Movie: Star Trek

May 27, 2009

I haven’t been to the cinema for a very long time!  This used to be something I would do almost every week, but the number of idiots talking, munching, walking in and out, etc. as well as the lack of service and interest in customers at the big multiplex really started to get to me – so that it is only worth going to smaller places, or during the day.  Anyway, I’ll not go any further into that:  Star Trek

StarTrek_2009MovieIs this the latest in the franchise or the start of a new one?  Will this film stand up to its heritage or embarrass it?  How can new actors take on well loved and well known characters?  How can Leonard Nimoy be appearing in this movie?

Well, IMHO, this film rocks!  The major “twist” that makes the plot possible in the Star Trek universe we all know manages to negate all the above concerns and means that whether or not you are a fan of the original series this movie can stand on its own merit.

I’m not actually a big fan of the original series.  It is something I remember from growing up but can’t really watch for long now, I prefer Enterprise and Voyager much more.  The new Star Trek pays enough service to the existing stories without becoming a parody of itself which would have been easy to do with so much of the original Star Trek has now become common sayings or jokes “Spock: Live long, and Prosper.” “Scotty: I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain!” “Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy: Damnit man! I’m a doctor, not a physicist!”  This movie also manages not to take itself too seriously with enough light moments to break up the action.

What I didn’t like about this film was some of the production techniques, I think I’ve moaned about this before but why do directors keep using that shaky-camera-makes-action-look-better trick.  It is really annoying.  There is a bar fight where we can’t see what is going on, some running about becuase things are exploding scenes where we can’t see what is going on and even when JT Kirk meets Christopher Pike and they are sitting talking the camera is constantly moving and shaking – this movie costs $150,000,000 buy a bloody tripod!!

OK, some of this “shaky-camera-makes-action-look-better trick” may have been exasobated by the fact that we went to see this at the imax cinema.  This was my suggestion because I’ve not seen a non-imax movie at an imax and thought that a big space type movie would be good on the biggest screen possible – it wasn’t.  I really don’t think the ‘imax experience’ was worth the extra £3-4 other than the fact that people were much better behaved ( there were no “idiots talking, munching, walking in and out, etc” as mentioned previously).

So, in summing up.  Great movie, doesn’t spoil the franchise – not sure its one of those movies which you MUST see on the big screen, but certainly don’t bother with the imax.


Personal consultation from the Blue Man Group

May 25, 2009

amazing news….  following the last post I discovered that the Blue Man Group are available to give advice and help out with visual material.  I sent them a link to my other blog (christianvisualist.wordpress.org) and got an immediate response with some helpful advice, here it is:

The blue man group’s advice for ChristianVisualist web site.


The Blue Man Group

May 25, 2009

Blue Man Group at the Clyde Auditorium Friday 22nd May 2009.

If you haven’t come across the Blue Man Group before they are a little difficult to categorise, a mix between performance art, comedy and rock.  Their music has strong percussion with heavy guitar and totally unique sounds from the instruments they have invented.  The Blue Men themselves don’t speak, but it isn’t what I would call mime either.  They are very expressive, inquisitive, and quintessential outsiders… trying to fit in with their surroundings, while discovering how to be rock megastars by interacting with the audience, each other and the band.

The opening of the show was incredible – this is the best fan-video I’ve found and it just can’t show the scale of it.  And scale is certainly part of the Blue Man Group live experience.  On the four tear stage is a drummer, two percussionists, three guitarists a keyboard player two singers as well as the three blue men and all the instruments they use, but the show doesn’t always remain on the stage with blue men interacting with audience members and moving around the auditorium.

This is a true rock show with an awesome heavy sound…


“I Feel Love”

…but also a very funny experience

The Blue Man Group are an awesome live experience – if you get a chance go see them.  Failing that have a look at their web site or all the stuff on youtube just to get a flavour…


Books: Lee Child “Gone Tomorrow”

May 24, 2009

Lee ChildGone Tomorrow” is the latest in the series of the character Jack Reacher, a man brought up in a military family who served as an MP reaching the rank of Major.  However, for most of the series (there is one book which is a flash-back to his time in service) Jack is moving from place to place as a drifter getting caught up in situations where he sorts everything out with his investigative skills or simply by force.

gone-tomorrowIn the more recent books I have been thinking that the character was getting a little dated – Jack’s world would have been disappearing. His skills would have been dated.  Here in”Gone Tomorrow” I think that Lee Child has addressed these things and brought Reacher right up to date.

The opening chapter sees Reacher on the New York subway at 2am when he sees someone that all his experience says is a problem (I’m not going to give away anything else of this part as it is too well constructed).

The story develops in the usual (for Lee Child) way with Reacher becoming involved in a problem, not wanting to let it go because of some moral commitment, being forced ‘outside the system’ and being hunted by both the ‘bad guys’ and the authorities. Again, as usual there are lots of plot twists, blind alleys and surprises, but what is different in this plot is that it is bang up to date.  It is very much post-9/11, involves some technology (which Reacher isn’t used to) and involves political aspects and intrigue.

I think this is one of the best books in a series of books I have enjoyed very much.  Most of the series I would have said it would be better to start with the first book, but this one I could see being a good introduction to the character today and then readers can go back and fill in his past.  Can’t say more.  Very good book – highly recommended.


Sharing…

May 21, 2009

reminders


Dropbox – changing the way I work

May 15, 2009

dropbox_logoThis is possibly the best online tool, application, thingy since sliced-bread!  OK, so sliced-bread didn’t work very well online but hey!  I’ve been using it for only a month or so, but it just keeps impressing me and is revolutionizing the way I do many things.  It is ideal for keeping current files that you might want access to, anything which takes collaboration between multiple users or means working on different machines.

The simplest description of dropbox is software that creates a folder on your machine (PC or MAC) which automatically syncs with an online version of that folder whenever the computer is online. This means that it…
1 – Creates a backup of your files online, and
2 – you can access those files using a web browser when away from your computer.

Next, you can install the dropbox software on multiple machines.  So I have installed it on my home mac and two PCs I am currently using at work.  This means that anything I’m currently working on (in either work-life or life-life) I can keep in “dropbox” and it syncs in the background so that wherever I am the files are there I don’t have to fiddle with memory sticks or remote logon to grab them…
3 – seamlessly stores and syncs these files on all your machines.

Collaboration!  I can create a folder within my dropbox and share it with another user.  So, time for an example: I am in a team getting ready for an event in the summer,  we have started to put everything in a shared folder on dropbox which means that we can all see running orders, scripts, images, videos…  so we can all see what’s going on as dropbox gives you notification of any changes which tells you what others had added or removed.  It also makes working on documents much easier than email attachments.  But lastly for this example of collaboration – when we get to the actual event we will all have exactly the same files on all our machines so if anything goes wrong with one machine, someone forgets their machine or just needs to check something without booting up their machine… all good, no swapping around USB devices and trying to find the most up to date version of a file (I hope).  This gives me number four…
4 – can share folders and collaborate with other users.

OK, that’s all very good but now it gets a bit more useful.  There is a special functional folder called the Public Folder.  This is fantastic!  Frequently I need to send someone large video files, presentations or high quality images, that are too big to attach to emails.  I have used sites like www.yousendit.com www.sendspace.com or depositfiles.com to do this and would still recommend them.  However if I put a file in my dropbox Public folder, once it syncs up online I can get a “public link” which I can then email to anyone – they click on the link to download the file without having to join dropbox themselves.  Much more friendly and straight forward than the swapping web sites mentioned. So…
5 – can make files available for others to download by putting it in the Public folder

In a similar way you can create and share photos very quickly, easily and ‘privately’.  All you need to do is create a folder within the special Photo folder and again you can get a URL to send to those you want to share the photos with.  I already use FLICKR fairly heavily, so I haven’t used this much but I put up this little example (this link will die in a few weeks when I take the example down so if it is broken don’t bother telling me)…. which brings us to…
6 – create and share photo galleries

Lastly, it does it all ‘properly’!  It works!  It works really, really well!!!  There is version control, you can roll back to previous revisions of the file, see who worked on it, when and even which machine, etc. this includes deleted files whether removed by you or someone who shared. Dropbox handles conflicting edits correctly (so, if two people work on the same file at the same time, then which version becomes the ‘real’ one) – I’m not going to explain because you would understand it better if you tried it to find out for yourself.  In other words….
7 – It works really, really well!!

Of course, it is worth mentioning that for 2GB of space it doesn’t cost a penny, yes….
8 – It’s free  !

2GB free – not good enough?  You can get others to sign up and for each one who does you both get an additional 250MB up to a maximum of 3GB….
9 – Max 3GB free space!

Lastly, in case you missed it.
10 – It’s free  !

That’s my 10 reasons for using this.

( One problem I’m having with it is the time taken to upload large files, I’m getting under 20kb/sec upload rate at the moment and I’m not sure whether the bottleneck is my broadbans speed or dropbox. )


Best gadget get’s better

May 9, 2009
2009-05-09 18.27.12

Flowers Behind Bars

Back in February I blogged not once, but twice about ‘TheBest Gadget I’ve bought this year…(so far)” my new G1 phone.  Which, basically I was very happy with.

There were however a few things which were really not very good.  The camera being the most disappointing feature, being slow to respond, very blurry and having no video capability.  Well, this week ‘cupcake’ or firmware version 1.5 of the Android operating system appeared and has made many improvements.

So I thought it was time to have a quick word about that and reflect on how many of the ‘features’ I am still finding useful and what has since dropped by the wayside.

Sticking with the camera – I have found this unusable till 1.5 came out.  Now, from the photo above you can see that the quality is acceptable and more importantly the time delay has been improved on and usability of camera save, share or delete functions all much easier than before.  By the way, this looks like there may be flash involved but there isn’t any flash on this phone.  Also the camera can now shoot video which certainly is good enough to watch back on the camera I haven’t yet tried viewing it later on a computer.

Other than that the only things I’ve noticed about the firmware update has been that perhaps the browser is slightly faster, but many of the options in various widgets and apps are more obvious and easy to use.  I’ve found it hard to quantify but keep noticing small things that are slightly better – not a great review but there we are.

Now, looking back at what I thought were good features in my initial review to see what (if any) I am still using.

GPS – is good, I’ve used it much more than I thought I would and other than being a little slow (this is a general 3G problem) it is accurate and easy to use.  What I would like is some form of bookmarks or breadcrumbs feature which I believe are available through Marketplace but I haven’t found anything I liked yet.

Gmail integration – excellent, can’t fault

Google Cal – OK, but I haven’t found a ‘view’ I like.  still like it and use it but probably only becuase it interfaces with google cal so all my stuff is there… if I was just looking at this as a phone calender solution I would find it hard to use.

Apps like Shazam (which recognizes music being played to tell you what it is) and Shop Savy (which scans bar codes on books, CDs, DVDs and some other things and gives you reviews comparative prices, etc.)  are excellent.  I use both of these a lot!

Fbook – a facebook app is alright but then I don’t check facebook that often

BBC News widget – always gives you something to read when you have 5 min and want to look at your phone for a bit.

Games – I can take or leave.  Some have been a little more addictive than others, but really it is good that there are so many in the market place so you can simply try out new ones now and again.

Notebook – there are lots of different ones and I’m still trying a few, but they are very handy and I’ve used these for simple shopping lists, reminders and for taking full notes of sermons or at meetings.

As for build and robustness – generally I do take care of the phone, so it hasn’t been too abused but I’ve found the keyboard still satisfactory sturdy when you slide the screen out, it is very easy to use and responsive.  The screen is easy to read in all lighting conditions I’ve noticed so far (I am in Scotland so I’ve not had too much glaring sunshine to test this with).

So, in summary, still by far the best gadget I’ve bouthg this year (so far)  ….  oh and BTW my other major gadgety purchase has been a PS3, which is great but not as good as the phone.  Now, while I might find this a bit useful to look back on I really can’t imagine why anyone else will still be reading this all the way to the end so for those who have here is a quick word of thanks… Ta!