My three favorite apps

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By Gabby Fernandez

Of Snapshots & Zeitgeists

Thursday, August 21, 2014


THIS is the last in a series of what I term as “Bits and Pieces of Americana 2014,” a personal and highly subjective survey of what’s “hot” or in vogue, the “must-sees” and the “must-haves,” the highlights and the benchmarks of that vast landscape of detritus and delights which comprise American popular culture (and of which we Pinoys are such ardent consumers of, not without its merits— I must say).

So where were we in this so-called survey of the American cultural landscape?

Oh yes. Halfway through 2014.

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Midway through the year, Pharrell Williams has become king of the summer airwaves with his song titled, what else but, Summer. Lana del Rey is the critics’ new bet as the songstress and voice for these strange times and the hottest selling album of the year is the soundtrack from Disney’s Frozen.

Among the much-anticipated Hollywood blockbuster summer films Guardians of the Galaxy, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Maleficent united a large audience and some hardened critics in their praise.

On the cable/television front, three shows are pushing the boundaries and transforming the way cable and television shows are made and marketed: Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and Walking Dead.

To round off the series, this article deals with the latest (and to my mind, most potent) addition to America’s arsenal in the culture wars: apps.

Here are three of my “must-have” apps.

(The term “must-have” used herein with as much cynicism as this writer can muster because REALLY, aside from the oft-cited food, shelter and clothing, is there anything that people MUST have? But I digress…)

Most of these work best on a tablet or a smartphone. All have IOS or Android versions.

1. FLIPBOARD

This is an old one but I’m putting it in as I’m surprised that not very many are aware of it or what it can do.

Basically, Flipboard is an app wherein you can subscribe to your favorite magazines or journals, ezines and curated sites. These magazines and curated sites are updated daily with 4 to 10 articles dealing with the latest news, insightful articles and comprehensive analyses. All for free.

But the really amazing thing about Flipboard is the width and breadth of the choices one has.

To give you an example, my latest subscriptions in Flipboard include:

A. For News - Time, Huffington Post, New York Times and The Guardian;

B. For culture & lifestyle – Salon, The New Yorker, the Paris Review and Vanity Fair;

C. For sports – Grantland, ESPN, the Bleachers Report;

D. For science & tech – Popular Science, Wired, Popular Mechanics;

E. For everything ‘arts & culture’ – BBC Culture, Rolling Stone, Thought Catalog, The Big Think and Brain Pickings

(Note to my sophisticated / intelligent / culturati reader: if only for Brain Pickings alone give yourself a treat and get Flipboard – I promise you that you will thank me for it)

G. For my guilty pleasures— Zen of Productivity, The Silent Mind, Writing and Writers, Neuroscience, Lifehacker

Yes. All that in one app. And YES, all that for free.

2. SPOTIFY

Music is the one thing that drives me and defines me. I know it does for many music-lovers. To those of you out there who feel the same way about music, Spotify is heaven-sent.

It is essentially a music-streaming app which previously had been a for-pay-service only but has since launched its free version early this year.

I know. Many of you will say – “yeah I tried that out.” Nope. Delete your old Spotify app and download the new one. Best if done on the tablet. If you have it on your desktop machine, borrow a tablet from someone and see how it works there. Then and only then will you be able to see the astonishing, almost magical, capabilities of this app.

That song from the 50s you can’t recall, it’s there. The newest album of Coldplay? It’s there. From electronic to jazz to indie-folk to rock, from the latest release to the oldest of the Standards, it’s there.

And yes, it’s FREE. When I turn on my Spotify app, the thought that comes to my mind is this: “God, I’m glad I lived to experience these times.”

3. DROPBOX

You’ve got files on your Macbook, important documents on your PC desktop, notes on your tablet and photos on your I-Phone. Then just when you need it, you can’t find it. “Oh it’s not here it’s on this (insert gadget or platform here).

Install Dropbox on all your devices and just dump all the vital files you think you’ll need at any given time. Once you’ve uploaded the file, you can access it on your Dropbox app in any of your gadgets. Even when you’re offline.

If you’ve already got Dropbox and the filing system is a mess (as it tends to be since your basically using it as a dumping place), get an account at mohiomap.com. It will visualize a system of organizing your files for you. This website is another marvel of algorithm and programming.

So there it is - in all its splendor and glory – cultural bits and pieces of Americana 2014 that you absolutely “must see,” “must-hear,” or “must-have.”

Come to think if it, I’m starting to re-think my position on “must-have” just based on these apps alone. Either that or they should add to that cliché “food, shelter and clothing and Flipboard and Spotify and Dropbox.”*

(Editor’s note: Gabby Fernandez’s column last week should have been titled, “The three hottest American cable shows.”)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 21, 2014.

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