo in the scenes where lawyers tossed around fast-paced arguments about free speech and biased judges, delivered in the show’s typical style—with editing so jumpy that it frequently cut people off mid-shout. If Scandal is about how private lives impact public policy, then the CBS drama is about how personal convictions get chopped to incomprehensibility by the Cuisinart of our court system. Google’s Inbox and Microsoft’s Outlook are light years ahead of Apple’s Mail app, Sunrise and Fantastical are far superior to Calendar, and Google Maps still wipes the floor with Apple Maps. It didn’t get as much attention — which was surprising given that it aired simultaneously on A&E, Lifetime, and The History Channel — but Friday’s multi-cast of Shining A Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America featured maybe the most moving six minutes of television all week, when it opened with a performance of Bruce Springsteen’s “American Skin (41 Shots).” John Legend traded verses with the Boss while Tom Morello pitched in with a fiery guitar solo, all while the callback to the 1999 police-involved shooting of Amadou Diallo served as a reminder that this song was once so controversial that the E Street Band was booed whenever they played it.

It’s rare for a network sitcom to find its voice and settle into steady excellence as quickly as this Fox show featuring ex-Brat Packer (and regrettable Tweeter) Rob Lowe did. It really only has one joke: What would happen if the star of a hit legal drama quit showbiz, returned to his hometown, and started hanging around his younger brother’s dinky law firm? In last week’s ‘Buckingham Malice,” when Lowe’s Dean Stewart senses he’s getting special treatment because of his celebrity, he tries — unsuccessfully — to get back to the “core principles” of being anonymously awesome. Savage keeps up a running commentary about his brother’s general ridiculousness, standing in for every viewer who ever shouted, ‘Oh, c’mon!” during some corny procedural.

I’ve been interested in switching to Android for the better part of a year now, but there isn’t a single Android phone that consistently takes great photos the way the iPhone does. When he’s rolling at eyes at the way Dean litigates his way out of a traffic ticket (swaying the judge with the argument, “People make the world great”) or reminding his sibling that, “Just because you walk away after you say stuff doesn’t mean you’ve made a point.” Boom! Just when we were getting used to cable channels turning spring TV into the new fall, here come the subscription streamers, treating the last two months of the year as their own version of “sweeps.” In early December, Amazon is going to drop more (superb) episodes of its award-winning Transparent; and last week the company trotted out The Man in the High Castle, writer-producer Frank Spotnitz’s mind-bending adaptation of Philip K. Selfies and Snapchats and video chats are part of the fabric of modern communication, and Apple’s been way behind the curve with its front-facing cameras.

What’s mainly compelling about this show is the way it depicts an early 1960s America that looks unnervingly normal — aside from the whole “evil has triumphed” thing. A companion-piece to (and improvement on) the service’s acclaimed Daredevil, the newest addition to the MCU stars Krysten Ritter as a super-powered private eye who uses whiskey, sex, and sardonic remarks to mask some deep bruises. As Ritter’s ink-black hair blends into the shadows — while she delivers lines like, ‘It’s people like you who give people like you a bad name” — this series quickly establishes itself one of the best neo-noirs in ages.

I noticed slightly better macro performance and slightly better bokeh in a few shots, but Apple’s been taking iPhone 6 photos and blowing them up to put on billboards for a year, so the bar is pretty damn high. Years from now — hell, months from now — when The Walking Dead’s sixth season is up on Netflix and the streaming crowd is binging it, the whole “death of Glenn” bait-and-switch may be no big deal. Nokia and HTC have released similar ideas, but Apple’s implementation is the most seamless: when you press the shutter button, you’ll see a little Live indicator pop up, letting you know that the phone is recording 1.5 seconds of action before and after your shot. And they won’t have dealt with the incessant Internet chatter, fan theories (“Damn, Glenn got ate!” “Nope, he ducked under a dumpster!”), and cryptic postmortem interviews that popped up in between.

It’s neat, but you’ve got to remember to keep your camera pointed at your subject after you’ve taken a photo — I have a lot of Live photos that are mostly me putting the phone back in my pocket. And I found that I needed to have the camera roll open for a few moments before the system started recognizing my Live Photos by animating them slightly as I swiped through my shots; a little visual indicator would be much more useful. Apple CEO Tim Cook says he thinks Live Photos will be “a new form,” but more people will have to be able to watch them before they can blossom as an entire kind of media.

Apple also says it’ll put out an API to let Live Photos work in third-party apps and on the web (Instagram is already signed up), but I’m not really holding my breath for them to take off. If you want to record short videos, apps like Vine and Instagram already work great, and work everywhere, including Android phones.8 And Live Photos take up double the space of regular photos, so having every single photo you take include a short video seems like major overkill.

I would play with it for a while then flip it off and turn it on when you need it. (It would be super rad if the iPhone intelligently turned Live Photos on when the camera detected a face in the scene and turned it off when it didn’t. I have too many Live Photos of whiteboards, and not enough of people.) It shouldn’t be any surprise that 4K video looks great — it’s way higher resolution than what you’re used to from a phone, and Apple is very proud of the fact that the iPhone’s A9 processor can do all of its stabilization and processing magic while shooting 4K. Granted, that would’ve been a seriously gutsy move on the writers’ part — kill Glenn, wait a few weeks, bring him back, and then immediately blow him away.

For the third week in a row, The Walking Dead didn’t really advance the plot in any significant way, at least until the end. (More on that in a moment.) Instead, this was another low-boil hour of training and arguments, threaded between superfluous scenes of Rick soaking up the awe of the Alexandrians. And in the one real moment of action, Deanna Monroe’s son, Spencer, tried to rope his way over the massing zombie hordes, in a headstrong attempt to restart the process of leading the undead away from town. Even TouchID has been improved for faster recognition — it’s fast enough to recognize your fingerprint and unlock the phone in just about the time it takes to click the home button and wake the phone up, which means it’s almost invisible if you get the motion down just right.10 But the relative speed of the newest iPhone is a tricky thing to really talk about now — the major US carriers are all pushing payment programs that let you upgrade your phone every year or so, and now even Apple’s gotten into the mix with its new iPhone Upgrade Program. And app developers still have to contend with the millions of older iPhones on the market, so few apps will really push the phone as hard as it can go.11 It all adds up to what seems like a unique inflection point in the history of computing: Apple’s shipping the most powerful processor ever in a smartphone, and it kind of doesn’t matter.

The upgrade cycle has gotten so accelerated that by the time developers make full use of the A9, everyone who cares will have a much more powerful phone. What makes this all so frustrating is that anyone familiar with the source material knows the comics start getting really interesting around this point, by bringing in new characters and new challenges, based around the idea of what it actually takes to rebuild human society. It’s also too bad for anyone using an iPhone without a 3D Touch display. iOS 9 also offers Apple’s most comprehensive update to how the iPhone manages battery life.

The man with the ass-kicking stick skills made some strong points about the vagaries of cause-and-effect, pointing out that because Rick saved his life eons ago, he then saved Aaron and Daryl, in a rescue operation…which ended up tipping off the Wolves. So I’m just going to put this out there, and then we can all handle the emotional consequences together: if you are thinking of buying a new phone, and you have anything older than an iPhone 6, you should buy an iPhone 6S Plus.

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