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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The HTC One M9...refined, refocused, remarkable


The One M8 was HTC's flagship phone for 2014 and a huge design win.  It officially positioned them among the ranks of top smartphone providers, especially for those who had overlooked the magnificent M7.  Rather than implementing a complete design overhaul for the new M9, as expected despite the praise given for the M8, HTC chose a strategy based more on refinement and refocusing by keeping what worked well and making improvements as needed.  Here's a brief summary of the key specs of the new HTC One M9, followed by my detailed review with personal insight into why I highly recommend this device for any smartphone user.  Allow me to preface my review by clarifying that I am not reviewing the M9 based on how it compares to anything else; my feedback is directly tied to the user experience it provides.

Device specifications (simplified summary):
Size: 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.61 mm
Weight: 157g
Battery: 2840 mAh
Chassis: Dual-tone metal unibody
Display: Super LCD3 5.0" 1080p, 441ppi, Corning Gorilla Glass 4
Performance: Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core CPU with 3GB RAM
Storage: 32GB (21GB available); microSD expansion up to 2TB
Audio: HTC BoomSound dual front-facing stereo speakers, Dolby audio profile
Software: Android 5.0.2 Lollipop with HTC Sense 7.0
Camera: Primary 20MP, dual led flash, autofocus with 4K video; Front 4MP with 1080p video


>BUILD/DESIGN
HTC obviously focused a lot of attention in regards to design based on how this device feels in the hand in addition to overall appearance, which exudes premium quality with its two-tone metal unibody design.  The gold on silver model has a platinum finish on the back, with a jewelry-like quality to it and a brushed metal look with a gold-colored band around the edge; the gunmetal option is less "two-tone" and more of an overall charcoal gray.  The outer band, which houses the physical buttons, distinctly separates the front and back.  The nanoSIM tray sits alone on the top left edge of the phone and the physical buttons all rest on the right edge of the phone below the microSD slot.  There are separate volume up/down buttons and a power/lock button with an etched design to help distinguish it by feel.  The phone definitely has some weight to it, but this won't come as a surprise to anyone coming from its predecessors or many of the other flagship phones released in the last few years.  While I wish HTC had ditched the logo bar across the bottom of the display which once housed the capacitive touch navigation buttons, I’m still very pleased with the look and feel of the M9 and I think HTC proudly stands on its own by keeping their identity with a uniquely high-end aesthetic.


>SCREEN
Just as HTC did not cave in to pressure for a more thorough overhaul of an already winning design, they also kept the trusty 1080p screen while many others are going quadHD.  Personally, if for no other reason than battery life or practicality, I find it pointless for any portable media device to have resolution greater than 1080p.  This is a stunning 5" full HD screen with remarkable clarity and very good color reproduction.  Text is sharp and detailed so people who enjoy using Blinkfeed to its full potential for reading material are in good hands; YouTube addicts should be very pleased as well.  The screen sits beneath Gorilla Glass 4, which provides ample resistance to scratching and damage from normal usage.  If that's not enough peace of mind, HTC offers 1 year of Uh Oh replacement protection (see below for further information).  Considering the vast availability of screen protectors and cases that provide an extra sense of security, without impeding on the magnificent design, I still recommend a small investment towards protection (especially for those with a loose grip).


>SOUND
While many users rely on earphones for audio/visual media with their phones and tablets, HTC remains in a league of their own with BoomSound.  A pair of front-facing speakers, powered by Dolby Audio, creates an unparalleled and immersive experience that isn't far off the mark from many Bluetooth external speakers.  BoomSound is like a home theater's center channel speaker that makes all media very enjoyable on the M9 when using it without earphones.  The Dolby enhancement feature offers some options based on what type of earphones you’re using, or for listening through the integrated speakers there are two sound modes, Music and Theater, with Theater basically simulating a "surround" effect.  I typically leave mine on Music as the Theater effect usually makes the audio sound a bit "hollow", however gaming apps and movies tend to benefit from it.


>CAMERA
The camera was the one universally disappointing feature of the M9’s predecessor(s), and HTC definitely took that into consideration.  They moved the UltraPixel technology to the front-facing selfie shooter and upgraded the primary camera to a straight 20MP shooter with 4K video recording, dual LED flash and autofocus.  I'm not a selfie addict but I've taken a couple of pics just to test out the front camera and the pics are very good, but the real victory is the improvement to the main shooter.  Pics are sharp and detailed; I've taken a variety of pics in bright settings and low light and I think HTC’s efforts have made significant improvement through the hardware changes.  Beyond the hardware upgrade, the software allows you to change a variety of settings and even create a custom shooter based on your preferences.  With this level of control, the only disappointment should come from users who don't understand how to use the settings to optimize the main camera’s performance.  I'll admit that the strength of the camera is the last priority for me when purchasing a smartphone, but even when judging harshly I’m very impressed with the detail and quality in pics taken with the M9.


>BATTERY LIFE
Obviously, battery life will depend greatly on your typical usage habits.  The bulk of my usage is tied to music listening, which is fairly gentle on battery use, followed by occasional YouTube viewing, social media and gaming, then calls/texts.  So far with normal use I've gotten mostly through the day but I do plug my phone in on my commute home (~40 minutes) to help recover a decent amount of battery life for the rest of the evening.  I have made a few tweaks to help it along though, such as conserving CPU power in the Power Saving mode, which is always on, and turning off animations (Developer Options/Advanced).  Neither setting will cause a noticeable lag in performance.  I also never leave Wifi/GPS/Bluetooth on, only as needed.  Let's face it…with the release of each new generation of flagship devices, we become more tethered to our phones than ever before.  The need to be constantly connected demands better battery life but it also requires some common sense.  A micro-USB charge/sync cable, with or without an extra wall adapter, is very inexpensive and can be used whether you’re stationary at work (desk) or mobile (car).  For heavy users, the variety of charging options available exists to help you get through the day so it’s up to you to take advantage of them rather than live off the limitations of your device’s battery capacity.


>SOFTWARE
HTC uses Sense UI to optimize the user experience, and the new Sense7 with Sense Home and HTC Themes allows for a more seamless customization process than ever before.  The themes app is an all-inclusive design center which puts the user in control of wallpapers, icons and fonts and a gallery of user-published themes incorporating those elements as an all-in-one makeover option.  Blinkfeed remains HTC’s answer to the popular third-party news readers available from the Play Store, offering a very intuitive layout that incorporates all of your social media as well as a vast selection of news/media outlets and your favorite RSS feeds.  It took me a while to appreciate Blinkfeed and Sense UI, as I’m a bit of an Android purist, but once I did a little research and explored some handy tips/tricks tutorials, I’ve embraced all that HTC’s Sense offers, especially the Themes interface.  A new feature that’s also available for M7/M8 users is Sense Home, which offers location-based suggestions for most frequently used apps.  Once you provide your home and work locations, a Sense Home widget will change the apps shown based on your current location.


>SUPPORT
In addition to everything the M9 has to offer, you get HTC’s new Uh Oh protection, which provides free replacement coverage for the first 12 months of ownership, or $100 towards your next phone if you don’t use it.  Additionally, HTC is working diligently to close the gap in the software update process and they’re the most transparent OEM in terms of communication and customer relations, at least from my personal observations and interactions.

 >FINAL THOUGHTS
I’ve had phones from Samsung and LG (and an iPhone) before my previous phone, the HTC One M7.  In my humble and honest opinion, the One M9 is not only the absolute best phone I’ve ever used, but virtually impossible to beat for all that it (and HTC) offers.  This is the first time since being a smartphone user that I have a device with every feature and quality I’ve wanted or seen out of every phone available.  Does it have the best resolution or highest pixel density of any device available?  No, but what it does have is a stunning display that will never leave you wanting more and that doesn’t drain your battery for the sake of having eye-catching specs.  Does it have the BEST camera of any phone out there?  No, but it takes excellent pictures, and allows enough user control that even the most demanding users can tune it to take stunning photographs far beyond what the default settings are capable of.  Does it have the best sound quality?  ABSOLUTELY, and that’s the undisputed truth across every review of today’s hottest flagship devices.  Does HTC support their devices better than other Android OEM’s?  With Uh Oh Protection and impressive social media presence, I believe so!  I’ve watched Apple and Samsung battle each other for years, borrowing design elements from each other (or others).  I’ve seen Apple lose its identity and sell-out to win over Android users with screen size and a thinner all-metal profile, while Samsung has now adopted the metal and glass look of the iPhone6’s predecessors.  I’ve seen the way Apple and Samsung use slick advertising to entice the crowds and push sales, while HTC relies on the quality of their products and the support of their fans to help spread the word about the level of quality they admire from HTC’s lineup as well as the support they receive.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Middle Finger

Buckle up, people!  This isn't a warm and fuzzy PSA brought to you by the Church of Do-Gooders, or some inspirational post about the future of America.  It's a loud, unforgiving and unapologetic protest of irresponsible, inconsiderate, ignorant, unlawful and inhumane behavior.  I'm not perfect, nor would I ever claim to be, but I am kind, respectful and considerate.  I work to earn a living for my family, I pay taxes and obey the laws of government (and common sense).

I have no tolerance or leniency for the kind of people whose behaviors exhibit a blatant lack of respect or consideration for others.  Against all odds, I remain hopeful for a future filled with people of higher character, the kind of people who will take a stand against something more meaningful than an unpopular opinion expressed by a TV personality or some first world problem like a phone that bends when sat upon.  I've had my share of success and failure and have always tried to consider how my actions, positive or negative, affect others.  As I turn my attention outward, my observations prove that the percentage of Americans who are socially aware or concerned in the same way is the minority.  Anyone who is offended by the following is likely to be among those called out, and therefore part of the problem.  It can either be taken at face value as nothing more than an unflattering observation, or as an opportunity to acknowledge and improve.

To the following group, I raise a middle finger; for their behavior and the negative impact it has on everyone else.

I'll start with a daily experience during my commute to work, dealing with people who expect a red carpet to be rolled out as they merge on to the freeway, typically driving much slower than the ongoing traffic.  Entering a freeway by forcing cars in motion to dramatically adjust their speed is an act of pure selfish stupidity.  I gladly respond to the hideous glares from the stupid drivers who attempt to cut in front of me at half my driving speed with my middle finger.  Moving on, I have a middle finger for anyone who leaves a child or a pet locked in a hot car because you couldn't be inconvenienced to handle the situation properly.  Another goes out to
the lazy, entitled, self-important jerks who leave their shopping cart, usually filled with their own trash, in the open space next to them that's no more than 20 feet from the cart return area.  I don't have to extend a middle finger for those who decide their expensive car deserves two parking spaces; karma takes care of that with help from those scumbags who vandalize cars just for the joy it brings to their pathetic life.  Speaking of entitlement, to the people who live off of handouts from those who work for a living, especially who would reject an offer of help in the form of a meal, I would stand on the opposite corner and raise both middle fingers in the air until I can no longer hold my arms up.  The same sentiment goes for music leeches who believe that the dawn of digital technology relieved them of the obligation to pay for it.  To the people who chose to take jobs with gratuity-based earnings and complain or publicly shame your customers who didn't satisfy your expectations for a tip, I have a platinum credit card from the bank of STFU which I'll use to pay for my meal.  I will tip according to how well I think you did your job; taking my order and bringing it to me is the bare minimum.  It's ridiculous to expect an extra pat on the back for fulfilling the basic requirements of your chosen job role.

This is my middle finger to every lawyer in America that defends the people whose behaviors plague society, rather than putting your efforts into being on the side of the law that enforces maximum punishment.  I have a super-sized, double serrated-edge middle finger for every politician who has been elected into office only to betray the people whose vote was wasted on them.  The level of corruption within our government that has crippled our nation is infuriatingly despicable to the level that demands an annual recall voting option be established.  To break this up with a gesture of unity, I share a collective middle finger with all who would argue against the use of tax dollars to feed convicted felons across America while any child goes hungry, and another for our miserably ineffective and inconsistent legal system.

Here's a middle finger to the parents who ignore their children and fail to accept the role created by their own actions, whether intentional or not.  This also covers parents who use children as a crutch to escape the practice of common courtesy in public.      

There aren't enough middle fingers for rapists and child molesters, but thankfully even the degenerates that comprise the population of our prison system have their own form of justice to serve.  I have a fistful of middle fingers for bullies that will return the abuse they dish out one hundred fold; a bully is nothing but a coward in disguise.  I raise a firm and vigilant middle finger to racists as well as anyone who treats another person with prejudice in any form.  In recent years, there has been an alarming and increasing number of people who've died at the hands of someone with poor judgment, leading to the fatal outcome and aftermath that ensued.  I extend that same finger to the so-called justice seekers in such cases whose real agenda is to perpetuate stereotypes with their inconsistent whistle blowing.


Finally, a middle finger would be an undeserved gesture of leniency and compassion in comparison to what I wish for all who take the life of any innocent person, referring to random acts of malicious violence.  I have more respect for toilet paper than anyone who is so cowardly as to place no value on the life of another but would likely cower in a puddle of their own waste if their own life was threatened.  While the "pull out" method is hardly an effective form of birth control, in the case of those mentioned above I wish their father had sacrificed a few seconds of pleasure to spare us all the misfortune of their existence.

To all who are unaffected or unmentioned in the above examples of wrath, I offer a handshake and many thanks for being, at the very minimum, a marginally decent member of our society.  Have a nice day!

Musical Chairs

The last few years in Rock music have marked the anniversary of several classic albums and prompted news (or rumors) of reunions of the classic lineup of some of the biggest names in Rock and Metal.  For the hardcore fans of any band, the only acceptable version includes all original members, but is the classic lineup always the best?  There is certainly a handful of bands on each end of that argument.  The success or failure of a band following a lineup change is arguably the most revealing indicator of how important each member is (or was) to their sound and their fanbase.

While there are many factors that contribute to lineup changes, whether made by choice or forced by tragedy, the music that follows ultimately tells how well each band overcomes the changes to their creative dynamics.  The death of a band member has forced several of the biggest names in Rock to make the decision to wave the white flag or carry on.  AC/DC and Led Zeppelin are probably the two earliest examples, both crippled by the tragic and untimely death of one of their bandmates as the result of alcohol poisoning in 1980.  Led Zeppelin chose not to carry on when drummer John Bonham died, while AC/DC made a historic comeback following the death of original singer Bon Scott with the album "Back In Black" featuring new singer Brian Johnson, who has remained Scott's sole successor.  Metallica arrived on the scene a few years later with a trilogy of albums that put them on a trajectory for limitless success until disaster struck and they lost bassist Cliff Burton when their tour bus crashed.  After auditioning several players, Jason Newsted, formerly of Flotsam and Jetsam, joined Metallica and remained with the band for 14 years before leaving for personal reasons.  He was replaced by current bassist Robert Trujillo, formerly of Suicidal Tendencies and a member of Ozzy Osbourne's band.  Nirvana disbanded after the alleged suicide death of singer Kurt Cobain in 1994, and Alice In Chains went on an indefinite hiatus following the 2002 death of their singer Layne Staley.  Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl formed the band Foo Fighters as a singer/guitarist, while Alice In Chains eventually returned with a new singer, William Duvall.  Metal group Pantera had already disbanded due to conflicts with singer Phil Anselmo, but the 2004 onstage shooting death of guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott devastated the Metal community and crushed the hopes of any possible future reunion of the band.

The lead singer is undoubtedly the hardest member of any band to replace, as they are the voice and the face of the band for most people.  Some bands have had to replace their frontman due to nothing more than a case of LSD (Lead Singer's Disease) or any variety of internal conflicts.  In 1984, Van Halen had reached the peak of their success with original frontman David Lee Roth until tension between Roth and Eddie Van Halen regarding Roth's early solo endeavors led to his replacement by veteran rocker Sammy Hagar, a move that polarized their fanbase.  Van Halen went on to have four consecutive #1 albums until tension between Hagar and Eddie Van Halen led to his departure after 11 years with the band. 

Not all bands have been fortunate enough to achieve the same height of success with different singers.  Motley Crue released a self-titled album in 1994 without original singer Vince Neil, instead featuring vocals by John Corabi.  Although it was not as commercially successful as previous releases, it remains a fan favorite and highly regarded by the band.  Corabi himself suggested that the band bring back Vince Neil, who eventually rejoined shortly after.  Skid Row fired Sebastian Bach in 1996 and emerged three years later with his replacement Johnny Solinger.  The band has yet to see any resemblance of the kind of success they had with Bach, despite constant pressure by their fanbase to reunite with him.  Queensryche singer Geoff Tate was fired by his bandmates and replaced by newcomer Todd La Torre, taking the name with them and leaving Geoff to pursue a solo career with a new band under the moniker Operation Mindcrime.  Time will tell which side will emerge victorious and earn the loyalty of the Queensryche fanbase.  After years of turmoil, Great White replaced original singer Jack Russell while he was recovering from surgery after suffering a perforated bowel.  Their first album with replacement singer Terry Ilous received mixed reviews and neither the band nor Jack, with his version called "Jack Russell's Great White", has seen much success.  Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose has attempted to find success using the band's name as the only original member and with a completely new band, while the rest of the classic lineup have all moved on to many other projects.

Singers aren't the only members who get the boot, although most people would say the other members are far easier to replace successfully.  However, just like with replacing singers, fans aren't always forgiving when other key members of the band are exchanged.  Following the departure of Sammy Hagar from Van Halen, he returned to a successful solo career and invited Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony to play on some of his tour dates including a co-headlining tour with Van Halen's original frontman David Lee Roth.  Mike's participation damaged his relationship with Eddie Van Halen, and he was ultimately replaced by Eddie's son Wolfgang, another move with a polarizing effect as fans have been disappointed to see Roth's return without Michael, cheating them out of a full reunion of the original lineup.  KISS guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss were replaced by Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, respectively.  Although Ace and Peter re-joined KISS for one album and tour following their headline-making appearance for the band's "MTV Unplugged" performance, Thayer and Singer resumed their roles and the fans have not been shy about expressing their disapproval.  Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine started his career as Metallica's original guitarist before being fired for alcoholism and drug use and replaced by current lead guitarist Kirk Hammett.  Like Dave Grohl, he changed roles and became the frontman AND lead guitarist of his own band.


Not all lineup changes have a negative outcome, and some bands have actually benefited from changing or adding members.  Journey was formed in San Francisco in 1973 featuring Neal Schon and Gregg Rollie, both formerly of Santana, and released 3 albums before creating the classic lineup featuring singer Steve Perry, drummer Steve Smith, and keyboardist Jonathan Cain.  That lineup achieved the band's greatest period of success until they disbanded in 1985, before returning 10 years later with a new album.  Due to health problems, Steve Perry could not tour and permanently left the band when they continued with out him with 3 different replacements.  So, while ultimately lineup changes hurt the band initially it gave them their biggest period of success.

Of all the bands who've dealt with such changes, there are two that I personally feel have evolved into their strongest version.  The first of those two is Metallica, not because I think the death of Cliff Burton helped the band or that current bassist Robert Trujillo is better, and not because I think Dave Mustaine was not a good player.  Over the years I think the band has grown tighter from dealing with these changes and with Kirk on guitar and Robert on bass the band sounds better today than they ever have, at least since the early era with Cliff.  No disrespect to Jason Newsted, but I think the band was too busy hazing him and taking their grief over Cliff's death out on him to utilize him properly.  Whether Robert is just a better fit or they learned their lesson after Jason left, the band seems more solid and prepared to return to their roots and the growth between the last two albums is compelling evidence.  KoRn is the other band who I think has finally found their ultimate lineup, with their drummer as the only non-original member.  The first change came in 2004 when guitarist Brian "Head" Welch left the band to overcome drug addiction.  After releasing one album as a 4-piece band, drummer David Silveria left to pursue other interests, including the restaurant business.  Eventually, current drummer Ray Luzier became a permanent member and "Head" returned on a full-time basis after helping the band make one of their tightest, heaviest albums to date. 
Silveria spent much of his time out of the band making derogatory comments about all members, curiously halting his attack as the 20th anniversary of their debut album approached.  Although Silveria announced his interest in returning to the band to "help return the grove", singer Jonathan Davis replied by saying he would "never never play with him again", a reference to their song "Never Never" from their latest album "The Paradigm Shift".

Ultimately, the "classic lineup" is going to be the one that everyone wants to see, with very few exceptions.  Nostalgia plays a big part in how adamant the fans can be about only accepting the original lineup of a band.  The connection that is made between a band and their fans often leads to more than casual interest in the music but more of a vested interest in who is making it.  Many bands have managed to overcome lineup changes and sound just as good or better with different members but some fans just cannot accept the changes and are convinced it could be better.  In some cases, they're right, otherwise they're just too stuck on logistics to accept the fact that the relationship between the creative entities in a band is far more difficult to manage than many people can appreciate.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Digital Era of Music: Quantity over Quality

Convenience is a highly valued attribute for any product, but often comes at the expense of sacrificing quality.  Portable music started with the Sony Walkman during the era of cassette tapes, followed by the Discman after the introduction of the Compact Disc.  The digital era arrived at the dawn of the mp3, which allows users to carry a much larger variety of music on smaller devices like the iPod or other mp3 players.  The trade-off for this innovation in portable music is sound quality, and unfortunately the majority of today's users are so desensitized by the convenience they no longer care about the dramatic loss of sound they're experiencing.

The mp3 is a compressed audio file generated from a computer algorithm that basically removes portions of the source audio in order to maintain a smaller file size.  This allows the user to store more songs on their portable media device, thus putting more value on quantity over quality.  The highest quality attainable with an mp3 file is a 320kbps sampling rate which probably means nothing to most people unless compared to the uncompressed sound of a CD with a sampling rate of 1411kbps.  Even without an explanation of what those numbers mean, it's clear that the rate of the mp3 is significantly lower, and that translates to a greatly diminished listening experience.  Streaming music on Pandora and similar sites is no different, because the music is presented in a highly compressed format so that playback is smoother, mostly to account for various Internet connection speeds.  The best analogy for this is the difference between hearing the same song on a high-quality sound system vs. a cheap pair of speakers or earphones.  For those who prefer a visual example, it's like the difference between standard definition and high definition TV.  Standard Definition (cable TV) is displayed at 480p, while High Definition is displayed at 1080p.  The same image is presented through both outputs, but obviously High Definition presents it with far more clarity and color depth.  If you apply that concept to music, it's easy to imagine how much more dynamic and rich your favorite music sounds if listened to without compression. 

The film "Distortion of Sound" provides an in-depth look at the sacrifice of sound quality in portable audio, from both mp3's and streaming music, much to the dismay of artists who regret having their music heard with significantly compromised quality.  Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park discusses the frustration in pouring time and effort into his music only to have it heard through poor quality mediums that compromise the work that went into creating it.  I consider that film to be a great companion piece to another film, "Sound City", which focuses more on the recording process but shares the emphasis on quality.  Both films are equally important for educating people about just how much is being lost in translation as listeners become more detached with the importance of music and the experience it can provide.  Meanwhile, they're less concerned with the quality of the music they're listening to despite the amount of effort being made by artists to put their best work in the hands of their fans.  Hip Hop artist Snoop Dogg and Rock guitarist Slash discuss the overall musical experience that has become significantly devalued in the digital era as physical media like CD's and vinyl have been all but forgotten except by audiophiles (people who value and appreciate hearing music as intended).

Beyond the loss of audio quality, music as an art has become horribly devalued in the digital format.  Listeners rarely purchase an album and listen to it from start to finish, taking the journey the artist was on while creating it.  The convenience of buying individual tracks has replaced the immersive experience of holding the physical album in your hands and turning the pages of the liner notes as the album plays.  While illegal downloading has been the undisputed catalyst for the hobbled music industry, a great deal can be said for those who stopped appreciating music as the most powerful and unifying form of art it always has been and will continue to be.  Music cannot be truly appreciated when it's not heard as it was created by the artist, and the proof is in the sound.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What is "celebrity"?

The stars of film and music, known as "celebrities" and "rockstars", as well as professional athletes or basically anyone in the media spotlight, start and finish their day like everyone else.  When the final score is on the board and cameras are off and the encore is over they're just people; parents, husbands and wives, siblings, family and friends like the rest of us.  This seemingly moot observation is surprisingly hard for some people to grasp, thanks to the glamorization provided by media outlets working tirelessly to keep us "connected" to them.  Paparazzi lurk behind every corner to capture the next headline-grabbing image of these everyday people, thanks to the demand and fascination of those who perpetuate the "line in the sand" that separates the stars from their followers.
 
This is the so-called "price of fame", the irrational movement that prevents celebrities and public figures from being able to live their life as a person but rather as a character or persona.  Their ability to manage the moments when their person and professional life overlap determines how they're viewed or judged.  For the average person, this would be like leaving work to go home and being followed by everyone who is affected by your work one way or another, expecting some kind of unwarranted interaction as if you owe them a moment of your personal time; the undisclosed cost of your career choice.  Grammy-winning, multi-platinum selling Rap icon Eminem has mentioned the cost of fame in his song "The Way I Am" with the following lyrics...

But at least have the decency in you
To leave me alone, when you freaks see me out
In the streets when I'm eating or feeding my daughter
Do not come and speak to me...
I don't know you and no,
I don't owe you a motherf***ing thing

What are "celebrities" really?  In most cases, they're just uniquely talented people who followed their dream and achieved success in any industry that's followed by media.  Professional athletes are just the kids on the playground who had a special gift which helped them to excel in their favorite sport; with hard work and determination they earned the right to play professionally and make a living doing what they love.  Our favorite movie stars were just kids who were starstruck by the people in their favorite movies and aspired to do the same, and their talent was developed and recognized so they could live their dream.  Rockstars were kids who grew up with posters on their walls of their favorite artists and bands, whose vocal or musical talents caught the attention of people in the business and they became the faces on the wall of the next generation.  In other cases, they're merely people who ended up in the spotlight through the fame or attention of others and remained a public figure, or became famous from a single headline-grabbing event.  There are "good" and "bad" figures in the public spotlight, some of whom become unwilling role models when their actions inspire bad behavior or they are blamed or criticized for what they do in their personal life.

Dave Grohl, founding frontman of his post-Nirvana band Foo Fighters, urges the next generation of dreamers to cross that line in the sand and his message makes the impossible dream seem perfectly within reach for anyone.  During a passionate and inspiring keynote speech at 2013's SXSW Music Festival, he walked the crowd through his own personal journey from hearing a simple guitar riff to joining an underground culture of musicians who managed all aspects of their career while working to become signed artists.  During Nirvana's recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction Grohl took advantage of another opportunity to blur the lines by telling the crowd

"...You look up to your heroes and you shouldn’t be intimidated by them; you should be inspired by them. Don’t look up at the poster on your wall and think, "Fuck, I can never do that." Look at the poster on your wall and think, "Fuck, I’m going to do that!" 

In all corners of the entertainment industry, there are people like Dave who haven't forgotten where they came from and stay connected to their humble beginnings, and then there are those who abuse the fame and fortune they have and choose to dig that line in the sand deeper.  Sadly, the spotlight seems to aim more at the latter because it sells more magazines and generates more Internet traffic.  For those who appreciate Dave's advice and approach and choose to be inspired by your favorite stars, choose wisely so you're among those who work to inspire and erase the lines because they only exist as long as we allow ourselves to be intimidated by those we look up to or admire.