Houston, we have Bacon Salt

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The Bacon Salt has landed. I’ve tried it on a few things and so far I’m impressed. Don’t worry though, I’ll file a full review after more thorough testing.

The things I do for you guys.

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The Transformers review

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My first car was a 1986 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer. It was red and black (and primer colored after I was through with it). Was it fancy? Not really. But I loved it. It was my first car. It was a breath of freedom. That first breath every teenage breaths.

That story of a teenager’s quest to breath that fresh air is what kicks off Transformers and ultimately makes it’s flaws all too obvious. The best part of the film is the story of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and his first car which also just happens to be a transforming robot from outer space. He’s on the ultimate quest of every teenaged boy. To get the car so he can get the girl. LaBeouf does a phenomenal job bringing Witwicky to life, and bringing the title characters to life as well. Your special effects are only as good as the actors reacting to them and LaBeouf makes us believe.

Ultimately, though, one of the film’s biggest flaws is spending way too much time on the military and their response to giant robots attacking. A half hour could have easily been shaved out of the film and not missed at all. Through the military story line, we are introduced to so many people and there is so much technobabble being spewed that you feel the “summer bloat” in action. The picture really should have been pared down to Sam and his interactions with the Transformers and the military should have been saved for the big battle scenes.

Based on the 1980’s cartoon (and toy line) you can’t really expect much in the way of plot. The cartoon’s plot was pretty razor thin. It usually involved the Autobots fighting the Decepticons over energon cubes (yeah, I’m geeky enough to know that). The movies plot is not much different. The one thing they kept from the cartoon, though, is the spirit of true good vs. evil. Growing up, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) was the very definition of a hero. He stood for all that was good (and cheesy) in the world. Much of his dialogue in the movie is, in fact, lifted right out of the cartoon. I’ve seen the film criticized for having the hero be so unabashedly good. That spirit is what made the cartoon great and is part of what makes the movie great.

Is the movies great, though? In it’s own way, yeah. The military part is annoying, and the humor is too over-the-top at times (don’t get me started on John Turturro), but at the end of the day you are there to see transforming robots kick the crap out of each other. Much crap is kicked out and man does it look good. Seeing the Transformers change from robot to car and back in mid-stride all while shooting/punching will make any fan with a modicum of imagination wet themselves. When it comes to the action, director Michael Bay certainly knows how to handle himself. It’s pretty popular to jump on the Michal-Bay-hating band wagon, but I’ll admit I usually really like his movies. They’re always visually stunning and contain action other directors just wish they could make. That said, deep characters aren’t his strong suit and it shows in Transformers.

Through it all, though, he knows how to entertain. All the flaws come to the surface the day after the film. While you’re in the theater, though, you’ll have one of the best times possible. You’ll ooh, ahh and laugh at all the right places. You may even get a little misty-eyed at the end (I didn’t). Could it have been better? Of course. But it also does what movies are supposed to do. For two hours, it makes you believe giant robots are real. Actually for longer than that. Every time I see a big truck now I expect to hear Optimus Prime’s booming voice as it turns into a building-sized robot.

Hearing the transforming sound from the cartoon and Peter Cullen’s voice will make any fan’s hair stand on end. Everyone else will still find something to love about the picture.

Transform and roll out.

(Yeah, that was a really goofy last line, but you know what, it’s my blog.)

The Apple TV review

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I’ve had the Apple TV for a few months now so I figured it was time for a short review.

Let’s start with what the Apple TV isn’t. It isn’t a DVR of any kind. There is no way to record anything with it. It doesn’t play DVDs. So what does it do?

Basically all it does is stream video/audio/pictures from your computers. Well what if I don’t have any video/audio/pictures on my computer? Then Apple TV isn’t for you.

Content

If you’re me, though, it’s the best thing since sliced bread. In fact, we’ve ditched the satellite entirely in favor or the more convenient Apple TV. Here’s our content:

Music: We have a library of about 3,000 songs.

TV Shows: We now buy all our tv shows directly off iTunes. When a new episode of a purchased show is released, it automatically downloads to the computer and is ready to be watched on the Apple TV.

Movies: I have a library of roughly 600 DVDs I’m in the process of putting on hard drives so they can be streamed to the Apple TV.

Podcasts: I subscribe to a lot of podcasts and they stream to the Apple TV just like everything else. This includes video podcasts which is really nice.

With so much content stored on my machine, it made a lot of since to use the Apple TV. I now have access to everything at the touch of a button. Once I’m through with my DVDs, my entire library will be accessible through the Apple TV interface.

As an added bonus, Apple just added YouTube to the Apple TV. You can access the videos directly from your TV and surprisingly, they don’t look that bad.

Ease-of-Use

This is where the Apple TV really shines. It does everything wirelessly. We have an 802.11g network set up and at those speeds it works flawlessly. If you’ve ever used a streaming device before, you know they don’t work very well for video. When you click on a video, the Apple TV takes a moment to begin streaming it and then it’s just like watching a DVD. You can even fast forward and rewind, which has never worked well with streaming devices before.

The interface is very self explanatory. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have everything in one place.

Quality

The quality of the video from the Apple TV is dependent on a lot of factors. The original source is a big factor. Things downloaded off iTunes are a bit soft, but really not any worse than broadcast over satellite. The movies and TV shows I’m pulling of my DVDs look incredible. They really do look as good as DVDs. To be honest I was surprised at how good the quality is. We have a Mitsubishi 62″ 1080p DLP. Even as big as it is, everything looks great.

So far I’ve found HandBrake to be the best program for ripping DVD content. The quality is adjustable, and it comes with an Apple TV preset.

The Apple TV is capable of HD quality, but at this time, there isn’t a lot of HD content available. As soon as iTunes begins selling HD tv shows/movies, I’ll be the first in line.

Overall

For people with a lot of content on their computer, Apple TV is amazing. For others, not so much. Apple has committed to continually upgrading the device so it won’t be obsolete next month like most technology.

I’m even looking at applications outside the home. I would love to have one of these hooked into a TV in each room at church. We are going to eventually begin doing a lot of our own video content for children’s church and this would make that incredibly convenient. You would have one computer as the server and the Apple TV in every room could access our entire history of video content. No more jacking with physical DVDs or videos. It puts everything at your fingertips.

If you want to go the Apple TV route I’d recommend a few things. One, you need at least an 802.11g network. Apple recommends the faster 802.11n, but the 802.11g works beautifully. I’ve had no hiccups on mine so far.

The second thing is storage. And lots of it. I just bought a one terabyte drive to hold all our content. That’s 1,000 gigabytes for the uninformed. We’ll probably outgrow the drive before the end of the year, and I’m not quite sure where to go from there.

If you have any questions about the Apple TV, let me know. There are a ton of features I didn’t even touch on but you get the idea. Honestly, I like the Apple TV even better than the iPod. I don’t think it will ever be as ubiquitous  as the iPod, but I think it’s a lot more useful.

Employee of the Month

Last night Becca and I watched Employee of the Month. It was a completely mindless comedy but that was really what we needed. A few observations:

1. Why can’t we have a romantic comedy that follows a different set of rules? We all know the rules because we’ve seen them so many times, and quite frankly they are getting old. In case you don’t, here is the basic formula. Guy gets girl under false pretenses. Guy falls in love with girl. Girl finds out about all the lies and leaves in a huff (this usually happens exactly 20 minutes before the credits roll). Guy wins girl back by showing he’s changed and is in fact more charming than the lying idiot he started out as. Guy and girl live happily ever after. Audience becomes just a little dumber for having watched the same plot for the 50th time.

2. Jessica Simpson is possibly the worst actress to ever be on screen. Not only is she a bad actress, she looks like she’s not even there half the time. You know, that vacant look manikins give off? Now imagine they are just alive enough to throw out a badly acted line every few minutes. That’s pretty much Jessica Simpson as an actress.

3. I noticed homages to The Right Stuff, Spaceballs, Austin Powers, and Mission Impossible 2.

4. Dane Cook is pretty funny.

Overall, EoM was entertaining but nothing I’ll ever watch again.

30Rock

If you have never watched 30Rock, you need to. We downloaded the first season from iTunes and it is great. Not only is the writing incredible, Alec Baldwin steals every scene he’s in.

Plus, there’s a Star Wars reference in just about every episode.

In the eternal words of Tracy Jordan, “Live every week like it’s Shark Week.”

Look, Up in the Sky!


Look up in the Sky!, the Amazing Story of Superman is a great documentary about the history of Superman. From his first appearance to the latest film, Superman Returns.

Some highlights:

A Superman musical that was probably the biggest train wreck I’ve ever seen.

An early commercial for Sugar Smacks starring Clark Kent (George Reeves) and Jimmy Olsen. The funny part is that Lois Lane was not to be found in the commercial. At the time, it was considered inappropriate for Lois to be at the breakfast table with Clark. As the documentary points out, Jimmy and Clark waking up together didn’t raise any eyebrows however.

The documentary pauses toward the end to discuss 9/11’s effect on our country’s views towards heroes. I find it interesting how often 9/11 is mentioned if fairly unrelated topics. It’s so ingrained itself into our collective psyche.