Samuel L. Jackson and other celebrities will lend their voices to Amazon’s Alexa devices in a new feature that will be available as a 99-cent upgrade, the tech giant announced at a major product reveal in Seattle.
Other celebrities’ voices will be added next year. The company has recently amped up its affiliations with A-listers in its marketing efforts for Alexa, including Super Bowl ads featuring the likes of Harrison Ford, Cardi B and Anthony Hopkins.
Jackson “can tell you jokes, let you know if it’s raining, set timers and alarms, play music and more – all with a bit of his own personality,” according to the company’s official blog post. The company plans two versions of his voice — “explicit and non-explicit.”
As voice competition ramps up among Amazon, Google and Apple, the push for Alexa dominated the Amazon event. The company also announced updates to its Echo Show video-enabled devices, as well as a $59 version of the Echo Dot featuring a clock and designed for bedstands. Amazon also took the wraps off new Echo units such as Studio, Glow, Flex and Bose-powered wireless earbuds called (what else?) Echo Buds. The $200 Studio is the first high-end Echo model, featuring Dolby Atmos.
There are now 100 million devices equipped with Echo speakers, which Amazon first rolled out five years ago.
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BIEN, a motion design studio based in Los Angeles, has created a three-part animated series for The Getty Museum. “2-Minute Time Machine” was created to attract middle school students from diverse backgrounds to the museum.
BIEN is a minority-owned studio that practices inclusive motion design, a design methodology that enables and draws on the full range of human diversity. They believe that brands, companies, non-profits, and governments can be catalysts for lasting change by practicing inclusive design. BIEN helps clients be more profitable or effective while empowering traditionally underrepresented and marginalized populations. Their clients include Facebook, IBM, Disney, Target, Red Hat, The World Bank and more.
“2-Minute Time Machine” is directed at sixth-graders in Los Angeles. The Getty Museum is widely visited by adults, but wanted to attract a younger audience. BIEN was selected to collaborate on the project because of its inclusive design focus. The museum provided imagery for the project, and BIEN illustrated historically accurate images in addition to the images provided to complete the visuals.
BIEN’s Creative Director Hung Le says, “As an artist-led studio, working with The Getty Museum was a dream come true. We learned about 10,000 years’ worth of history about bread, beards, and writing on this assignment.” He adds, “More importantly, we seriously upped our historical accuracy game. Every single design, illustration, and artifact was carefully reviewed and vetted by the Getty staff curators and museum director, himself. Our inner nerds were quite challenged and ultimately, satisfied with the end result.”
Launched in 2017 by Creative Director Hung Le and Executive Producer Ricardo Roberts, BIEN is an inclusive motion design studio driven to do good. Inspired by the world’s best ideas, brands, and causes, BIEN exists to help brands connect with diverse, global audiences. Clients include IDEO, The World Bank, IFAD, IBM, Facebook, Red Hat, Disney, Target, and The Getty Museum. Learn more and view the company’s latest work here: http://ThisIsBIEN.com.
“Our skin color should not be a criteria, only talent should matter,” ballerina Chloé Lopes Gomes told NBC News”
By Adela Suliman for NBC News
A Black ballerina at one of Europe’s premier ballet companies has called out racism in the elite dance world. French national Chloé Lopes Gomes, 29, said she was mocked for her skin color and at times pressured to wear white skin makeup, leaving her feeling unsupported and humiliated. Describing the ballet world as “closed and elitist,” she criticized the lack of access racial minorities have to the classical art form.
Other dancers, including in the United States, have voiced their support for Lopes Gomes, saying that it is high time for the ballet world to address racism and bigotry.
She said that in rehearsals at Berlin’s prestigious Staatsballett, which she joined in 2018, she was told her mistakes stood out because she is Black. In another incident, she said she was mocked when offered a white-colored veil for a show.
For some performances of “Swan Lake” she also said she was made to wear white makeup, despite the school formally dropping this requirement for people of color in the 2018-19 season. Though she acknowledged this was a “tradition” of the show, it was one she deemed outdated.
“Asking not only a Black person but a ballerina to color their skin to look whiter, I don’t think it’s right — I felt very humiliated and very alone,” she told NBC News.
“The harassment kept going, I was very depressed,” she added. During time-off for an injury in 2019, she said the combination of the injury and harassment led to her being prescribed antidepressant drugs. Almost a year after she returned to work, she learned her contract, which is scheduled to end in July, would not be renewed.
Lopes Gomes, whose father is from Cape Verde and mother is French and Algerian, said she made complaints to the company before learning that her contract would not be extended. She added that she felt compelled to go public with her experiences in order to improve the situation for future generations of Black dancers.
“Teeter-Totter Wall,” a temporary interactive installation designed by California-based architects Ronald Rael and Virigina San Fratello, has won the 2020 Beazley Design of the Year, an annual award and exhibition run by London’s Design Museum.
The installation, which took place in July 2019, consisted of three bright pink teeter-totters — or seesaws — slotted into the gaps of the steel border wall that separates the United States and Mexico. It allowed children from El Paso, Texas, and the Anapra community in Juárez, Mexico, to play together in spite of the 20-foot wall, which stands on the most-crossed border in the world and is a continual site of political fracture.
“Teeter-Totter Wall” was designed to illustrate the intrinsic connection between the two lands, and was a collaboration with Juárez artist collective Colectivo Chopeke. “What you do on one side has an impact on the other,” Rael told CNN back in 2019, “and that’s what a seesaw is.”
Six designs for our ‘age of crisis’
Because of the wall’s sensitive context, the project took ten years to realize. It was live for just under twenty minutes, but enough time for it to go viral. Although a temporary installation, Rael said on Instagram that the event was “filled with joy, excitement, and togetherness at the borderwall.”
“The Teeter-Totter Wall encouraged new ways of human connection,” said Tim Marlow, the chief executive and director of the Design Museum, in a press statement. “It remains an inventive and poignant reminder of how human beings can transcend the forces that seek to divide us.”
King’s win for lead actress in a limited series or movie for her portrayal of Angela Abar (a.k.a. Sister Night) in the HBO superhero drama is her fourth career Emmy. This ties the record held by Alfre Woodard for most acting Emmys won by a Black performer.
Created by David Lindelof, “Watchmen” is based on the acclaimed comic book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons but is not a direct adaptation. It is more like a sequel that follows new characters such as King’s Sister Night.
This “allowed me to tap into all those things I think are just wonderful about being a Black woman,” King previously told The Times. “[T]he blueprint that was the inspiration for Angela was probably every Black woman that ever was.”
In addition to being recognized for her performance in “Watchmen,” King has previously won the lead actress in a limited series or movie Emmy in 2018 for “Seven Seconds.” In 2015 and 2016 she won in the supporting actress in a limited series or movie category for her performances in “American Crime” (playing different characters each time). King has five career Emmy nominations so far.
Woodard, who has earned 17 Primetime Emmy nods, won in 1984, 1987, 1997 and 2003. These recognitions were in the supporting actress in a drama series category for “Hill Street Blues,” guest performer in a drama series (before there were gender-specific categories) for “L.A. Law,” lead actress in a miniseries or special for “Miss Evers’ Boys” and guest actress in a drama series for “The Practice.”
The other Black actors with four Emmy wins each are Chris Rock and Bill Cosby, but their awards include non-performance categories. Rock has won three Emmys in writing categories (1997, 1999 and 2009) in addition to his variety, music or comedy special win in 1997 for “Chris Rock: Bring The Pain.” Cosby, who is currently serving time after being convicted of sexual assault in 2018, won three consecutive lead drama series actor Emmys for “I Spy” (1966-1968) and in the variety or musical program category in 1969 for “The Bill Cosby Special.”
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“She’s younger than Baby Yoda and she already has an Emmy,” Jimmy Kimmel said after a visibly shaken Zendaya, 24, became the youngest Emmy winner for best lead actress in a drama for her role as Rue on HBO’s “Euphoria.”
The breathless actress, who was surrounded by a semicircle of teary-eyed supporters and wearing a crystal bandeau top with a billowing black-and-white polka-dot skirt, clearly had not prepared an acceptance speech.
“This is pretty crazy,” Zendaya said as she clasped her hands over her statuette, as though hardly daring to believe it was real.
The Disney-actress-turned-drama-star beat out the decades-older counterparts Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Colman, Sandra Oh and Laura Linney to claim the crown — not to mention the incumbent winner, Jodie Comer, who set the record last year when she won for “Killing Eve” at age 26.
“Thank you to all of the other incredible women in this category,” Zendaya said. “I admire you so much.”
“Euphoria,” a drama series created by Sam Levinson about high-school students who navigate love, sex, drugs and identity conundrums, premiered on HBO in June 2019. It received six nominations this year, though Zendaya’s was the only one for acting. HBO announced last year that the series had been renewed for a second season.
The actress said she was inspired by others her age who were working to make a difference in the world. “I just want to say that there is hope in the young people out there,” she said. “And I just want to say to all our peers out there doing the work in the streets: I see you, I admire you, I thank you.”
As previously announced with the Kennedy Center’s Social Impact initiatives, the Center will launch Arts Across America on July 27, a program to uplift artists and showcase art from communities and regions across the country in this time of uncertainty.
Over 20 weeks, Arts Across America will feature free, digital performances from over 200 diverse, visionary artists who play leadership roles in their communities, exemplify unique regional artistic styles, and are using their medium as a tool for advocacy and social justice. Arts Across America is made possible and livestreamed by Facebook and will continue through December 11, 2020.
“Bringing the world closer together is at the core of Facebook and that’s exactly why we’re supporting the Kennedy Center’s Arts Across America program to help people around the country connect virtually through their appreciation for the arts,” said Facebook’s Director of Public Affairs Robert Traynham. “We look forward to seeing the diverse artists share their talents through this innovative program.”
Marie Kondo makes room for meaningful objects, people, and experiences.
The organizational guru behind her #1 New York Times bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, Kondo prescribes a simplified approach to organizing space.
The intention behind her decluttering philosophy is to “end up with a clutter-free home that is better able to bring more joy and prosperity into your life.”
Her emphasis on achieving serenity and inspiration sets her apart from other approaches to organizing space, rather than organizing for organizing-sake.
How She Got Started
Kondo began her tidying consultant business as a 19-year-old university student in Tokyo, where she wrote her capstone project about tidying. For a time, she was an assistant at a Shinto shrine.
By her mid-twenties, her consulting business had a waitlist. It was these prospective clients who encouraged her to write a book, which would become The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
In 2010, Kondo’s book proposal won first prize in a publishing training course called “How to write bestsellers that will be loved for ten years.” Tomohiro Takahashi, an editor at Tokyo self-help and business publisher called Sunmark, made the winning bid.
Coupled with savvy marketing and a TV spot tidying the space of a well-known comedian, Kondo propelled herself into the hearts and minds of what are now considered her “Konverts.”
Today, she is a globally renowned tidying expert. Her journey represents a story of female empowerment, that pursuit of your passion can lead you to remarkable places.
Why is Kondo so popular?
Kondo’s approach encourages moving away from things that do not serve us, things which ultimately induce stress, in favor of a simplified, serene way of living.
Stress By Mess
Kondo knows mess causes stress in people’s lives.
She also knows there are simple things we can do to exert control over our mess, especially in areas such as our living and work spaces.
For example, the physical characteristics of living and work spaces, including features like crowding, clutter, noise, and artificial light, have been shown to affect mood and health in populations ranging from young children to senior citizens, according to a study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
In the same study, researchers found women who described their homes as “cluttered” or full of “unfinished projects” were more depressed, fatigued, and had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than women who felt their homes were “restful” and “restorative.”
Kondo’s KonMari Method addresses these effects head on with her emphasis on tidying and simplifying space, to maximize its manga, or magic.
“The KonMari Method is the foundation of all my work,” Kondo says. “It teaches people that the act of tidying your home will help you identify your values and what sparks joy in you. When you’re equipped with this knowledge, you will begin to improve all aspects of your life.”
Kondo’s mindful approach to organization offers six basic rules of tidying:
Commit yourself to tidying up.
Imagine your ideal lifestyle. Kondo asks her clients, What does the beginning and end of your day look like? Having a clear image of your ideal life will help you stay motivated and you will begin to create the life you’ve longed for.
Finish discarding first. Before getting rid of items, sincerely thank each item for serving its purpose.
Tidy by category, not location.
Follow the right order. Begin with clothes, followed by books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items.
Ask yourself if each item sparks joy. Thank them with gratitude for their service – then let them go.
Kondo reiterates the definition of what “sparks joy” varies across individuals. The KonMari Method as a practice does not require living a minimalistic lifestyle.
In an interview with Man Repeller, Kondo addresses the concept of having a lot of stuff.
“It’s not a good or a bad thing, it just stems from a difference in sensitivities and value systems,” Kondo points out. “If you’re someone who owns a lot of things and doesn’t want to let anything go, I would suggest trying to organize your drawers by folding your clothing in the correct way – just once! – and see how you feel. You might be surprised to find that having an organized space actually sparks joy.
“The ultimate goal of tidying is to discover how you’d like to live in your home.
“Less stress, more joy.”
Kondo uses a zoom-out-zoom-in approach as it relates to optimizing productivity. First, and critically, she considers how she wants to spend her time, starting with years, then narrowing in on quarters, months, week, all the way down to daily routines. This approach lends itself to aligning how she spends her time with her priorities at any given point in her life.
“Currently, my goal is to work as efficiently as possible so I can spend more time with my children,” Kondo says. She shares five tips that help balance time between family and work:
Start your morning with good energy – Kondo’s morning rituals include opening her windows to let fresh air in and burning incense.
Make a daily to-do list – She includes everything on this list, including laundry and email correspondence.
Coordinate with your partner – Sharing what each person undertakes helps you realize the number of tasks necessary to live comfortably together, and what kinds of tasks are best suited for each person, Kondo believes.
Clear your mind – When she needs to reorganize her thoughts, Kondo writes down everything that’s on her mind using a blank sheet of paper. She identifies what she calls tangled feelings, and clarifies which issues she can and can’t control.
Create a nighttime routine – Kondo’s nighttime routine consists of spending time with her children, returning items to their designated home, thanking them for their work that day.
“For me,” Kondo says, “work-life balance is about being aware of what you’re currently working toward and communicating that with your loved ones.”
Kondo has two young children and is married to Takumi Kawahara, whom she met during his college years. They married in 2013. Together, they established KonMari Media, Inc. in 2015, of which Kawahara assumed the role of CEO. He led the global expansion of the business, including the distribution of books, media channels, and the KonMari Consultant program, which is active in over 30 countries. He’s also an executive producer of their Netflix show.
Kondo and Kawahara blend their personal and professional relationship in such a way that balance and happiness are at the center: their kids.
Even their kids participate in tidying.
On her website, Kondo explains using the KonMari Method to expose children early on to the concept of tidying. She suggests to narrate as you tidy, so that the children can learn from you as they’re taking part. Show the children that tidying and playing go together, than after you play, everything has a home to return to. Don’t forget to be mindful that space is finite, so be aware of new toys, diapers, etc.
Applying the KonMari Method
The KonMari Method can be applied to many aspects of life, such as your finances, your career, and your mind.
The common theme? Imagining what you want your life to look like, making a plan, prioritizing, and forgoing anything that doesn’t spark joy.
“After tidying, my clients are more mindful about what they purchase, and they avoid buying in excess,” Kondo said in a special with NBC News. “I do believe it is important to use this self-awareness to guide your spending habits and let go of any tendencies or habits that are hindering you from meeting your financial goals (and your ideal lifestyle, overall).”
In a piece with Her Money, the KonMari Method is applied to streamlining your career trajectory. Some tips include being mindful of taking off-time from your devices, learning to say no to projects or tasks that add stress, making to-do lists, and finally, finding a way of doing more of what brings you joy at work, and off-loading or delegating the things that aren’t consistent with your career goals.
Kondo sat down for a conversation with best-selling author of Eat Pray Love and Big Magic Liz Gilbert about tidying the mind. Kondo asked Gilbert to share any advice she has for people who want to come to terms with difficult realizations related to living a life you don’t want for yourself.
“You can’t do work on yourself and not do work on the space you live,” Gilbert said. “And you can’t do work on the space you live and not do work on yourself. So, if you’re too afraid to look into the scary attic in your mind, look into the scary attic in your home. It will be a portal, a doorway, that will take you into the parts of yourself that you’ve been afraid to look at.”
Gilbert believes your home is a portrait of yourself; it needs to be treated accordingly.
Kondo has garnered over three million followers on Instagram, where she shares “tidy hacks” that help optimize the use of space. One such hack: emptying your dishwasher before guests arrive, so clean-up following their departure is more efficient.
She has nearly 400,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel. Her Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo was viewed over one million times within two weeks of its launch in January 2019. She also has a free app her fans can utilize.
Kondo recently launched The Shop at KonMari, which includes products ranging from décor and living, tidying and organization, tabletop and entertaining, cooking and kitchen, bath essentials, aromatherapy, and books.
In response to her rise in popularity, Kondo’s company employs over 200 consultants – all certified in the KonMari Method – to meet the demands of clients who seek her organizational expertise. She herself is no longer available for hire due to her commitments running the business.
Ultimately, Kondo believes expressions of gratitude will lead to a joy-filled life.
“I think you should always be honing your sensitivity to joy and letting go with gratitude of anything that doesn’t contribute to your happiness.
Famous authors and artists are commonly photographed alongside a trusty mug of coffee, but that cup of joe is more likely to help the Great American Manager. Caffeine, it turns out, does not improve creativity, but it significantly enhances problem-solving, according to a new study.
This is news, given how strongly we associate coffee with creative occupations and lifestyles. The study, published today in Consciousness and Cognition, followed 80 participants after they consumed either a placebo or 200 mg of caffeine—the equivalent of 12 ounces of coffee—and then tracked their problem-solving, creative idea generation, working memory, and mood. While problem-solving abilities improved significantly, the caffeine had no effect on memory or creativity. Subjects also reported feeling “less sad.”
Previous studies have shown that caffeine improves alertness, focus, attention, and motor skills, but little research existed on creativity.
This means that caffeine helps some kinds of thinking, specifically convergent thinking, such as when you need correct answers, for instance, while taking a GRE or MCAT or recalibrating a budget.
Two men have succeeded in developing an alternative to animal leather made out of Mexican cactus—and it could save millions of animals worldwide.
Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez are responsible for creating their vegan fabric out of the nopal cactus. Although it took them two years of research and development to design the fabric, they perfected its manufacturing process in July and debuted it to the fashion world in Milan, Italy back in October 2019.
The entrepreneurs realized the environmental impact of animal leather after they both spent years working in the furniture, automotive, and fashion industries. Upon quitting their jobs, they co-founded Adriano Di Marti to design their innovative leather replacement.
Their patented “Desserto” fabric is made out of cactus leaves that are harvested sustainably every 6 to 8 months. The material is designed to breathe easily while still being durable and partially biodegradable.
In addition to the cactus-based material also requiring a minimal amount of water to develop, it is grown organically in the state of Zacatecas.
The material, which has been made available in a variety of colors using natural dyes, has now been used to make everything from bags and automotive seating to shoes and jackets.
Los Angeles’s architectural landscape, much like its population, is a vibrant blend of different colors, shapes, and influences. The diversity of styles—from Googie to Spanish Colonial Revival—reflects the myriad cultures and languages that punctuate the city’s streets. But the people of color who developed the city have largely been left out of its urbanist history.
During old Hollywood’s heyday at the turn of the 20th century, the celebrity elite famously lived in neighborhoods like Beverly Hills, Hancock Park, and the hills of Bel Air. What is less well-known is that many of these dazzling estates were designed by Paul Revere Williams, the first black architect certified to work on the West Coast.
A new documentary from PBS, Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story, chronicles the design work of a man who desegregated California’s architecture industry.
Williams was known for designing homes for the silver screen’s biggest stars, such as Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball. The hourlong documentary, written, directed, and produced by Royal Kennedy Rodgers and Kathy McCampbell Vance, features several of the architect’s private properties peppered around greater Los Angeles. “He tapped into the desire of his clients to live lavishly and elegantly, in a way they never had,” says Vance. “His strength was that he designed for the client, [whereas] some architects have a design style and the clients adapt.” Known for a suave personal style and natural eloquence, Williams convinced clients that he was capable of designing a residence fit for their uniquely luxurious lifestyle—beyond the obvious talent he possessed, which many tried to ignore because of his race.
“He was known for combining styles, and on paper it sounds like kind of a mismatch,” says Rodgers. A designer showcase house [we feature in the documentary] was Tudor Revival on the outside and then there’s a Baroque landing and a staircase with some Spanish influence . . . on paper it sounds like it could be a disaster, but it’s not. He brought all styles together and made it work.” Williams was also celebrated for his ability to cater his designs to the immediate environment; one such example, a Brentwood home that was saved from demolition in 2013 by Disney CEO Bob Iger, is built around a prominent tree, thus melding the indoors with the outdoors. “Some architects might’ve cut down that tree because you could build a bigger house, but he kept the tree [and made the house] fit the site,” Vance says.
Williams’s mark is seen on commercial buildings throughout Los Angeles’s grid of sun-soaked streets, too. The iconic script of the Beverly Hills Hotel sign is written in Williams’s hand. He also collaborated on the eye-catching Space Age design of LAX’s Theme Building. “One of the things that he set out to do was to make sure that when you were at work, you felt at home,” Vance explains. “So if you look at the Music Corporation of America headquarters and Saks Fifth Avenue [on Wilshire Boulevard] . . . they’re made to be comfortable and lived in so you don’t feel like you’re toiling away—you feel relaxed in the beautiful environment. They look like living rooms in homes.”
Hollywood has long held the reputation of a community filled with liberal creatives—many of them American immigrants and California transplants. But Williams’s ability to cultivate personal and professional relationships with Hollywood’s wealthy, white community was not without injury.
“Everything he did was to make the client feel comfortable,” Vance says. “That’s where the upside-down technique came from.” Sadly, and impressively, Williams developed a style of drawing his design sketches in an inverted fashion, because it allowed him to sit across from his white clients, knowing they’d prefer to not sit next to him. This subtle yet violent adjustment speaks to the flattening many black creators feel forced to perform on themselves to take up less space, even while having a seat at the table, doing work they’ve been sought out to do.
Williams’s career as one of Los Angeles’s preeminent architects spanned decades; he opened his own practice and became the first black member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1923, and retired in 1973. In this time, he designed close to 3,000 buildings, but his sheer prolificness was eclipsed only by his stunning ability to design spaces in neighborhoods that redlining kept him out of. (Williams did, however, design several structures in L.A.’s black community as well, namely the 28th Street YMCA in South Central and Broadway Federal Bank in Mid-City.)
The documentary rightly credits Williams’s granddaughter, Karen Hudson, with keeping his legacy alive after his death in 1980: “When he retired, his reputation retired with him,” Vance says. “I don’t know that there was a movement to make him known, and that’s where Karen comes in.” Hudson conducted much of the research the film relies on, including hiring photographers to document her grandfather’s creations and building an exhaustive list of all the properties he built.