Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Les Misérables

Finally, I got my chance to see the latest on screen version of Victor Hugo's masterpiece Les Misérables in cinema yesterday. It was late but it is certainly worthy!

I've neither read the book nor saw the stage play before. My only knowledge of Les Misérables is from 3 sources: A dance remix song of a cover version of the song "On My Own" from a German group called Harajuku, Susan Boyle's version of "I dream a dream" in the Britsh Got Talent, and the 1998 movie adaption of the same title which I loved very much!

That's why when I saw the 2012 version, I can't help to compare with the 1998 version. Certainly, the key difference is that, the 2012 version is full of songs with minimal dialog, while the 1998 version has no songs and only dialog. What I like the 1998 version is that, as I didn't know the background story at all back then, I was captured by the story itself. In addition, the characters were written really well, and the actors/actresses who played the parts were outstanding. I totally bought into the interpretation of Liam Neeson as Jean Viljean, Gregory Rush as Javert, Uma Thurman as Fantine, and Claire Danes as Cosette. All four leads are very good actors/actress that I really admired. I very sympathize Liam Neeson of trying so hard to become a good man, really pissed that Gregory Rush to chase him every turn. I also upset that Claire Dane would fell for the Marius and somehow put Liam Neeson in risky position of being caught. Though I've not seen the 1998 version all these years, I still can recall those footprints of the movie that left in my mind.

Now, here we go the 2012 version. First of all, I did read some reporting of this movie before hand. I can't help it for being a movie fan! What I read didn't affect how I ended up enjoying the movie. I knew that Hugh Jackman can sing. It is not a news to me. Certainly, learning that all actors/actresses did really sing during the filming really add to my admiration of the movie. Particularly, when I saw the heart-wrenching theme of Anne Hathaway singing "I dreamed a dream". That was really powerful. Surprisingly, most critics criticized Russell Crowe's singing, I didn't find him that bad. His singing was certainly bearable. Instead, I found his acting of Javert was actually not as good as Geogory Rush. Russell's acting in the movie is too stiff with a "wooden" face. Hugh Jackman is fine as Jean Valjean. However, I don't know why, even the length of the 2012 version is longer than the 1998 version. I somehow has a feeling that Jean Valjean in the 2012 version has a weaker part than the 1998 version. Particularly, the feeling of trying hard to be a good man in the new version is not as hard as the older version. Amanda Seyfried as the new Cosette is certainly hot, but her role is small and she didn't really act that much in the movie. Perhaps, she didn't try harder to be a scene stealer. Instead, Samantha Barks' role as Éponine who sang "On my own" really caught my eye. This role was a forgotten one to me in the 1998 version. Also, Helen Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen added a bit of comic to the sad premise of the story. That's a nice touch.

Another thing I really like the 2012 version is my exposure to other songs of the play, I made me gotta check out the soundtrack of the movie afterwards. I don't wanna go into the costume, art direction, CG, etc of the movie, cuz, I think they are fine enough to serve the sorry.

Overall, I like this movie and I'm glad that I finally saw it in cinema.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The way I live these days

It is now Jan 2013. I've kinda lost touch of the time for while. Busy life at work and at home put my sense of time into different perspective. I just feel time flies, day by day, week by week, many things just happen. I rely on the calendar on my iPhone to record important events, some of which won't happen until months later, such as dental appointment or immune shot appointment for my boys. Anyway, I just need to know they are about to happen.

My life is now mostly being arranged according to my family's need. Gotta go to work to make a humble living to pay bills. Buying bread everyday for my son's breakfast the next morning. Looking after the boys at night before they go to bed. Check my son's homework or school notices every evening. Reminding my son to practice piano everyday, and helping out my wife on stuffs and few houseworks every now and then. Over weekends, my major duty is to pick my son to places: playgroup, Taekwondo classes, park, etc. Am I complaining? I'm matured enough to accept my role in my family, how important I am to them. So, it is not about complaining at all.

I do still try my best to squeeze some leftover time for my own sake and enjoyment. I still surf the web here and there on my iPad and PC, I listen to my podcasts on '1.5x or 2x' speed of normal in traffic. I read mostly news on the web these days. Cuz, no matter how busy I'm, I still can't stand for being ignorant of what's going on in the world near and far. With the power of technology these days, with the access that I've, being losing touch with reality is not tolerable. In fact, many news stories are more interesting than fictions. Regardless their natures, tragic, comic, inspirational, or else, they are far more interesting than my mundane life anyway.

Actually, my life or family life these days are not as flat and boring as I mentioned. There are issues that do have long term impact to my future days. Seniors in my and my wife families respectively have health issues. My sons have respectively learning issues that do bother me a bit. In addition, my work relationship, my wife's career, and the relationship between my wife and I , all did have rough spots here and there. Thank God that I think that I've proper EQ and attitude to face those difficult issues and some of which really get my wife frustrated when they are brought up. I'm fortunately for the most parts, myself even if not being the solution, but at least not becoming a problem that make things worst! Well, what can I say? Life is always a half glass of water. We can choose to enjoy it by looking at the bright side, or to damn it by complaining the shitty part. It is all in our heads, we make the call, we choose. What I've learned is that things will proceed with or without our involvement, but our emotion is all our making.

For the most parts of my life in the last decade, I learned to appreciate how fortunate I've been and satisfy with what I've. For being older and seeing what's going on in the world, I also learned few other things:
  • Nothing is guaranteed. Thus, take nothing for grant.
  • Life is strong and fragile at the same time.
  • Try to appreciate, learn and enjoy the journey, and don't too caught up with the results.
  • There are wayS to do things, don't be stubborn.
  • How important of a thing depends on how you look at it and who is looking at it.
  • Life can be happy and meaningful without a lot of material things.
  • Really spend time to think what is needed and what is desired.

Well, I guess it is enough for today from a grumpy old man!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Movies that worth checking out in 2013

Not in any particular order, just movies that gonna be released this year that if I've the time, I would go to see, that's all.

"Elysium" (starring Matt Damon) : blame rampant corporatization and wealth discrepancies instead of nature. It is directed by Neil Blomkamp (of "District 9" fame)!

"Oblivion" (starring Tom Cruise) : Again, blame rampant corporatization and wealth discrepancies instead of nature. It is about an underground resistance (led by Morgan Freeman)

 "After Earth" (starring Will Smith) : focuses on survival in nature.

 "World War Z" (starring Brad Pitt) : a bigger zombie apocalypse, too much bath salt!:)

"Gravity" (Starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) : features "two people floating in space," for being the two survivors of a damaged space station.

"Man of Steel" (Starring Henry Cavill) : A reboot Superman without the red brief!

"The Wolverine" (Starring Hugh Jackman) : A X-men Set spinoff that set in Japan, claws vs katana!

"Thor: The Dark World" (Starring Christ Hemsworth) : don't know much about the plot. Probably another fill-in for Avengers 2.

"Iron Man 3" (Starring Robert Downey Jr.) : Iron Man got help from Chinese, to go vs. Mandarin who is not Chinese, which is a movie partially funded by the Chinese! Go figure.

"Pacific Rim" (Starring...does it matter?) : What matter is that it is about giant robots fighting monster and it is directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Few Thoughts on news (Patriot, Apple, Obama)

Raven and 49ers will play for the Superbowl in 2 weeks. Too bad, my favorite team the New England Patriots lost to Raven. Tom Brady can't make the Superbowl the 6th time and no chance to tie Joe Montana's record of 4 tophies. Well, I'm speechless. Just have a feeling that Tom's last chance is gone, yes I know that he is still performing very well, but, it is just a hunch....

Another rumor that Apple is gonna make a 4.8" iPhone, on top of the upcoming 5S. I think it just has shown that Apple has bend its will to the market, kowtowing Samsung. It will make tons of money, but I think Apple somehow has lost its mojo for being a trail blazer in the techland. I still like Tim Cook's management of the company, and Jonny Ive's design. But, the company clearly doesn't have a visionary to lead them via the Red Sea. I think the tech-unicorn - iTV will be the ultimate test to the company, whether it can still wow the market. As I said before, it has nothing to do with the hardware  nor the software, it is all about the access to contents! Steve Jobs would have the guts to get the deals that he wants, but what about Tim Cook? It remains a billion-dollar question that will be answered next year, if ever.

4 more years of Obama. Does it really matter? Does it really make any difference in terms of the country is heading?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Death of HMV

I'm no prophet, but what I blog 2 years ago came true today. It's not a news to me.

Yes, I did have good time going to HMV for being a music fan. I even ran into artists there. But, time has no mercy, everything has a beginning and an end. Music retailers in the form of brick and mortar have done their services, or so-called fulfilled their historical responsibility as a distributor of music in the form of physical copy to customers. It's time to move on!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Missing you

While I'm typing, you are on the way to Los Angeles for works for about a week. Then, you will go to Tokyo for few more days. We have not been apart for that long since we got married. Though we do fight and quarrel every now and then. I hate that. I think it has a lot to do with your temper and my self-restraint. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, we are still a couple and I love you very much. I'm gonna miss you when you are away. Hope you will have a safe trip and get done with what you suppose to do. I will take care of the boys here. I miss you and would love to see you back!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My views on few tech in 2013

I'm no prophet, so I'm not trying to make predictions here, though I may still sprinkle my own views with time factor in the following. I came across a news article on web regarding whether certain tech products will come out in 2013 or not. So it just somehow got me thinking and I wanna share my thoughts here.

Apple TV vs Samsung TV

Samsung is said to release a SDK (or just the device) for its new 'revolutionary' TV technology in coming CES. It is not known what exactly it is gonna be. I think it is more to do with hardware design than software. Maybe the dimension of the TV would be dramatically changed from 16:9 to 9:16?! or the rumor flexible screen technology that allows the TV to be as thin as a cardboard that can be stuck on the wall, or it can be rolled up like the projector screen. Who know? Nonetheless, as it is said, content is always king. Hardware is nice and important at the first glance. I did get impressed by the thinnest of their TV last year when I first saw their 55" or 60" TV which was as thin as an old iPhone with a smooth metallic back. But, a TV is still a TV, particularly for a large one, it is a thing that you install at home and don't move it often. So, the form factor won't have much change in terms of impact on day-to-day use. Certainly, a brisk screen with great audio are nice. However, unless you are in showroom to compare a TV among other TVs, you don't notice the difference if you just have one at home. So, that's why the most important factor is actually how we interact with the TV.

I'm quite anxious to see what the new way that the late Steve Jobs had come up with before his death for the 'unicorn' product in Apple - the real Apple TV set. My guess is that its user interface and functions  should already been done. It should be largely in line with the existing functions or feel of iPad, iPhone and existing Apple TV box. Cuz, familiarity is the key to regular customers. Unsurprisingly, the TV will be part of the Apple ecosystem naturally in terms of getting new and sharing existing contents among devices. I'm not sure if it will have Siri or it will come with something similar to the Kinect technology to control the TV, but it must be very intuitive that it will take no time to learn how to use it. As we all know that Steve Jobs hated user manual. So, I won't surprise that the operation method of the TV would have no surprise to us, since it may just use what has already been used in other Mac or i devices. Furthermore, I think prototypes of the TV were made, testings were done and all that.

I think what's holding up the whole thing are the content providers and the actual logistics of manufacturing. The latter via Sharp should be easier, but the tricky part is to get as much as content on it during the first launch of the product. Apple is right to hold up the release of this product unless it can make a bang on the market. If a normal viewer of the Apple TV in the U.S. can't see at least as much as what they can see on their existing TV at the launch of the product, it is just not justified to make them pay a premium to get the Apple TV. Anyway, I hope Apple can sort things out quickly before some of technologies that they apply to the prototypes become old compare to what Samsung and LG can offer right now.

I think 'if' both Samsung and Apple will release their new TV this year. Samsung will sell more, but Apple will have a greater spotlight. But, the fact is that if Apple can't get all the content it wants for its TV, Samsung's comparable smart TV won't get that neither, cuz the content providers are mostly American after all. I doubt they would carve in for a Korean company over an American one in terms of content deal. Of course, what I'm talking about is for the U.S. market. The bottom line is that in spite of the large size of the pie, the tech-savvy of customers and great tech infrastructure of some countries, the battle of Google and Apple on TV will still be fought on American soil at the start. They are both American companies after all.

Facebook/Amazon Phones
Both companies have all the right and money to make their own phone. Many of their users/customers may also buy and use them because they are new and the initial incentives that they may offer. However, I don't see them to win for the long term. It is because winning a mobile phone would need to have an ecosystem with tightly integrated hardware, software (OS), services and apps for the long haul. Amazon and Facebook may be good in some of them, but Android and iOS are just too dominant in the market right now that even Microsoft has a tough time to strike for a meaningful number three. What make Facebook or Amazon any better than Microsoft even if they try? They can and will certainly try, but I just don't see them can provide meaningful competition and let alone winning it in the long haul.

Google Glasses
I'm talking about the glass that come with voice, visual with augmented reality (AR), internet browsing, etc that Google already showed in various tech shows last year. Whether Google will really release this product for real is now a more than a rumor. I don't have any doubt that Google will make this product available for retail customers in near future, but I really doubt that will become a widely popular consumer product that people will ditch their smartphones and opt for. Certainly, it will become a nice niche products that some professions (like spy, cops, army, etc) will love it, and it will be an useful product in some occasions (like rescue mission, or exploration), but it is just not gonna be something most regular people would consider as smartphone replacement. 

Generally speaking, more people like to see things without glasses than with glasses. It may have to do with beauty factor as well as comfort. That's also the same reason why 3D TV will never have the consumer adoption as existing TV as long as viewers have to put the damn 3D glasses on. Namely, naked eye 3D TV is the end game! For glasses wearing people, even they have no choice but sticking in a comfortable armchair in the dark to view movies with the 3D glasses on top of their own glasses, it is not necessary they will buy Google Glasses as well, cuz it is beyond silly to wear 2 pair of glasses walking around like a dork on the street! No matter how cool the glasses are supposed to be advertised to be, it is just not gonna happen!

Furthermore, one of the main attraction of Google Glasses is to be able to browse AR around. But, I just don't see AR is commonly found around. It may be a matter of catch22, the more Google Glasses around, more AR will be installed and vice versa. However, would somebody has ever mentioned to Google that seeing AR around could actually be a matter of nuisance! Hearing sound is unavoidable, it is matter of evolution. We have to hear all sounds to keep us alert of any danger in our environment. Nowadays, we can filter some sounds with some hearing aids. But visually, we actually can somehow naturally choose to focus on one thing and ignore the rest. AR will be like visual noise that distract our attention when we try to focus and it sometimes would become a safety issue. Then, we may demand further enhanced technology for us to 'filter' out unwanted AR, that would be kinda messy! 

The next iPhone and...
A recent rumor is that the next iPhone is being tested. I'm not surprised at all. Whether it is gonna be  named 5S or 6, it wouldn't really matter. I think the current form factor is fine. Apple is being seduced to produce bigger screen iPhones like Samsung does. I think Apple will stick to its current form factor at least for next generation or until it can find a way to make sure the change of form factor will not affect the viewing quality of its apps and the manual comfort in operation. Overall, I doubt there will be dramatic changes for iPhone in the next few years as well, other than those predictable incremental upgrade of speed, internal power, battery life, weight/thickness, camera power, and perhaps the addition of functions like NFC. Once Apple make the iPhone to come with a silly variety of colors, that means this product is matured.
The other rumor is that Apple is working on iWatch or some kinds of wearable computer. I think they are possible, but I really doubt such things would become the next blockbuster product like iPad or iPhone. I would guess iWatch will be somewhat like the last generation of square -shaped iPod Nano which was custom-ed by some 3rd party companies with a watch belt to make the device wearable. Some people found that cool, but what is the actual usage of an iWatch then, I can't help to ask? As a watch, a camera, a phone, a browser and all of the above? I think the fundamental problem is that it is just not comfortable to operate/view/use a device that tied to our wrist for a reasonable period of time that comparable to how long we normally use an iPhone for. Cuz, with the device on the wrist, we automatically lost one hand to use it, and the viewing angle of a watch is just not that comfortable, compared to have the device lying on our palms. Regarding the so-called 'wearable computer', I really can't think of its actual functions neither. The operation part of that computer may be better, cuz we may have a greater surface area to work with. For example, if the form factor is like a long coat, buttons could be in our pocket, or at arm length on the thigh area. However, how will we view the operating results? screen on the body is just not for us but for other people to see. Unless the wearable computer is targeted for performance artists, advertisers, or  someone who has heavy duty on delivering visual communication, otherwise, I can't see what such computer is for.

Well, that's all for this time.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year Wishes for reference

I came across this today in, and like it quite a lot, just wanna share it here with anyone interested.