iPhone 4S
Apple
2011

My biggest peeve about the iPhone 4S is the small screen. It’s hard to type on, and it’s hard to read on.But has Apple effectively nullified these two objections?

The new Siri and speech-to-text functions have reduced the amount of typing I do by 90%. All I type now are passwords and the occasional japanese name. And Siri is SO HELPFUL for setting up reminders (“get milk tomorrow 7pm” / “okay.”)

Meanwhile, Safari Reader Instapaperizes/Reability-izes websites, making text large, contrasty, and serif’d. So text is, you know, READABLE on the too-tiny screen Apple still insists on using. 

I’m fond of the shape of the 4/4S too, compared to my 3rd gen Touch. 

Find My Friends works great. Haven’t tried Newstand (because the screen is too small!)

iBooks is faster but still too limited as far as the settings it allows. (No night mode is unforgiveable. I use BlueFire instead — at least until my Amazon Fire arrives. Got Colson Whitehead’s Zone One [zombies!] and Lionel Shrivener’s Game Control [mass depopulation!] queued up for when I finish Snowdrops. The Steve Jobs bio will probably cut that line.)

~

On the down side, in iOS5, podcasts and audiobooks are no longer transmitted to a monobluetooth earbud — you need stereo bluetooth equipment for those files to be transmitted (even with the “mono” setting under the Music tab activated, and even when said files are already in mono). Might as well just use wires and get tangled up in them twice a day every day. (Fun!)

Also, iPhone photos and videos are displayed UPSIDE DOWN in every Microsoft photo app I have (Picture Viewer, Media Center, etc.), but are okay in Quicktime and Photoshop. And the once-easy “rotate” function in Picture Viewer can’t rotate iPhone photos anymore!?! Seems like a Windows problem, except my Xacti and Fuji Finepix photos and videos still come out normal, everywhere. So that kind of majorly reduces the awesomeness of not needing to lug around a camera any more…

And regarding the aforementioned Safari Reader feature, the full webpage (ads and scripts and everything!) must load before the Reader option button appears. So it’s not saving you any time. And I still ain’t grokked haw to sync my Windows PC’s Safari Reading list to my iPhone (while Instapaper does it automagically).

Lastly, not having dedicated phone buttons is taking some getting used to. The screen goes dark while a recording is asking you to enter your 9-digit ID, the volume feels too low outdoors, it’s just a little awkward all around so far… but I make four calls a week, so I’ll live. 

EDIT: I forgot: I can’t download podcasts over Verizon, but I can stream them. Go figure.


[ Posted Mon, 24 Oct 2011 03:00:00 ]

review: Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Coming off two years with an iPhone 4s, and I love this thing.

First, it’s big enough to really read on. Not just briefly read a tweet or listicle, but to actually READ, like, news and emails, of actual importance.

Second, SWYPE. So much better than pecking at individual keys, and it offers you ~choices~ among its predictions! Which is symbolic of the whole Apple vs Android thing.

Everyone calls these Note phone “gigantic” but they’re really not. They’re the right size for an adult’s hand and eyes. They fit in pants or jacket pockets, though I’ve taken to carrying mine in a Condor pouch [amazon] carabiner’d to a belt loop. 

The interface is speedy and smooth — I remember a couple years ago the Android phones were so jerky I eeeegh’d. No more! It’s Appley smooth.

Taking photos with this is great — the large screen makes it like you’re looking at the finished product. You can see if your subject is blinking!

Google Now kicks. siri’s. ass. In accuracy, speed, visual “yes, i’m listening” feedback… 

Getting your files s onto the device is drag-and-drop simplicity. NO iTUNES! :)

I like using the stylus at work, because you look like you’re entering important field data while all your iphone coworkers, tapping with sticky fingers, totally appear to be playing Candy Crush. 

All the apps I had on my iPhone are on my Note 3, except for Garageband, which I never used. Except, I’d like a decent offline Poker app (like Apple’s own 2008 Poker game that I bought and then they discontinued a year later so I had to install it from backups! Dicks!) and it took a while to find a really good podcast app (Pocketcasts, which I also used on my iPhone, was a bargain at $4, and the only app I had to buy outright.)

But there’s a couple imperfections.

I wish the power button wasn’t directly opposite the volume rocker, because when I squeeze the power button I inevitably squeeze the volume as well.

And in camera mode, I find I often brush my hand against the back “button” (it’s not a physical button but a touchpad sensitive thing), which closes the app when I’m trying to take a pic. But that’s happening less as I get used to that area being touch-sensitive and duly avoid it.

And I wish I could uninstall most of Samsung’s apps, but I’m not worried about space on this thing, so hiding them has been sufficient so far. 

Really glad I bought this thing. (Up front no less! $760 after tax, but on Ting, so monthly bills are ~$45/mo instead of $148/mo)

:)

zigzo | shoudou(2013)

My recent rejuvenated obsession with Malice Mizer’s discography — particularly the short-lived Tetsu era — got me remembering that Tetsu didn’t fall off the planet. Never checked out any of his other bands until just now, so here we are with Zigzo which also features Sakura from L’Arc~en~Ciel / Creature Creature? Who knew?!

Not me!

This is no-frills rock along the lines of 9mm Parabellum Bullet, another band that I absolutely adore. There are definitely times where the drama queen tendencies of VK get to me, so I flip the coin for straight up hard driving rock ‘n’ roll. There’s a catchy poppiness to this song, but the best part is that while Tetsu has gained control of his voice over the years, there’s still that endearing wild abandon that shines through at the right moments. It provides just enough punk edge to keep it from being too cloying.

This song grabbed me pretty hard halfway through the first listen, and when I spun it again earlier today, my nearly-2-year old son rocked the fuck out for the entire thing! This is where I go back and check out the rest of these guys’ catalog.

12012 | the swan (2013)

Is there a greater anomaly in j-rock than 12012’s career right now? I don’t think I can recall any band that’s shifted stylistically this much and in such a short amount of time. When they went from heavy-but-distinctly-VK to sterile j-rock/pop it wasn’t too jarring, but when they came back last year PSEUDO ANGRY AS FUCK after a hiatus following a stint with choking women and losing a guitarist, it was seriously a shock. The band’s lone guitarist was struggling to produce the metal-est of riffs, but ultimately came up short, sounding like he had been digging through Kaoru’s trash can filled with scrapped ideas. Last year’s self-titled album and April’s Deicida of Silence mini were the sound of a band begging to be noticed by being… shocking, I guess? But then The Swan came out back in September, and I checked it out ready for another good laugh.

Man, this is actually okay!

I think the addition of the new second guitarist helped immensely here. It’s just a guess, but I think they sought out someone that had a better grasp of the metal scene than they possibly could. His thick, machine gun chugging in the chorus of the title track provide the much needed depth that was sorely missing in last two releases. Too bad it’s pushed all the way to the left channel and almost buried in the mix.

The second track “Karma”, opens with an acrobatic drum fill and then friggin’ blast beats! This is not what I was expecting! And then there’s “Deadly Circus”, which stomps in with as much American heavy metal swagger as it can muster, sounding like it could have come from a Lamb of God album. The remaining tracks, “Gekkou” and “Black Rain" didn’t grab me the same way as the others, but they didn’t have me rushing to hit stop, either.

Negatives? Of course – a big one: Wataru.

This guy is not cut out for harsh vocals, which is made evident by the fact that his voice gets shoved under filters and effects whenever he growls or screams. And, for whatever reason, the lyrics on this mini are like 95% English. Well written English, yes, but Wataru’s thick accent isn’t doing the words he’s singing any favors. When he repeats “I want to find the answers” in “The Swan”, it sounds more like “I wanna find the assholes.” Which, hey, I guess is just as good a lyric anyway.

12012 isn’t out of the woods yet, but what they do have going for them right now is that they’re no longer stealing from the Dir en grey wholesale like Sadie is, and they aren’t just being laughable like Nega was (though they were getting pretty close to that). I think they realize that if they’re going to stick with this style, then they need to take it seriously. I closed my review of Deicida of Silence by saying I didn’t think 12012 had much life left in them. I may have been wrong. This is the product of a band that’s sincerely trying. 

mejibray | decadence - counting goats … if i can’t be yours - PV (2013)

Yeah, that’s the whole song title.

I’ve heard the name Mejibray for months now, and I always assumed that they’ve been around for years. I don’t know why. Anyway, like my ears always do when they hear a j-rock band that’s new to them, they immediately started finding similarities to other bands. Mejibray vocalist Tsuzuku warbles like T.M.Revolution, and swipes the same squeal that Kyo may have swiped from Kyoka. Aside from that he’s your run of the mill VK singer. The band behind him seems competent enough, but the midi strings kind of piss me off.

And didn’t NoGod’s drummer already do the bear suit thing?

Okay, in all honesty, I think this is pretty alright. It’s catchy, I like the lead guitar work, and there’s a sense of grandeur that I tend to be a huge sucker for. It’s not enough for me to keep Mejibray on my radar on a regular basis, but they’re still babies, so I’d like to see where they go within the next five years.

the gazette | beautiful deformity(2013)

Dim was such a good album. It sounded like a band that was willing to mature and experiment rather than play it safe, and there was a great sense of confidence in songs like “The Invisible Wall”, “13Stairs[-]1”, and “Ogre”. Two years later The Gazette followed up with Toxic, an album that sounded like a collection of previously scrapped tracks sprinkled liberally with electronica to make them sound new. Less than a year after that, Division dropped in two curious packages: a single disc release, and a double disc version. This album sounded like a combination of leftover tracks from Dim and Toxic, and it was painfully obvious that The Gazette was starting to run out of ideas. Riffs and vocal melodies were uncomfortably familiar, and it was hard to not think that the band was just phoning it in now. And now there’s Beautiful Deformity, showing us that The Gazette are perfectly fine with treading water.

I give the band credit for not falling prey to the current visual kei fad of emulating Dir en grey’s recent work, but I can’t praise them for basically cutting and pasting what they’ve already done and cranking up the synth volume in an attempt to make things “different”. Things start with the dubstep-tinged intro track “Malformed Box”, which segues quite nicely into “Inside Beast” where Ruki declares “Die or suck my beast” before the band erupts into a mess of bland guitar playing and annoying electronic beeping. Ruki is as predictable as ever, relying on the same variations of melody he’s been using for a long time now. Sometimes his phrasing sounds so familiar that it appears he’s singing an earlier song but with different lyrics. And that’s the majority of what the experience of listening to this album is like.

"Fadeless" could have been a track on Dim. “Redo” sounds like a reworked “Shiroki Yuutsu” (also from Dim). “Last Heaven” is a by-the-numbers acoustic rock ballad, and “The Stupid Tiny Insect” just sounds like it wants to spiral out of control because there’s no sense of cohesion, just a band wanting to be heavy without putting any thought into it.

"Loss" is a great track, though, full of great ideas that are implemented well even if they are familiar, and "Coda" is a fantastic closing track, if not the most interesting thing on here. But, when it comes down to it, this album shows no signs of a band willing to break free from its moorings. Listening to Dim and then its three successors is the equivalent of eating a delicious pizza, and then being served reheated and congealed slices from that same pizza for the next four years. Beautiful Deformity is that last slice; It vaguely tastes the same, but you’re better off just eating something else.

[Benedict Cumberbatch is Jon Turturro in Star Trek: Barton Fink]

star trek: into darkness (2013)

WOW.

Several times during this movie (seen in 3D), I thought to myself “This is the greatest movie of my life!”

Not that it actually is exactly, but it was pretty spec-fuckin’-tacular.

There’s this one particular shot of a ship crashing into a city. SPECTACULAR. 

There’s a scene between Kirk & Spock that echoes a memorable scene from another Trek film. SPECTACULAR.

People violently ejected into space, a whole bunch of times: SPECTACULAR!

And there’s plenty of fun and jokes and pretty visuals and god damn.

Only during one scene did I seriously introspectivize the notion that “this is not trek!” and that was when…

[vague spoiler]

…Spock went to town on the villian, like Indy wailing on the big airplane wrestler Nazi in the face that time…

[/vague spoiler] 

…and I was thinking then, Hmm, this seems vehemently anti-Trekky. Anti-intellectual, even.

Other than that, GOOD FUCKING MOVIIIIIEEEE!!!! Action and violence and all kinds o’ hijinks.

:)