At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Slowing Down in New York City on a Sunday

Moving through Manhattan doesn’t always have to be a huge rush. If you take a moment to slow down while you walk the streets, you can actually take in some relaxed weekend energies. Here are a few New York moments I spotted.

When I visit my father on a Sunday afternoon for lunch, I’ve gotten used to walking from Grand Central Terminal to the Upper East Side. Of course, taking the Lexington Avenue subway is faster, but during the pandemic I’ve preferred outdoor spaces. I usually do a power walk to minimize the extra time required for my two-mile trek. But more recently, I’ve tried something new…

I just don’t walk so fast, and I pay more attention to my immediate surroundings. And I keep my Panasonic Lumix LX-10 camera in my right hand as I go.

Don’t Look Away
I know it’s not a revolutionary idea, but having grown up in Manhattan and spent many adult years walking its streets as part of my commute, I’ve learned to tune out much of the dynamic and sometimes chaotic environment.

But on a Sunday, life on the streets of New York is a bit less intense. And there’s more of an opportunity to enjoy the moment. Everyone seems to have slowed down, if just a bit.

So, I recently traded in my speed-walking strategy for the opportunity to stroll to the Upper East Side and look around for moments that might be interesting to photograph.

Here are a few that I spotted.

Sunday Joy
Beyond my little photographic exercise, I think some might say that I was also being more ‘present’ in my surroundings. It felt good.

Plus, add in a nice lunch with my 88-year-old father, and I’d call that a really good Sunday in New York City!

Why Movies are Ignoring Old Boundaries of Storytelling

Upcoming films are betting that the legacy of iconic characters will successfully transport to new stories and even into the next chapter of a different movie franchise.

I stumbled upon the teaser trailer of Pixar’s upcoming “Lightyear” quite by accident last week. I didn’t know the 2022 animated flick was in production. So when I watched the spot on YouTube, my experience was similar to how we viewed movie trailers in the old days.

And I was delighted.

I especially enjoyed the opening sequence of the spaceship launch. It was visceral. Pixar’s animators keep upping their game.

But my immediate interest in the movie was based on more than a great trailer. That’s because “Lightyear” is connected to an existing franchise. (This flick is apparently the origin story of Buzz Lightyear who the “Toy Story” character is based on.)

But this hero is someone else. So this movie is really a blank slate as storytelling goes.

Clever.

A Prequel or Sequel?
Yes, you’ve got immediate brand recognition. But as a ‘prequel’ of sorts, the writers are not limited by the audience’s knowledge of a character’s future (something like what J.J. Abrams did by creating “Star Trek’s” Kelvin timeline).

But whether a movie is a prequel or sequel, there should always be a good reason to excite the audience beyond familiarity.

And a good movie trailer is usually the way to do that.

The Matrix Resurrections
I enjoyed “The Matrix” trilogy, but you can’t really say the last one ended on an especially happy note. Not that movies must always have a happy ending, but I usually appreciate it when they do. And if you’re committing your time to multiple sequels, I feel it really stinks if the ending is a bummer.

Almost 18 years have passed, and now they’re making a fourth and seemingly rewriting history.

I did know that “The Matrix Resurrections” is due in December, and I was eager to catch the first trailer. It did not disappoint, though it didn’t offer anything dramatically new.

I think the key draw is bringing Neo and Trinity back together. The trailer teases the opportunity to rewrite their tragic story. Or perhaps, tell it again, but differently.

How to Bend the Past to Fit with the Present
The idea of rewriting history in established movie storylines is definitely in vogue now. Both the MCU and DC’s “The Flash” are exploring the ‘multiverse.’ As a storytelling device, you can redo a story infinitely in different, but parallel universes, as the Disney+ series “What If?” demonstrates.

Or we can use the multiverse as a unifying theme to incorporate every iteration of a movie franchise ever made with different actors. Then you can cement it all into one accepted multiverse movie canon.

Whoa.

Upcoming examples are Michael Keaton’s Batman from 1989 and 1992 showing up in next year’s “The Flash” and Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s versions of Spider-Man reportedly coexisting with Tom Holland in the upcoming “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

Really clever.

Plus, it taps into our sense of nostalgia for these earlier movie franchises. I think “Lightyear” and “The Matrix Resurrections” also appeal to the same feeling.

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion, and I think it’s plenty enough to get you into a movie theater (or in front of your TV and pay channel).

Back to the Future
If this all this sounds like Hollywood is focused on reaching way back to help jump start its future, it sure seems that way.

  • “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” in a few weeks
  • “Top Gun: Maverick” in 2022
  • The next Indiana Jones movie in 2023

And if the writers also want to stretch reality and break a few laws of this universe to bring a few iconic movie heroes back into the fold, I’m game.

First give me a good trailer with characters I want to root for. Then surprise me with a new multiverse twist.

That’s a recipe for success.

Why I Must Put the Wireless White Sticks in my Ears

I wouldn’t describe my recent AirPods purchase as a joyous moment. Not exactly. It was more a feeling of satisfaction when you check a box on a decision you’ve long delayed. Here’s why.

The morning after Apple’s latest event, I powered up my iMac at 5:30am with my strong cup of Joe and calmly ordered a pair of the newly released third generation AirPods. Usually, my tech purchasing process is more labored with detailed research and spec comparisons. But this experience felt oddly straight forward, probably because my decision to finally buy a pair of wireless earbuds had been simmering for the past five years.

A Sea of Little White Sticks
Over that time, I’ve watched a major percentage of humanity on the streets of New York City grow little white sticks out of their ears. There were so many modified ears out there, it began to feel like my own were lacking. (Talk about herd mentality.) But as I considered augmenting my own ears’ capabilities, I also worried that a precious AirPod could drop out as I hurried about, crossing a street to beat a light.

The Wrong Fit
Of course the AirPods Pro were released to address this specific concern (among many other upgrades). I did visit the Apple Store in Grand Central Terminal a couple years back to try on a pair, eager to finally join the world of wireless earbud users.

But the AirPods Pro simply weren’t comfortable. I know it may take time to get used to the fit, or perhaps I needed a different-sized ear tip. But I turned around and walked down the stairs, empty handed, disappointed and uncertain about what to do next.

I started researching other options from different manufacturers. I went down the rabbit hole of reviews and price comparisons. I procrastinated some more.

Then, Covid hit. My focus shifted. And the next 18 months evaporated.

Better Late than Never
But the patterns of my former life have recently reemerged, and like many commuters, I have finally come out of forced hibernation. I’m back on my Metro North commuter train and walking on the streets of New York.

Immediately, I saw it all again. The sea of little white sticks.

And I wanted to swim in this ocean that surrounded me. I wanted to taste this experience.

So, I decided it was finally time. Time to get a pair of the white sticks. I’d go with the regular AirPods that wouldn’t squeeze into my ears like a Borg attachment. And if one dropped out and escaped forever, that’s life, baby.

I knew an updated model of AirPods were due. So, I just had to wait a little longer for the announcement. Soon, I would finally answer the question of what life would be like without the complexity of wires running into my ears.

An Upgrade to my Experience
The AirPods 3 have spatial audio. That’s great. And they’re water resistant. Excellent. They’re supposed to fit better. I like that.

Sure, I’m pleased that I’ll have the latest and greatest model, but I know I’m hardly an early adopter.

I do expect a better audio experience as I wirelessly tether to my iPhone, though I must admit I’m not an audiophile who must stream the best quality audio into my brain.

What I’m really hoping for is an upgrade to my physical experience as I move through my day and interface with my iPhone. No more messy wires to untangle and plug in.

Wireless is Inevitable
But are wires really so bad? Sure, they eventually fray and need to be replaced. I can’t tell you how many wired Apple EarPods I’ve had to buy over the years… but they’re just twenty bucks a pop. The rechargeable batteries in my new AirPods won’t last forever, and AirPods have an extra zero in their price point.

Today… everything is going wireless. Sure, it’s convenient, offering a clutter-free feng shui in your home. But it’s more expensive. And wireless tech needs to be recharged… and then eventually replaced.

Do you see the clever business cycle here?

A Case for Wires
We’re living in a world that increasingly distains wires. But wired connections, though messy, do tend to be more reliable.

I’m not saying that I don’t expect my new AirPods to perform perfectly. They simply fall outside of the ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ technical mindset.

I know my little AirPods come with a nifty charging case that can juice them up three times. After some use, I’ll need to figure out a charging schedule for the case so it doesn’t run dry when I’m on the go.

Last Man on Earth
My AirPods arrive next week, and once I join the crowd, I’d hate it if my AirPods pooped out (while still popped in). Sure, I’d still look good, but someone would figure it out.

Donald Sutherland would walk up to me and point. And then I’d hear his alien shriek.

What would I do? Perhaps pull out my retired Bose noise-cancelling wired headsets (with the wrong connector) from my Road Warrior 1.0 days.

Whoa! Then, I’d really be in trouble.

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