Last night at Manhattan’s posh Hotel on Rivington penthouse suite, HP and blogger Arjan Writes presented a special preview of “Halcyon,” the new album by British pop sensation Ellie Goulding. Best known in the United States for her monster hit, “Lights,” Goulding has gone on to great success stateside, appearing on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Saturday Night Live,” as well as a special guest appearance at the White House last December, where she sang Christmas carols onstage with Barack Obama. For all of her enormous success in the last few years, though, Goulding is a very humble, down-to-earth and endearing personality.
The evening began with a bit of background on Goulding, who grew up in the small town of Hereford and got heavily into music early on. “My mum was cool with music,” she says. “She would buy every new thing that was out. We really had no money, but whatever we did have, she’d spend it on CDs and tapes.” Idolizing singers like Bjork, Joni Mitchell, Beyonce and Stevie Nicks, Goulding says she quit college because “something was pushing me into music.” Elaborating on what that something is, she also says, “Having people come together for the same cause is really important. The fact that I can do that with shows is really awesome.”
Delving into “Halcyon,” we heard samples of a few tracks, including the clearly Bjork-influenced “My Blood,” which shares thematic water imagery with other songs on the album. Goulding says, “I have a fascination with the ocean, being lost at sea. I kind of want to be a mermaid.” The title track, “Halcyon,” addresses another theme of the album in its plaintive chorus: “When it’s just us, you show me what it feels like to be lonely, you show me what it feels like to be lost.” “I write songs out of being alone,” Goulding says. “I’m around people all the time, but there’s a theme of loneliness on this album.”
That is not to say the album is relentlessly downbeat or somber, however, as Goulding is quick to point out that “I like making things that give people hope, I suppose, in the least cheesy way possible.” Ellie Goulding’s career certainly seems to show a lot of hope, with unreleased collaborations with the likes of Skrillex and Swedish House Mafia possibly on the way “in the next couple of years,” proving her mantra that anything could happen.
Taking modern technological paranoia to its logical next step, the Bryan Singer-produced digital series “H+” takes an interesting, non-linear approach to its apocalyptic future storytelling. Created by John Cabrera, best known for his work as an actor on the popular television series “Gilmore Girls,” the series takes place in a near future in which 33 per cent of the world’s population has opted to have a device implanted into their bodies that connects their minds to the internet 24 hours a day. When a mysterious virus crashes the system, large portions of the world dies instantly, and the series primarily follows a few desperate survivors in an airport parking garage, while simultaneously cutting back and forth in time to various points before and after “it happened.”
“H+” is designed to be watched in any order, as each episode takes place in a different time and space, allowing viewers to stick with the mainstoryline in the parking garage first if they choose. This storyline begins with Julie Martin (Nikki Crawford) and her husband driving to the airport “5 minutes before it happened.” As they are making their way out of the parking lot, all hell breaks loose as the system crashes and people begin dropping like flies, cars and planes crash, and the automated sprinkler system goes off all over the garage. Only Kenneth Lubahn (David Clayton Rogers) seems to know what’s going on, telling the others they should be safe so long as they remain on the lower level of the garage where the signal is out. Med student Francesca Rossi (Lela Loren) works with him to save Julie’s husband, who has also fallen victim to the virus despite being in the same underground area as the rest of the survivors.
Meanwhile, the series flashesback to Helsinki, Finland, “7 years before it happened,” where Digital Crime Unit officer Topi Kuusela (Samuel Vauramo) begins to fall for Manta (Hannah Herzsprung), a mysterious target he has been assigned to follow. It is unclear so far what exactly her connection is to H+ Nano Teoranta, the company that manufactures the implants, but with an estimated 48-episode run, it is clearly just getting started. The first 14 episodes are available now on YouTube, with new ones premiering on Wednesdays. It’s hard to tell so far if “H+” will live up to the promise of its premise, but its high production values, mysterious time-jumping narrative style and intriguing, multinationalsubplots make it seem well worth watching to find out.
It is time now to return to the bizarre, frequently hilarious and occasionally disturbing fictional universe of China, Illinois, where Brad Neely‘s “The Professor Brothers” hold sway as the arbiters of knowledge and coolness. Steve and Frank Smith are brothers who both teach at a local community college whose mascot is a panda bear. Steve is the more laid back and presumably younger of the two, and his bald, sunglass-adorned appearance is vaguely reminiscent of Elton John. Frank, also mostly bald but bearded, is a connoisseur of drunken blackout experiences, as documented in the very funny two-part episode, “FliffNight.”
Together, the Professor Brothers reign supreme in their shared office at the college, surrounded by books with titles like “Owl Sex” and “Man Cave.” They sometimes join forces for songs like the wonderfully catchy “Prisoner Christmas,” or to essentially prank some poor, unsuspecting student, as in “The T.A. Interview,” but more often than not, it is Prof. Steve who pranks Prof. Frank. In “The Substitute,” for example, Prof. Frank hands his history class over to Prof. Steve (it is never made clear what Prof. Steve actually teaches), who proceeds to make up an extremely strange and offensive lecture that he then blames on Prof. Steve’s notes, which he ignores in favor of a comic book. In “The Late Date,” Prof. Steve actually joins forces with the college’s dean for the ultimate prank on Prof. Frank, whose day has already been going very poorly.
Unlike Prof. Steve, Prof. Frank does sometimes get around to teaching some history, though it is primarily of the irreverent biblical kind, like his lecture on Sodom (“named after sodomy”) and Gomorrah (“which was named after an even weirder move”) in “Bible History #1.” He also recounts the life of “Jesus F**king Christ,” of whom he says, “I know that Jesus is pretty played, but just like feces, he was very real, and some point you have to talk about it.” According to Prof. Frank, Jesus was betrayed by a conspiracy of his disciples in order to sell more copies of his teachings; they then blamed it all on Judas, “who was planning on killing himself anyway.”
The foul-mouthed, slang-inventing Professor Brothers are perhaps not as fascinating as his earlier creation, “Baby Cakes,” but their songs and misadventures make a very funny addition to the China, Illinois, universe. Baby Cakes can be seen in the audience of some of Prof. Frank’s lectures, and he even gets some insightful dialogue in “Future Thoughts”: “When the aliens come, they will be so great in so many different ways, that everything we ever thought was cool will then make us ashamed.” Get ready for a “so much cooler” future, everybody, because according to the Professor Brothers, the government has been lying to us all along.
Few things are more ripe for satire than reality television, especially of the competitive variety seen on shows like “Survivor” and “The Bachelor,” and The Onion has boiled the format down to its essence with the web series “Sex House.” Combining the strangers living together format of MTV’s “The Real World,” on which all subsequent reality TV shows can be blamed, with the competitive dating games of so many other trash TV staples, “Sex House” skewers the artificiality and coercion involved in creating so-called “reality” programming.
The series focuses on six strangers brought together in the seemingly posh house for the sole purpose of having sex with one another. Each of them is a conveniently pegged type: Jay (Boyd Harris) is described as a “bro,” a “trim-seeker” and a “sex lover,” and his personality would not be out of place on “Jersey Shore”; Jay’s obvious female counterpart, Tara (Ashley Lobo), is a “sorority princess,” “proud skank” and “maneater”; Erin (Fiona Robert), an 18-year-old virgin, is “naive,” “clueless” “jailbait,” while Alex (Lea Pascal) is an “alt-punk” “polysexual princess”; Derek (Chris Boykin) is the show’s only gay guy, so he is described as a “sexually promiscuous” “flamboyant fireball,” but the show’s real wild card is Frank (Jesse Dabson), a 45-year-old “big daddy” who won a Tombstone pizza contest to get on the show.
The first few episodes progress as might be expected, with the desperate Alex trying to have sex with anyone and everyone, while Jay admits that “Tara’s pretty slutty, I get it,” though he is more interested in deflowering Erin, who is “totally smokin’. I’m like, ‘I’m tryin’ to have sex with that!’” The gang plays a disastrous game of “Sexy Truth or Sexy Dare” and receives pole dancing instructions in the third episode, “Get on That Pole!” Meanwhile, the males are given some “bro lessons” by Danny Vullmer (Chris Meister), a hacky comedian who makes dated references to Urkel, En Vogue and Roseanne Barr. Things get more and more disturbing after that, as “Erin Bares It All” in the fourth episode with a shocking announcement that changes everything, and the show’s participants begin to revolt against its creators, including the “asexual” and very creepy host (Chris Agos).
In its most recent episodes, “Sex House” has gradually become more like a horror film, which only makes it funnier, beginning with the disgusting “Banana Sex Olympics” in episode 5 and continuing with “Dr. Sex” in episode 6. By the most recent episode, “Sex in a Bottle,” things are looking decidedly grim for the malnourished prisoners of Sex House, and the preview for episode 8 (which goes live today) makes it clear that it’s only going to get worse. New episodes go live every Thursday on The Onion’s YouTube channel.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) previewed a number of exciting new products on the evening of Tuesday, August 27, most of which will be available in December of this year or January of next year. Unfortunately, there is a non-disclosure agreement in place until Thursday, September 20, for many of these products, so tune in on that day to find out more. For now, though, let’s take a look at three impressive new laptops offered by HP.
The HP Spectre TouchSmart Ultrabook is a sleek, stylish, 4.77 pound notebook with a 15.6-inch screen featuring edge-to-edge glass. It is a multitouch touchscreen device that also features a fully functioning keyboard and a full array of ports, including Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, and HDMI. It is also HP’s first notebook to feature Intel Thunderbolt technology, a new technology similar to FireWire, but not based on it. Also used by Apple, Intel Thunderbolt allows for high-speed connectivity and daisy chaining of multiple devices. The slightly smaller HP ENVY TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 features a 14-inch multitouch HD display with a backlit keyboard and a subwoofer featuring Beats Audio. It delivers up to eight hours of battery life and, like the Spectre Ultrabook, is expected to be available in the United States in December, with a starting price of $1,399.
The HP ENVY x2 takes the touchscreen and keyboard synergy of these devices to a whole new level. The ENVY x2 is a tablet and a laptop at the same time, with a detachable 11.6-inch diagonal HD touch display featuring IPS technology. It has a sleek aluminum finish and an innovative hinge system with magnets that smoothly guide the tablet portion into place with the keyboard, which, when opened, wedges up from the table or other surface on which it rests, providing a more convenient angle for typing. The ENVY x2 features Beats Audio, NFC technology and an optional stylus, as well as two different types of cameras for its two different operational modes: an HD webcam on the front and an 8.0 megapixel camera on the back. It is also expected to be available in December.
With these and other devices previewed recently, HP continues to move in the direction of thinner, lighter laptops without sacrificing its many innovative features. Don’t forget to check back with us on September 20 to see what other exciting new products HP has in store.