Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Full of Apple's Juice?

I, like every Apple fan, eagerly await September 10, when (allegedly), the new iPhone--or iPhones--will be released. Each Apple keynote is an opportunity to revel in the future, and for the company to vaguely make me feel bad that each and every bit of my tech isn't brand new. It's the ultimate "I love you, honey, but you're looking fat" moment, brought about three times a year.

But what I'm particularly looking for is how the supposed iPhone 5C will be released. When I got my first iPhone, a 3GS, it was the $100 alternative. Money was a little tight and my wife nonetheless got it for our wedding anniversary. Flash forward to a few years later, and we've become an Apple house: her iPhone 4, MacBook Air, my iPhone 4S, Mac mini and iPad 1, our Apple TV... not to mention our forays into iTunes purchases, iCloud storage, and my excitement over having iWork in the Cloud as a beta.

But what about this 5C? The other (non-Apple) addition to our family is our daughter, who is now two and a half. She's grown up with iDevices, learning how to turn on the iPad's "picture frame" option from the lock screen shortly after turning 1. Now she's a whiz: she can unlock a device, fine the photos app, Netflix, BrainPOP, Elmo... along with occasionally (and frighteningly (for me)) pressing that white folded paper button--the one with clouds in the background (email).

However, she occasionally drops these devices too.

Will the 5C, with it's plastic cover, be attractive to me? Granted, the 5 eschewed the glass excess brought about by the 4/4S... but with a toddler around, I'd like something with a little more bounce.

Conversely, I also want something with more storage space--will Apple box me out by making the 5C have smaller hard drives? Surely it won't be Siri-less--despite the electronic gal being imperfect, she does make texting-while-driving a breeze. Further, I find I need less and less processor oomph in my phone--after all, I can do a ton of computing at home, and the iWork apps are better suited for my aging--yet perfectly adequate--iPad.

I know part of what Apple prides itself on is "the Apple ecosystem." There is a bit of a flip side,
though: after having spent the last 3 or 4 years buying thousands of dollars of Apple tech... it's all made so darned well that replacing any of it is more of a "feel good" or status buy than an actual (perceived) need.

Hence my interest in the iPhone 5C: when I eventually feel the need to replace my 4S, does it need to be with the best of the best? Do I need a sapphire fingerprint sensor and an improved processor... or just
an iPhone that's a bit better for the one I have, to cover needs I already have (email, text, web, camera, music, podcasts)?

I'll know more on September 10.

Monday, August 19, 2013

And A Star To Steer Her By

Please, no poop. I've got 3 breasts.
In considering the notion of geek tech, I suppose that there are a few tempting choices--but tempting in ways that will ultimately be a bit of a let down. Heck, a good chunk of them come from Back to the Future, Part II: the self-fitting, self drying jacket ("your jacket is now dry!  Eeeeeee!"); the hoverboards (I'll take the Mad Dog variety, thanks); or even the 2015 version of the Kinect (which, of course, they had; afterall, the young Frodo-ish boy decried the Wild Gunman game as some lesser thing which required "you to use your hands).  I also considered Star Trek's holodeck, but let's face it: all technology ends up being used for porn at some point, so the limitless possibilities of the machine would end up simply being various types of alien poop being shat on three breasted cat women. 

This is an AWFUL drawing.
Yet all of these technologies are for leisure--for sitting around and "doing as little as possible all day," to quote Lee Adama of BSG fame.  The sentiment that he shares in the series finale is perfect: "I want to explore!" Thus too do I.  And thus my piece of geek tech would not be some small toy that would simply make life more fun, that would help me wallow away the day.  No, I would want myself the ultimate in exploration: the Trimaxian Drone Ship from the planet Phaelon... also known as Max from the film Flight of the Navigator.

Now first, a few caveats.  This film was exceedingly profound when I first saw it on VHS around the age of 7.  Not only does the character of David have some true life roots (dad is gone, which tends to be rare for a family film), but the central problem is fundamentally terrifying to a child: having taken a small fall down a meager hill, David hops right back up and goes home... to find that everyone he loved is gone, has moved out, and moved on.. because 8 years have gone by.

1986 3D rendering into an environment. Amazing.
That would be bone-chillingly shocking if it happened to anyone in real life, but to see it suggested in a "kid flick" brought it into stark contrast with happier stuff.  As the plot goes on, David discovers a small, silver, sentient spacecraft is not only looking out for him, but is also the source of the problem: a four hour hop, skip, and a jump at near-light speed back to Phaelon has resulted in those missing eight years.  (Look it up, Einstein.)

Now, aside from all this drama, what a way to explore!  The ship is the ultimate in conveyance: fast, adaptive, humorous.  (An adult rewatch makes it painfully clear that Paul Rubens is the voice of Max, particularly once Max becomes "silly" and sounds exactly like Pee Wee Herman.)  The film has its limitations: the third act is slowly mired in kid frivolity despite the first two acts being and feeling perfectly serious for an 7- or 8-year-old.  Yet it presents such a feeling of wonder and exploration: a ship to call your own, and a star to steer her by.

As a side note, Flight of the Navigator had liquid metal morphing effects in 1986.  Astonishingly amazing morphing effects in 1986--effects so good that many look near flawless and most require only the smallest grain of salt.

The plot, for those who haven't seen it, turns out alright: after exciting chases and a brief capture by big, bad NASA, David makes his way back to the ship who returns him to 1978.  Fireworks explode, and Max the ship goes zooming by, declaring, "See you later, Navigator!"

See you later?  Pish posh: for those who haven't seen it, see it soon.  Heck, see it now: apparently Disney doesn't care enough to pull rank with its copyright, so you can watch it on YouTube, right now... Navigator!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Dust Yourself Off and Try Again (Try Again)

Some stars burn brightly; others, are stolen from us for no reason at all.  This is particularly true for my subject tonight: a presence of the screen, a chanteuse whose breakout film was inspired by no less than Shakespeare; an angel who played a near-devil in her last film; and someone so talented that she ascended to that rarest of rarefied heights in entertainment, the mononym
Without a dull beat, step to, step to, baby girl, uh.

I write, of course, of Aaliyah.

In her first film, Romeo Must Die, she plays... well, she apparently plays a sort of urban Juliet to Jet Li's Romeo.  I say "apparently" because I never saw the film, though I did once see about half of the video, which featured Jet Lit jumping around in slow motion doing karate chops.  I also know that the hit single from that song, "Try Again," was quite a hit that year (whatever year the movie came out).  You see, I was working for a landscaper who hated most minorities (Jews and Mexicans were at the top of his list), but who loved listening to the "blazin' hip-hop and R&B" on New York's HOT 97! Readers of this blog may recall a Hot 97 reference in 30 Rock thusly: ""shooting people at the Source Awards is a tradition, like shooting people outside Hot 97;" indeed, a list of controversies involving the radio station, including an average of biannual shootings, can be found here.  But I digress.  My landscaping boss listened to Hot 97 endlessly in the truck, leading me to conclude that Aaliyah was such a powerful singer that she only needed to sing one line and they'd loop it together into 3 minutes of a song.  That's talent.

It is with Aaliyah's final film (her second one, too) that real potential for a forked road occurs.  Staring as the title character in Queen of the Damned, the author of the novel of the same name suggested that the filmmakers had mutilated her work and Roger Ebert said the film was "goofy." I wish I could disagree--or agree for that matter, but I haven't seen this film either.

The point, though, is that it was directed by Michael Rymer.  Now, dear readers, aren't you glad to have stuck with me?  With the death of Aaliyah and the film eking out $10 million dollars beyond the $35 million budget (doubtlessly a bomb after marketing), Rymer found himself in need of work... just in time for Ron Moore to snatch him up to direct the Battlestar Galactica miniseries.  Rymer would go on to direct numerous other episodes, including most season openers and finales, as well as the series finale.

Imagine then, if you will, Aaliyah having not died in August 2001 in a plane crash caused by too many posse members on too small a plane.  Imagine Michael Rymer still looking for work, despite the modest box office of Queen of the Damned.  Could we have seen BSG's female roles effected by Aaliyah?  A young, black, female president of the colonies?  A dark skinned, cigar chompin' Starbuck?

Or perhaps the effervescent beauty of this ill-fated wonder would have one her the role of Six.  Would Balter have sold out humanity because of the tall, proud, brown-haired Cylon played by Aaliyah?

Alas, we'll never know; we can only hope... and weep.

Monday, August 5, 2013


Ask any knuckledragger and they'll tell you that "odyssey" is just another word for a long trip.  They're knuckledraggers for a reason, after all. We, the well-read, know better.  It's not just any long journey: it's THE journey of literature, taking a decade through mire, tribulation, temptation, age, battle, and exhaustion.  The contrast of this is a voyage, a word spinning up connotations of journey, excitement, a bright sun and salt air.

There is, of course, a long, drawn out, LDS-infused nonsense-wander which is the the great overrated film in all of celluloid.  It's well titled: 2001: A Space Odyssey.  In it, Stanley Kubrick puts form over function, style over substance, and special effects over that which could be emotionally palatable.  Yes, it's iconic--the zero gravity; the glimpse into technology; the openings of pod bay doors, Hal. But it's just so damned... boring.  Now you might think I haven't given the film a fair shake.  There are great films that I've tried to watch a number of times, but keep coming up with the same reaction (stick a bomb in the trunk of my feelings for Touch of Evil too (Charlton Heston, a Mexican.  Indeed!)).  Yet its 2001 which stands atop the critical pile in so many ways.  I mean, #15 of the AFI list?  Better than Sunset Blvd? It's a Wonderful Life?! China-fucking-town?!?  High Noon? Annie Hall?  The list goes on and on--literally, since there are 85 more films that are found beneath it on the AFI list.  Even with some quibbling about the placement of others, it's a list of better films than the drivel that is 2001. Go get high with Timothy Leary, man, and drop your LSD.  It's the only way to enjoy the endless Odyssey.

Now as for a voyage, ah, there's but one film that fits that definition.  Its journey is an odd one: it was, in its gestation, derided as a sinking folly; in its birth, it garnered a review from Janet Maslin in the New York times that proclaimed that it was the first film in years to "honestly invite comparison" to the great films of the 1930s and 1940s.  It was, at its most mature in Oscar season, an unsurpassed nominee with 14 nominations as well as an unsurpassed Oscar winner, with 11 wins, including Best Picture, Director, Editing, and so forth.  It is, of course, the greatest color film ever made: Titanic.  Since, however, that fateful Oscar night on March 23, 1998, this cinematic masterpiece has lost a bit of bloom from its rose.  I propose that the reason is its own popularity, like many blockbusters before it, Titanic's reputation has suffered from "the wrong sort" of people who went to go see it--wrong sort as defined by shallow Hollywood types and faux film fans.  "The 14 year old girl," they say while smelling meat at a restaurant (for Hollywood types do not eat meat, lest they pass out of emaciation), "that isn't who decides films are great."  They pause, sipping their Organically Certified Water, and say wisely, "I'd rather make a film where 20 people have come in from the worst January rain and see the theater as an escape."  They pat themselves on the back for being so original... having forgotten that they've seen Tootsie.

The real magic of Titanic is the magic of all great cinema--indeed, all great art: its universality.  In its long, long box office run into the spring of 1998, a news article made its way around the internet about how the film was as big a hit in China as it was the United States.  A semi-authoritative response was that China saw in the film the fall of a decadent high class, killed by its own folly, whereas Americans saw determination triumphing against the odds of class.  A Chinese viewer saw themselves on the ship, and so did an American.

Indeed, cannot we still see ourselves in Titanic even now--especially now, especially post-2008; that year brought us an unmistakable (economic) calamity brought on by the richest of the rich, and it also brought us a determined president triumphing against a hierarchical structure, parts of which have been sewn into the very fabric of this nation.

This April, Titanic will be re-released, noting the 100th anniversary of its fateful launch.  Expectations are that the film, digitally restored and enhanced, will once again soar to its box office heights.  In related news, no one will be re-releasing 2001: A Space Odyssey anytime sure, for it was the true disaster.