Games and entertainment

Star Apps: Michael Franti

Singer and musician Michael Franti's activism is a mainstay. What's changed over his almost 30-year career is his perspective on how best to effect change. "As I've grown, I want to be part of the solution, and I want to be not just pointing the finger at things that are wrong but saying how we can be part of fixing it," he says. I chatted with Franti about his tour, how he creates change at home, how we can be part of the solution, and the app that's become a positive force in his … Read more

Star Apps: Paul Budnitz

A year ago, Ello founder Paul Budnitz was frustrated with all the ad-driven, privacy-compromising social networks, so the established entrepreneur (Budnitz Bicycles, Kidrobot) decided to form his own. For a year, the site was limited to Budnitz and his 100 closest friends, but as demand to join increased, he opened it up to the public. Initially Ello saw a healthy 10 to 15 percent growth rate -- until a combination of dissatisfaction with Facebook's name policy, media attention, and word of mouth thrust Ello into the spotlight. I chatted with Paul Budnitz about Ello's explosive growth, what it … Read more

Star Apps: Frameline 38

Gay adoption, helicopter moms, and a pioneering gay athlete are just three of the stories at this year's Frameline 38: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, taking place June 19-29. Actor Alec Mapa ("Switched at Birth," "Desperate Housewives," and "Ugly Betty") talked to me about what he wants gays and allies to take away from his new documentary, "Baby Daddy." I also spoke with songwriter-actress Lisa Loeb, singer of "Stay (I Missed You)," about co-starring in the hilarious coming-of-age comedy, "Helicopter Mom." And four-time Olympic medalist Greg LouganisRead more

Star Apps: Cody Simpson

Australian singer-songwriter Cody Simpson first found fame performing an acoustic mix of original songs on YouTube, among the Jason Mraz and Justin Timberlake covers. For his new "Surfboard" single, he takes inspiration from Elvis and the Beach Boys, urban dance music, and his model girlfriend Gigi Hadid, daughter of Beverly Hills "Housewife" Yolanda Foster. I chatted with Simpson about his change in musical direction, working with Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun, making his long-distance relationship work, and his favorite apps.

What's your new "Surfboard" single about? It's a real reflection on a … Read more

Star Apps: Zynga's Jonathan Knight

Jonathan Knight is not a new kid on the block or a New Kid on the Block. Zynga's VP of games is a 20-year veteran of the games business, leading development of CastleVille (iOS, Android) and recent release FarmVille 2: Country Escape, available on iOS, Android, and (as of May 13) the Kindle Fire. Besides offering a fresh setting, FarmVille 2 enables gamers to play on the go, with or without a connection, socially or solo. I chatted with Knight about his career, his first gaming experience, the enduring appeal of farming games, and his favorite non-Zynga apps.

What … Read more

Star Apps: Lumosity's Michael Scanlon

Michael Scanlon is the science behind Lumosity. The co-founder and chief scientific officer is an expert in cognitive training and neuroplasticity. He created the Human Cognition Project, which enables large-scale study of cognitive training in humans and oversees research collaborations in over 150 labs at prestigious universities, including Stanford and Harvard. I chatted with the Princeton and Stanford alum and researcher about the family health crisis that inspired his work, the science behind the "gym for your brain," his favorite mental exercise, the long-awaited Android version of Lumosity, and his favorite apps.

Would you tell us about your … Read more

Star Apps: Semi Precious Weapons

It's been four long years since Semi Precious Weapons released "You Love You" (2010), the follow-up to its debut, "We Love You" (2008). The LA-based quartet is best known for supporting artists such as Lady Gaga and Kesha, and now it's back with "Aviation," whose kick-off single, "Aviation High," is in heavy rotation on alternative rock radio. The 12-track disc, produced by Grammy-winning, multiplatinum producer Tricky Stewart (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Frank Ocean) finds the band flying from its rock roots into more R&B and pop territory. Semi Precious … Read more

Star Apps: Linkin Park

Linkin Park is always looking for innovative ways to deliver visuals to fans, whether through apps, online gaming, or Facebook Kinect video. The musicians -- who are also avid gamers -- met software developers Team Dakota at E3 and learned about Project Spark, a game-maker video game (for Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Windows 8). Linkin Park saw the potential for a unique collaboration, and the result is the first fully interactive, remixable music video within a video game for the band's latest single, "Guilty All the Same."

Now the band is inviting fans to put their … Read more

Star Apps: Orgy

Synth-rock band Orgy first gained fame with a cover of New Order's "Blue Monday." The single sold 1 million copies, catapulted the band to the top of the modern rock and dance charts, and introduced New Order to a new generation of fans. Orgy singer Jay Gordon hopes the group's new EDM-tinged rock single "Wide Awake and Dead" and forthcoming EP have similar success.

You reformed Orgy in 2012 and released "Grime of the Century." Why is now the right time to bring Orgy back? Well, why not? And I just didn'… Read more

Star Apps: Sal Vulcano of 'Impractical Jokers'

Sal Vulcano, one-fourth of the "Impractical Jokers" team, chats about the hit series, his most intimidating prank, and his favorite apps.

Start with four high school friends and improv veterans from Staten Island -- Brian "Q" Quinn, James "Murr" Murray, Joseph "Joe" Gatto, and Salvatore "Sal" Vulcano -- who've been playing pranks on each other for years. Then give them a TV show so they can embarrass each other on-air, and you get "Impractical Jokers." The hidden-camera show, now in its third season, has been tickling viewers' … Read more