Archive for January 2010

 
 

New Blu Rays for 26 Jan 2009

These Blu Ray write-ups always seem to feature one prominently dead guy, don’t they? I’m cursed.

Bruce Willis movie, based on the Top Shelf comic book.  Did you ever think you would read such a sentence?

Chick flics?  Check and check.

The Blu Ray is an “extended dance edition.”  Oooh…

Do they ship one of these sequels every week now?

Drew Barrymore directs, “Juno” stars.

It’s Criterion, so I’m supposed to love it, right?  I have the Criterion DVD release of “House of Games.” Really need to get to that someday.  Haven’t watched it in years, and then it was in the standard release.

Podcasting Gear for Sale

With all of my podcasting now done very lo-fi via the iPhone, I’m clearing some of the old equipment out, and I’m selling the compressor. It’s a nice bit of audio kit for your recording needs, really helping to fill out the sound of your voice in a recording. It’s getting $175 on Amazon used these days, but I though I’d try to avoid those fees by offering it up here first. If anyone wants it, it’s yours for a mere $150 via PayPal.com, shipping included. Email me at augiedb AT Gmail DOT com with any questions or offers…

There are a few scratches on top of the box, but that’s completely cosmetic. yes, the power cord (not pictured) is also included.

Click on the pics below for larger sizes, if interested.

Really Nice Compressor 1

Really Nice Compressor 3

Really Nice Compressor 2

Initial Blu Ray Thoughts

This is something I wrote up three weeks ago, and never posted. Whoops. I’ve since watched a couple more Blu Ray movies and am still in awe of the detail and experience. Let’s get to the writeup:

I finally got to fire up the Blu Ray player on Monday and Tuesday nights to watch a movie, after a long weekend of near-misses. So I watched “Star Trek,” and loved every minute of it. Every line of dialogue. Every bit of questionable physics.

So, time for some bullet points, and I’ll start with the Blu Ray side of things:

  • Oooh, so pretty. Even the Paramount logo is sharp and shiny.

  • The Blu Ray player really is just a computer that happens to play video. It feels so much like that now. Yes, it loads a little more deliberately than a DVD player, but given how many DVD menu authors like to go overboard with “designed” things that take time to play after you choose any menu item, it’s not that big a stretch.

On the Samsung unit I have, the default menu gives you four additional options to start, including Pandora, YouTube, and Netflix, or Blu Ray. I really need to get internet connectivity working with this player next. I want to watch that whole 90 minute takedown of “The Phantom Menace” on my big screen TV. ;-) (I’ve since watched all the parts of that series, by the way, and it’s hilarious. Well worth the time.)

  • Blu Rays still do the annoying “Show Four Trailers Before Accessing the Menu” crap. It looks like the “Title Menu” button will skip past them. Doing chapter skip is too slow for me.

  • I like the way the text on the screen seems in proportion to the screen size. Things aren’t REALLY HUGE because they don’t need to be. They’re likely the same size, pixel-wise, as DVDs, but can look smaller and more proportionate just because there’s more pixels up on the screen.

  • Surround sound rules.

  • I know the home theater experts say to use the cinema video mode and then calibrate from there, but I still find that to be too dull. I use “standard.” “Vivid” is only for those who are half-blind, I guess. Or for Best Buy’s use up on the wall.

  • Heh heh. While the disc menu is loading, you get a little Enterprise spinning around.

  • Wait, there’s no movie trailer on this disc? I hope it’s on the second disc. I like having movie trailers. (It is on the second disc, with all the extras.)

Small World – Idol and Politics

Quoting my Idol writeup of 08 March 2006:

Ayla Brown did a current song that I’ve heard on the radio once or twice, but don’t know the name or artist on. “Unwritten,” perhaps? It’s a horrible song choice with no range, but not a bad performance song choice. She danced around and mostly pulled the song off. The softer parts were weak, but the power parts worked well. Again, the band drowned her out a few times. Ayla, despite a couple of stellar performances, might be in trouble. Ryan looks like a midget standing next to her, too. We tall people have to stick together, so I voted for her a dozen times last night.

And, now, lots of Massachusetts voters voted her father into the Senate this week.

New Blu Rays for 19 January 2010

Lesson learned: If you want to off yourself (a regular motif of these Blu Ray posts, it seems), use something quicker and easier than a kitchen knife. Yikes.

  • The Bourne Identity (Universal) The Bourne Supremacy (Universal) The Bourne Ultimatum (Universal)

These are the new flipper discs, where one side is Blu Ray and the other is DVD. I suppose that’s a good gateway drug kind of thing, but it seems ultimately silly to me. Maybe the idea of a single SKU is glorious to the movie companies. I don’t know.

The big problem, of course, is that you’ll need to look at the tiny type on the ring around the hole in the middle of the disc to tell whether you’re about to put in a Blu Ray or a DVD disc.

So just buy the trilogy on Blu Ray and be done with it.

  • Che (Criterion)

For you communist revolutionary dictator worshipping types…

Gerard Butler in what looks like a bit of a “Ender’s Game” type of movie.

The story of the first politician, right? Stars Ricky Gervaise.

Yes, this is the comic book-based movie that bombed so big in September that I don’t think it saw October in a movie theater. The original comics are really really good, though.

I like this movie. I’ve never watched the DVD more than once, but I like it. Big sprawling cast, crazy ending, and a magnificent Oscar-nominated supporting actor turn for Tom Cruise that’s completely NSFW at the beginning there.

There’s always a TV-on-DVD release, right? I guess this is TV-on-BD now?

Dreaming of Full Frame

My Canon XTi has done fine by me for the last couple of years, but it’s now a couple of generation old. Heck, I bought it when the price dropped as the next generation was announced. The XSi came out right after I bought the XTi, and now the T1i has supplanted that.

Some big changes have happened in those two years: Video has arrived in the digital SLR world. High ISO ranges are the norm now, supplanting the megapixel race that once dominated the attention span of camera buyers. There’s so much cool advanced stuff going on with cameras just a generation later or a step above my Canon Rebel (the 50D, for example) that it makes me itch.

The Canon 5D Mark II is the leader of the pack in Caon’s high ISO performance, and does remarkable video. It’s also full frame, and will run you about $2500. The Canon 7D is much cheaper ($1700), is still a crop factor sensor, but has even better video, similar low light performance, better focusing sensors, a built-in flash commander, and more. It’s my ultimate dream camera at the moment, but still three times the price I paid for my current camera.

So how about a rumor of a third camera to lust over at an even lower price point?

Let’s go to Canon Rumors, who’s skeptical enough on this particular rumor to place their highest THIS IS ONLY A RUMOR sticker on top of it. Don’t believe this one. It’s almost certainly not true.

Yeah, but isn’t it fun to speculate? Have fun with it? Drool over something that will likely never exist?

The rumor is for a 9D/Rebel XF camera that will be full frame. For $1000.

I’d almost be tempted to sell everything I have to upgrade to it, along with a 50mm f/1.4 lens. It would be a drastic shift in my photography, but how cool would it be?

All of my current lenses, I believe, will work on a full frame camera, actually, so I would have the option to keep them, but something has to pay for the camera.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the specs are right, and that this turns out to be more than a rumor. Just don’t hold your breath.

(Whoops, the link is dead. Seems the story had so little credibility that they just pulled it down. Still, fun to dream, isn’t it?)

New Blu Rays for 13 January 2010

It’s a Criterion movie, so there’s an audience for it.

Sylvester Stallone hangs off a mountainside. Everyone roots for the mountain.

Despite co-starring someone from “So You Think You Can Dance,” it didn’t do too well. I believe Ebert was tracking some stories about unfortunate cuts being made to bring the film in under a certain time limit that completely destroyed the plot and characters, though. No reported “Director’s Cut” here, though.

An Oscar favorite for Best Picture, Best Director, and probably more. It’s currently also the #1 best selling DVD/Blu Ray on Amazon.

Really? They bothered to put this on Blu Ray? The new gold rush must be on. The movie tanked so bad when it was released that Topps famously canceled the comic book adaptation of it, after all the work was already done!

2009 smaller budget science fiction movie. Got some good reviews that I saw.

Remember when they announced this series coming to DVD at a rate of two a year and people complained that it would take forever to catch up to the series? Is this being released out of order? It hasn’t really been 10 years of Simpsons releases, has it?

On the bright side, there’s nothing I’m tempted to buy this week. I can go back to not watching the five Blu Ray discs I do already own.

If Apple Were Really Sinister. . .

You know what would be really funny? Even funnier, perhaps, than Apple calling an event at the end of the month and just announcing an Apple TV update or some random MacBook processor upgrade?

I want them to announce a Tablet that’s just a big screen iPod. Literally, it’s the same thing with a bigger screen. There’s no fancy new user interface with it. There’s no content deals with cable television or book or magazine publishers. It runs iPhone apps, just with all the graphics doubled in size. (Key developers have been told to redo all their JPGs at twice the size.) It doesn’t have a camera, a kickstand, or BlueTooth functionality. There’s no built-in comics reader. No 3G. Just Wi Fi and a USB port. There’s only 4GB memory, even.

It’s just a big dumb iPod Touch for $1000.

Then watch the internet burn itself — and Cupertino, CA — to the ground for 24 hours. It would be hysterical.

And I only say all this because I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to afford whatever piece of awesomeness Apple DOES announce at the end of the month, so it doesn’t matter to me.

Old Dan Tucker

Two of my favorite songs on the Wiggles concert DVD that’s stuck in perpetual replay at home are “Six Months in a Leaky Boat” and “Old Dan Tucker.”

The former is a Split Enz song from the early 80s, and quite a catchy one at that. Watch its YouTube video here.

“Old Dan Tucker” turns out to be one of those traditional songs from the old west, for which sheet music has been around for 150 years or so. The funny thing is, Bruce Springsteen has covered it.

Here are The Wiggles:

Here’s The Boss:

They grow up so fast. . .

Last year, one of my daughter’s favorite toys was this doggie that had a mirror for a body and played lots of music.

2008 Dog Edition

2008 Dog Edition

This year, it’s this doggie that’s bigger, softer, and has lots of buttons that start him off singing.

2009 Dog Toy

2009 Dog Toy

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Never To Be Seen TV-Shows-On-DVDs?

A conversation over at Johanna Draper-Carlson’s blog brings up the discussion of what TV shows you’d like to see on DVD, but most likely won’t. I know I discussed what’s left to put out on DVD here last year, but this is a different angle on that. And the more I think about it, the more interesting answers come to mind:

VR.5: The most obvious answer in my mind. It was released on VHS back in the day, but they replaced the soundtrack. Sadly, I bet they’d do the same thing on DVD, and this is a show that NEEDS that original soundtrack.

(Trivial tangent: The first CD I ever bought was the VR.5 soundtrack. I didn’t get a CD player until six months later, for Christmas 1995.)

Orleans: Created by one of the VR.5 creators. Starred Larry Hagman. Ensemble drama show. Don’t think it lasted past 6 or 8 episodes, but remember it was incredibly lush for a network drama of the time. Might even have aired in widescreen mode at a time when widescreen TVs weren’t yet common. (Many shows were already taped that way for futureproofing sake — “Babylon 5″ and “Adventures of Lois & Clark” amongst them — but none aired those versions.) The big brouhaha at the time the series debuted was the brother/sister who were, uhm, getting it on in the pilot. I think they were only half-siblings, but let’s not think too much about it, OK?

Two: Syndicated show. Lasted one season. Starred Michael Easton, of VR.5 fame, and now a soap opera star. He played twin brothers. One was good, one was evil. In the wake of VR.5, I hopped on board to be the FAQ maintainer for the series, got a hold of the press materials for it and everything. The show tanked.

Spy Game: Short-lived 90s show (ABC, maybe?) that was, as I recall, half comedy and half drama. I didn’t realize until I looked it up that it was created or produced by Sam Raimi. Hunh. I have an ep or two sitting on VHS tape somewhere. I should dig that out.

Time Traxx: Still in the mid- to late-1990s, this was a series on the new UPN channel. Time travelling cop comes to the past to prevent a bad future. Something like that. I enjoyed it at the time. I get the feeling it wouldn’t hold up today for me.

Viper: I want both the original expensive NBC season, and the syndicated version that aired later, filmed much more cheaply in Vancouver. The original driver from the NBC show suddenly appeared on it after a season or two.

Bonkers: Nah, I’m kidding. I never want to see this one. I was just reminded of it while watching an Animaniacs episode on DVD the other day where they made two separate jokes about the series. “Bonkers” may have been the nadir of the Disney Afternoon animated line-up, that started off so strongly with Gummy Bears, DuckTales, TaleSpin, and Rescue Rangers. Bonkers was, as I recall, a talking cat on the police force. Or his owner was a cop? I don’t know. It was awful.

You Can’t Do That on Television: I don’t want the Alanis Morisette years. I don’t care. I want the original seasons that I watched as a kid. My daughter needs to see slime in a few years, right?

Any other obscure shows you’d like to see?

HDR Photography: A Basic Introduction

Last summer, I asked for one iPhone App: a version of ProfCast, a popular Mac slideshow-making program that allows you to record your narration as you flip the slides over. Check out the comments to my original post for a comment from a ProfCast developer that they were working on it.

This week, it arrived. It’s called SonicPics. It does just what I asked for.

You create a project, drop all the pictures in from your picture library on your iPhone then record your narration as you swipe across the screen to change slides. There are even three different recording quality choices.

You need to be on a wi-fi connection to then transfer the final video to YouTube or your computer. For whatever reason, you can’t just save the video into your photo library and then transfer it via iPhoto. It’s a bit kludgy, too: the app gives you an IP address you go to on your web browser, and there’s a page with the video to download. I don’t understand that part, but I can get past it. It still saves the video for you, so you could work on a second project while the first one is still sitting out there. It doesn’t stop you from doing any more work.

My dream new feature: Telestrator capabilities. Let me draw on the slides as I talk, and then erase that drawing when I flip to the new slide. That’s above and beyond, but it would be cool. I can do it on the desktop with SnapZ, but I want everything on the iPhone.

At $3.99, it’s worth it to me for all the things I could do with it — and plan on doing with it.

For now, here’s the video I made this afternoon to test it out. It’ll show you what HDR photography is, and how that can be done on the iPhone, as well. Let me know what you think. Thanks!

(Whoops. Vimeo mangled the transcoding. Am now uploading it to YouTube instead. Let’s see how that goes.)

OK, let’s try YouTube now:

Blu Rays for 05 January 2009

10 Things I Hate About You

A modern movie, so the transfer might be good.. Stars Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. Stiles hasn’t really done anything since the last Bourne movie. And Ledger hasn’t done anything since he killed himself.

Battlestar Galactica: Season One

I bet this looks nice. This is the show everyone told you that you had to watch and were a culture illiterate for not watching — until the new Doctor Who captured their fancy, instead.

Cheaper by the Dozen 2

I think Steve Martin is a comedic genius. He also does movies like this.

Chuck: The Complete Second Season

Sounds like fun. I’ve seen one or two episodes of the show and liked them, but never formed an attachment.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

2009 movie in CGI animation? Sounds like a lock for a beautiful Blu Ray disc. Probably the best seller for the week, too.

2010 Tablet Predictions

The Apple Tablet (“iSlate,” “iTab,” “iPhoneBigScreen”) will be released in the first half of the year. It will cost too much for widespread acceptance, though many will want one. It will launch with media partners buying in. It will have magazine or newspaper subscriptions available at a relatively low cost. You might even get The New York Times free for a month or two with purchase, just to get you hooked.

By Christmas time 2010, the price will be cut by just enough to make it attractive to about 25% more of the audience that said they wanted one, but couldn’t afford one.

In January 2011, Apple will announce the next version of the tablet, correcting many of the problems people had with the first version, but that Apple couldn’t ship on time with the first one. The price will also be cut once more, and you’ll see much wider acceptance.

Yeah, it’s a lot like the iPhone’s history. Or even the iPod’s. George Santayana said it best, kids: Study history.

Here’s my far-out prediction for the Tablet: There will be some kind of integration between the Apple Tablet and the Apple TV. If a ten inch screen isn’t big enough for you, move those files to the Apple TV, use the tablet as a remote control, and enjoy it on your home theater.

If this happens, don’t be surprised if Apple announced a new Apple TV just before announcing the Tablet at the end of this month. Cable TV-like subscription packages would be cool, but I’d be happy with podcast subscriptions on my Apple TV directly, without needing to worry about hooking it up to a computer. (That’s just me being selfish, since I can’t get my TV and my computers to see each other right now.)

In the end, I think most of the far out predictions (gesture-based interface? voice-based interface?!?) will be proven wrong and silly, just as happened with the original iPhone. At this point, we’ve all speculated on it for so long that anything Apple releases is almost guaranteed to be a little ho hum. What could Apple really surprise us all with?

If the latest rumor of a $1000 price point comes true, then we know they’re positioning this more as a laptop replacement device than an e-reader/iTunes player. Check back in three weeks and we may have most of the answers.

A Little Something

I guess Amazon really wants to up its margins in January. Here’s a definition of “little something” for you:

This is Amazon's definition of "a little something"

Don’t get me wrong: The Canon 7D is the sexiest piece of camera equipment ever known to man. I’d rather have it than a new car. But the $1700 price tag will likely forever keep me away from it. And $1700 is hardly “a little something.”