• "The Walking Dead" begins to wrap up a frustrating third season

    Of all the shows I keep up with on a regular basis, “The Walking Dead” is easily the most narratively misguided, with nearly every episode featuring scattered characterization and inert melodrama. Nonetheless, week-to-week, there are few things as satisfying as seeing the show’s gleefully gory depiction of a zombie-ridden wasteland.

    “This Sorrowful Life,” the penultimate episode of the series’ third season, showcased both the best and the worst of “The Walking Dead.” The show has consistently struggled to get a handle on its characters, and (SPOILER) this episode killed off Michael Rooker’s Merle, one of the few survivors left from the first season. Merle was always a deeply problematic character, but his return in the third season amounted to a redemption arc that stopped and started without much insight into Merle as a character, despite Michael Rooker’s valiant attempts to keep Merle compelling. His death may have resulted in a big blow towards the Governor’s forces, an exciting climax for the episode and a great final scene for Daryl (Norman Reedus), but Merle never amounted to anything more than another example of “The Walking Dead” squandering a character who didn’t have much potential to begin with.

    Famous makeup man Greg Nicotero has directed a handful of “The Walking Dead” episodes, and his staging of several big action sequences didn’t fail to excite. Merle’s consequences-be-damned assault on the Governor was genuinely thrilling, and the smart use of zombies as a strategic weapon is something I’d like to see more of in the finale. The Zombie Kill of the Week easily belongs to Michonne’s innovative wire-to-pillar decapitation, although the casualness with which she was popping walkers’ skulls off in the episode’s opening was wryly funny.

    Next week’s season finale promises to bring an end to the Governor-Rick battle of wills that’s driven the season, an arc that has continued to display the show’s struggles in building credible dramatic conflict and consistent characterization. Nonetheless, “The Walking Dead” has an undeniable knack for ramping up tension when it counts, and hopefully the third season will end on a satisfying note.

  • Are Apple computers really greener?

    In Apple’s distinctive promotional videos, it always seems as though lead-designer Jonathan Ive cannot fawn enough over his own products.

    “When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it sort of becomes magical and that’s exactly what the iPad is,” Ive explained in 2010, referring to Apple’s mystical new tablet computer, the iPad. Since the first iPad launched, it seems that Apple’s marketing strategy has devolved further into self-congratulatory verbiage, as if to say with each new product, “We did it again, again.”

    At one point,  that same marketing strategy emphasized Apple’s participation in a program known as the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, which lists out a number of criteria that determine how “green” a company’s products are. In other words, companies that use fewer toxic materials, have recycling programs, or attempt to reduce their carbon-footprint in some way are awarded certification by the program. Apple’s Macbook computers used to strongly advertise their limited impact on the environment.

    This, however, is no longer the case.

    Since revealing features like the “retina” display and flash memory, Apple has dropped out of the program because many of their products are no longer capable of meeting the standards set forth by the EPEAT. For the Macbook pro with retina, which has its battery glued onto the aluminum casing, recycling is more difficult for the average consumer since they can’t separate the two pieces.

    Comparatively speaking, Apple still has a rather impressive recycling program nonetheless. While many PC companies like Hewlett-Packard and Dell currently feature EPEAT ratings, they do not have a comprehensive recycling program in the same way that Apple does. Turning in old computers (even PC computers) at certain Apple locations is completely free, and in some cases will earn customers an Apple Store giftcard.

    To take a closer look at Apple’s environmental impact, here is a link to the company’s website that deals specifically with carbon emissions.



  • Suggestions for Self-Help (Books)

    As a kid, I was lucky enough to discover on my mother’s bookshelf a title she had long since forgotten, "Who Moved my Cheese?", a business self-help book based on a parable about lab rats in a maze who must adapt to changes in their food source. The plot itself is too dull and weird to summarize in this blog post, but I will say that the book aimed to help people adapt to change, that a few too many of its plot devices involved rotten dairy and that it captivated my fifth-grade mind with its practical advice and inspirational sayings. I couldn’t help it: I’ve always loved self-help literature.

    But I also love good writing. And as "Who Moved my Cheese?" demonstrates beautifully, self-help books are generally written in the voice of an overenthusiastic flight attendant who has taken one too many public-speaking correspondence courses. Which is why I was so pleased to discover "How to Be Useful: A Beginner's Guide to Not Hating Work," by Megan Hustad, over spring break. This book is smart, well written and genuinely helpful. And, because we live in an age where blatant self-improvement is seen as decidedly uncool, I can assure you that the book has sleek enough cover art to camouflage its inspirational interior.

    "How to Be Useful" focuses primarily on succeeding in the workplace, but it offers great tips on how to behave in life in general. To write the book, Hustad combed through over 100 years of success literature, from Dale Carnegie’s 1936 hit "How to Win Friends & Influence People" to 1975’s "Dress for Success." Hustad has packaged the best parts of those titles and more into 10 chapters with titles like “When It’s Just Not about You” and “The Uses of No.” She writes sharply, humorously, and offers examples that don’t hinge on overwrought metaphors about lab rats, i.e., they feature real people. And because much of what she’s saying focuses on how to make it as a newcomer in an office, the book has a special appeal to college students trying to make it in a labor market dominated by internships.

    As Hustad states in her introduction, “Cracking open a book is certainly preferable to resigning yourself to subordinate status and hating yourself for it.” What better reason do you need to read "How to Be Useful" before that next internship? Trust me, it will teach you more than how to make copies.

  • Lunchtime Links

    The Daily Texan Life and Arts section is happy to complement your lunchtime break with a smattering of news from across the cultural spectrum.

    Do we ever get tired of looking at beautiful pictures of Taylor Swift? No. Do we like to admit that? Maybe not. America's pop princess has taken some gorgeous pictures with Vanity Fair that are worth your time and clicks!

    Kate Middleton is out and about again showing off that baby "bump." If you consider baby bumps what I look like after eating a hamburger at Hopdoddy.

    John Mayer cannot keep a girlfriend, and while people blame women for these breakups, we are starting think it might be homeboy's fault that this relationship with K. Perry has just failed. Again. But really, who divorces Russel Brand?

    Some people, haters, who want the rest of us to have zero fun are upset about John Hamm and his clothing on Mad Men. Apparently some people do not like that Hamm is wearing small, thin layers of fabric as short shorts. Who are these complainers?

    Everyone wants to write a pope book and this is a problem for Barnes & Noble and all the other booksellers. Pope Francis is pretty cute, so we understand.

    Flashback to childhood: Here's a Shel Silverstein poem.

    Justin Timberlake has a new music video out for "Mirrors" because he only wants us to think about him all the time. This is a long video with a real plot and no images of Justin Timberlake shirtless, so prepare yourselves for that.

    Justin Timberlake is also leaving his fashion line. Read all the articles about Justin Timberlake!

    In other early 2000s news, Britney Spears is rocking this Dodgers jersey.

  • Throwback Timberlake Videos

    Pop music's golden boy Justin Timberlake released his new album. And while I am trying my hardest to love it as deeply as I love Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds, it's just not happening yet.

    Here are my favorite JT songs to hold you over while you listen to The 20/20 Experience on repeat and slowly, but surely, become obsessed.

    This is a young, newly solo Justin Timberlake at his best. "Senorita" has all the elements of a great JT song; it is danceable, sexy and has that fun little dialogue between "fellas and ladies" at the end.

    "Rock Your Body"
    Again with the danceable and sexy element, this list would be incomplete without "Rock Your Body."

    Whoa. "SexyBack" is JT at his sexiest and baddest. We all like to indulge in JT the bad boy now and then.

    "Cry Me A River"
    A favorite for break ups, "Cry Me A River" is less dance-y and more emotional. JT shows off his vocal range and that he is more than just a sex symbol.

    "This I Promise You"
    Though technically an 'NSYNC song, Justin does a lot of the singing in this one. "This I Promise You" is a pleasant reminder of why all of our pre-teen hearts fluttered at the thought of the curly-headed blonde.

    "Like I Love You"
    This is a favorite for dancing alone in my apartment. Bonus that he looks all moody and hot in the first seconds of the video.

    "Summer Love"
    Since summer is basically upon us, there is no better time to revisit "Summer Love." I only wish I was holding JT's hand and walking with him in the sand.