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In a significant increase, Netflix has announced that it will release ten films in theaters this fall with the intention of competing for the Oscars. The service has made movies for the Oscars before including well respected films Beasts of No Nation in 2015, then Roma, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Mowgli in 2018.  The schedule for 2019 follows (First Date is Theatre Date, Second Date is Netflix Date):

  • The Launderette with Meryl Streep  – Sep 7  | Oct 18
  • Dolemite Is My Name with Eddie Murphy – Oct 4  | Oct 25
  • The King with Robert Pattinson – Oct 11 | Nov 1
  • Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman with Robert de Niro – Nov 1 | Nov 27
  • Earthquake Bird with Alicia Vikander –  Nov 1 | Nov 15
  • Marriage Story with Scarlett Johansson – Nov 6 | Dec 6
  • Klaus -animated – Nov 8 |Nov 15
  • I Lost My Body – French animated – Nov 15 | Nov 29
  • Atlantics – French drama – Nov 15 | Nov 29
  • The Two Popes with Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce – Nov 27 | Dec 20

 

American Airlines has just launched facial recognition technology as an alternative to boarding passes. They are not the first to use the technology. According to the Washington Post, as of 2018, 14 airports were using facial recognition technology for the boarding process. It’s being used by Lufthansa at Los Angles’ LAX, at Singapore’s Changi airport and London’s Heathrow. Lufthansa commented that it provided “faster and more convenient processes for guests to move through airport.”  While Heathrow Airport claimed that after its 2018 trial, it could be used to “reduce average passenger’s journey time by up to a third.” American Airlines is using facial recognition as an option at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.  Passengers will still need a boarding pass and an ID to get through security. Currently the technology is only being used for international flights at Terminal D. The airline called the new service an “additional convenience during the departure process,” though if you still need your boarding pass and ID, how is that more convenient? Beyond convenience, many people have expressed concerns about the technology’s potential for violation of privacy rights. American Airlines said that the photos of people’s faces won’t be saved, but that scanned images will be sent to US Customs and Border Protection. Alarm bells. Debates about the technology will continue as it further integrates into our lives.  Laws that limit potential abuses will be part of the debate
In the never ending search for kid-safe products, the Amazon Echo Dot Kids’ Edition seems to be one that’s carefully designed and surprisingly attractive. This model comes with parental controls, games and skills designed to encourage young imaginations to run wild, but with everything under control. The $70 Echo Dot Kids Edition is the same device in all respects as the third-generation Echo Dot, but it includes an annual FreeTime subscription, Amazon Parental Service, thousands of audible books, hundreds of Alexa games and child-friendly skill-development tools, as well as Amazon Music without the advertising. The FreeTime package costs $36 for Prime members and $60 for non-members. Considering that the standard Echo Dot costs $50 before discounts, you get more for the money with the Kids Edition. Also, note the books and movies available through the FreeTime subscription can be accessed on an Amazon Fire, Kindle, iOS or Android device. The Echo Dot Kids Edition is guaranteed for two years compared to 90-days for the standard Echo Dot.  Good deal.

1Issues such as performance inhibiting gamer-score limits and the inability of players to buy and sell games easily were the least of the problems for Xbox One. What really annoyed users was that conversations at home were recorded and heard by Microsoft’s “quality control” people as revealed in a recent report from Motherboard.

A former contractor from Microsoft informed Motherboard that most of the recordings classified as “personal conversations” were inadvertent – like picking up unintentional Skype calls – and were triggered by players who had given inadvertent orders to Kinect, the voice command system of Microsoft’s Xbox One or Cortina, the voice assistant.

It’s not as if many people at the product’s launch hadn’t voice concerns about privacy. They had, but their concerns were allayed by claims that Kinect for Xbox 360 was designed and implemented with the best possible privacy checks.  Blah, blah. A Microsoft spokesperson has responded to the issues raised since the release of Motherboard’s report, explaining that interception of audio recordings is no longer a necessary quality control step for the company. A few months ago, Microsoft stopped listening to Xbox One audio.  Additionally, the company appears to be working on updated privacy policies to give users more control over how their personal information is stored.

When talking about video game streaming, we aren’t discussing sites like Twitch that allow gamers to broadcast their game play online for others to watch. Video game streaming is a new way games can be delivered and played – it’s la carte. Think Netflix for video games, where the games are stored in the cloud and can be accessed on a device to be played without the disc and without the console.

Play devices could be your TV, phone, PC, laptop or iPad … all the above. Currently, Sony’s Playstation Now is the only full version available, but it’s accessibility is limited to PS4’s or PC’s for a subscription of around $100 dollars a year. For that users get access to a library of nearly 1,000 old and new games.

Competition is on the way from GeForce Now and Google Stadia, both of which are in test stages. Google Stadia is set to release a version of its service in November.  It will work on pretty much any device that has access to Google Chrome. You will be able use your mouse and keyboard on a PC/Laptop or buy a controller for TV gameplay. If you already have a controller that has Bluetooth capabilities, you can use that or buy Google’s own controller product that will surely have a faster response time since it is specific for this service.

It is important to remember that you will need a very stable internet connection to enjoy these services the way they were meant to be enjoyed.  After all, you’re playing a game that is stored in the cloud and is played over an online server.

Is this the future of gaming or will a console and disc services always have their place? Time will tell, but we will have a good idea of how popular these services are within the next year as the betas become full products.

More and more women are breaking through into the world of pop and hip-hop stardom, but few of them make it to the Forbes’ top 10 highest paid women in music.

Not surprising, Taylor Swift sits at the very top, but the true shock lies in the numbers.  Swift earned an astonishing $100 million more than Beyonce, who sits at number two.  Here’s the list:

  • Taylor Swift – $185 million
  • Beyonce – $81 million
  • Rihanna – $62 million
  • Pink – $57 million
  • Katy Perry – $57 million
  • Ariana Grande – $48 million
  • Dion – $40 million
  • Lady Gaga – $40 million
  • Jennifer Lopez – $40 million
  • Shakira – $35 million

Nicki Minaj, Cardi B and young Billie Eilish are set to challenge the list for this year’s top 10, but they have lots of touring to do to catch the leaders.

Taylor Swift certainly does not take a literal interpretation of her single, “You Need to Calm Down.” The singer went full out political during her acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards for her “Pride Hymn” video.  She railed against the current lack of recognition for the LGBTQ Equality Act petition by President Trump’s administration. A petition was posted for signing at the end of the video that now has half a million signatures, which is “five times what it takes to answer the White House,” Swift said. Then, she pointedly looked at her wrist as if to show that she was counting the time.  She closed by saying, “Several points have been highlighted in this video. If you vote for this video, it means you want a world where we all get equal treatment under the law.” Swift was not always involved in politics. She was virtually silent on the presidential elections of 2016, but to paraphrase Bob Dylan, she was “younger then than now.”  Her new political activism begins as the nation prepares for the 2020 election. Swift was not the only artist to become political at this year’s VMAs. Rapper French Montana and “GLOW” star Alison Brie spoke in favor of immigration when they presented the prize for the Best Latin American Music video. Montana, a Moroccan-born musician, was proud to present the prize as an immigrant.

After much speculation from the fan base, Disney finally unveiled something at the D23 Expo 2019: a self-promoting documentary series titled “One Day at Disney.”  This series will take viewers behind the scenes with the Walt Disney Company performers who bring the magic to life in Disney Parks, Disney Theaters and Walt Disney Imagining. Those featured in the Disney documentary are:

● Eric Baker – a Walt Disney Imagineer who has overseen the creation of detailed props within Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the newest land at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts.

● Ashley Girdich – a Research and Development Project Manager who helps teams execute innovative robotics technology projects at Disney parks.

● Eric Goldberg – an animator known for creating the Genie in Aladdin, Phil in Hercules, and animating Mickey Mouse in the short film Get a Horse! directing “Pocahontas”

● Mark Gonzales – a worker on the world-famous Disneyland Railroad.

● Grace Lee – a Senior Illustration Manager at Disney Worldwide Publishing.

● Zamavus “Zama” Magudulela – a South African actor currently playing Rafiki in The Lion King.

● Ryan Meinerding – Marvel Studio’s Head of Visual Development.

● Dr. Natalie Mylniczenko – a Veterinarian who cares for creatures large and small at Walt Disney World Resort.

● Jerome Ranft – a Pixar artist who created detailed sculptures for animators to use in films including Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3 and Ratatouille.

● Robin Roberts – a former ESPN sportscaster who has been co-anchoring on Good Morning America since 2005.

Sean Spicer, President Trump’s first White House Press Secretary, will be on the 28th season of Dancing with the Stars.  The show typically includes celebrities from the worlds of sports, TV, movies and music, but has had other Republican contestants including Tim DeLay, former Texas Congressman in season 9, Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah Palin, former candidate for Vice President and Governor of Alaska in season 15 and Rick Perry, current Secretary of the Energy in season 23.  No Democrats. Many frustrated opponents of Donald Trump have taken to Twitter to protest the decision and to declare their intention to boycott the show.  Dancing’s host, Tom Bergeron, has expressed his frustration with having Spicer on the show through a twitter post where he said he was hoping to keep politics out of the show in order to avoid division and controversy. Bergeron also joked about Spicer’s exaggeration of Trump’s inauguration crowd on Good Morning America when he sarcastically said “The nice thing is Sean will be in charge of assessing audience size.” Many other people on the show’s staff feel angered by the decision to include Spicer because they felt attacked by him during his time as Press Secretary. With an administration as controversial as Trump’s, there’s no telling who might be angered by including a member or former member of his administration. For his part, Spicer thinks the show this season will set an example for how Americans can disagree over politics while still getting along.
Kids’ safety on the internet is something about which that all parents should be concerned.  A recent survey by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education shows disturbing results about the way kids are using the internet. Many kids don’t understand safe from unsafe digital behavior, which should alarm parents. The Center’s surveyed of 4th to 8th graders discovered that 40 percent of them had used the internet to connect with strangers and that over 50 percent had given their phone number to strangers. Twenty-one percent of them admitted to speaking to a stranger on the phone while 30 percent of them had texted a stranger. Fifteen percent had met up with a stranger in person, 11 percent had visited a strangers’ house and 6 percent had given a stranger their address. Another disturbing pattern is that kids use the internet at all hours. Forty-nine percent claim to be online at 11pm and 33 percent claim to be online past midnight. Late nights and talking to strangers are not good activities for pre-teens and teens. Also, kids often know they are misbehaving: 29 percent admitted to using the internet in ways that their parents wouldn’t approve and a third of them admitted to lying about their age to access adult programs. Meeting bad people at all hours of the night is not the only internet usage risk to children. Self-esteem issues from cyber bullying and gossip is another major problem. Then there is tech addiction that prevents many young children from healthy levels of interaction with nature and friends – not to mention that late hours hamper school work. Given how ill-informed most children are about healthy internet safety standards, it’s important for parents to educate their kids about what’s proper. Further, children need parental controls to prevent them from making mistakes even after they’ve been schooled about healthy internet behavior.