“She’s Your Rock N Roll. She’s a lightning bolt”

Pearl Jam-Lightning Bolt

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$14.88 at Amazon 

(4/5)

Pros: Quite a few good to great songs.

Cons: A couple less distinctive ones.

So on October 15th 2013 Pearl Jam released their 10th studio album. Having taken a few months to digest it all, I realize my initial instincts were correct: Lightning Bolt is mid-level Pearl Jam.

It’s not on the same level as VS or Vitalogy or Yield or even the underrated No Code or the self-titled 2006 album. It’s about on a par with their previous album Backspacer and ahead of Binaural and Riot Act, which were Pearl Jam’s two weakest albums (not bad though. Pearl Jam has yet to make a bad album).

The album shows Pearl Jam maturing gracefully. There’s not an anthem of youth rebellion on here like “Leash” from 1993’s VS. But they’re not turning adult contemporary either. They still know how to rock out and prove that on “Mind Your Manners”. Musically it recalls 1994’s love of vinyl ode “Spin The Black Circle” yet this is an angry attack on religious fundamentalism and hypocrisy. It took a while to grow on me. But now it’s safe to say that this song rocks.

Likewise I wasn’t sure at first what to make of second single “Sirens”. After listening a few times I’d say it definitely ranks on a list of best Pearl Jam ballads. A reflection on mortality and a belief in the power of love and hope.

“My Father’s Son” recalls classic Pearl Jam soundwise and lyrically it’s a depiction of a young man caught in a cycle of violence.

“Infallible” is another tense number that rants against the cliches many people seem to look to to get by.

The title track recalls Bruce Springsteen in spots and is a classic Pearl Jam rocker. Opening song “Getaway” Meanwhile, is not a remake of the Earth Wind And Fire song of the same name. It’s another rocker with lyrics along the lines of that infamous Dylan admonition “Don’t follow leaders/Watch the parking meters”.

“Let The Records Play” has a bluesy groove and evokes the aforementioned “Black Circle” lyrically as an ode to the healing power of rock and roll.

“Yellow Moon” is a good song lyrically although it sounds like one that would be better if it were more acoustic. I like it still though.

“Sleeping By Myself” is one of the more undistinguished ones on Lightning Bolt.

“Future Days” is another acoustic number and it’s a great one to end the album with. Like “Sirens” it’s a call for faith and optimism in a an uncertain era.

In fact, listening to this album in its entirety, reveals that it’s a sort of concept album about keeping your belief in an era of charlatans, phony religious leaders and politicians.

Pearl Jam has offered up another good to great one here with Lightning Bolt. They may not be the biggest band in America as they were between 1992 and 1997. But they’ve managed to continue on their own terms, managed to outlast many of their contemporaries and rip-offs and managed to age more gracefully. Lightning Bolt is definitely worth acquiring be it on CD or iTunes. But support Pearl Jam so they can continue to make fantastic music in this era of Bieber.

Forget Titanic and Avatar. This is Cameron’s masterpiece.

Aliens

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$10.64 at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: Intense action, thrilling terror, humanity and some humor.

Cons: None for me. Some might find it too intense (their loss)

Do you like both movies and films? Do you like films that have a lot of action yet also take time to establish their characters? Do you like films with strong protagonists? Do you like films that have great special effects yet don’t forget to include humanity?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then Aliens is your film.

Aliens is of course the 1986 sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece Alien. Now Alien is a classic, no two ways about it. It’s easily the scariest sci-fi movie ever made and is one of only a handful of movies that has ever actually succeeded in getting me to jump out of my seat.

On Aliens, the directorial reigns were passed from Scott to James Cameron who had just broken through with the original Terminator. Cameron wrote the script as well as directing the film itself and the change is apparent. While Scott’s film was pure sci-fi horror, Cameron’s is pure sci-fi action with an element of horror and just the right amount of human drama. Thus it joins the original at masterpiece level. The only drawback is that the huge financial success of this demanded two increasingly pointless sequels.

When we last met Lt. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) she had just ejected the killer Alien from the ship Nostromo after it made mincemeat of the rest of her crew. Upon escaping from the ship, she spent the next 57 years in a state of hypersleep before being rescued. Upon rescue, she’s informed by her bureaucratic employers that they do not believe her story and her pilot’s license is revoked. She also discovers that her daughter died during those 57 years (a point that wasn’t shown in the original theatrical release of Aliens yet is shown in the director’s cut on DVD).

So Ripley has now gone from one nightmare to another when Carter Burke (Paul Reiser), an executive at Weyland-Yutani, the corporation she was working for, comes with an offer. The planet LV-426, where she and the Nostromo crew originally encountered the alien, has become a place for terraforming. However, contact has been lost with the colony. So they’re sending up a platoon of Marines to investigate. Since Ripley is the only one to have first-hand experience with those outer space monsters which the company does not believe exist, they want her to go along with them. At first Ripley refuses. But then agrees after extracting a promise from Burke that they will destroy any of the aliens they find. Lying through his teeth, Burke agrees.

Upon arriving, they discover that the colony has been totally decimated, aside from one brave young girl nicknamed Newt. This time, it’s not just one alien, it’s a whole colony.  The aliens are soon making mincemeat out of everyone and it’s a desperate fight to make it off the planet alive before the monsters get em or the nuclear reactor blows.

Aliens takes a little while to get going. But once the action arrives after the 35 minute set-up, it never lets up. This is one intense movie.

That does not mean that this is just mindless blow s*** up action like the truly noxious Transformers movies. There’s plenty of humanity here, most notably in the scenes between Ripley and Newt. There’s also scenes between Ripley and Marine corporal Hicks (Cameron regular Michael Biehn). Most of the humor comes from one liners by Private Hudson (Bill Paxton). Some of his most famous ones include “Game Over man! Game over!” and “We’re on the express elevator to hell, going down!”.

Burke is your classic evil corporate baddie, the one who puts bucks ahead of human lives. Ripley gets an accurate line later on in the film when she observes of Burke vs the aliens: “I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them f****** each other over for a goddamn percentage”. When he gets his, you’ll find yourself cheering.

Of course, I can’t not mention Lance Henriksen (also a Cameron regular) as android Bishop. He manages ot bring a certain sense of humanity to this cyborg.  Carrie Henn gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen by a child actor. She chose not to make a acting her career, deciding to become a teacher instead. But this performance rocks.

Like I noted previously, while Scott was making a horror movie set in outer space, Cameron’s prime focus was on making an action one.  He succeeds totally. Which is not to say that this one doesn’t have some terrifying moments.

Alien was a great film. Aliens takes what it does well and multiplies it by 10. The result is my pick for best sci-fi film of all-time. You can keep Titanic and Avatar. This is James Cameron’s masterpiece.

Take a Sabra to lunch (with hummus)

a review by: Jennifer Kate

Sabra Hummus Singles

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$56.99 for a dozen 10-ounce containers at Amazon 

(4/5)

Pros: 2-ounce serving containers are quick, good value, nutritious, tasty, portable

Cons: needs lemon; cannot purchase single servings on Amazon; only Costco

Back in the day, I had never heard of hummus. In fact, on my first trip to Israel in the ’80s, I was afraid to try it! It was a foreign, golden-colored, vegetarian spread with a glistening, oily veneer and dusting of spice. Finally, I dared to dip. With pita poised, I scraped my first taste of smooth, creamy, chick-pea hummus. Was it love at first swipe? YES!  Soon, I mastered the art of making my own hummus. And slowly, hummus grew in popularity and “spread” across America!

But take it to lunch? That seemed unlikely, until we found Sabra spreads in convenient, single serving sizes at Costco. Since daughter and I are vegetarian, we need a good protein source with our daily carbs.  Each 2-ounce single-serving provides 4 grams protein and 3 grams fiber. The main ingredients are chick peas (garbanzos), tahini (ground sesame), soybean oil, garlic and salt. Lemon juice isn’t an ingredient, and I do miss the tartness (I add lemon juice to my homemade version).

Sabra hummus tastes quite good, although somewhat generic, at least the plain variety. It is very smooth and is easy to spread and dip. There’s not much spice and no lemon, but the overall flavor is well rounded ~ I always finish the single serving and feel satisfied with the amount and taste.

Sabra makes other varieties of hummus that might be more spicy or garlicky.  If you’re looking for a typical hummus for lunch boxes or quick lunches at home, I highly recommend Sabra hummus. If you’re having a party, with no time to whirl your own in a food processor, then purchase the tubs. All you need are pita chips and crudites, and your guests will eat this up.

Moonlight Path Shower Gel

Moonlight Path Shower Gel

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$11.87 at Amazon

(5/5)

Pros: Light fragrance; moisturizing.

Cons: Limited availability.

I like to keep an assortment of differently scented shower gels on hand simply because I get bored with using the same one day after day. I prefer the ones sold by Bath & Body Works since they tend to have just the right amount of scent and cleanse well.

Bath & Body Works Moonlight Path is a light blue/lavender color and has a light scent that is floral, yet also smells a little bit like baby powder. According the the bottle, it contains the scents of white jasmine, violet, lavender, lily of the valley along with soft musk. These come together very nicely and the bathroom smells strongly of it while it is being used, although the scent only lingers on my skin for about an hour.

Some other brands of shower gels leave my skin dry and itchy, especially in the winter, but this one lathers up nicely and leaves my skin nicely moisturized since it contains Shea Butter, Aloe and Vitamin E. I find it to be just the right consistency – thick enough to easy pour out of the bottle, but not so thin that it runs right down the shower drain.

The ten-ounce flip-top bottle is priced at $12.50, but it can often be purchased on sale. The Moonlight Path fragrance is part of Bath & Body Work’s Signature Collection and there are additional items available in that same scent including a fragrance mist, body cream, bubble bath, sugar scrub and even a candle.

Small Talk, Big Head

Tigi’s Bed Head Small Talk

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$13.99 at Amazon

(4/5)

Pros: Improves body and feel, not too heavy or greasy.

Cons: very slimy out of the bottle, the candy-sweet smell can be off-putting.

I struggle with my hair. A lot.  In fact, getting my hair to do something even a little pleasing is something of a pitched (and endless) battle.  My mop is willful, unmotivated, and usually downright insubordinate, not to mention depressingly thinner as the years go by.

Until recently, that is.  Recently, I went to see an old  friend who just happens to be a hairdresser.  After having her cut my hair, I looked at my friend and asked, “So how do I get some body into this?  Some lift? And what can I do about the strange fuzziness?”  She walked over to a display case, grabbed a small, bomb-shaped pump bottle, and handed it over.

That small hair-care bomb?  Tigi’s Bed Head Small Talk.

Small Talk does come in a small package, but don’t let that fool you.  This stuff packs a big punch, and a little dab (around the size of a dime for my medium length hair) will definitely do you.  It comes out of the pump (nice pump, gives you a nice, dime-sized dollop) white and really surprisingly gooey, and goes on easily with just a little tousling to get it distributed evenly.  The scent is distinctive, and reminds me a bit of Skittles or SweetTarts.

While wet, Small Talk does not feel good on the hair.  In fact, it feels positively slimy.  That worried me, the first time I used it.  It worried me a LOT.  But experience has shown me that, so long as I don’t use more than my little dab, that sliminess doesn’t translate to tacky or weighed down hair.

Styling with Small Talk can go any way you want.  You can scrunch and finger style to where you want, then leave it be, which will leave defined curls but a slight stiffness (not stickiness).  You can brush it to the shape you want, then leave it to dry, either leaving the stiffness or brushing through the dried hair, which keeps the shape while losing the stiffness.  You can blow dry, either hand-scrunching and directing for a tousled look or using a brush for a more refined ‘do.  Small Talk is great for most hairstyling approaches, and lends a fullness while giving a light to moderate hold.

While Small Talk is great as a styling aid, it is also an effective leave-in conditioner that acts as a “thickifier,” i.e., it makes hair look and feel thicker and more full.  Rather than using a rinse-out conditioner plus Small Talk, I use only Small Talk.  Otherwise, my hair does wind up feeling a bit heavier than I like, and goes dirty/greasy faster than usual.  As a conditioner, Small talk leaves my hair feeling soft and looking shiny without the “fuzziness” I’ve long struggled with.  It also helps on the detangling front, making the after-shower brush-through easier.

Ingredients-wise, Small Talk does not come across as an organic-lover’s dream—no, this is a lot of artificial/chemical-y stuff that you probably wouldn’t want to ingest unless you were looking to shellac/preserve your guts.  However, it’s  comparable to other, similar products, and nothing leaps out as particularly horrendous.  The manufacturer doesn’t push this as an earth-loving, organic, also-drinkable product.

Overall, Small Talk is a new favorite for me.  I love the versatility, with the body-enhancing and shape-holding properties lending my silly head a hand whether I blow dry or not.  While the candy smell was a bit strange at first, I’ve come to enjoy it, and it meshes well with the citrus-y scent of my new Bed Head Self Absorbed shampoo.

“I add a little funk to the brain”

Ready To Die (Remaster)-The Notorious B.I.G

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$10.99 at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: Biggie’s flow, rhyming and storytelling ability, good production.

Cons: Subject matter can be disturbing, pointless skit.

Ready To Die by The Notorious BIG is the greatest gangsta rap album ever. Yes, it is better than The Chronic, Doggystyle and Straight Outta Compton.

But wait a minute. Is it as good as Illmatic which came out around the same time?

Well Illmatic was more diverse in certain regards and a tad more consistent. But I don’t really see it as gangsta. This one is gangsta although it does take breaks from the street rap. Also unlike the phony studio gangstaism of the likes of Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, this feels lived in.

Of course some people may point out that most of what the artist formerly known as Christopher Wallace raps about on here is fiction. To which I reply, Martin Scorsese wasn’t in the mafia. Does that mean he can’t make Goodfellas and Casino?

But whereas the aforementioned Wayne and Ross portray the street criminal life as something glamorous and a way to the riches, Biggie shows that it’s a dead end and celebrates success in rap as a ticket out of it.

Anyway I’m here right now to talk about the remastered version of Ready To Die, The Notorious BIG’s 1994 debut album and undoubtedly one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever.

I bought this remastered version about a year ago when I walked into a record store (Yes I’m one of the “Luddites” that still buys CDs from tome to time) with some extra money in my wallet. Stopped to gaze across the rap section and saw on sale the remastered version of Ready To Die. Decided it was a good time to replace my original copy of Biggie’s debut which got stolen at a party in the late 90s.

This remastered version contains all of the original 1994 album (although a couple previously unauthorized samples were deleted) plus two bonus tracks and a bonus DVD.

As for the album itself, how is it so great?

The primary reason for this is Biggie himself. Biggie could brag. A lot. And when you brag you better be able to back it up. Biggie sure could.

The elements of wordplay and storytelling on this album are fantastic. Listen to “Gimme The Loot”. Biggie plays two roles on it as he plans and executes a heist. Listen to “Warning” where he seeks revenge on someone who robbed him.

But like I said earlier, Biggie is not glorifying the gangsta street thug lifestyle. Listen to “Things Done Changed” where he shows the desperation to get out of it.

In fact, “Ready To Die” is a concept album of sorts. It follows a young man through early days in the ghetto, through the teen years as a crack dealer and finally to success in the rap game before the past comes back to haunt him. It’s like an aural movie of sorts.

So we get well-done “don’t f*** with me” raps like “Machine Gun Funk”. But amidst all the grit, there’s hope in the well-done Isley Brothers sampling make love rhyme “Big Poppa” and “Juicy” which, over a sample from the 1983 R&B #1 “Juicy Fruit” has Biggie reflecting on his previous street hustler life and his new found fortune in the world of rap.

All of this, combined with Biggie’s murder in 1997, make “Suicidal Thoughts”, the final song on the original album, extremely disturbing. The song flows as a conversation between Biggie and a friend, that ends with Biggie’s death. Full story. Well-done but with a downbeat ending (ala Menace II Society).

The remastered version contains “Who Shot Ya” which originally was on the posthumous compilation “Born Again” and “Just Playing (Dreams”. Both work well as bonus tracks or outtakes if we’re to continue with the movie analogy.

As for that aforementioned bonus DVD, it features live performances of “Juicy”, “Big Poppa”, “Warning”, “One More Chance” and “Unbelievable”.

So, this is without a doubt a classic albums, from my perspective (and the view of many others as well) anyway). However, I can also add that it isn’t necessarily for everyone. If you’re not a fan of hip-hop or can’t stand coarse language (the parental advisory sticker on the disc is DEFINITELY warranted) this isn’t what you’re looking for. But if you like hip-hop with humor, storytelling and unbeatable wordplay, then this is definitely essential.

Also, if you like this, definitely get “Life After Death”, Biggie’s second and final album (recorded prior to his murder). It’s without a doubt the greatest hip-hop double album of all-time.

Calm the World’s Roar

a review by: Andy Hilal

Bose Quiet Comfort 20i Noise Canceling Earbuds

 

$299 at Amazon

(4.5/5)

Pros: Impressive noise canceling, comfort and sound

Cons: A rather high price tag

I was dubious about these earphones until I tried them, and then they blew me away. About 5 or 6 years ago I picked up some “noise canceling” headphones at MacWorld, and they were just okay. Sure, the $25 audio-technicas I bought could drown out some of the background hum of the convention floor. But I could still hear the people around me talking. If anything, I could hear them more clearly with the background hum removed.

The Bose QC-20s go further than this. When I’m wearing them, and listening to music, I can’t hear someone right in front of me talking to me.  Their lips move but nothing gets through to me. The hum of my daily commuter train is muted, but so is the clacking of the train’s wheels on the tracks. These headphones combine world-class active noise canceling with the physical isolation of some very high-quality silicone in-ear tips. The result is much more than I expected. If my friend hadn’t dragged me into the Bose store to try these out, I wouldn’t have given them a second glance. Now they’re one of my most prized possessions.

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Noise canceling is an interesting technology that works on an ingenious principle. Think back to the playground. You’ve got a long jumprope – your friend is holding one end and you’ve got the other. If you jerk your end up, a wave will travel down the rope toward your friend. However, if your friend jerks her end down at the same time, and inverted hump will travel toward you. When the two waves meet, they both disappear. The waves cancel each other out.

All noise-canceling headphones incorporate a microphone that listens to the ambient environment. It senses what noise waves are around you, and sends inverse waves toward your ears to cancel the noise out. When the noise zigs, your headphones zag. The result is a big fat zero. The noise never actually reaches you.

However, it takes some pretty fancy (and fast) electronic magic to sense and cancel out ambient noise in real time. In the past, noise canceling earbuds could only drown out constant, steady sounds like the hum of a jet engine. Steady sounds are consistent from one moment to the next, and can be steadily canceled out by a nice, long, even inverse wave. But sudden noises like a handclap are harder to predict and respond to quickly. So some noises still get through.

But the QC-20s let through a whole lot less than my Audi-Technicas from 5 years ago. Believe this: I was standing right next to the electric kettle in my kitchen, and I couldn’t even hear it boiling. You know that popping, hissing sound an electric kettle makes as it does its job? Not exactly the even hum of a jet engine. Actually quite poppy and noisy. But I couldn’t hear it at all.

Don’t get me wrong – the QC-20s are not perfect. You will still be able to hear some of what’s around you. Just a lot less of it. A lot less. You may be amazed at just how much noise is actually around you most of the time, and how peaceful it is to have it cut by 75%. I sure was. Layer a little music on and you’ve got a personal sanctuary wherever you go. Wait… isn’t that the phrase they use in their ads? Well, I have to admit: it’s accurate.

The effect is profound. I can actually watch a movie on my phone during my train commute. In the past it was too noisy, even with my earphones turned all the way up. Now, the noise is gone to a degree, so I can actually hear the dialogue. What a difference.

This also means I don’t have to crank up my headphones as loud as before. How nice! The train is noisy enough without adding level-10 earbud volume as well. We all need to safeguard our hearing in this noisy world, and the QC-20s give you a new tool to do that.

Noise canceling requires power. The unit can’t emit inverse waves without a power source of its own, so be aware that the QC-20s come with an integrated batter. It’s a small box about the size of a cigarette lighter, located just near the end of the cable. Here’s a picture with my old iPhone 1 for scale.

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Most of the time I just place this right against the back of my iPhone and slip them both into my pocket. It’s just as easy to fold them together and hold them in one hand. Just don’t be surprised to find that there’s more to these headphones than a simple cable. The electronics that drive the active canceling need to live somewhere, and they need juice. You recharge this batter pack with micro-USB. A micro-to-USB cable is included, but you’ll need a USB port somewhere to charge from. No wall adapter is included.

The earbuds are extremely comfortable. So well designed that you barely even know they are there, even after long periods. Bass, midrange, and treble are all clear as a bell with volume to spare. The cable is the right length and doesn’t make a lot of friction noise against your shirt when you’re wearing it.  And the controller stays nicely out of the way until you need it – whereupon it works well.

These headphones come in an iPhone/iPad version and an Android/Everything Else version. I have the iPhone version, which allows me to skip songs, change volume, answer calls, and invoke Siri all with the buttons on the cable remote. Works great. Call quality sounds about as good as it gets.

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There is one more feature to note, which is the “aware mode” option. When this is enabled (by a simple button push on the remote) the noise-canceling microphone that’s listening to ambient noise will actually play that noise through the headphones to you. This is for times when you need to hear what’s happening around you (say, for example that you’re crossing the street) but don’t necessarily want to take your earphones all the way out.  I haven’t used this much but it’s there if you want it. I don’t think it will pull in ambient noise directionally, meaning if there’s a bus coming from your right-hand side I don’t think the unit will play the bus noise to you in the right-earbud only. I’m actually not sure, but I think the microphone is mono.

I was lucky enough to receive these as a gift so I avoided the worst part: the $300 price tag.  It’s a steep sum to pay for headphones. But I think in this case it does buy you the state of the art. Noise-canceling technology isn’t perfect yet, it can still be improved. This room-for-improvement and the high price tag knock off half a star here for me. Otherwise these earbuds are one of the more exciting products I’ve encountered in a long time.

Somewhere Up There I am Dry Heaving

Another Earth (2011)

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$18.35 on Blu-Ray at Amazon 

(2.5/5)

Pros: some good character drama – concept is interesting for about 5 minutes

Cons: plot is a disappointment and concept goes nowhere

I went for Another Earth because it’s an an indie Sci Fi film and it’s gotten some good reactions online. It’s no Hollywood space-war flick (that’s for sure) but rather a brooding drama about a young woman whose drunken driving causes a terrible accident.  She drives off the road and into an unlucky family’s lives because she’s staring out her car window at what has just appeared in the sky overheard: a planet resembling our own Earth in every way.

Reviewers say that the film is about a young woman dreaming of a new life on another world, but that’s not really accurate. You see, the premise has another twist. This planet that’s appeared in our sky isn’t just another “Class-M” orb that can support life. It’s not just like Earth. It is Earth. It’s the same size, it has the same continents in the same orientation, and advanced telescopes quickly determine that it has identically sized cities in all the same locations as ours.

Okay. Weird.

Commence the character drama. The young woman, convicted of felony drunken driving, spends several years in prison. And upon her release seeks out the only other survivor of the accident: the father, who is now left alone recovering from a head injury and the devastating loss of his loved ones.

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If this sounds like a hell of a setup, it is. The only problem is, there’s nothing more. Nothing interesting happens for the rest of this movie. In your mind you’re already wondering if a certain sticky thing will happen between these two characters. Well, I’m sorry to say that the film has no surprises for you.  I’ve decided not to spoil everything, but let’s just say there’s not much to spoil because you’ll see every plot turn coming from a mile away.

There are some basic problems with the Sci Fi premise here that do not pass the “stupid test” for me. The Earth 2 planet appears larger and larger in the sky throughout the film, eventually dwarfing the moon. How does such a gravitational body in such proximity not play havoc with our tides? It’s not explained. How exactly does this orb move into our solar system and find its way to our Earth without hitting anything else on the way? What’s steering this unlikely path? No one in the film even wonders these things. They all become obsessed with the idea of their own mirror counterpart selves, up there on that orb. Eventually the other planet is contacted, but does anyone ask them: “How did you survive a journey through interstellar space without freezing?” Nope. And it’s too bad.

This film is ultimately in the fantasy category for me. Just because an object comes from space doesn’t mean it’s a science fiction movie. True Sci Fi deals with plausible advances in science, not total departures from its laws. When you know and accept that you’re dealing with something that will never happen, that’s fantasy. And that’s what we have here.

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I’ll bet there are reviewers out there talking about the striking ending of this film. It’s nothing of the sort. It’s sad, and laughable. It’s so sad it’s laughable, and it’s sad that it’s so laughable. The final plot twist puts the characters in such yucky and awkward situations that it mocks all the genuine drama they experienced in the story.

I found it downright gross. And my wife did too, apparently, because she made a face and hit me with a pillow when I turned to her as the credits rolled and asked “Honey, would it turn you on if there were two of me here right now?”

Someone Actually Did Something Interesting with a Weather App

Dark Sky

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$3.99 at the iTunes App Store

(5/5)

Pros: Totally re-imagination of the weather forecast app. Beautiful UI and very precise info.

Cons: Doesn’t make it easy to track the weather through multiple locations.

So your weather app says it’s going to rain today. Well, what time is it going to rain, and for how long? How hard is it going to rain? Other weather apps don’t tell you this stuff, but Dark Sky does. As the name suggests, it’s really useful when the clouds gather and you know bad weather is coming.

It uses an intuitive timeline UI to show you the next hour and how much rain you can expect, minute by minute. Swipe to the right and you get something similar for the next 24 hours. It does a great job of helping you understand what temperature and precipitation to expect at what times throughout the day. 

This really is revolutionary. Yahoo weather tells you it’s going to rain tomorrow. Okay. But if it’s only going to rain from 1-5AM, then you don’t really need to take your umbrella to work, do you? Dark Sky has taken the precision approach, and combined it with a wonderfully intuitive UI that is mostly controlled through gestures. The result is fantastic and has been worth the 4 bucks in my humble opinion.

Swipe right all the way and you get the 7-day forecast. No 10-day is available, but 10 day forecasts aren’t usually that accurate anyway.

If you swipe all the way left you’ll get a visual animation showing the precipitation radar graphs over the last 10 days. You can see the clouds sweeping over the ocean toward your location, and the animation ends at NOW so you get a sense of being brought up to the moment. A temperature graph is available as well.

Weather talk is as old as the hills, but Dark Sky manages to cast new light on it with their innovative UI and focus on detail. A full 5-star bravo and highest recommendation from me.

Available for iOS only.

A Fruity Lotion a Man Can Love

a review by: Andy Hilal

Soap & Glory Hand Food Lotion

$8.75 for 125ml at Amazon

(4/5)

Pros: good smell, not greasy

Cons: doesn’t hydrate for very long

My hands get super-dry during the winter time. My wife got me this lotion, and I admit that when I first saw the bright pink bottle I wasn’t thrilled. Greasy lotion really icks me out, and anything in a pink bottle always smells to high heaven.

But this stuff is okay. It does have a sweet smell, but it’s closer to bubblegum than flowers. It’s not exactly bubblegum, but it’s fresh and sweet and not too floral. I like it, and others seem to like it when they smell it on me.

What I like best is that this lotion soaks in quickly. It doens’t leave behind a greasy residue. That drives me crazy. However, I guess the flip side of that is that the lotion doesn’t seem to protect and hydrate all that long. One handwash seems to remove all its benefits, requiring another dose. I’m okay with that actually. It’s worth it to me. I just can’t stand a greasy feeling on my hands.

I need to see if I can shop around and find a lower price for this as it comes pretty dear. And like I said multiple doses are needed. In the end it may not be worth the cost if you are sensitive to that.