iPhone X Wallpaper Updates

iPhone X lock screen showing the Star Trek LCARS wallpaper

If you’re the proud owner of a slick new iPhone X then I have some good news. I’ve updated three of my lock screen wallpapers for the new device and boy do they look great. The iPhone X’s new OLED screen means blacks are truly black resulting in a stunning appearance for lock screen designs like my popular Star Trek LCARS wallpaper. The design also seamlessly blends with the device’s bezel to create a fun Next Generation feel in your hands. The LCARS lock screen even comes in four variants so there’s lots options to try out.

I’ve also updated my Twin Peaks and Pokéwall wallpapers as well so be sure to check them out too. I’ll probably update the others (Westworld & Cosmos) in time but for now these three updates would make great additions to any iPhone X lock or home screen. Enjoy!

Reclaim Your Screen with Unobstruct

Unobstruct app iconRecently I had the pleasure of collaborating on a fun project with my friend and co-worker, Troy Gaul. Troy and I worked closely together to develop Linea and he asked if I could design the app icon for a new type of ad blocker he was developing which eventually became to be called Unobstruct. The concept behind the app is simple – get annoying social media banners that websites overlay on their content out of the way. Screen real estate, especially on mobile devices, is limited and the last thing users need are buttons for Twitter and Facebook cluttering up the view.

From the moment I took up the project I knew I wanted the app’s icon to be both fun and non-flat. Like many iOS developers these days, I’ve had my fill with two-dimensional glyph-type icons that seem to be piled as far as the eye can see in the App Store. I didn’t want to swing the pendulum all the way back to a full skeuomorphism but I didn’t want Unobstruct’s icon to be just another soulless geometric utility that no one would ever remember.

rough idea concepts for Unobstruct sketched in Linea on the iPad

I gathered the gang at the office for a quick brainstorming session and we sketched out a bunch of rough ideas (I have a fondness for the one that looked like a bare-chested Vladimir Putin but alas that was never meant to be). From those quick doodles in Linea, a concept formed of a tough little bot that pushes offending social media bars and banners off the screen. Once I drew his basic forms in Adobe Illustrator, I slowly built up shading and subtle gradients to give him an overall feel of tactility. You can see a similar approach in the xScope Mirror icon, creating subtle dimension through the strategic use of highlights and shadows.

The result is an adorable, tough-as-nails app that will never stop fighting to free up your screen from those annoying floating bars and let you read easier. Check out Troy’s Medium post detailing how he developed the app and what went into making it a reality. Unobstruct is available today in the App Store for .99¢. We hope you’ll give it a try, enjoy!

Twin Peaks Wallpapers for iPhone & iPad

iPhone lock screen showing the Twin Peaks wallpaper

When Twin Peaks premiered in April of 1990, I quickly found myself caught up in the show’s intricate and mysterious plot to discover who killed High School sweetheart, Laura Palmer. The series was groundbreaking and paved the way for many of the “puzzle series” we take for granted today like ‘Lost’, ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Westworld’. Twin Peaks’ writing, directing art direction and music all made it a cult classic that has been called by many one of the greatest TV dramas of all time.

As a die-hard Twin Peaks fan, I’m excited for the premiere of the new Limited Series coming to Showtime which airs on May 21st and will run for a full 18 episodes. Many of the original cast will return to reprise their rolls including Kyle MacLachlan, Mädchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, and several others. To help celebrate Twin Peak’s return to television I took inspiration from some cool artwork created by artist and illustrator Chris Bishop. Chris created a neat Twin Peaks tribute graphic that I instantly knew would make for a great iOS wallpaper. I contacted him and received his permission to remix his original art and came up with something fun that any Twin Peaks fan would be proud to display on their iPhone or iPad.

The wallpaper depicts Special Agent Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer in the mysterious Red Room, along with a few surprises. It comes in two variants – Lock Screen and Home Screen and is ready to download to your favorite iOS device. My thanks to Chris for allowing me to run with his creation and to Mark Frost and David Lynch for bringing one of my all-time favorite TV series back from the dead. I can’t wait to see what the sleepy, mysterious town of Twin Peaks has in store for us this time. Enjoy!

How to download and apply the wallpapers on iOS:

1) Click to view the wallpaper that best fits your device:

• iPhone SE – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPhone X – Twin Peaks Lock Screen

• iPhone SE – Twin Peaks Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Twin Peaks Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Twin Peaks Home Screen
• iPhone X – Twin Peaks Home Screen

• iPad – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPad – Twin Peaks Home Screen

2) Tap & hold on the image in mobile Safari & save it to your photo library

3) Open Photos, view the image then tap the Share button in the lower left

4) Scroll to the right in the Share menu and tap Use as Wallpaper

5) Pinch Zoom OUT on the image to size it exactly to the screen

6) Turn Perspective Zoom OFF

7) Tap Set > Set Lock Screen

That’s it! Next time you unlock your iPhone you can help Agent Cooper navigate the supernatural labyrinth called Twin Peaks and solve the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer. Be sure to check out my other iPhone wallpapers – Westworld, Star Trek LCARS, Pokéwall and more. Enjoy!

UPDATE: I’ve added 2 new iPhone X variants for use with iOS 11. The device’s tall format of means the wallpaper had to change to accommodate the new design. Enjoy!

The Evolution of Linea

iMore Show artworkLast week, the Iconfactory launched its new simplified sketching app for iPad – Linea. We worked on the app for over a year and used it internally for client projects during its development. The response has been nothing short of amazing. We designed the app to be easy to use and immediately approachable for both advanced artists as well as novice users and that simplified philosophy seems to really have struck a chord with people.

Rene Richie invited me to come on episode 543 of the iMore Show and talk about Linea. We discussed how the app came to be, what went into bringing it to market and how it hopefully stands out in the crowded space of App Store sketch apps. I had a great time with Rene, Serenity Caldwell, Lory Gill and Georgia Dow talking about Linea and getting their insights into why they love sketching with it. As an aside, if you’ve not seen Serenity’s amazing video review of Linea, please do check it out, it’s one of the best product reviews I’ve ever seen.

A big thanks to the entire iMore crew for having me on to talk about Linea. It’s gratifying to see something you’ve worked so long and hard on be so loved by the iOS community. The Linea section of episode 543 starts around the 24 minute mark. Enjoy!

The Uncertain Highway

dark lines of a highway at night racing towards us

Today Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States. To say I never thought this day would come is probably my greatest understatement ever. I was certain we’d never see this man sitting in the Oval Office, yet here we are.

The journey from that stage of denial to today’s acceptance of his inauguration has been a tough one for myself and millions of my fellow Americans. At times it’s felt like I was shoved in a car by people I don’t know or associate with and forced to travel an unfamiliar highway late at night. What’s worse, the car has no headlights, no brakes and to top it all off we’re not even certain where we’re all going. Hopefully we can keep our wits about us and not drive off into the ditch. If we all do our part, God willing we’ll arrive someplace safe and not as bad as we originally thought.

This past week I spent time taking down Christmas decorations and as I was packing up the boxes I caught myself thinking “I hope this isn’t the last time I get to do this.” I was stunned to realize I actually thought such a thing but I had. What if this reckless, unfit, unqualified, corrupt bully of a man starts a war and kills us all? Is that posssible? As depressing as it sounds, yes, it certainly is. And if he doesn’t get us, climate change almost certainly will.

By the time I came back in the house however I started thinking of ways I and others can help make sure these things didn’t happen. Be kind to strangers, help those in need, call my local leaders and make damn sure they know Trump doesn’t speak for me or my family. Teach kids and grandkids to be self-reliant, keep an open mind and be tolerant of others. If you see an injustice being committed, especially to a person of color, speak up. Learn a new skill or trade and do what you need to do to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. It’s up to all of us to resist and not become complacent. It’s going to be so difficult these next four years to not simply give in to the constant stream of bullshit but that’s what we have to do. I for one am ready to fight, I’m ready to do my part to steady the wheel.

As one of my favorite cinematic characters once said “The future is not set, there is no fate but what we make.” Like her, I want to face that highway with a sense of hope for the future, not despair. It won’t be easy, and there are bound to be casualties along the way but I’m confident we’ll get there in the end if we work together and stay true to ourselves. Come with us if you want to live, love who you want and be free.

I Find Your Trump-Based Belief System Fascinating

I was listening to an interview with a 20-year female veteran on NPR today who’s struggled with whom to vote for this election. She said she ultimately decided she will vote for Trump because “more of his beliefs align with mine.”

As I listened, all I could think about was which beliefs of Trump’s those would be. The belief it’s okay to mock disabled people? The belief it’s acceptable to attack and disgrace a Gold Star family’s ultimate sacrifice? Maybe that it’s okay to call veterans like John McCain losers? Or perhaps it’s his belief that it is acceptable to be a sexual predator who forces himself on women when ever he feels like it? I have a feeling it’s his casual disregard for the Constitution like when he called for the population of an entire religion to be banned from the United States. I just can’t decide which belief(s) this woman shares with Trump.

When I hear just how little the things he’s said or done matter to a certain block of voters I’m reminded just how much sway emotion has over us. Lead with your heart, not your mind. Feelings are greater than facts. People also have a big tendency to stick to their tribal mindset way more than I’ve anticipated. It makes me depressed and saddened to think about them and where we’re headed in this country. Even when Hillary wins tomorrow, and she WILL win, we all still lose thanks to the millions of people who would rather be on the winning team than do what’s best for the entire country by electing a person who is for a lack of a better term – an asshole.

Westworld Wallpapers for iOS

Westworld lock screen wallpaper displayed on an outline iPhone 6'I admit it. I’m addicted to HBO’s new science fiction series – Westworld. Based on the 1973 thriller film written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton, HBO’s re-imagined series transports us to a futuristic theme park where people can live out every desire as part of the old west. Guests to the park can partake in over a hundred narrative storylines to search for lost treasure, hunt down wanted bandits or just visit the local saloons and brothels and have the vacation of a lifetime.

The show stars Oscar winning actor Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Ford, one of Westworld’s creators as well as Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy, a robot who’s entire world is not what she believes it to be. We’re only three episodes in but I’m already addicted to the show, what it all means and where it’s headed. I find the sheer logistics of such an imagined theme park fascinating – it’s like Disney World on mega steroids.

Every part of Westworld from the robot inhabitants, called “hosts”, to the livestock and even the landscape is fabricated all for the pleasure of the guests. It’s like a gigantic MMORPG but in real life, full of twists and turns, mystery and intrigue. It has elements of some of my favorite television shows like Battlestar Galactica and Firefly with a touch of World of Warcraft thrown in for good measure. If you subscribe to HBO, I really recommend you check it out. You can also follow @HBOWestworld for the latest news and sneak peeks about the show.

I love Westworld so much in fact I went ahead and created a set of lock and home screen wallpapers that you can use on your iPhone. I think I captured the spirit of the series with both the nod to the old west as well as its enigmatic future.

How to download and apply the wallpapers on iOS:

1) Click to view the wallpaper that best fits your device:

• iPhone SE – Westworld Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Westworld Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Westworld Lock Screen

• iPhone SE – Westworld Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Westworld Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Westworld Home Screen

• iPad – Westworld Lock Screen
• iPad – Westworld Home Screen

2) Tap & hold on the image in mobile Safari & save it to your photo library

3) Open Photos, view the image then tap the Share button in the lower left

4) Scroll to the right in the Share menu and tap Use as Wallpaper

5) Pinch Zoom OUT on the image to size it exactly to the screen

6) Turn Perspective Zoom OFF

7) Tap Set > Set Lock Screen

That’s it! Next time you unlock your iPhone you can imagine you’re about to set out for adventure or whatever else may find you as you roam the vast, entertaining frontier that is HBO’s Westworld. Be sure to check out my other iPhone wallpapers – Star Trek LCARS, Pokéwall and more. Enjoy!

Holy Super-Overload, Batman!

Man ripping off shirt to reveal costume with dozens of super hero logos underneath

With Supergirl’s recent move to the CW network, I’ve started developing anxiety over this fall’s lineup of shows that start with the season premiere of The Flash on Tuesday, Oct. 4th. The CW has nearly cornered the market on the small-screen super hero genre and will have no less than four different DC properties running concurrently this fall – The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl.

So far I’ve only watched selected episodes of Supergirl but I liked what I saw and with Kara’s move from CBS, I’m more inclined to watch full time since the likelihood of more frequent crossovers seem logical. Kara’s (and by extension, Superman’s) world isn’t in the same multi-verse as the other three DC properties however and so she can’t just fly to Central City and team up with Barry Allen whenever she feels like it. This is probably a good thing or I’d feel even more compelled to watch every week and I can barely keep up with three shows as it is.

The premiere season of Legends of Tomorrow wasn’t spectacular either. It featured too many characters, uneven pacing and more super-cliche’s than I could shake a stick at. I’m prepared to give the new season a go for a few weeks but if they don’t step up Legend’s quality quickly, I’ll gladly sacrifice it in order to try and keep my sanity.

Montage of Supergirl, Green Arrow and The Flash character portraits

Since all these shows reference each other, it’s important to watch them all in tandem to get the most out of them and therein lies the rub. How am I supposed to keep up with an ever-expanding array of superheroes and their villainous counterparts from week to week? Supergirl on Monday nights, The Flash on Tuesdays, Arrow on Wednesdays and Legends on Thursdays. I fear all of this is enough to make me want to swear off the DC TV universe for good.

Managing four superhero properties and their inter-relationships has to be difficult for the show runners but the payoff for the network has huge potential. By binding these four titles to each other, they’re essentially turning them into one, huge, can’t-miss CW television show each week. For fans this would seem like a win-win scenario, but with a continuous stream of quality shows like Daredevil, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the new Luke Cage series coming to Netflix, our time and attention spans are ever-shortenting. I just hope they can deliver on the kinds of quality story writing, acting and special effects that are needed to keep us all tuning in for four hours of super-programming every week. Otherwise I’m afraid I’ll be giving my DVR a much needed break.

A Sticker By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

Sweet Stickypoo Sticker

So imagine that thing you’ve built your entire professional career on, something you love to create with a burning passion, slowly fades from popularity. Day by day people have less and less use for it, fewer and fewer people write you to make requests. You try to stay the course and keep doing your thing, but doubts inevitably creep in.

Then one day you find you’re just not doing it any more. You’re not really sure what happened but somewhere along the way it just… stopped. It pains you that people no longer love or even really need the thing you’ve honed your craft on for close to twenty years, but what can be done?

You go about your business, applying what you’ve learned to other areas of your discipline. Occasionally a project invites you to play in the fields you once roamed with glee, but they seem few and far between.

Then one day something comes along that turns the old thing you loved to do into something new and exciting. It presents that thing in a whole new, modern way and lets you express your creativity as never before to an entirely new audience. These people are too young to really remember you or where you’ve come from but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you’re standing in the middle of those lush, green fields once again and the sky is literally the limit. It may not last a year, a few months or even a week but for now, for right now, it’s just as fun, just as compelling and fulfilling as it ever was and it is glorious.

Those “things” are simply icons. Desktop icons, specifically.

They are what, since yesterday, we now call stickers in Messages but they’ll always be icons to me. Their introduction in iOS 10 represents a new era for icon artists like myself who once toiled for endless hours to create piles and piles of icons that people could download and use on their computer desktops. We created them because it was fun for us as artists and especially fun for those who collected them.

The advent of the iPhone and mobile era changed all that and desktop icons went out of fashion. People were glued to their tiny screens and didn’t have the time or attention span to customize their desktop folders and hard drives any longer. With the advent of iOS 10 however, people once again have a way to collect and share those tiny, iconic works of art in the form of iMessage stickers. Stickers, perhaps even more than emoji have the capacity to inspire and delight people as never before and I have completely enjoyed creating them during these precious weeks leading up to yesterday’s launch. I’ve been working with my friends at the Iconfactory to bring hundreds of icons stickers to life and it has been a blast. I’ve worked with outside artists as well and watching them create has been joyous.

Stickers may turn out to be another flash in the digital pan and fade quickly into the sunset but that hardly matters. Even if they do, for one brief moment, they allowed me to re-energize, create and dream what might be possible. In short, they have inspired me. As an artist I can truly say this matters more to me than all the tea in China. Thank you, Apple. I owe you one.

Pokéwall Wallpaper for iOS

Pokewall Wallpaper on an iPhone 6

I designed these mobile wallpapers to work specifically with iOS, but there’s nothing that says you can’t use them with Android or Windows phone too. I’m just not going to make a bazillion size variants for all those devices 😛

There’s no denying that the new augmented reality game Pokémon GO from Nintendo and Niantic, Inc. has taken the world by storm. People of all ages are getting their butts up off the couch and heading out into the real world to try and capture as many of these cuddly, courageous animals as they can.

I thought it would be fun to whip up a mobile wallpaper that let’s you turn your smart phone lock screen into a Pokéball, and so Pokéwall was born. Now you can become the envy of all those shiny new friends you’ve made while you explore your community at all hours of the day and night!

How to download and apply the wallpapers on iOS:

1) Click to view the wallpaper that best fits your device:

• iPhone 5 Series – Original
• iPhone 6 – Original
• iPhone 6 Plus – Original
• iPhone X – Original
• iPad & iPad Pro – Original

2) Tap & hold on the image in mobile Safari & save it to your photo library

3) Open Photos, view the image then tap the Share button in the lower left

4) Scroll to the right in the Share menu and tap Use as Wallpaper

5) Pinch Zoom OUT on the image to size it exactly to the screen

6) Turn Perspective Zoom OFF

7) Tap Set > Set Lock Screen

That’s it! Sleep/lock your iPhone and the next time you activate it, you can pretend you’re about to catch that elusive epic Pokémon you’ve always wanted. I hope you enjoy this fun treat & help spread the word via Twitter and Facebook. Have fun and stay safe!

PS – If you liked Pokéwall, be sure to check out my Star Trek LCARS wallpapers as well.

Guest Judging Food Network’s ‘Cake Wars’ Was a Sweet Treat

Cake Wars Emoji Panel

Pictured L to R: Myself, Cake Wars regular judges Ron Ben-Israel and Waylynn Lucas with host Jonathan Bennett

In my career as an icon artist I’ve had the privilege of working on tons of great projects, meeting fascinating people and participating in lots of wonderful events. This past March however, I was invited to appear on the Food Network’s reality baking competition, Cake Wars, as a guest judge and quite simply, it was an adventure of a lifetime. The theme of the episode I was to appear on was emoji, something I’ve become intimately familiar with these past few years. Needless to say when we received a request for one of us to fly to L.A. and participate as a judge I nearly fell out of my chair. From start to finish, my experience on Cake Wars was fantastic and so I just want to share some of those experiences with you.

The Journey

I’ve been a fan of reality TV cooking competitions for years with shows like Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, The Great British Baking Show and more recently Food Network’s Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen. Over the years I’ve considered applying to a few of these shows in the hopes of showing off my amateur cooking skills but had never gotten off my butt to do it. So you can imagine how amazing it was to ultimately be sitting at the Cake Wars judging table next to the incredibly talented Ron Ben-Israel and Waylynn Lucas.

From our initial email exchanges to arranging the trip, all of the people from Super Delicious, the company that produces Cake Wars for Food Network, were positively wonderful and made my time on set a joy. My first surprise happened as soon as I stepped out of the car on the Cake Wars lot. Ron Ben-Israel had also just arrived and he immediately came over to greet me outside the main door. He stepped right up, introduced himself and said “You must be Gedeon!” As we entered the building, he proceeded to tell me all about myself, where I went to school, some of the projects I’ve worked on over the years and even how long I’ve been at the Iconfactory. “You see Gedeon, I do my homework!” The sheer fact that Ron warmly greeted me and knew all about me was such a thoughful way to be welcomed to the set that I could hardly believe it.

All throughout the day, Ron helped me to know where to look for the camera, gave me speaking tips and even signed an autograph for me which I now have hanging on my desk at work. He even took time to answer any and all questions I peppered him with like how he makes the incredible buttercream for his award-winning cakes! In exchange I showed him how to receive animated emoji on his iPhone and tried not to gush over sitting right next to him *too* much. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say for the record that Waylynn Lucas and host Jonathan Bennett were also both super nice to me as were the entire crew of over 60 people. It was easy to see they had all done their jobs dozens of times before and knew where they should be, how to speak, what the director was looking for and more from the start.

Judge’s Table

If you’ve ever watched TV and wondered what it must be like to sit behind the judge’s table to critique culinary creations, let me try and set the scene. Cake Wars is broken down into two rounds; a smaller initial round where one of the four contestant teams is eliminated at the end and then a big, show-stopping round with the winner receiving a $10,000 prize. I’m not going to spoil the episode and tell you who won (you’ll have to watch to find out) but I will say that watching the bakers work and tasting their creations was a privilege. Both Ron and Waylynn warned me to be prepared to taste both great and not-so-great cakes and naturally they were right. Some were moist and delicious, some were flavored perfectly and some were so sweet they made my toes curl.

All of the cakes arrived at the judge’s table via production assistants with perfectly cut slices, meticulously arranged on white flatware in front of me. Needless to say I took great care when handling my fork and made sure to take my time, taste everything and made mental notes on each as I went. Thankfully the producers explained my primary concern was to critique the overall design and visual appeal of the cakes, how well they conformed to the emoji theme of the challenges and if they had been executed well or poorly. Since I’m not a food critic I gratefully kept the majority of my comments focused on the designs of the cakes. The contestants seemed to appreciate my feedback through the various rounds.

Behind the Scenes

Between rounds, each of the judges had the opportunity to retreat to their dressing rooms while the contestants baked. The final round happens over the course of 4 hours and so there’s a lot of work on set for the contestants to get their show-stopping cakes completed before time expires. The production assistant explained to me they would come and get all of us for the final 30 minutes of baking but I asked if I could stay in my seat and watch while they worked. She allowed me to remain on set and I’m so glad I did. Not only did I get to see the inner workings of the show and how it’s filmed but I also was able to ask one of the floor directors a bunch of questions that he graciously answered.

One thing I asked was if the producers look forward to “food disasters”, i.e. when cakes fall or major mistakes occur on set. His answer was telling. He explained that of course most producers will say they think these unplanned problems make for great TV, but they also tend to push the production schedule later in the day, sometimes much later and that’s bad. Things have to be re-filmed, stations reset and it just throws a monkey wrench into the works which wastes time, money and makes the entire production crew cranky. Ultimately he explained that Food Network wants the contestants to succeed in their efforts and produce the best cakes they can so in reality, it’s better to have everything go as smoothly as possible in the end.

That’s a Wrap

From the moment I stepped onto the studio lot, just like the emoji I was there to judge, I wore a huge smile across my face. To say I was honored to be a part of Food Network’s Cake Wars emoji episode just doesn’t do it justice. It was quite literally a foodie’s dream come true to be able to travel to L.A. and participate in judging these amazing cakes from talented bakers across the country. One of the teams however was much closer to home than I ever suspected.

I learned just this week that one of the teams I judged is based right here in Greensboro, NC! I went to visit Taylor Kisselstein at Easy Peasy Decadent Desserts and ordered a dozen cupcakes (emoji of course!) for the viewing party I held at my home the night the episode aired. Thanks, Taylor!

When I think back on my experience I will always remember the excitement of being on the set, but I also warmly recall the people, especially Ron Ben-Israel. He is a professional in every sense of the word with an amazing talent for baking positively beautiful cakes. I’ve spoken with him a few times since filming and even now he continues to be just as warm, gracious and helpful as he was that day and has even encouraged me to audition for Chopped! To him, and all the other members of the cast, crew and production team, and to everyone at Food Network, thank you for having me on the show. It was an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget.

The Emoji episode of Cake Wars is available for purchase via iTunes. Enjoy!

Miscellaneous Thoughts & Observations

• Each of the judge’s chairs have a leather pouch hanging from the back of the seat for their cell phone should they wish to keep it handy but not on their person during filming

• The feeling you get when you see your own name on a dressing room door is just as amazeballs as you can imagine

• Ron Ben-Israel used to subscribe to MacAddict Magazine & was a huge Mac gear head back in the day

• Multiple people on set told me the “Minecraft” ep of Cake Wars was… challenging to film

• Each baking team has its own “story producer” who encourages them on set to be energetic, enthusiastic & speak clearly during the course of filming

• If all teams are in the weeds and are behind, the producers have been known to give them extra time to complete their cake creations

• Almost all of the judge’s dialog is unscripted. In contrast, nearly 100% of host Jonathan Bennett’s dialog is written for the camera. The script is edited in real time and constantly finessed and adjusted as events unfold during filming

• Fraternizing with the contestants prior to filming was strictly forbidden. Also, if one of the contestants approached me before filming began I was supposed to let the powers that be know O_o

• Having to eliminate people from possibly winning a $10,000 prize really stinks

• Awarding a $10,000 prize to a talented cake artist is incredibly awesome and more than makes up for the former 🙂

Why I Love the Music of ‘The Martian’

While I was watching ‘The Martian‘ for the umpteenth time I had a mini-epiphany regarding the film’s music. One of the best parts of the movie for me is the sprawling, technical and beautiful score by Harry Gregson-Williams but I never realized why I loved it so much until recently. If you’re a fan of space-themed stuff like Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series then be sure to check out my take on the music of ‘The Martian’ in this short YouTube video.

Update: Here are links to all 3 albums discussed in the video:

The Martian – (Original Motion Picture Score)
Vangelis – Albedo 0.39
Vangelis – Direct

The Best BitCam Review. Ever.

BitCam review from the app store: WHY? - In 2016, why in the world would I want an app that makes my photos look WORSE? why? WHY?! I downloaded this app just to tell you guys ya crazy for giving it 5 stars. BOOO BOOO BOOOOO. Go HOME. And if you're at home, go stick your head in the ground. 8 bit camera...sheesh, good grief. As long as we're throwing out dumb ideas how about soggy bread, it goes down so much smoother! And what about ants in your pants? Oh yeah sounds like a great idea too; 5 stars for both. Finally, WHYYYYYY?!?

I and everyone at the Iconfactory are grateful so many people have been enjoying our little photographic throwback to the 1990′s with our recent release of BitCam. For those who remember the era it’s a nostalgia trip that brings bittersweet memories of straining modems and ear-piercing dot-matrix printers flooding right back. Millennials are not old enough to understand this however. To many of them, a dot-matrix printer is the tool that was used to print the flower patterns on the out house toilet paper back before there was indoor plumbing and colors hadn’t been invented yet.

Someday about 20 or 30 years from now, ya boy jax may well pine for the days when images were taken on a physical device instead of inside his eyeball. A time when talking with his friends meant tapping on a glass-covered screen to launch an archaic app like Snapchat instead of projecting a hologram of himself from his floaty chair onto whatever the internet eventually becomes. On that glorious day, I will push back in my recliner at the old folks home and smile the smile of kings.

We’re Talking Twitterrific and Accessibility

Twitterrific was recently honored by the folks at AppleVis with an induction into their App Hall of Fame for iOS Accessibly. The folks behind AppleVis invited me to their Extras podcast to talk about the nature of the award, how and why Twitterrific became accessible to VoiceOver users and what Twitterrific users can expect in the future. I had a great time chatting with them on this important subject. The AppleVis Extra podcast #44 is available for streaming online from their website. Enjoy!

Fear of Trump Sparks Surge in Citizenship & Voter Registration

More and more I hear from friends on social media that they’re worried Donald Trump is going to mop the floor with Hillary Clinton. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have concerns, but at the same time it’s important to keep in mind how much the demographics in the United States have changed, even in just the last four years. In order for Trump to take the presidency, he would have to convince ALL of the states that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 to vote for him in addition to Hispanic heavy states like Nevada, New Mexico and especially Florida. It’s a tough electoral college pill to swallow.

As this report from the Washington Post shows, the Hispanic community, in this case California, is coming out to register to be citizens and vote like never before. Prior to Trump people stayed in the shadows out of fear of exposure and possible deportation. Now they realize just how much is on the line and they’ve decided exposure be damned, it’s more important to fight for their interests. My favorite part of this video is how the poll workers explain that this movement has spread among family members. It’s not just one member of the household, it’s ALL of them. The silver lining here is that many immigrants who were here illegally are taking steps to become official citizens. Good for them.

Much can happen between now and November, but if and when Trump loses in the fall I have little doubt it’s going to be because of the racial divide he’s built in the form of a metaphorical wall on the US / Mexico border. The GOP is going nuts trying to rein him in but thankfully for all us sane people who oppose him, he’ll never change. He’s doing serious damage to the GOP’s ability to reach out to hispanic and african americans and they know it.

How to Make Spiral Cut Hot Dogs

As recipes go this is about as simple as it gets so it’s not really about the ingredients so much as the technique. Why spiral cut your hot dogs prior to grilling them? When spiral cut, the hot dog ends up having more surface area to cook and this means more of that yummie, caramelized goodness after it comes off the grill. It also is just plain fun and looks cool on the plate. One you go spiral, you never go back.

My ‘Game of Thrones’ S6 Wish List

Tyrion & Varys In Meereen

SPOILER WARNING: This post covers events up to and including the first episode of S6’s Game of Thrones ‘The Red Woman’. If you’re not caught up, you probably want to hop the next boat to Essos because there’s nothing ahead for you except spoilers and regret. You’ve been warned!

After what seemed like an unusually long hiatus (it wasn’t I just was going through GoT withdrawal), one of my favorite TV shows of all time has returned to HBO for season 6 – Game of Thrones. Last season was an amazing mix of drama and building suspense as we witnessed Daenerys evolving from conquerer to ruler, endured the horrors of Sansa Stark’s betrothal to Ramsay Bolton and witnessed the coming fight with the White Walkers and their undead army. I’ve never read any of the novels but that no longer seems to matter as the show has now caught up to the novels and as such, season 6 should be as much of a surprise to book readers as to the rest of us.

To say I’m excited for season 6 would be a massive understatement but this was also true for each of the previous seasons as well. Like any dedicated fan, I find myself hoping for specific plots to take focus or characters and places to be revealed on screen so I thought I’d put together a wish list of those plots, characters and places I’m longing to see in season 6.

Casterly Rock

Casterly Rock is the seat of power for the Lannister family, an impressive castle hewn out of solid rock on the western-most shores of Westeros. The books describe Casterly Rock as almost two leagues long from west to east, containing tunnels, dungeons, storerooms, barracks, halls, stables, stairways, courtyards, balconies, and gardens. It’s popularly believed to resemble a giant lion in repose when the setting sun strikes it. We’ve heard the Rock mentioned numerous times in the television series but we’ve never actually seen it yet.

In the novels, Casterly Rock sits atop one of Westerns’ most productive gold mines which helps account for the Lannister family’s enormous wealth. Due to its legendary status, it is said visitors to the Rock sometimes believe the entire fortress was constructed out of solid gold. Artists and fans have put forth their interpretations of Casterly Rock but I really want to see how the show’s creators depict the mythical home of Tyrion, Jamie, Cerise and Tywin Lannister. Hopefully we’ll finally get to visit this epic destination in season 6 of Game of Thrones.

Cerise’s Revenge

You know a series’ writing is top notch when it can take one of the most reviled villains in all of television and turn them into a protagonist. Such was the case last season with the evolution of the incestuous Queen Cersei Lannister. Things have not been going well for Cersei for several seasons but by the end of S5 I was squarely on her side. Between being locked in prison by religious fanatics, her humiliating atonement of being forced to walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing, and watching two of her three children violently murdered, I’d say Cersei deserves some payback.

The Mountain carries Cerise to safety

When Cersei had Tyrion wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of King Jeoffery (her eldest son) back in S4, I didn’t think I could hate a fictional character more than I hated Cersei. But the winds of change blow quickly in Westeros and given how much delight others have taken in the physical and emotional torture of the Queen, I now find myself counting the minutes until she unleashes her new pet, the re-animated remains of The Mountain on her oppressors. I’d like nothing more than to see the High Sparrow and Septa Unella beaten to death with their beloved Bell of Shame. Fingers crossed!

The Long-Overdue Stark Reunion

Ever since the end of season 1, the House of Stark has been a poster child for familial tragedy. With the death of their father, Eddard Stark at the hands of King Joffrey, the Starks were split up across Westeros, torn apart by war, distance and circumstances beyond their control. In particular, the two sisters, Sansa and Arya have not seen each other in years, nor do they even know the other is still alive. We’ve all been waiting patiently for at least 2 of the surviving Starks to get an on-screen reunion but to be honest I’m not sure we ever will.

The premiere episode of season 6 presents us with a small glimmer of hope however as Brienne of Tarth arrives in time to save Sansa and her slave turned savior, Theon Grayjoy from Ramsay Bolton’s soldiers and vicious hounds. Brienne lays her sword at Sansa’s feet and pledges her life to protect and defend her, and Sansa gladly accepts her and Podrick’s service. I’m willing to bet good Lannister gold that the first order of business in episode 2 will be for Brienne to reveal to Sansa that Arya is still alive, or at least she was when she and Podrick encountered Arya on their way to the Eyrie.

Brienne pledges her service to Sansa Stark

Will this revelation set Sansa and company on the road to find her long, lost sister? Perhaps, but more likely they will continue north to Castle Black where they believe Sansa’s half-brother, Jon Snow is alive and ready to help them. Little do they know that Jon was betrayed by his fellow Knight’s Watch brothers and killed as a traitor just a few short hours ago. Then again, perhaps Jon will be alive (and well?) when they arrive, which brings me to the final item on my Game of Thrones wish list.

Zombie Jon Snow

So many Starks have bitten the dust over the course of six seasons, you would think losing the bastard son Jon Snow at the end of S5 would feel like a pin prick, but you’d be wrong. Deemed a traitor by the Knight’s Watch for going beyond the wall and attempting to work with and save the Wildlings from the evil White Walkers, Jon was stabbed over and over again and left for dead in the cold snow.

Fans of the book and TV series alike have all theorized that Jon isn’t actually dead however and that he may come back to “life” as either a minion of the Walkers or as a resurrected servant of the Lord of Light, courtesy of the Woman in Red, Melisandre. Personally I think the former theory would be much more fun and lead to some seriously cool scenes where Jon takes revenge on the Knights Watch members who betrayed him, including Ollie, but the later is much more likely. Jon has king’s blood in him you see and there was plenty of it left over in a big, strange puddle after Sir Davos recovered his body. Perhaps Melisandre can work her magic one last time and defrost Jon in time for Sansa’s arrival at Castle Black. Whatever the ultimate fate of Jon Snow, I think it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing more of him very soon.

Hopefully at least some of these wishful predictions will come true in the weeks ahead as we journey through season 6 of Game of Thrones. If they do, I’ll be sure to update this post with all the relevant developments. The Stark Reunion is by far the least likely but I’m hopeful Cerise’s revenge will soon come to pass. No matter what happens, it’s going to be fun to watch!

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UPDATE: I’m pleased to report that several items from my wish list came to pass in last night’s ‘Home’. I was extremely happy to see Cerise’s revenge lumber into action as the re-animated Mountain squashed that dude who waved his junk at the Queen during Cersei’s Walk of Shame. It felt like a medieval Michael Meyers moment and I can’t wait to see who’s next.

As predicted, Brienne told Sansa about her encounter with Arya and also as predicted, the group (sans Theon) will continue onto Castle Black. Finally, we witnessed the anticipated resurrection of Jon Snow. Can’t wait to see the faces of Team Snow when Jon walks out of that room with Ghost at his side. ‘Home’ was a great second episode (giants flinging archers against walls… splat!) in what promises to be an incredible season. Can’t wait for more!

Animated Carl Sagan Radio Interview

If you follow me on Twitter or have frequented my blog then you probably know the late astronomer, Carl Sagan, is a personal hero of mine. It was in part thanks to him I became fascinated with science and outer space at a young age. His ground breaking PBS series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage held me enraptured when it aired in 1980 and his books and writings like The Pale Blue Dot are among my all-time favorite.

I wish this brief radio interview from 1985 with Studs Terkel was longer, but regardless it’s wonderful to hear him expound on life in the cosmos, how science strives to uncover universal truths and how religion is tied to the history of our species. If you love Sagan, astronomy or just need a few minutes to take a break from the stress of the day, press play and check it out. You can also learn more about Sagan via the SciShow’s wonderful video tribute to him they recently produced. Great, starry stuff.

Super Tribes for iOS Walkthrough Plus Tips + Tricks

I’ve never actually done a video walkthrough of a mobile game before so this is new territory for me. As such, this review of the fun, turn-based iOS game Super Tribes is a bit longer than it probably should be but I’m still learning so go easy on me! My friend @Bigzaphod turned me onto Super Tribes and I’ve been playing it on and off for about a week. It’s really fun, light and doesn’t suck a huge amount of time which is perfect.

The best part about Super Tribes is that the game length is fixed to 30 individual turns which means a typical game can last anywhere from 20 minutes to about an hour and that’s it. You play against the AI, not other people or friends. Depending on your style of gaming this may be a plus or minus to you, but I personally enjoy it. There’s tons of stuff I didn’t cover in the walkthrough but what I do cover should be enough to get you up and exploring the flat, grid-shaped world of Super Tribes in no time.

The game is free to play in the App Store, but if you do try it and like it, I beg you to purchase at least one of the in-app tribe packs to help support the developer. Games of this quality take thousands of hours to design, produce, test and deploy and we want them to continue making them, they need to eat. That’s all I’m saying. Enjoy!

Thoughts on the Tesla Model 3

The Tesla Model 3

Full disclosure: I own stock in Tesla Motors. Now you know!

Last week Elon Musk finally announced the long-awaited Tesla Model 3. The Model 3 is the final step in the company’s “Master Plan” to bring affordable electric vehicles to the masses and judging from the number of pre-orders I’d say it’s about to become a reality. There’s a lot to love about the Model 3 including a minimum driving distance of 215 miles on a single charge and a base starting price of $35,000.

There’s also many unknowns including how many of the over 250K pre-orders Tesla will convert into actual sales. With a promised delivery of somewhere around the “end of 2017” it’s unclear if the government’s $7,500 EV tax credit will still apply to the Model 3 at the time of its release. The credit only covers the first 200,000 units of a given model which means some 53,000+ buyers may not be eligible. In addition, thanks to an anti-electric vehicle assault the Koch brothers plan to mount this year, the entire tax credit structure may not survive in Congress long enough for owners to take advantage of purchasing a Model 3.

Tesla Model 3 Interior'

I’ve read lots of strong opinions on the Model 3’s styling; from its strange lack of a front grill to the huge flat-panel display that seems overly distracting when sitting behind the wheel. The smooth nose I understand and I think I could get used to, but the large, center-mounted instrumentation panel does seem like a deal breaker, at least to me. I’m curious to see how the display looks when driving at night as well as how responsive it is to touch commands. The entire interior of the Model 3 seems overly minimalistic which isn’t necessarily a bad thing I just feel like I’ll be sitting inside Flynn’s home from TRON: Legacy.

Without a doubt the most appealing aspect of the Model 3 is its range of at least 215 miles on a single charge. Having owned a Ford C-MAX for almost a year now, which has a maximum distance of just over 24 miles on a charge, I can’t wait for the rest of the industry to catch up to Tesla. Whenever my car switches from EV mode to combustion I feel disheartened, like I’ve somehow let the environment down. Having the freedom to travel great distances without worrying about re-charging will be a huge selling point for Tesla and makes hybrid car owners like myself seriously consider it for their next vehicle.

Although I didn’t put a pre-order in for a Model 3, I am enthusiastic for those who did. The entire world will be watching to see if Tesla launches the Model 3 on time and on budget. Meanwhile, other companies like Nissan, Chevy and even Apple are eager to see where Elon Musk’s vision takes us all next. The company’s success or failure will undoubtedly influence the direction of sustainable transport around the world for decades to come. Personally, with the threat of climate change worsening day-by-day, I’m rooting for Tesla to succeed and drag us all into a cleaner, greener future whether we like like how it looks or not.