2013 Newsies Awards

The third annual Newsies awards are dedicated to my favorite things I discovered/saw/bought for the first time in prior year. It’s also a homage to one of my great guilty pleasure movies of all time, Newsies.

Remember that these aren’t necessarily things that came out in 2013, but 2013 was when I got them, watched them, etc.

TV Show – The Wire

The easiest choice ever, The Wire is not a new show, but one that escaped me for many years. Fortunately it did not disappoint. The often heralded 4th season was good, but not as indistinguishably better as I was led to believe. The characters are great though, and seeing the same group of cops throughout was awesome, especially as they continued to grow through the ranks. Need to give it a re-watch to figure out where it lands. Presently it’s behind The Sopranos and Breaking Bad for me though.

Runners-Up

  • The Americans – As I said on a recent podcast, this was my new show of the year in 2013. It filled the void that Homeland has left after a subpar season 2, and now horrible season 3. A strong second season this year could move it on to my current TV Mount Rushmore alongside Mad Men, Game of Thrones and Shameless. The performances in this show have been really strong so far, but the constant “will they or won’t they split up” probably can’t survive the long term.

  • Masters of Sex– Showtime’s new show about real-life sex researches Masters and Johnson had a spectacular first season. Shows based on historical material often don’t have the same degree of difficulty since the skeleton of their story is already in place. Anyone who even knows a little about these historical figures knows where things are going to end up, which kills some of the tension along the way. Lizzy Caplan is great though, and makes this show a real gem.

Movie – The Wolf of Wall Street

Leo was great in this. It was well directed, and just flat out entertaining. It might be my favorite movie since The Hangover 21, and even though it was a bit long it was just enjoyable. It’s hard to say at this point whether or not it will hold up on repeated viewings, but so far it was great. Not a movie that I think most women would enjoy, but an ultimate male fantasy movie.

Runners-Up

  • Zero Dark Thirty – This movie came out at the end of 2012, but since I saw it at the beginning of 2013 it qualifies. It’s fair to question the historical accuracy of the overall story, and obviously it suffers a bit from the ending being known ahead of time. The 2nd half of the movie also feels a bit rushed, but the tension of the compound raiding scene makes it all worth it. This is what Homeland should be all the time.

  • American Hustle – The movie pool is definitely the biggest to chose from when handing out these awards. Too Big to Fail, The Hangover 3, Bad Grandpa and Fast and Furious 6 all were in the conversation, but American Hustle was just too well acted (particularly by one of my crushes, Amy Adams) to overlook. I agree with people who think the story is convoluted and doesn’t make sense at times, but the direction and performances can’t be questioned.

iPhone App – Tweetbot 3

Tapbots released a new version of their flagship Twitter client in October as part of a full on re-write of their app for iOS 7. Although this is really just a new version of an existing application, it’s just too good to leave off. The app looks perfect in iOS 7 and has lots of small design touches, which goes along with Tapbots reputation for doing as such. Much like when Tweetbot was first released for the iPhone, Tweetbot 3 is my favorite Twitter client on any platform.

Runners-Up

  • Launch Center Pro – The first iteration of this app was release in mid–2012. After playing with it a bit it never found it’s way into my work flow. Version 2.0 was released in October along with a beautiful re-design and now it’s part of my daily life. Any app that has a URL scheme2 and isn’t on my first home screen gets launched through LCP. I have shortcuts for making phone calls and text messaging that are invaluable. It only saves a dozen seconds or so in most cases, but that really adds up over time.

  • Weather Line – Another app released late in the year, but one that has instantly become my favorite in it’s category. It’s unclear so far how accurate it’s forecasts are, but it displays the information in a way that I prefer and makes it easy to check current and future conditions in a natural way that other apps have not done.

iPad App – CBS Sports

Most websites or apps that display sports scores automatically group things by sport, and then sometimes within that sport with subgroups (like college conferences). This probably works for most people, or fans of most sports, but hardcore college football fans care about certain games more than others. The CBS Sports app offers a unique feature that allows a user to build a “watchlist” of various games, across sports even, to show in a single view. This is a killer feature.

Runners-Up

  • Byword – The note taking/writing/Dropbox syncing plain text editor category is very popular on iOS. There are countless options available (check out Brett Tersptra’s wonderful iTextEditors site for a complete breakdown) and everyone seems to have a favorite. I haven’t delved into the hot new one Editorial quite yet, but I got into Byword with it’s 2.0 release this year. It’s now my go-to writing app on my iPad and iPhone. It doesn’t have a ton of features, but does have font choices, multiple color schemes, export to HTML and more.

  • PocketMarco Arment sold Instapaper this year, but I had already decided to give the re-vamped Pocket a chance mostly because they have a native OS X client. The new iOS apps were lacking a few a key features Instapaper had, but many of those have already been rectified3. The updates and features here were changing at a much quicker pace than Instapaper until Arment sold it, but now it’s become my go-to “read it later service”

Gadget – iPhone 5s

It seems like a bit of a copout to pick something this obvious, but nothing is used more day-to-day by me than my iPhone. The 5s brought speed improvements and the thumbprint sensor (which is a blessing or a curse depending on how well it’s working), but the larger screen is a big change. The phone doesn’t feel that much bigger, especially after a couple of month of use, and the extra row of icons alone makes the phone feel like it’s so much more useful. The slow motion videos have also been tons of fun.

Runners-Up

  • Amazon Basics Tablet Stand – One of the best $10 purchases ever, this little fold up stand adjusts to hold almost any tablet. It can accommodate iPads in portrait or landscape and do so at various angles. It also folds up small enough to fit easily in most bags and seems awfully durable for $10. For that money, it’s easily the best iPad stand out there.-

  • Kanex Multisync Keyboard – I replaced my old Matias One keyboard with this Kanex one. The Matias never felt right when typing, had a faulty/unreliable shift key, and wasted space for an iPhone resting place that put other commonly used keys in weird spots. The Kanex is far from perfect, but it supports 3 Blutetooth devides plus one wired USB device4. It’s sometimes slow to switch devices and there are some oddly placed keys (the home button screws with Windows users big time)

Mac App – Pocket

I made the move from Instapaper earlier this year mostly because the lack of a dedicated web app for Instapaper was starting to annoy me. Pocket’s Mac app is very good. It has all of the features that the iOS versions offer, but for some reason it doesn’t auto-refresh until it’s brought back to the foreground. It looks nice though, and is a much superior experience to the old Instapaper website5

Runner-Up

  • Bartender – This is one of those great examples of apps that don’t do a lot, stay out of your way, but adds value. This app is for those people who have overcrowded menubars. Bartender basically creates a submenu that is accessible via a single icon. This is great for hiding things that are only occasionally used, or for apps that live in the menubar and can’t be hidden.

Website – The Sweet Setup

New in 2013, started by Shawn Blanc the idea is to be a curated list of apps. Not exactly a straight review site but rather experienced users talking about experiences with different applications and trying to determine the best apps in individual categories. It’s not revolutionary by any means, but my preference for finding new apps is going on people with reputations I trust. It’s a little early to say whether or not this is my new go-to place for apps, but it looks good.

  • Rocket Ink – A well-designed site with lots of software needing out. Patrick covers Keyboard Maestro especially, but he has all other sorts of productivity and automation tips. This site is probably too intense for most people who read this blog, but I have found some nice tips on there.

Podcast – ESPN Baseball Tonight

I had listened to ESPN’s Baseball Today podcast since the beginning. After a few host changes the show got stale, and it seemed like the hosts didn’t want to be there. It was dropped sometime before the 2013 season and was replaced by Buster Olney hosting a daily show (with guests) which was a dramatic improvement over what was previously there. This is the best way I see to keep up with baseball on a daily basis.

Runner-Up

  • Grantland NFL Podcast – Another show that replaced an existing show at the same place. Last year’s winner, The Trenches Podcast, was replaced this year by this podcast which still has Robert Mays but added Bill Barnwell as well. It’s a good twice a week look at the NFL.
  1. Which I continue to contend is vastly underrated []
  2. All apps don’t, and the ones that don’t can’t be accessed by Launch Center Pro []
  3. It’s still missing better footnote support and a way to tell how long an article is before opening it []
  4. Which is crucial if you are looking for a solution that includes a computer without Bluetooth []
  5. Instapaper got a new website, but I had already moved on to Pocket by then []