Category: Reviews

Chasing Mavericks (2012)

{youtube}jh09vEGNrXc{/youtube}Everybody had been telling me I should watch Chasing Mavericks, but I somehow didn’t feel inclined. Surf movies – and movies about surfing, which is not the same thing – tend to be depressingly fictionalized. They portray the world as a surfer would love it to be, and not as it is. The waves are always perfect, the bros are always on a spiritual quest of communion with the ocean, and somehow there are always more ladies in the water than anyone has witnessed in a lifetime.

Big wave surfing, which is what Mavericks is famous for, is then the ultimate of the type. Big wave conditions are exceedingly rare, especially in California; until recently the sport was extremely exclusionary; and there were virtually no big wave surfers that were also women. Testosterone drove the sport, and it showed.

Last night, someone decided we should watch Chasing Mavericks, and I reluctantly agreed. I was pleasantly surprised.

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Skyfall (2012)

Wait! I already watched this movie!

It was the distant year 1982. The first movie of a successful franchise had been very disappointing. The producers could smell the money, but knew there was nothing to be won by continuing on the trodden path. So, the very keen decision: kill one of the main characters, add an amazing and disposable super-villain, and allow for a reboot with fresh blood.

The movie in 1982 was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Ricardo Montalban was the titular character, Khan, an antagonist with an old grudge and a score to settle. The beloved character that had to go was Spock, the Vulcan science officer whose actor, Leonard Nimoy, was probably sick of the pointy ears and who had a lot more to offer than “Fascinating.”

In 2012, 30 years later, things didn’t change much. This time, the actor that needs to go is Dame Judy Dench – maybe she’s ready for retirement? She had been playing M in James Bond movies since 1992, and was by all accounts a giant asset to the franchise. But maybe she’s too old, or just bored.

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Warrior [Ke$ha] (CD)

Kesha Warrior Album ArtLike any self-respecting intellectualoid, I had only haughty disdain for Ke$ha and her antics. After all, she sang a childish bubble-gum rocky electropop that glorified getting drunk, getting high, and calling people either douchebags or losers. On top of that, she couldn’t even sing!

Then I spent two weeks in Hawaii, working on the house. My handyman, in his early twenties, forced me to listen to Ke$ha’s first album, Animal + Cannibal on the half hour drive from and to the site. At first, I was horrified. After a couple of days, I was intrigued at how easily some of her songs just catch your mind. I never got into the lyrics as much as he did, but I started really appreciating the music.

First of all, the criticism leveled at Ke$ha is appropriate. She cannot sing, as she amply demonstrated in her live appearances:

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Extract (2009)

Extract movie posterMike Judge is a funny guy. Office Space and Idiocracy are some of the most intriguingly humorous movies in recent history, with Idiocracy gaining renewed hilarity because Microsoft’s Metro user interface looks remarkably like the pictogram computer interface in the movie.

Extract is a movie by Mike Judge, who wrote, directed, produced, and even cameo-ed in it. But it’s funny only in stretches, without an overall funny theme. Given how the other two movies worked out, that’s a little short of expectations, which explains why the movie is already available on Netflix.

The plot is straightforward: Joel Reynolds is an entrepreneur that has made a fortune with his home-grown extract flavoring business. He’s stuck in a sexless marriage (cue masturbation jokes throughout the first part of the movie) and is unhappy with this workers, who are up to all sorts of mischief. He’s thinking of cheating on his wife to alleviate the pressure on his testicles, and is all too excited when a buyout offer comes in for his business.

Then everything falls apart. The girl with whom he wants to have an affair (played by Mila Kunis, the visual and emotional centerpiece of the movie) is a con artist. The mischief his workers are up to ends up causing an accident that jeopardizes the sale. The guy he sends to test his wife’s fidelity falls in love with her.

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Magic Hour [Scissor Sisters]

Magic Hour Cover ArtFor a group that faced an existential crisis in the mid-2000s, Scissor Sisters has a remarkably consistent output. After releasing  in 2003, 2005, and 2008, the band released Magic Hour in 2012. 

I need new music for the gym. It has to be dance music, since dance music really lifts my workouts to a higher plane. Scissor Sisters fits the bill pretty well, with their upbeat tunes and dance rhythms. Can’t go wrong, right?

Magic Hour didn’t disappoint. I have listened to it all day, and have been spinning to Baby Come Home for a half hour. It’s all good fun.

You hear me unenthusiastic. True that. Scissor Sisters has been aging as an act faster than the years that have passed. Many of the songs on the album sound like they come from long-gone eras. Fun eras, sure, but we live in the time of Time Life’s Best Of series. Seriously?

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Push and Shove [No Doubt] (MP3)

No Doubt - Push and ShoveNo Doubt fans had to wait for a long time. Their last album was in 2001, and if was the slightly underwhelming Rock Steady. Then came the long hiatus that saw Gwen Stefani touring the world in her slightly overcommercialized version of pop. Then she ran out of fresh ideas, I guess, and the band reunited. Then they promised an album (I almost said, a CD) for 2010. Then nothing happened. Then, finally, on June 11th, 2012, they finally had something to show.

Now, one would think that after 11 years, the first release would have to be one giant spectacle of music. Or one tired old dozer. They either still have it, or they lost it. I mean, in terms of music a decade is a huge distance, especially in the new Millennium, and maybe No Doubt was really not that good in the first place. Who knows.

What happened, instead, is a little odd. No Doubt has made its mark with high energy, ska-influenced pop beats like Just a Girl or Hella Good, or alternately heart-felt ballads like Don’t Speak. Push and Shove has some of that, but it also has an astonishing amount of “fillers.”

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Le Grand Docu-Soap [Army of Lovers] (CD)

Le Grand Docu-Soap cover imageIt was the Year of the Lord 1992, in the month of January, on the 22nd day, and I was in Heaven. I had left the continent of Europe for the first time and landed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in Honolulu. As the doors of the aircraft opened, instead of the smell of kerosene and city, tropical flower scents greeted me. 

I stepped off the plane. When I hit the tarmac (how unromantic), a jolt of energy raced through me. “Welcome home,” it said, “this is where you belong.” I later learned that Hawaiians call that energy, mana.

I spent the following week in a routine of bliss. In the morning, I would wake up and walk from my hotel (one of the Waikiki Outriggers) to Ala Moana, swim for an hour, then march back to 1717 Ala Wai. There I’d have breakfast with my hosts and spend the day with them. Around 6p, we’d have dinner. Then I would go out on my own, exploring Waikiki nightlife.

That’s when I found the (now defunct) Hula’s. It billed itself as a “bar and lei stand” and offered the rarest of commodities: an open-air dance floor. Suddenly, I was freed from the then omni-present cigarette smoke and could dance the night away. And I readily did that, dancing for hours, fending off unwanted attention by simply continuing to dance when someone ground too close.

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Review: Stainless Steel Waterproof Watch Mobile Phone W818 Black with Silver

I’ve always wanted a watch phone. Why? Because it’s an incredibly practical concept.

My use case may be slightly different than most people’s, but in my case a watch phone would be perfect: 

  • I constantly forget my phone everywhere, but I won’t leave a watch phone behind
  • If the phone is on the wrist, looking at the caller ID is the same as looking at your watch; no need to find the phone or get it out of the holster
  • In almost all cases, I don’t need the bulk of a phone; I rarely dial a phone number, and even then I’d rather do so on the computer and have Google Voice route the call
  • I don’t like using a smartphone for voice calls; actually, like a lot of people, I don’t like voice calls at all
  • I am on the move a lot and it would be good to have some sort of paging mechanism to warn me of impending doom

A watch phone is the perfect solution for all those things, plus it can easily work as a bluetooth MP3 player. You get a bluetooth headset anyway (or did you think you’d have to talk to the phone like some crazy hobo spy?); might as well use it to listen to music, no?

Now, the review of this particular watch phone. Without giving too much away, it’s the proof that Steve Jobs deserved all the money he made.

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Withings WiFi Scale

withingsIf you have been following this blog for a while, you know that I track my weight. Ever since the days of the fat teenager, I wanted to keep it under control. I’ve had my ups and downs, but in the past 20 years, I have never moved more than 10 pounds from my standard weight of 174.

I wrote software to track my weight on a variety of platforms. It became the default thing for me to do with every new programming language and UI environment: create a widget that allows you to enter weight (and later bodyfat) data and display it in a meaningful way.

What I have always lacked is a scale that does more than display the results. I wanted a scale that transmits the information to some place. Couldn’t find anything interesting at a reasonable price, until I got the Withings WiFi scale.

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Android vs Garmin – GPS for the Masses

I finally decided to get myself an Android phone. I was sick of my N900 and its eternally unfixed bugs (including the interesting reboot in the middle of a phone call), and I took the news of T-Mobile’s selling out to AT&T as my launch pad. Within days, I had run to the various stores and found exactly what I wanted: a no-contract Samsung phone on the fantastic $25/month Virgin Mobile plan. It’s an all you can eat Internet and SMS plan, so don’t you ever call me. Even if I had an all you can eat voice plan, though, don’t call me.

Well, at the same time as I set up the Android, I received a Garmin unit. Nice, you’ll say. And to create a perfect trifecta, I decided to look at real estate in San Diego. (Side note: I am sick of renting, and it’s really expensive.)

So, how do my Google Maps-enabled phone and my Garmin Lifetime Maps and Traffic compare? Spoiler: Garmin is dead in the water.

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