The Long and Short of Davy Jones

Davy Jones dead. Massive heart attack. Only 66. Note to self: get screened for arthrosclerosis.

Sobering thought: Only two Beatles are still alive.

Nagging questions: If Ringo and Paul cut a 2012 record with Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, would they be called a Super Group? Which would be “the funny one?” Would they call themselves The Survivors? Isn’t there already a group called The Survivors? Or was that a reality show?

Second sobering thought: At 5-foot-3, Davy Jones towered over Paul Williams and Danny DeVito, who stand 5-foot-zilch.

Answer to your question: No, Mike Nesmith wouldn’t be in The Survivors. He’s not in anything anymore. To his credit.

Inquiring minds ask why: Paul Simon is also 5-foot-3, but no one seemed to make a big deal about it.

Who knew? Elton John says he stands 5-3⅓, which makes him MUCH taller than Paul Simon and the late Davy Jones. Mahatma Gandhi was also 5-3, but weighed considerably less than any of them because of a special diet.

I saw Pat Benatar in concert twice, sat real close to the stage, and until today, when I looked at the Tall Club of New York City website – which inexplicably lists the heights of short people – I had no idea she stood just 5-foot-nothing.

Gymnast Olga Korbut, who was known for being tiny (5-1), is 2 inches taller than the late Judy Garland, who was known for looking down on the Munchkins.

I better stop before Little People of America or the ACLU call.

Review: 4-star Travel Charging Kit

Innergie mMini Combo 15W AC, 10W Auto and Dual USB Duo Travel Charging Kit (TADP-10BE AA)

Peace of Mind While Traveling, February 24, 2012

This is a handy kit, with adapters fitting into other adapters so you get a universal charger from AC to your iPod, iPad or iPhone, and you can charge 2 of them at once. The car cigarette lighter charger also has 2 ports for simultaneous charging. I’ve traveled before with USB-charged devices and been frustrated that without access to a computer, I couldn’t recharge the devices (e.g., Kindle and iPod, which have their own custom AC charging connections sold separately). With the Innergie kit, any place with an AC outlet becomes a charging station for multiple devices. You could actually charge any USB-ported device from AC or car as long as you have the proper connection configuration on the other end of your USB cord. For example, you can charge a Kindle with this in your car or from an AC outlet if you have the USB-to-Kindle connection cord. If someone comes up with a universal adapter-charger that goes from all the popular electronic devices to USB to AC or car lighter — so you only have to carry that single universal kit — then you’d really have something.

When using the Innergie charger for your iPod, be sure the connection between the 2 adapters is firmly seated; otherwise, you could plug it into the wall and get no power delivered at all. That happened to me. I wondered why it wasn’t charging, saw the connection was loose, pushed them together, and all was well.

Review: 5-star DVD, “The Ultimate Matrix Collection”

The Ultimate Matrix Collection [Blu-ray]

Blu-ray version worth it, February 24, 2012

I got the Amazon special one-day deal, just $25 for the Ultimate Collection on Blu-Ray, so it was a no-brainer to upgrade from my old standard DVD version. Yes, it looks great on Blu-Ray, but it isn’t so spectacular that I’m going to rush out and replace all 500 of my standard DVD movies with Blu-ray versions. Most standard DVDs upgrade very nicely on the Blu-Ray player, but some films really pop in HD, and The Matrix Collection is a good example. Avatar also looks great in HD, if you haven’t gone all the way to 3D with your TV yet. The Matrix films bear watching over and over because you see or understand something new every time. The visuals and content are so deeply rich that you can’t possibly appreciate it all in one or two viewings. The special features here also offer hours of in-depth enjoyment.

 

Review: 1-star Peach Tea

MIO Liquid Peach Tea, 1.62-Ounce, (Pack of 4)

H2-Oh No, February 24, 2012

The bottle tells you to dispense one squeeze to flavor 8 fl oz of water. Exactly how much is “one squeeze” supposed to be? One family member’s squeeze colored his whole glass of water orange and gave his water a sticky sweet aftertaste, like several dozen Sweet Tarts had melted into it. My one squeeze left a few peachy tendrils floating in mostly clear water and made it taste like someone who ate Sweet Tarts an hour ago had backwashed into my glass. Neither was pleasant. If there were supplements in the drink and I was getting enough vitamins in the sugary sweet mess to, say, eat another In-N-Out Double Double and not feel as guilty, I’d choke it down. As it is just basically food coloring with flavor, I would not drink this on purpose again.

Review: 5-star Book: “Scheduling and Budgeting Your Film”

Scheduling and Budgeting Your Film: A Panic-Free Guide

Good Reference for Starting Filmmakers, February 24, 2012

This is a strong reference manual with a very thorough coverage of scheduling and budgeting a film that unfortunately suffers a bit from a case of trying to be everything to everyone — beginning with information for someone who has never set foot on a movie set and ending with highly advanced elements for experienced UPMs and producers. When it gets into the end, it teaches enough material that a novice might erroneously believe they can and should budget a film without practicing and working up to key elements like negotiating with unions, dealing with fringe benefits and managing tax incentives.

The nuts and bolts of this book are useful, including ample examples and tables, but I wish it offered wisdom from working production managers or line producers. Also, I was surprised that a book published in 2012 didn’t assume the reader was working with a computer. I would have preferred to have read an emphasis on the computer method, with just an appendix on the manual paper cut-out option.

Bottom line: This reference book is best when used by someone who is just starting to work into production management or line producing, in combination with a strong mentor. The book alone is not a complete education without the wisdom of a professional who has actually applied the principles to the real world of filmmaking.

Review: 2-star Book, “Winterling”

Winterling

Narnia Meets Harry Potter but Gets Lost on the Way, February 24, 2012

This Narnia-esque fantasy is an easy and appropriate read for even young audiences, though I found the story uncomfortably similar to other books I’ve loved — especially C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia — and not nearly as well executed. With the wintry queen who deceives and manipulates and keeps icy weather in the land, a “chosen” child with dead parents and no knowledge of her past or potential, and a land of magical creatures hiding just a jump away from reality, Winterling felt like The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe meets Harry Potter, but without the charm of well-developed characters, and in need of a heavy-handed editor to reshape the lagging plot.

Winterling is a solid first draft of a novel that descends too quickly into cliché and covers much-too-familiar ground. Amateurish mistakes plagued the book, including spending too much time developing a mystery around the main character’s parents’ backstory that it spent no time at all wrapping up, giving the evil “Lady” only one dimension, and making the main character a lonely outsider in her own world. There were many simple issues that could have been fixed in revisions, and I would have liked to have read the book Winterling could have become.

Although the story wasn’t tremendous, I appreciated the strong young female protagonist’s moral character. I’m conservative in the literature I hand to my 8-year-old daughter, and I felt comfortable giving her this to read.

Bottom line: Young girls (8 and under) will enjoy this quick read, but older readers who love Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings would find this weak and underdeveloped in comparison.

Review: 4-star Book, “JFK and the Unspeakable”

JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters

One of the Best, February 24, 2012

Guess I’ve read over 30 of the JFK assassination books by now, keep thinking nobody can say anything new anymore. The Unspeakable proves me wrong. While most of the massive text is rehash of other researchers’ works (all cited and footnoted), you will indeed find fresh information here, and the clarity of Douglass’ case is compelling. The author’s Catholic frame of reference and focus on Merton’s writing adds perspective and, unlike what another reviewer wrote, I did not find it distracting at all. If you haven’t read many or any of the other JFK books, this might be a good place to start, since Douglass covers a lot of the old ground. If you’ve read them all, this still offers food for thought and a deep perspective on the perfectly logical “why” of JFK’s murder. I only wish Douglass concluded with a blow-by-blow scenario of the assassination and coverup with his best-guess snapshot of who did what, and how they did it. Instead, he leaves us to speculate on our own as to who gave the order, who pulled the triggers and who directed the coverup. We can wonder about Allen Dulles and Lucien Sarti, but has anyone read a credible play-by-play reconstruction of the conspiracy that puts it all together with names?

Review: 4-star Jump Drive

Lexar JumpDrive Triton 32 GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive LJDNV32GCRBNA

Could be amazing speeds, February 23, 2012

This might be even more screaming fast than Lexar claims when it’s connected to a 3.0 USB port, because it’s surprisingly fast in my 2.0 port. I read on the always-infallible Internet that transfer speeds can never be faster than your slowest component, so logic would suggest that if you have 2.0 USB ports, you shouldn’t pay extra for a 3.0 USB jump drive because you still get 2.0 speed, but I tested it myself. Results: Using the same 2.0 USB port, the Lexar JumpDrive Trtion 32GB 3.0 flash drive transferred data TWICE AS FAST as a Corsair Flash Voyager 32GB 2.0 flash drive.

I challenged the Lexar Triton by dragging my entire music collection onto its empty drive, 25.4 GB of .mp3 music. It took 48 minutes, an average transfer speed of 8.99 MB per second, which may not sound great, but wait ’till you read the kicker at the bottom.

Then I tried transferring music onto my Corsair 2.0 flash drive, and it never got faster than 4.5 MB per second. During a drag-and-drop of the entire Beatles catalog, transfer time on the Corsair 2.0 drive topped out at 3.05 MB per second, while I saw the Lexar transferring data at 9.62 MB per second.

One reviewer claimed 170 MB per second transfer time with the Triton connected to a 3.0 USB drive (which I don’t have).

So here’s the KICKER: At that speed, my entire music collection, 25.4 GB of music, could be transferred in less than 3 MINUTES! Trying the same thing with a 2.0 flash drive in a 2.0 USB port would take more than TWO HOURS!

Two notes on the Triton: The packaging doesn’t tell you that the connector retracts with a thumb slide or that you have to gently push down on it at the same time you slide it. And there’s a cheap little lanyard taped to the bottom of the plastic holder that the drive comes in, which I almost threw away because I didn’t know it was there.

 

Review: 1-star Book: “Mr. g: A Novel About the Creation”

Mr g: A Novel About the Creation

Profoundly disappointing, February 9, 2012

Honestly, it sounded like a book I’d love, but I came away neither amused nor enlightened. This is a pointless novel professing to examine the big questions of Creation and cosmology, couched in the humorous conceit of a presumptive supreme being (“Mr. g”) who inexplicably has an aunt and uncle. The characters have no depth, they all sound alike, and there’s no real plot. It doesn’t make a case for a real Creator, nor a case for a universe on autopilot. Scenarios are wildly illogical and inconsistent. But if the writing were rippingly funny and entertaining, or profound, or just made you really think, you might overlook all that. Sadly, it’s none of the above.

Review: 3-star DVD, “The NeverEnding Story”

The Neverending Story

Doesn’t quite hold up, February 6, 2012

I saw this movie with my kids when it first came out in 1984 and loved it. I remember feeling like it stirred the imagination and might prompt children to explore the wonderful world of books. I particularly liked the Rock Monster and his lament about how his “good, strong hands” no longer did the job. Viewing it now as a senior in 2012, the movie seems dated and a little clumsy. Some of the magic wore off, maybe from me. It’s still a good story, but not quite in the category I want for DVD’s that I buy: something that will be enjoyable in repeated viewings. “E.T.” belongs in that category, but “The Sandlot” (which I also loved when it first came out) and “The NeverEnding Story” don’t quite measure up. Also, this DVD has no video special features, just some written notes.