Kendrick Lamar Wins Pulitzer…Hip-Hop Was Long Overdue

Grammy nominated rap artist and modern-day poet Kendrick Lamar won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music last month. Lamar won the elusive prize for his 2017 chart-topping album, DAMN. 

K-Dot, as Lamar is also known, has been nominated for a Grammy three times, but has never won. This year, DAMN. fell to another monster of an album, Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic, in the “Album of the Year” category.

It could be argued that the Pulitzer win for Lamar is far more prestigious than the Grammy due to the fact that he is the first rap artist to ever win the prize. In fact, no other artist has ever won the Pulitzer who wasn’t a Classical or Jazz musician.

“The time was right,” Dana Canady, the administrator of the awards, said in an interview after the winners were revealed. “We are very proud of this selection. It means that the jury and the board judging system worked as its supposed to – the best work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.”

While the time may have been right, the question that comes to my mind is, “Was the time long overdue?”

Kendrick is well deserving of this award. His lyrics are clever and insightful and his music has certainly cleverly weaves between politics, religion. However, he isn’t the first rap artist deserving of this award. The Pulitzer for Music, has traditionally been an elusive and exclusive award for classical and jazz music; two genres that are worthy of recognition, but are no longer influencing the larger society as they once did. Hip-hop has been influencing society and culture for nearly four decades.

How the Pulitzer for music is awarded is kind of ambiguous. The category, as defined on the Pulitzer website, simply states, “For distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year.” Let’s examine the first part of this statement, as broad as it may be.

“For distinguished musical composition by an American…”

There have been many American artists, both known and unknown, who have met this standard. The word “distinguished” is subjective, so allow me a bit of liberty here. Hip-hop artists such as Eric B. and Rakim in the 1980’s and their classic album Follow The Leader delivered lyrics and beats that made your head spin in their delivery. Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions elevated the social consciousness of young, black minds, fusing politics, pride, and power into the souls of the oppressed and disenfranchised. They offered hope and strength at a time when killing young, black men was fashionable. Albums such as De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising, was called a hip-hop masterpiece. A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory is another watermark album that elevated thought to jazz-centric beats and savvy rhymes that made you think. As dark as Eminem’s music has been at times, there is no question regarding his lyrical dexterity and clever wordplay. Jay-Z’s 4:44 album and, in particular his joint, The Story of O.J.spoke volumes on the state of black America today. Any one of these examples (and several others) would fit the bill of “distinguished” and uniquely”American”.

Other artists in other genres meet this qualification as well, but the poetry and pain of  rap and hip-hop speak to the heart of our societal ills and the wounds that we have experienced. The impact is undeniable and Kendrick Lamar is but the most recent example of that impact. The fact that no other genre outside of classical and jazz music has met the Pulitzer’s standard for this award tells me that the standard needs to be changed and redefined. Lamar’s winning of the award is a start, but hip-hop was long overdue.

Review: The Avengers: Infinity Wars

Marvel has released its newest movie Avengers: Infinity War and it did not disappoint. Infinity War continues to shatter box-office records around the world. The movie did a great job of blending comedy with dark moments as well as an understanding of personal sacrifice. Infinity Wars is one of those movies where you can watch and enjoy even if you didn’t see the previous films that led up to this third installment. Marvel did a great job of making sure this movie follows the same formula that has worked in the past which is humor mixed with relatable life situations that leaves the consumers wanting more. The only slight I have against the movie is this question: Was the ending necessary or was it rushed?

All the main characters with their powers and egos were on full display in Infinity War. Tony Stark and Doctor Strange spent the first 20 minutes of the movie trying to figure out who was the smartest person in the room, and I guess they came to conclusion that it was both. Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy shared a scene that made you appreciate the comic relief that that they brought from both of their previous movies, and of course all of the Avengers had to go back to Wakanda because the fans can’t get enough of learning about that place.

One knock against Marvel movies have been that they don’t have the great villain that all superhero movies need.  Well, that box was checked by introducing us to Thanos. Thanos is what happens when the Incredible Hulk and The Joker have their genes combined in Dr. Strange’s laboratory. He is strong as well as smart, but throughout the movie you also learned that he is not as heartless as we are led to believe he is. He believes that his cause is a worthy cause and it’s also necessary even though it will kill half of the population. He believes that nobility only comes with sacrifice.

If you are on social media, you have seen several memes and comments about the ending of Avengers Infinity Wars. The cliffhanger of an ending leaves the audience asking, “was that necessary and what the hell just happened?” I’ve always felt that Marvel movies didn’t have a dark side and that kind of kept the average fan away. Co-directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo not only walks A:IW over to the dark side; they ran head-first into it. I guess I got what I asked for, but I wish they did it with a clearer reason. Was all the death at the end necessary? How does this play into the bigger picture of the Marvel Universe? These questions were left unanswered for me.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie despite the fact that it was 2 1/2 hours long. Every minute held my attention. Infinity War  left me wanting to see the next Marvel movie the next day just to watch it all play out. The Marvel Universe’s first chapter is coming to an end. I have to admit that they have the world on a string and all of our attention. Well done!

Opinion: The Reformation of Hip-Hop

This is the second in a two-part series on this mixed bag we call “Hip-Hop” focusing on the second question raised by a reader:

“Can you suggest any ways to protest some of the messages in hip hop while still enjoying it as a type of music?”

Below is the question in its entirety:

“I’ve been a longtime fan of hip-hop. But, through the years, I’ve noticed a troubling trend of hip hop lyrics that objectify women to the point of being misogynistic. It seems like some of the songs that are easily found on Spotify or Pandora such as Too Short’s “Ain’t My Girlfriend”,  Lil Baby’s “All of a Sudden”, and “Booty” by Blac Youngsta, encourage men to see women only as sexual objects. While you see these types of lyrics in other genres, it does seem more extreme and pronounced in hip-hop. Do you think that there is any way to change this trend in hip-hop? And can you suggest any ways to protest some of the messages in hip-hop while still enjoying it as a type of music?”

For hip-hip fans who were around at its inception, the music and the sound has changed dramatically. It has shifted from party and dance music, to violence and the gangsta lifestyle, to highly sexual and misogynistic mumble rap. This is difficult for those of us who love the music, but don’t care for the messages being delivered. We are unable to share the genre we love so much with the children around us for fear that it may shape their attitudes toward sex, violence, drugs, and alcohol.

What are our options? There are ways to protest the current state of hip-hop. It’s not a new solution: just don’t buy it. As with anything, money will make or break the cycle of negative influences in music. As diligent as we are when it comes to young, black men being unnecessarily killed, we should raise the awareness about the lyrics that are hardening the spirits of our youth. We have to find a way to make it less attractive to the current generation and the generations to come. Individually, we can choose not to buy it, but as I mentioned in the Part One of this series hip-hop is a part of our culture, so it isn’t as simple as not giving the industry your money. The hip-hop culture needs to change.

Changing a culture that rose so quickly in our society is not a simple task. Many people did not believe that the genre would last when it first came onto the scene in the late 1970s. We all watched it grow. At first, skeptics  predicted the demise of hip-hop before it truly got off the ground. It was described as “black music” or not even considered music at all. Today, some variation of rap and hip-hop exists on every continent on the globe. In the U.S., the National Basketball League is permeated with the hip-hop culture. As young basketball stars grow in stature and popularity, so does the hip-hop culture in which they were raised in. Kids of all races, demographics, and backgrounds are spitting lyrics and emulating the look, style, and swag of the hip-hop nation.

One Sunday afternoon several years ago, my oldest son and I are on our way home from church when I decided to put on some of Will Smith’s music (current and when he was known as “The Fresh Prince”). Songs like “Summertime” and “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” caught his attention with the smooth rhymes and the party rhythms. So I said, “Do you like this?” He gave me a look and a smile that let me know he was getting his groove on. It warmed me to see the same look in his eyes that I had when I first heard Run DMC twenty years ago. Clean. Fun. Music. Fast forward a few years later and the culture has taken hold of his playlists. Banging beats that make you move and that stir the emotions within, but lyrics that  make you cover your face in shame.

There are artists, some familiar and some not so, that produce an alternative to the mainstream. There are numerous popular artists such as Lecrae, Common, and Lupe Fiasco, as well as some lesser-known rappers such as Talib Kweli, and B.B. Jay, whom you may have never heard of, but are bumping their beats with the best of them.  B.B. Jay, one of my personal favorites, sounds like a clean version of the Notorious B.I.G. The beats are funky and the rhymes flow like butter, but women are elevated and there is no profanity or violence.

Not all rap music is misogynistic. Nor does all hip-hop glorify drugs and alcohol. I am a hip-hop head who loves the music, but not the content. We can still enjoy hip-hop without all of the negativity that currently comes with it. Hip-hop started as a party anthem. No reason it can’t return to its positive roots. We need to affect this change in our own homes by modeling behaviors that make the negative aspects of hip-hop (and other types of music) unattractive and distasteful to our kids. Also, don’t make the negativity taboo. Be willing to talk to your children honestly and candidly about the bad in hip-hop and how it has the potential to erode society. The more the next generation knows about the harmful effects, the less likely it will be that they will partake.

We can filter out the negative influences as adults, but children generally cannot.  Teach our children, protect them, and do our best to guide them to the right choices. This is how we squash the industry from exploiting our women and corrupting the innocent. If every village does this, this will be our protest. We are not protesting the genre, but we should strive to influence it in such a way that it enriches our communities. We want music that we can enjoy with our children, not protect them from. This is how we change the world of hip-hop. It took years to get to this point, so we should not expect that it will be an overnight process.  It starts with taking responsibility for ourselves.

11 Essential Things Every Guy Should Carry

Women seem like they are always prepared for life’s daily obstacles. Maybe they seem more prepared than men do because they carry a multitude of essentials in their handbags. Anything from toiletries to tech and make-up. Guys need to think about the essential things we should have with us at all times. This is where the right bag or backpack comes into play.

It has become more common over the last few years to see dudes stepping up their bag game. Man bags, man-purses, or simply known as murses. The discerning man has come to realize that not everything can be stuffed into his pockets or wallet.

 

We’ll cover the best bags for a guy to tote around in another post. For now, here are a few items that every man should carry at all times:

  1. Smartphone or Tablet – These devices have become essential to our everyday lives. From using Google Maps to get you from place to place to having an eBook on your Kindle app during lulls in activity, a smart device is the essential to the man on the go. 
  2. Earbuds or headphones – when in transit, keep a pair of headphones on hand so that you can drown out the busy city sounds.
  3. Small first-aid kit – You never know when you might have to tussle with a bear or wrangle an alligator. It’s comforting to know that you have the basics to properly treat those scrapes and bruises.
  4. An Umbrella – Be prepared for unpredictable weather and for keeping that pretty girl you just met in SoHo covered from the rain or rays. Should be small and compact as well as neutral in color.
  5. A water bottle – If you’re ever in a pinch and can’t find a place to hydrate, a bottle of water is literally a life-saver. Be sure to periodically switch out the bottle with a fresh one.
  6. Pocket knife or Multi-tool – A pocket knife has many uses and a multi-tool with scissors, a screwdriver, and a file could also come in handy.
  7. Portable charger – This is a necessary item to keep with you. You don’t need for your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to run out of juice. Especially if you are using your phone as a flashlight. 
  8. Keys – You won’t get very far without them.
  9. Self-defense item – Self-explanatory and whatever your local laws will allow.
  10. Cash and Identification – Carry enough cash as you feel comfortable with, but enough to get you out of trouble.
  11. Emergency gift for the wife or girlfriend – Did you forget that birthday or anniversary? This one doesn’t have to go in your bag, but its good to keep one on hand. Avoid the backlash by being prepared.

These are just a few items and many more could be added to the list. You have to know your needs and lifestyle to determine what you personally have to have with you at all times.

Opinion: The Dangerous Side of Hip-Hop

This is the first in a two-part series on this mixed bag we call “Hip-Hop”. This post will discuss the first question raised by a Dear Mister Man subscriber:

“Do you think that there is any way to change the trend in hip hop where women are viewed as purely sexual objects?

I’ve been a longtime fan of hip hop. But, through the years, I’ve noticed a troubling trend of hip hop lyrics that objectify women to the point of being misogynistic. Some of the songs that are easily found on Spotify or Pandora such as Too Short’s “Ain’t My Girlfriend”,  Lil Baby’s “All of a Sudden”, and “Booty” by Blac Youngsta, encourage men to see women only as sexual objects. While you see these types of lyrics in other genres, it does seem more extreme and pronounced in hip hop. Do you think that there is any way to change this trend in hip hop? And can you suggest any ways to protest some of the messages in hip hop while still enjoying it as a type of music?

I am a product of the 1980’s. This is where I spent my adolescence. I became aware of hip-hop during the early part of the decade with the likes of Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambataa, and Grand Master Flash. The music and beats grabbed me. Then there was Run-DMC with jams like “King of Rock”, “Hard Times”, and “Rock Box”.  We were breakdancing and having fun because the music was fun. Other groups influenced my tastes as well (BDP, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Eric B. & Rakim, and Public Enemy just to name a few of many). This is music that I let my kids listen to today.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the rap scene began to change. My attention was drawn to the more “dangerous” side of rap music. Groups like N.W.A., Luke Skyywalker and The 2 Live Crew, Sir Mixx-A-Lot, and Too Short (yes, he’s probably the oldest rapper alive) were coming from the underground into the mainstream. Songs like “Fuck the Police”, “Cop Killer”, “Pop That Coochie”, and more were attracting the hearts and minds of millions of kids. Kids from all walks of life (including me) were drawn by the smoking hot beats and the “thug life” mentality that came with it. “Drawn to it” would be an understatement. This type of music has become a part of our culture influencing everything from television to clothing.

Let’s not forget that the ’80s birthed MTV and the music video. This is when my pubescent mentality when into hyperdrive because of the images of scantily clad women moving in ways that I never imagined. I was a hormonal teenaged boy still not clear on the responsibilities of manhood, which include not glorifying violence and not viewing females as sexual objects.

Nearly four decades later and I have since grown up. I have kids of my own. Hip-Hop has become even more ingrained in our society. I get ill when I hear teenaged boys of all races calling each other “niggaz” in the same way that you and I would call each other “brother”. I am deeply disturbed when I see a young girl, maybe 13 or 14 putting on display and showing parts of her body that should be reserved for a deserving mate.

To answer the reader’s question, the objectification of women in Hip-Hop–and other forms of pop culture–is not a trend. It is the norm. Foul language is prevalent on television and the radio. It was a trend in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but its wide spread acceptance of it has made it a part of today’s culture. Most music seems to follow the generation that grew up on it, but the hip-hop culture has been passed on to the generation that exists between us, our children, and their children.  It has permeated our sports, television, video games and movies.

My point is that society as a whole has accepted the dangerous side of Hip-Hop as a part of the norm. I don’t think that the practice of sexualizing women and glorifying the trap lifestyle can be reversed. I do believe that it will continue to evolve and something new and possibly more dangerous will come along to replace it. The decadence will only be removed from our society when we stop buying it.

But we have been buying it for almost forty years now and it still is selling.

I am a fan of Hip-Hop. However, I am torn between my love for the music and disdain for the lyrics and the imagery. I will at times listen to some of the “harder” hip-hop songs when I am alone, because the music I love also shames me. My kids listen to Run D-M-C  with me when we are driving in the truck. We also listen to the Fat Boys and others that represent the days when the worst thing you heard in Hip-Hop was “My Adidas”.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series called, “The Reformation of Hip-Hop”. 

Notes From an “Unauthentic” Kitchen

I love to cook. It wasn’t always that way. Throughout college and shortly after, I cooked as a means of survival and little more. It wasn’t until it dawned on me that my roommate used his kitchen skills to impress women did I start to take more interest in learning to cook things beyond assembling what came in a box.

Fast forward many years later. I prepared a nice dinner for a woman I was seeing on our fifth date. After dinner, she looked at me and said that she would never be able to cook for me. Nearly 14 years after that dinner, I’m still cooking for her, as well as our two children.

The mantle of family cook became firmly mine and my repertoire had to evolve from occasionally fancy date night food to family dinners for picky children, and, ultimately, to the realm of gluten free living in order to accommodate my daughter’s food allergy. Because of all of this, I think the best way to describe my cooking style is “unauthentic”. 

Cooking unauthentically means, for example, putting fish sauce in my bolognese. Or using liquid aminos and miso paste in my brines to add different elements. I avoid substitutions to force things to be gluten free that I know probably should not be. Or, maybe, I’ll float dried shiitakes in my chicken stock when it is done cooking, but still warm to enhance the savoriness of the final product.

I am by no means a pro, but over all this time I’ve learned many things about cooking. I love to share my knowledge and, for my first ever post here, I thought I would share some advice I’ve gleaned and some things I do in my home to always put the best I can on my family table.

Season as you go. You can always add more.

As a confirmed night owl, one of my very first cooking influences was watching Emeril Live on the Food Network (my favorite channel before it devolved into unrealistic cooking competition central). The first, and best, piece of advice I ever took to heart was to season dishes as I cook them and to remember to do it in small amounts, tasting in between. The mantra of knowing I can always add, but never take away is forever in the forefront of my mind whenever I cook.

Acid and salt are your friends

Building on the first piece of advice, a chef I know here in Charlotte would constantly remind us during his cooking classes that acid and salt were our friends when cooking. If you feel like your food is under seasoned, then a hit of lemon juice or a dash of salt will likely rescue the dish, elevating it to what you had originally hoped for. I always keep a lemon or two on hand for this very reason. And, to echo the wise words of celebrity chef and Food Network personality Alton Brown, “There are no unitaskers in my kitchen other than the fire extinguisher”. So, those used lemons always come in handy to scrub my cutting board along with a little bit of kosher salt.

Dry brine your meats

In keeping with the seasoning theme, one of the absolute best ways to put a juicy, well seasoned piece of meat on your dinner table is to salt it before you even cook it. When it comes to beef, I’ll take it out of the fridge, trim it up, and season it on both sides with salt anywhere for 45-60 minutes before I plan to cook it. I do the same with pork or chicken, generally about 30 minutes before if it is broken down into parts like chops or breast, and put it back in the refrigerator. Unlike beef, raw chicken and pork must be placed in the refrigerator post seasoning.

If I’m doing a whole cut of meat, like a brisket (whether it is a flat, a point, or the whole packer cut), I’ll season it up to 24 hours in advance. I weigh the cut, and then measure out 1% of the weight of the meat in kosher salt. That is a great starting point for a large cut like that, and I use very little to no salt in any rubs I may apply before cooking or smoking.

Baking soda: not just for baking

Baking soda is really a wonderful thing. It’s great for baking, it’s great for keeping your kitchen clean, and it is also great in savory cooking as well. Whether roasting whole chickens on a rotisserie or pan roasting skin-on chicken breasts or thighs, adding a little baking soda to your salt brine will significantly help make the skin crispier and more delicious.

For a whole chicken, which typically run 3-5 lbs. depending on where you source them, I use 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed together and liberally apply it to the skin of the chicken the night before I plan cooking it. The baking soda helps dry out the meat and, as it is absorbed, raises the pH level of the meat enabling it to retain more moisture. That way if you are prepping other elements of your dinner and you forget about the chicken in the oven or on the grill, your chicken will still come out moist and delicious even if it is a few points higher on the thermometer than necessary. Leave the whole chickens uncovered on a wire rack over a baking sheet in my refrigerator overnight after seasoning. The next day, you can see the dramatic changes in the color and moisture level of the skin.

If I’m pan roasting skin-on chicken breasts or thighs, I use the same ratio (1 tbsp salt/1 tsp baking soda), but I apply it a few hours before I cook, as the cut is much smaller and doesn’t need as much time. I may do it in the morning while I’m getting the kids ready for school, or even just a few hours before dinner if I forget or run out of time. Either way, it has always been a great tool in my arsenal to make a great tasting and looking chicken dish.

With that, let’s end things here for now. Stay tuned for more as we’ll delve into other topics designed to enhance your cooking and even help save a little money, like buying whole chickens, making your own stock, and grinding your own meat. We’ll even have a little fun with different techniques and creating dishes on the fly using only what I find at the farmer’s market on any given weekend.

I look forward to sharing more unauthentic cooking tips and hope you’ll join me for the ride!

Commentary: My Only Job In Life…

I have often said that there is #truth in good comedy. The really special comedians have the ability to make us laugh at our own imperfections.  Think about George Carlin, Bill Cosby, and Richard Pryor. What about Eddie Murphy and Jerry Seinfeld? More recently we have seen the genius of Gabriel Iglesias, Sarah Silverman, Trevor Noah, and Dave Chapelle. There is another comedian who has spoken a truth that I live by. This truth I think all men should recognize as real and burn it into that place where it will never be forgotten. This profundity comes from the brilliant Chris Rock. Read what Chris has to say in his classic stand-up performance, Never Scared:

Sometimes I am walking with my daughter, I’m talking to my daughter, I’m looking at her, I’m pushing her in the stroller. And sometimes I pick her up and I just stare at her and I realize my only job in life is to keep her off the pole.

Keep my baby off the pole!

I mean, they don’t grade fathers. But if your daughter is a stripper, you  f*&$#@ up.

When I first heard this, it stuck with me like stink on an elephant’s ass. My daughter was a toddler at the time and I remember thinking to myself, Man, he’s right! This is why I exist as a father. My relationship with my baby girl will certainly determine how she thinks of men, her self-esteem, and self-image.  The amount of time and attention that I give to her could potentially lead her to believe that she needs to seek that attention elsewhere from someone who does not come close to loving her the way that I do. That simply WILL NOT DO.

I made up my mind there and then that my baby girl would always know how special she is to me. I do not withhold affection from her, so there will not be a need  for her to seek it elsewhere. I tell her I love her every day several times a day and show her that love as well. I spoil her to a point, because I do not want her to think that everything comes easy in life. I insist that she stands up for herself. Defend herself, if necessary.  Over the years, I’ve tried to help her understand how she deserves to be treated in a relationship. When she misbehaves, I correct her. When she is successful, I encourage her. She knows that she is as good as any boy and better than most in my eyes. My daughter is smart, funny, talented, and confident. She wants to be a film-maker and she knows that by her own hard work, she can be.

Moms play a special and unique role in the development of little girls, but do not underestimate your impact, dads. You are an invaluable and irreplaceable chunk of your daughters life. Make sure you are the man she needs you to be.

The biggest compliment that I hope to hear one day is that my baby girl wants to marry a man just like daddy.

 

Scenes from the 2018 New York International Auto Show

I had an opportunity to represent DMM Urban Lifestyle magazine at the 2018 New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) this past weekend to check out the latest rides from auto manufacturers from around the world. All of the major players were in attendance and the Jacob K. Javits Center, located in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan, was packed full of families and enthusiasts alike. Take a peek below for some of the pics we took for your enjoyment.

 

 

Samsung Galaxy S9+: Beautiful, Not Revolutionary

The Galaxy S9 and S9+ continue the aesthetically pleasing designs that Samsung has become known for since the introduction of the Galaxy S7 Edge. The all-glass back and curved screens that flow from edge to edge which provides a viewing experience that is unrivaled by anything on the market today (sorry, iPhone X notch). The S9+, the model being reviewed in this post, looks incredible and feels amazing in the hand. However, is it truly different in form and features from its immediate predecessor, the Galaxy S8/8+? Let’s find out.

Specs & Features

There are some minor differences between the S9 models and its predecessor. The S9 has Android Oreo 8.0 right out of the box, a faster chipset (Snapdragon 845 in the U.S), and stereo speakers. One notable change is the placement of the fingerprint sensor under the camera rather than beside it, as found on the S8/8+ and the Note 8. We, the users, called Samsung out on this and they listened. Even still, I found the Intelligent Scanner much more fun to use. The Intelligent Scanner works every bit as well as the iPhone X’s Face ID, but has been said to be slightly less secure. Samsung retains multiple options for unlocking the phone such as the Fingerprint Scanner, Iris Recognition, as well as password, PIN, or pattern.

The design did not change much from the Galaxy S8 to the S9. I guess Samsung figured, “Why mess with a good thing?”. The body is still glass (which supports wireless charging), the screen is still curved with thin bezels providing more real estate for apps that support larger screens. As with the S8, the S9 and S9+ are IP68 water and dust resistant, so they can be submerged in up to 5 feet of water for 30 minutes without worry.

The S9/S9+ come in several color choices; Midnight Black, Coral Blue, and Lilac Purple. While I use the Coral Blue as a daily driver, the Lilac Purple is simply gorgeous. The last time I was this excited about a color was when Apple released the Rose Gold. The Midnight Black isn’t a bad call either for a more traditional color.

Camera

As good as the Galaxy S8 was overall, it fell behind the iPhone X and the Google Pixel 2 when it came to photo quality. This is where Samsung’s new Super Speed Dual Pixel camera changed the game. Although it has the same 12-megapixel resolution as the Galaxy S8, the S9 camera has a variable aperture that’s mechanical, capable of switching on the fly from f/1.5 to f/2.4.

The Galaxy S9+ will be the phone to get if you want a 2x optical zoom, and to leverage features like Live Focus for taking portraits, as only the S9+ offers a second telephoto lens. This improvement has led the S9+ to the pinnacle of smartphone cameras for the time being. The main camera on both the S9 and the S9+ can let in up to 28 percent more light overall, compared with the Galaxy S8, and much closer to the human eye. I have taken many shots in low light settings and have been very pleased with the results.

The hottest new feature of the S9’s camera is Super Slow-Mo. Once you select this camera mode, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ will automatically sense motion and slow things all the way  down to 960 frames per second (fps) at 720p resolution. This was fun to play with while watching someone dive off of a ledge into the pool or recording the 8-Ball going into the corner pocket for the win.

There are multiple effects including Loop, Swing, and Reverse which are a ton of fun to experiment with. These modes are built for sharing on social media and are guaranteed to impress your friends and followers. The slow-mo video looked fairly smooth and sharp, but it can be tricky capturing the action at the right moment, even in Auto mode. Fortunately, you can switch to Manual mode if you know the exact moment you want to get that slow-mo shot.

Bixby

Bixby was released on the Galaxy S8 to mixed reviews (mostly hate) and people were quickly trying to figure out ways to repurpose the button by attaching it to Google Assistant or killing it altogether. However, Bixby continues to improve and the integration with the S9 has become very practical. For example, if you are traveling abroad and don’t know what a particular foreign street sign says, Bixby can translate the text to your native language directly on the sign.

Also, you can’t say that Bixby doesn’t like the ladies. Samsung has partnered with companies like Sephora to allow you to try different make-up styles and colors using augmented reality. Much like Snapchat filters and baked into the camera app, Bixby lets you try different looks and apply them onto your virtual face. No clean-up necessary and it can be done anywhere. Once you have found the perfect look, Bixby makes it easy for you to order the products on the spot.

Although Bixby 2.1 comes with other features like place recognition and estimated calorie consumption, Samsung makes no claims that Bixby is intended to operate like Google Assistant or Siri. Instead, Samsung envisions Bixby to allow users to use their smartphones more smoothly and efficiently.

Pricing and Availability

Samsung did manage to keep both the Galaxy S9 and the S9+ reasonably priced for a top-end smartphone. This is great considering the current trend of the $1000+ devices that we have seen over the last year. Right now, you can get the new generation Samsung DeX for free when you purchase either of these devices directly from Samsung.  Additionally, you can get up to $300 for trading in your old phone. If you don’t want to come off of that kind of money all at once, then you can finance for around $30 USD per month. That makes it a lot easier to get your hands on Samsung’s latest offering.

Wrap Up

The Galaxy S9 and S9+ are the best devices available on the market right now. The significantly improved camera on the S9+ and the many other upgrades make this a device worth getting. However, Samsung know that Apple and Google will be releasing their latest sooner rather than later. So rather than simply refine the S8 into into the S9, Samsung needs to continue to focus on innovation to make their next smartphone truly revolutionary,

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5 Tried and True Ways To Keep The Magic In Your Relationship

In a world where there is so much sadness and so much to be afraid of, good things do happen to people. Romance is still something we can find even if we’re not consciously looking for it. – Kathleen Quinlan

 

Nothing stays the same forever, whether good or bad, especially in relationships. There is no cruise control with your partner, so you constantly have to deal with the fast and exciting, as well as the slow role as time adds to the longevity of your relationship.

Anything you want to last will need check ups or tune ups, polishing or even cleaning every so often. It is different in our relationships, and we need to continue to do the small, yet important, things to keep the romance alive and well.

What small things you ask? Glad you asked because I just happen to have a few I’m happy to share with you!

Nothing is perfect or foolproof, and to each his own when taking advice. It is best to tailor it the way your partner can respond. With that being said, here are my five tips for keeping up the romance in a relationship:

Honesty – You would think this to be a no-brainer, but when speaking of romance, many partners act out of what they think the other wants, which actually may be very out of character or uncomfortable.  Being honest with yourself and your partner opens up great dialogue on all your comfort zones, as well as how far you may want to go out of that zone. Continued honest conversation in your relationship is a foundation for great success. Some would say that is romantic in itself.

Kissing – A peck on the lips after coming home from work or seeing each other after a long day can go a long way. It constantly reestablishes the relationship while continuing to increase that intimate bond. Better yet, skip the lips, and go for the ear or neck, and see how that turns out!

Have Separate Interests – Not that everything has to be different, but don’t lose your individuality in your relationship. Your separate interests give you potential for great conversation, as well as a way to support each other.  Being able to share with your partner builds a wonderful foundation of love and romance.

Flirt – There is a saying I grew up with that is “Do what you did to get her if you want to keep her”. It is pretty self explanatory, so keep up the good work! Flirting is the  in fundamental to know someone 101, it tickles the emotions and piques the interest to a would be suitor. As the relationship progresses, emotions and interests still need pampering, so don’t stop the flirting.  Remember, a-flirt-a-day-keeps-an-argument-away!

Put in the Work – Look, anything worth having takes time and effort. You want a nice body? Work at it! You want a pay raise? Work at it! You want to keep romance in your relationship? Put in the work!  

We must not rest on our laurels when it comes to our partner. Life changes us. We need to adapt to those changes to keep the things we hold dear alive.  So, let’s enjoy one another as we do our due diligence to feed the romance in our relationships.