Category Archives: Review

A Camera That Just Happens to Make Calls

Mom spoiled me beyond reason when I was home and got me a new iPhone 4S as a present. I was overjoyed because my 3GS was on its last legs, vibrating whenever it wanted (all the time) and taking forever to send a text. When it comes to my devices, I like to keep them looking clean, so I opted for the white 4S, as fingerprints are much harder to see on its body (the screen still needs to be wiped on occasion).

You have already read dozens of iPhone 4S reviews on dozens of blogs, so I am not here to tell you how fast it loads apps (FAST), how helpful Siri is (She is!), or how beautiful her Retina display is (Gorgeous). What I am here to tell you about though is the camera included on the 4S. It is so good, we shall hereto forward call it “the camera that just happens to make calls.”

Eight megapixels does not sound like a lot of resolution for a digital camera these days, especially when certain Finnish phone makers spew out cameraphones with 41 megapixels (Nokia, I am looking at you), however, the camera that just happens to make calls does not disappoint at all.

First, it loads several times faster than that on my 3GS, and rightly so. The A5 processor that powers the camera makes for a snappy experience that doesn’t get you caught out there missing special moments.

Second, its f/2.4 aperture and backside illuminated sensor allow you to shoot in all kinds of low-light environments that would otherwise be difficult. The flash is fast and bright, but as a die-hard Cartier-Bresson fan, I never use it. The HDR mode is surprisingly good, and it is a wonder the same thing isn’t on professional cameras. HDR processing is so tedious on a computer!

The ability to crop and make minor enhancements directly in the app preclude you from having to work on your photos in another app, however if you MUST use Instagram, the camera that just happens to make calls delivers well for 3rd-party apps as well.

I do not believe in iCloud yet, as I am a MobileMe subscriber, and have been for the past 3 years, so I can’t tell you anything about Photo Stream. I just want to tell you about the virtues of MobileMe Galleries and being able to host your website through iWeb, but alas, that deserves a post of its own.

However, what I will tell you is that the 4S is also a very capable video camera. 1080p video is something my trusty 50D can’t do (wishing for a 5D Mark III!!!), so I can’t even hate on the beautiful video it captures. Sound is bleh, but to be expected. You totally could get away with just taking video on the phone and synching it with audio recorded on another device though.

In sum, the camera that also happens to make calls delivers photos and video better than any other I can remember, and is on par with many prosumer camera on the market in terms of automated exposure. If it allowed for finer control and manual exposure somehow I would be even more thrilled, but for now, this little device is my trustiest camera that is always on my body.

There are samples here from the beach with my mom, our hotel by the beach that had deer for neighbors, the cemetery paying respects to my grandparents, and the plane ride back home. Let me know what you think!

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Apptastic Review: Cat Paint

Riding on the train is usually entertaining and stimulating in New York: roving mariachi bands and would be opera singers stimulate the ears, fashion both good and bad graces your eyes, and even the occasional smell wafts your way. I don’t recommend touching or tasting anything on the train, but hey.

For those times when NYC doesn’t provide you with free entertainment or a sensory experience on your travels, look no further than Cat Paint. What is Cat Paint, you ask? Besides being pure genius, Cat Paint is a hilarious app worthy of sucking up your travel time and a few brain cells in the process.

Upon entering the app, you are presented with a star field background as your blank canvas. You have the option to use any photo you’d like as your background, and I prefer taking images from the free NASA Space Images App to keep my cats cool in outer space. You may however feel your mom needs a cat in her next portrait.

Pressing the cat shaped button on the lower left side of the screen reveals your 16 “cat brushes.” These are more like movable, resizable, rotatable cat stamps that you can place anywhere over your background image. Placing a cat down results in a meow sound, and the effect is quite fun.

Once you have your cats in place, press and hold down on them with one finger to FIRE LASERS OUT OF YOUR CATS EYES! Yes. Freaking. Lasers!!! This is undoubtedly the best part of the entire app. You can change the direction of the lasers and they move in relation to the current position of your cat. You can then post your creation directly to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or email the photo right from within the app! Share the cats!

With this tool you can set up Cattles of Epic Proportions and defeat otherwise idle time! I highly recommend this app for not just cat enthusiasts, but also anyone who needs to spice up their otherwise ironic, played out, hipster imagery with a cute cats and cool lasers. Add this to your list of reasons to get an iPhone and stop listening to people talk about their serious Blackberries and Android bricks.

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Holy Happies Batman! A Snow Day at the Cloisters

Inspiration

There is a little church on 51st between 9th and 10th ave that I walk past all the time, and there is this statue of the blessed mother in the courtyard that captivates me if only for a moment each time I see it. Last week though, she was covered in white snow, and looked positively divine. This photo I took of her inspired me to go on a little field trip the following day to the Cloisters.

What are the Cloisters you ask? Well, the Cloisters are the sum of many things, but at its heart, the Cloisters are the spectacular resting place of many a religious artifact from the Old World. The Cloisters are an extension of the Metropolitan Museum, and are located within Fort Tryon park just off of 190th street at the tip of Manhattan.

When you dismount the A train at 190th, you are greeted by a big sign indicating you are at the mouth of the park, and that you must walk through the park to get to the Cloisters. On any other day, this is probably a leisurely little journey, but because of the snow, it was a semi-treacherous adventure.

There was anywhere between one and two feet of snow covering the ground in some places, and all stairs and walkways were hidden beneath the white stuff. Add to this that the wind was blowing and changing course rapidly, and you have yourself a good time in a winter wonderland. Though I was by myself, I felt safe, and loved testing out my new boots in the snowy weather.

I could see the main tower of the Cloisters off in the distance, so I set off in that general direction, but got off track a couple times. When I made it there, I was greeted by a few guards, and as a reward for completing my journey through the snow, there was only a small handful of other guests roaming the building.

Clearly someone high up makes oranges grow in January in NYC.

As I mentioned before, the Cloisters are the sum of many things. Several archways are taken from ruins and churches that have long been gone. The artifacts within are from times we really can’t personally fathom. Everything was made by hand, everything had a meaning, everything had a specific place to be observed.

Wandering the grounds of the Cloisters was not so much a religious experience for me as it was a meditative experience. There were clearly defined chapels and places where one could worship, but I preferred to simply sit and marvel at the grandeur of how the Old World expressed itself through religious iconography. Most of the place seemed to be waiting in silence for something, and because the light poured in through intricately stained glass windows, there was a peaceful glow to nearly every corner.

Stepping from room to room yielded varying experiences. Some had a somber tone to them, reflecting the Lamentation, the Passion, or the life of Jesus, while others were purely jubilant and full of light.

One room in particular was fascinating. It contained immense wall sized tapestries telling the story of a unicorn and its capture. I had seen photos of these tapestries in books when I was very young, but I had no idea of the huge scale they were created in. Normally when you see a Monet or a Dali, the effect is quite the opposite. I couldn’t believe I was just inches away from the Unicorn! There was even a narwhal horn in the room for good measure—it was taller than me!

Another room caught me completely off guard when I stepped through the portal. Hung from its vaulted ceiling was a sculpture of Jesus that was as bizarre as it was large. He was depicted as being eerily calm despite His predicament, long and lanky, and styled kind of like a cartoon character. He looked quite alive, and if He would have moved, I probably would have ran out of the place. Something was just odd about this particular figure of Him, and though I was drawn to take photos, I was definitely creeped out.

There were cool sarcophagi in another room that I really liked. I liked the idea of them being out in a well lit room with chairs beside them, as if you are supposed to tell them things. Not that I am preoccupied with my own passing, but I would like a similar type of treatment. Somewhere between the mausoleums of New Orleans and these sarcophagi is a happy medium that I would like to plan for myself so my descendants can come visit in a welcome place. Somehow I’d need to cram a tree inside as well. Hmmmm.

At any rate, I had a great time passing through the corridors of the Cloisters and highly recommend making the trip. Even if you are not a religious person, like me, you can have a great time exploring and imagining the histories of the wonderful things you’ll find inside. If you are religious, you will enjoy the splendor and glory of your faith as it was in the past.

My walk back to the train seemed much less arduous after being in a building full of light all day, and the whole trip was well worth the trouble.

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Music to Your Ears (And Hair!) from Willow Smith

Who is Willow Smith you ask? She is only the child of Will and Jada Smith. By definition, that means she was born with talent, and the parents with the connections and knowledge to turn her into a young star.

And a young star she is. At age 9, yes NINE, she dropped a song that put many female singers careers into a tizzy. Yes, tizzy. Ok, maybe worse for Ciara, even though I love her.

At any rate, this song instantly earned a coveted spot on the shower dance playlist and the workout mix at the same time. There is nothing deep about the lyrics of the song, other than possibly not letting haters get to you and showing what you’ve got, HOWEVER, the song will have you wanting to dance, and well—-whip your hair.

Stay tuned for more music from little Willow, and hopefully a music video soon. I couldn’t decide on a still image for her, because the song is that great. It needs something soon though.

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Oh No! A Happy Song from Marina & the Diamonds

I haven’t put up any music on here in a while, mainly because I go through music like boxes of Captain Crunch, but also because really good, happy music is very hard to come by. Yesterday though, I discovered a fantastic video of an even more fantastic happy song.

Enter Marina and the Diamonds. Marina is Welsh (as is about 1/8th of me) and she makes genuinely good music. It is witty, self-aware, and in many cases saccharine. You may not know this about me, but all happy music goes directly on my famous SHOWER PLAYLIST. Yes, it is a playlist specifically for singing and dancing along in the shower. Yes it is awesome.

Back to Oh No! though. I was drawn in to this song within the first 5 seconds of watching the video on a blog last night. The visuals were something of an Roy Lichtenstein/Gwen Stefani/PCP-color laden mashup and my friend Chris and I started jumping around because we loved the song so much instantly. Overkill, yes. Unmerited, no. At any rate, get into this girl and her music pronto, because I see her giving La Roux, Kate Nash, and Katy Perry a run for their money.

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Yes, I Have No Shame or Remorse: I Ate This

After my trip to the museum earlier today, my friend Jay met me at my place to record a few things, and he brought over the most unhealthy, fatty, delicious food one could imagine.

Imagine with me if you will, a sandwich composed of chicken breasts for buns with cheese and bacon in the middle. Yes, drool with me in unison. Couple that with potato wedges, biscuits, and sweet tea, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

No, serious. Go forth and eat this thing. Don’t feel any remorse for it either, just don’t eat this more than once a week, even if your inner fat girl screams that she needs it to go on living.

Two thumbs up KFC! Whoever created this unholy delight deserves a special spot in the gluttony circle of hell, and a high five.

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Official iPad Review: B. Thompson and I Call It a FAIL

My good friend, B. Thompson, and I went to the Apple Store on 5th Avenue a few days after the iPad launch to see what all the fuss was about. Apparently shoppers were smart to the fact that the 3G version that is coming out is better, and contrary to popular belief, the device was not sold out and did not merit days long lines. Gee, whoda thunk it.

Anywho, we liked the form factor, but there were too many glaring omissions and quirks that pushed our buttons. The first of which is that damn glossy screen. Fingerprints McGee. Second, the damn thing was loaded with apps that used GPS and a camera, and this particular model has neither. Third, all but a couple apps were pixellated and gross because Apple didn’t care enough to load iPads with good looking apps in their WORLDWIDE FLAGSHIP STORE. Fail, fail, fail, I tell you.

Apparently the thing gets good battery life and saves print media across the board or something like that. However, none of that is reason enough for me to buy one as it currently is. It is a large first generation iPod Touch. Fail.

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