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All BS aside, we have questions to answer here:
1) “are these Pixies songs?” and 2) “are these good songs?”

Thankfully, the answer to both is “yup.”


https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/indie-cindy/id835625246

Disclosure: I’m a life-long Pixies freak, and I was very very very skeptical about this whole thing. I loved the reunion, and was super-glad they were finally getting some bank for all their historical influence. Sure, I wanted new tunes, but if they “weren’t feelin’ it” then, hey, don’t force it. Right?

So I didn’t like “Bagboy” when it came out. To me it sounded like a blatant attempt at trying to apply the “Pixies formula,” which it probably was. Surprisingly, I’ve actually grown to like “Bagboy” a bit; I still think it’s too long and a tad forced, but it’s actually pretty catchy. Damn them Pixies.

I totally understand the bar that’s been set here: this is one heck of a legacy to live up to. What I don’t understand is the haters. This album is better than most of what’s currently out there in this, or any genre. The songs are, for the most part, smart, fun, rocking, sometimes surprising, and ultimately addictive. But because this is the (gulp) Pixies, there seems to be this crazy standard out there, that, Kim-or-no-Kim, they simply could never have lived up to.

I also understand some of the confusion over releasing the EPs, and then this “album” (with the exact same songs). But this release strategy worked perfectly for someone like me. I wasn’t that jazzed about the first EP, I liked the 2nd one (but didn’t purchase), I saw some videos and liked them, and by the time the 3rd EP came out I knew I was going to buy the album, if not out of pure “want” out of loyalty. These guys (and gal) have influenced my life so much, I can spare $9.99 even if they just fart into a mic for 45 minutes.

So I plunked, and after repeated listening most of the songs are growing on me. It’s obvious that they put a lot of thought and heart into these tunes, and it’s appreciated. I find myself dialing up Indie Cindy a lot, in fact. More than I thought I would when I initially payed the $9.99 into iTunes, like coins in the can of one of my favorite bands.

Yes. Indie Cindy is good. But, I don’t think Indie Cindy tracks that well as an album. It’s more of a collection of tunes, which is fine, because I don’t listen to many albums like that anymore, anyway (yes, I know, heresy). So, shuffled in with my other new music, most of these tracks stand out well, and almost always have me nodding along and trying to sing the harmonies. More importantly, they shuffle well with the rest of the Pixies catalog.

The production is top-notch, and if you liked the Gil Norton phase of the first Pixies run, then you’re more likely to like this. The mix, arrangement and professional polish actually helps a lot of these songs. I don’t think they could’ve gotten away with Steve Albini on this batch. So take that as you will. …for me it’s not an issue.

All the elements are there, too. The “Pixies thing” that even Kurt Cobain acknowledged ripping off. The 3/4 time. The “loud quiet loud.” The quirkily melodic guitar lines. The appropriately odd chord shuffles. The screams.

The opener “What Goes Boom” is very rockin, and very cool. A good first track.

It’s got just enough “Pixies” in it to make it seem like it could’ve gone on Trompe Le Monde. The changes are good, too, and it’s just the right length. “Another Toe In The Ocean” could’ve graced TLM, too.

“Blue Eyed Hex” is probably my least favorite song of the bunch, but I didn’t like Bossanova’s “Stormy Weather” either, and they’re very similar.

“Indie Cindy,” “Greens and Blues” and “Magdalena 318” could’ve easily been on Bossanova (my personal dark horse favorite Pixies album). They’re all velvety and meandering and sinewy and wonderful, and no surprise that these are the three most popular tracks.

“Ring the Bell” and “Jaime Bravo” are just bouncy poppy wonderful little tunes. Not exactly classic Pixies, maybe, but Pixies nonetheless.

“Snakes” is pretty different, but a great rock song. Reminds me of They Might Be Giants in a way, which is not a bad thing.

“Silver Snail” and “Andro Queen” are droners, but nice in that way.

But, alas, no Kim. Duh.

Look. I think a lot of the Haters forget that 99.9% of the original Pixies songs were Black Francis’ songs. Kim only had “Gigantic” (and “Into the White” if that counts). Sure, back in the day, we all wished Kim had had more of an overt contribution per album (like Spiral Stairs in Pavement, etc). But Doolittle was very Kim-heavy, even though none of those were “her” songs, because her backing vox were strong on pretty much every tack. We easily forget that she was relegated to the fringes on Bossanova and even more so on TLM.

That said, let’s be honest here: many of these tracks could’ve used her. For background vocals, at the very least. And, honestly, it would’ve been easy to do. I really don’t know why they just didn’t make that happen (yes, yes, I know she “left” the rehearsals and the band, and it sucked and was a bummer and such). But they really should’ve just taken these finished songs, just as they are now, and driven a portable studio to her house and begged her to sing a sprinkling of backing vox on 10-out-of-12 of these tracks. It would’ve added that magical “something” that a lot of people seem to be missing. That magic that made, say, “Velouria” so awesome… where she merely sang the letters at the end of the song. How hard is that?

But she’s not here, and it is what it is.

I’ll put this review in plain terms, so everyone can understand it:

Indie Cindy is a collection of Pixies songs. As a whole, it’s better than Trompe Le Monde. But not better than Bossanova. The songs just aren’t in the same vein as Doolittle, or Surfer Rosa / Come on Pilgrim, but that’s okay. The Pixies weren’t the same after Doolittle, either, and I have a feeling some of the same people bitching about Indie Cindy bitched about Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde when they came out. Or maybe they weren’t born yet?

To me, these songs seem like a legitimate, honest continuation of where they left off in the mid 90’s. And that’s pretty cool.

TLDR; Indie Cindy is a pleasant surprise. Kim’s absence is certainly noticed, but this collection of songs is way better than it has any right to be.

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Well, at least they got the story right.

I'll call you back later, I have to save the Earth

I'll call you back later, I have to save the Earth

In about 100 minutes they managed to explain a very complicated series of rapid-fire events in an understandable, and even entertaining way. The writing was engaging. The acting was great. And so forth.

But ultimately, HBO’s “Too Big To Fail”… fails… because it punts on the whole “blame” issue.

Why with the blame? Well, put simply, so we don’t do this shit again.

Yes, yes yes. The bankers were greedy idiots: hard-headed and childish zillionaires who nearly brought down our entire economic system because they were dumb enough to believe (or to convince themselves) that “real estate only goes up”.

(I mean, really? Real Estate always goes up? Never down? Really? It still boggles my mind that this is even a question. Gah.)

“Too Big To Fail” does a decent job of casting that concept in it’s proper light: a pale illumination of disdain.

Where HBO’s “Too Big To Fail” falls short is ONLY blaming the bankers.

This is a huge, historical mistake.

TBTF completely dismisses Congress and multiple decades of terrible, terrible decisions on everything from Freddie & Fannie, to the FHA, to the CRA. Instead, the film chooses to serve up the “de-regulation” canard in whispy, vague intro scenes (are housing quotas “regulation” or “de-regulation”?).

What’s more, “TBTF” completely lets consumers (us) off the hook.

In this case it took THREE to tango: 1) The greedy, bankers 2) the maybe-well-intentioned but ultimately bumbling and hurtful bureaucrats who first incentivized, and supported those bankers, and 3) the millions of willing homeowners who were also greedy, and bumbling, and now are whining a lot.

We can argue “chicken-egg-chicken” here, but anyone who knows anything about this mess knows that, although the bankers deserve all the disdain we can muster, the other two major players deserve just as much attention.

But “Too Big To Fail” isn’t about those other 2 legs of the stool. It’s about the bankers, and their interaction w/ Paulson, and the slap-dash series of events that took place in the fall of 2008. So it’s understandable that it didn’t dive deep into, say, specific legislation, or some poor, dumb family caught trying to flip some houses.

If “Too Big To Fail” had stayed on topic, then it would be fine. But they didn’t.

Understandably, though, they did try to explain what was going on.

In one painfully obvious scene (putting the 4th wall in much peril) Paulson and his advisors “talk through” how the shit actually got into the fan.

It’s in this scene where “TBTF” willfully ignores The Government’s role in encouraging the build-up, and at the same time washes away any homeowners’ responsibility with the old “American Dream” chestnut; all in about 20 seconds of screen time. This is a damn shame, because they really didn’t have to say much here to be accurate. But instead they chose to perpetuate the fallacy that it was ALL the fault of the bankers.

(Remember kids: bankers are evil, politicians are just there to help, and we consumers can do no wrong.)

The problem here is that, it’s movies like this, about crises like this, that will actually help shape history. And it’s in this little scene that HBO’s “Too Big To Fail” essentially absolves the other 2 legs of the stool of any blame.

Unforgivable.

And what’s extra frustrating is “TBTF” came so darn close to being nonpartisan. All they had to do here, in this short little scene, was be ACCURATE.

= Accuracy FAIL.

Instead, they chose pitchforks and populism. And they just might get away with it because the Bankers are, in fact, pretty darn evil.

So, ultimately, “Too Big To Fail” ends up being a love letter to Hank Paulson. Does he deserve it? Maybe so. But along the way they missed a simple, and important opportunity to help educate the public about what really happened. And why.

It’s a near-miss. Which sucks, because it’s not a bad movie. In fact it’s a pretty darn good movie. But as a historical document, HBO’s “Too Big To Fail” will be doomed to repeats.

Yeah. I just wrote that.

Yes. I’m a geek.

I’ve waited a couple years now for this particular camera to come out, because I’ve so-loved the Lumix series from the get-go. I’ve gotten so much good use out of my old FX7, and took many fantabulous pics with that little bad boy, that, in my mind, Lumix could do no wrong.

In general, the Lumix line is very underrated, and hence a darn good value (especially compared to Canon). In fact, the FX75’s big brother, the Lumix ZS7, has become the “sleeper” hit of the year. Being generally regarded as the best, most versatile compact camera without being a full-on DSLR.

But for the FX70/75 specifically, I liked the idea of having such a wide, bright lens (a Leica @ 2.2 no less), in such a small package.

Even though Panasonic is notorious for not including even basic manual features in their ultra-compacts, I have a fancy-schmancy DSLR for the really important stuff, so a micro-snapper, albeit totally “automatic”, is a good thing to have in my workflow.

The FX75 an extremely small camera (think deck of cards), with a very sturdy build. Its pre-set “modes” are nice and varied which helps offset the lack of manual control a tiny bit. It even takes darn good “flash” pictures (for weddings, parties, etc), with a better-than-normal color/flash/exposure balance, which is something even decent DSLRs have a problem with.

The image quality of the 14-megapixel Lumix DMC-FX75 is very, very good, too. As long as you’re under IS0-800, you’re going to get a low-noise, crisp image with great, accurate color. However, the built-in “sharpening” tends to look a bit wonky on small details like leaves, or other natural elements. But, weirdly, with more man-made details (architecture, bricks, cars) that same sharpening algorithm actually helps the image. So, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. In fact, I really wish they had an option to turn this “feature” off, allowing the user to apply their own “sharpening” in post via Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture.

But no. The FX70/75 insists on doing EVERYTHING for you.

The touch screen is a welcome feature too (even if you don’t use it to “take” pictures”, you can use it to assign focus, navigate menus, etc), and the visibility of the LCD in daylight really isn’t that big of a deal.

Because of that handy Touch Screen, there are very few physical buttons on the FX75. One of them is the “MODE” button which, when pressed, presents 4 on-screen choices: “Normal Picture” (a poor man’s “manual” mode); “Intelligent Auto” (which actually does a pretty good job of guessing your needs); “Scene Mode” (which takes you to a larger scene menu: sports, landscape, candlelight, etc, etc); and… “Cosmetic Mode” (which allows you to adjust face tones).

Wait. What? Really guys? You have 4 options and one of them is a “Cosmetic Mode”? Is this supposed to be “The Fashion Camera” or something? At the very least the user should be able to assign that 4th choice, either with a commonly-used “Scene Mode” or a user-created variation for an extra “Normal Picture” mode. But if that’s an option, I haven’t found it (because the 100 page manual is a bit intimidating, and a PDF). Nevertheless, dedicating such a prominent UI element to a “Cosmetic Mode” seems, well, strange.

That said, it’s not that big of a deal.

What IS a big deal is that this camera, as noted to some degree in all the reviews so far, is that the Lumix DMC FX75 has pretty major highlight and shadow problems, especially when shooting in the “normal picture” mode. If you’re outside, on a sunny-ish day, casually shooting pics, you are going to end up with a ton of snaps that are either blown-out, or way under-exposed. And, more often than not, you’ll have both problems in one picture. Literally white-white highlights AND black-black shadows. It’s really sad, actually.

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(NOTE: these 3 images are shown in their original capture state first, and then as “adjusted”: my valiant attempt to eek-down the highlights and nudge-up shadows in post. As you can see, the progress even on these non-extreme examples was minimal, at best.)

Yes: all cameras have their pluses and minuses. But this little camera has SO much going for it that these very basic exposure issues are a huge let-down. Frankly, this is an issue that feels very “2001” in terms of technical performance. The FX75 has all these wonderfully modern bells and whistles, but when you check out your pictures of that family picnic, you’ll find yourself shaking your head and asking “jeesh…really?”.

The FX75 does provide an “intelligent exposure” option, which helps this dilemma a bit, but if you have that option turned on it overrides your ISO preferences even in “normal picture” mode. So all of a sudden you may get stuck with an ISO-1600 picture (which is extremely noisy) taken in the daytime (which is crazy).

Overall, it’s almost as if they paid so much attention to the glitter and zaz of the FX75 that they glossed over the basics: ie., capturing a properly-exposed image.

They could’ve included an HDR or RAW option so at least you’d have some room to play on the back end. But, sadly, no. You’re stuck with more than an expectable number of badly exposed JPGs.

I don’t know if something like a “firmware upgrade” can fix this problem, but I certainly hope so. Because if they can find a way to fix this, they’ll have one of, if not THE best camera in its class. If not, I’ll probably have to try and sell this (quick, before word gets out!), and buy another mini-snapper. And that’s a real shame.

I’m sorry Lumix. I’m your biggest fan. But, as-is, the DMC FX75 (FX70) is a real heart breaker.

HERE ARE SOME OTHER (MORE TECHNICAL, AND GREAT) REVIEWS OF THE PANASONIC LUMIC DMC-FX75 (FX70)

Steve’s Digicams
Photography Blog
Digital Camera Review
PC World
Squidoo
Pocket Lint

The 10 Best (and worst) SNL Characters of Kristen Wiig

kristen wiig

No question about it: Kristen Wiig is a force. She’s one of the most refreshing Saturday Night Live players we’ve been blessed with in decades. She’s cute. She’s smart. She’s insanely talented. And, lucky for us, she’s a work-a-holic.

Despite the perennial claims that “SNL has gone downhill!”, Kristen (can I call you Kristen?) is one of those go-to cast members that always has at least a chance of saving a bad episode.

Did the network book another Athelete?
Reality Show Cast-Off?
Politician?

Well, have no fear. Chances are that Ms Wiig will reach into her seemingly endless bag of tricks, and save the show. Or, at the very least provide a few precious moments of levity in an otherwise excruciating 90 minutes of slow, comedic death.

I would even venture to say that Kristen Wiig is not only the best current cast member, but one of the best ever. And that’s saying something.

Is she perfect? No. As often happens for such a talented and hyper-active contributor, she’s often over-used. And it’s certainly possible to get too much of a good thing.

That doesn’t happen too much, thankfully, because the current SNL cast is pretty good overall.

But what also often happens with these freakishly prolifically creative types of personalities like Kristen’s, is that there’s just so much output that you’re bound to get some bad apples in the bunch.

It’s simply a consequence of volume.

That’s probably not her fault, either. First of all, it’s not ultimately her job to edit herself (or at least it shouldn’t be). She seems like the kind of person you wind up, let loose, and then pare-down after the dust settles. And I would venture to guess Lorne Michaels probably doesn’t want to over-use her better characters either (although it’s probably not that calculated).

So what we’re left with is a hardy bunch of fantastic characters, skits and bits… and a handful of, well, no so great characters and skits.

Not really complaining, though. Because having someone as talented as Kristen Wiig lay a rotten egg on Live TV is still pretty damn good.

So, without further hemming / hawing, I present to you:

The 10 Best (and worst) SNL Characters of Kristen Wiig:

– BEST –

“Babe” (One-of-Two A-Holes)

A Hole

Yes. This reoccurring character has reoccurred, well, a lot. A whole lot. But even when we find ourselves thinking “…oh, not these guys again…” they always manage to eek a reluctant laugh out of me anyway. These are people we’ve all run into in real life, and Wiig plays the setup-gal perfectly. Twirling her hair, smacking her gum, perfectly and beautifully oblivious. The main question we have after watching this skit is “how are these people still alive?”

“Target Lady” (Over-Zealous Kitsch-Collecting Cashier)

Target Lady

Yes, she’s clichéd, and singular. Perhaps overly-focused, a bit too “inside”. But Target Lady still makes the GOOD list because, well, she’s likeable. She’s kinda slow upstairs. More than slightly annoying. But if you encountered her in real life, you’d probably chuckle. An incredulous “is this really happening to me?” type chuckle, but a chuckle nonetheless.

“Junice Merill” (Slightly-Off Laurwence Welk Performer)

Junice

When I first saw this skit I almost split my gut. The set-up was pretty pat, standard SNL fare, but with the first reveal of Junice –with her freakish doll hands and car-hood-for-a-forehead– you realize you’re in for a real treat. Perhaps the best moment was her jabbily enthousiastic attempt at bubble catching at the end. Absolutely classic.

“Aunt Linda” (Weekend Update Movie Reviewer)

Aunt Linda

So glad to see “Amy Poehler’s Aunt Linda” didn’t leave with Amy Poehler, because that would’ve been a real shame. Because of all the stabled Weekend Update “Contributors”, Aunt Linda is easily one of the best. Seriously… “Apoklypto !?” Comon! Everyone has a relative that would’ve said the same thing, which is why it’s so friggin awesome. And instead of “thumbs up” or “stars” as a rating scale, she has these little twisted face icons. Friggin brilliant. Don’t like Aunt Linda? I’ve got one word for you: “Gah!”

“Michelle Dison” (Bi-Curious Local Reporter)

Michelle Dison

What’s funny to me about Michelle Dison (besides the obvious), is you’ve gotta wonder… where in the Hell did this character come from? We’ve all seen newscasters do some pretty amazing things, but this is just nuts. And somehow, even after you “get” the initial joke, it stays funny as Wiig keeps ushering it along. Sure, Dison’s a one-trick, and wouldn’t be as funny if she were over-used. But she’s not. So yay us.

“Shana” (Sexy-But-So-Very-Un-Sexy Siren)

Shana

The Shana sketches are in essence an exercise in what constitutes sexy, and what constitutes “oh-my-god-i-feel-ill” in our society; and the extremes of each men are willing to put up with. Sometimes venturing into nuanced fetishism (You pooped your pants? Awesomez!), Shana shines a revealing light on both men and women’s perceptions of… oh, whatever. It’s funny! What’s also cool is that it’s actually kind of hard to tell at first that it’s actually Kristen Wiig under there. I don’t know if it’s the makeup, the acting, or the fact that I can be a bit thick sometimes, but it took me a few seconds to realize it was actually her. Which makes Shana even better, in my book.

– WORST –

“Penelope” (The Consummate One-Upper)

Penelope

The term “heebie jeebies” comes to mind here. Because whenever Penelope shows up on SNL (which is way too often by half), I feel bad for Kristen, and I feel sorry for me (actually, me more). The premise is pretty simple: Penelope, who is beyond-desperate for attention, will take whatever someone says, and will “top it”. And the top that. And that. And so on. The only thing that’s vaguely interesting is “how” she one-ups each statement, but even that’s so hit-and-miss, it only serves to remind us how good Kristen can be… and how good Penelope is not.

“Judy Grimes” (Weekend Update Travel Writer)

Judy Grimes

What Judy Grimes has to do with travel, I’ll never know. But what Wiig does here is pretty amazing. That is, if you’re a student at Second City or a UCB Bunny. Judy Grimes is merely comedic histrionics. The improv equivalent of the ‘ol “Peggy Babcock” vocal exercise. The Yngwie Malmsteen-ing of one, small, lame joke. Sure, it’s impressive on a technical level (which is why the studio audience always reacts favorably), but it falls flat for the folks in TV Land.

“Gilly” (Mischevious Schoolgirl)

Gilly

This relatively new invention by Wiig is all of a sudden on every other show. In fact, they named last season’s Christmas Special after her: “A Very Gilly Christmas”. Why? God only knows. The sad part is, Gilly has the DNA of a good character. There’s something intriguing there. We’ve got a faintly funny costume and hairdo, a grin and those darling darting eyes… but that alone doesn’t-a-quality-character make. The Gilly skits are plodding, and predictable… although, her little dance is kind of funny. Sort of.

“Sue” (Surprise Party Pooper)

Sue

OK. Everyone has a friend that just loooves surprises, right? And they love surprises soooo much that they end up actually blowing the surprise? Right? Right? Well…um… no. And that’s the problem with Sue. She’s not grounded in any real truth at all. None. Anywhere. And the fact that her family is always soooo surprised at her strange behavior concerning the surprise, Sue just wreaks of hack. I mean, really, this is the first time she’s exhibited bizarre behavior? Also (and this is a tell) Sue is eerily reminiscent of Penelope in that she “pops up” in the scene. And, just when you think she’s done, she “pops up” again. Derivative of another bad character, no less. Seriously, Sue. Uncle.

+++

As with all of these “best/worst” lists, much of this is obviously one-man’s opinion. So take it with a grain (or three) of salt. But the main point still stands: that even Kristen Wiig’s “worst” characters are still damn awesome.

“Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography”

Sparky felt unloved
“I’ll show them,” he said And did.
Big heads in white space

@ amazon.com

Lots going on in the consumer world… we’re preparing action items concerning our 3 favorites here, due out in the next couple of weeks:

“Lacie, redux”

“T-Mobile, OMG!”

And, last but not least, a new ongoing series entitled:

“The MTA owes me some muthafucking money!”

Or, some other title that *might* be more fit for consumption 😉

Stay tuned, and thanks for the hits.

e

A month ago, after way too much research, I finally plunked for the Dell 2408WFP SuperSharp (and super sexy) LCD monitor. But since it’s one of these newfangled “wide gamut” monitors, I realized I couldn’t get by with the ‘ol Apple “sysprefs” calibrations I’ve been doing for years. And since I need to “soft proof” ads and photos for a living… I realized I needed a real calibration tool.

So, after a lot more research I settled on the X-Rite “Eye-One Display 2”. Aka “the best mid-range calibrator with the worst name.” And, well, I bought it.

http://www.xrite.com/product_overview.aspx?ID=788

$299 retail. And here’s the skinny.

When you first open the box, out comes the main unit, which is dangle “tool” that looks like a computer mouse. How it works is you hang that over your screen, and the software sends information to the screen. The donglemouse thing then reads that information, and sends feedback about the monitor back to the software. And viola! A perfect calibration.

Sounds great, right? Well. Not so fast.

Aside from the danglemouse, a weight for the cord (to help secure it) and a plastic “rest/ambient light detector” there is almost ZERO documentation.

No manual. No bullet points. No nothing.

The only bit of information you get is a “Quick Start” Guide, which is just a folded piece of paper that opens to about 10 panels. 4 of which are filled with legal mumbo. And each of the remaining panels supposedly giving you a “step” (in 10 languages at the same time, no less). Overall it’s very, very basic. Weirdly basic, actually. And not very helpful.

So then you go to plug in the dongle mouse, and there’s a warning on it: “INSTALL SOFTWARE BEFORE PLUGGING IN DONGLEMOUSE!”

Wait. It didn’t say anything about that in the comprehensive quickstart guide!

So I put the CD in my computer, and I noticed right away there are some very “OS9”-looking icons in the menu, which is never a good sign. But I soldiered on.

The CD contained a bunch of folders; way, way too many folders for any install disk. And among them I noticed there were some “tutorials”, so I tucked my pride behind my ear and opened the first tutorial. And, well, it was okay. Aside from the announcer pronouncing random words badly, and loudly, the whole calibration process seemed simple enough. The important thing being it gave me more information than the quickstart guide.

After the tutorial was finished I was still left with a jumble of files and folders on the CD. And not knowing which I should click, or what to install, I first tried dragging the icon called “EyeOne” onto the desktop, simply because it was the only “professional-looking” icon of the bunch. But when I double-clicked it, it showed an antiquated-looking menu screen with “Match” “Share” and “Diagnostics” buttons on it. And when I clicked each of them, it didn’t do anything.

So, I opened the folder on the CD called “installers”, and found the same names as on the zombie program, plus one folder entitled “Pantone”. So I painstakingly installed each of these from this folder. Each one seeming to use a different installer program. Seriously, really?

Of course I had NO idea what each of these do. Or did. What the hell is “Match”? Is that where I match my monitor to something else? Is “Share” a utility that allows me to give and receive calibrations, somehow? And what is “Diagnostics”? How is it different from “Match”? Of course, I know what “Pantone” is, but is it really a necessary install? Again, there was ZERO information on what these things are, and I really, really hate installing unnecessary software, especially bloatware onto my computer. But I felt I had no choice here. I wanted this thing to work. I NEEDed it to work, and work well. So I installed everything… and to this day I have no idea what I installed. Or changed. Or, more importantly, if I screwed anything up on my system.

Okay. So everything was installed, I think (?), and I clicked on “Diagnostics” first, because my gut told me that that was the main calibration program.

My gut was wrong.

Apparently “diagnostics” is a program that is supposed to tell me if my monitor “is okay”. Whatever that means (again, zero documentation).

I clicked “start” and immediately it chastised me for not having my mouse dongle plugged in. So I quickly plugged it in, and it asked me to put it on a “neutral surface”. I remembered the ancient-looking tutorial told me something about a “black” surface, so I put it on the little bit of the box that was black. I have no idea if that was the right thing, or not. Oh well. Pressing on.

And… well… it froze.

Somewhere between checking the output of something, and the black level of something else, it completely locked up my system.

So after a generous 10 minutes of le beachball du spinno, I had to force-quit.

I relaunched, and again, right in the middle of measuring the “black” swatch, it froze.

I restarted. Tried again. And it froze. Again.

Oh well. Maybe I didn’t need that part of the program? I mean, on the whole, based on the price tag, that’s a $98 program right there that doesn’t work. So, thanks for that.

Moving on.

At this point I looked into my Applications folder, where everything is usually placed, and, as I guessed, there it was… an “Eye-One” folder. And in there was a program called “Calibration”. Aha! I opened it up, and it looked just like the program they used the old-school tutorial movie.

I let out a sigh of relief, and quickly wiped the breath fog off my new monitor.

I should point out here that I *still* don’t know what that other program was, or what the “Match” “Share” and “Diagnostics” buttons on it did. Well, we know that it didn’t work. But I digress…

Turns out the main calibration program is called “Eye-One Match” (aha! …wha?), and it gives you a simple window that offers “easy” and “advanced” settings, and there are, surprisingly, instructions on the top right of the window that you can access by clicking the little buttons. It tells you what you’re supposed to be doing, and even clarifies some terminology in case you need it. A novel concept.

I did an “easy” calibration first, and it took almost no time at all. However, the end result was a bit too dark, and I realized that, for my monitor at least, there were still some pretty heavy brightness/contrast settings to mutz with, and even some RGB sliders that pack quite a wallup. So I decided to dive right into “advanced” mode.

To my surprise, even that went swimmingly. In a nutshell, all you have to do is let the donglemouse do it’s measurements and give you the results, then you tweak your monitor’s settings, and then let donglemouse do a re-measurement. And repeat.

This worked very well for “manual” RGB, which I ducked to 75% for all of them initially, so I’d have room to move.

And, well, I ended up with a damn gorgeous calibration! It was significantly “deeper” in saturation than my previous, “by eye” calibration. But, unfortunately, the “contrast” portion of the calibration didn’t work at all. It kept telling me that it was 100% spot-on, even though I would wildy swing the contrast values back and forth. Obviously it was broken, which sucks. But I like to set the contrast where I like it to “look” anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal to me. But the fact that it simply didn’t work is pretty crappy. Also, there was no “brightness” adjustment phase, even thought the tutorial, and the program itself, promised there would be one. Again, not the end of the world because I just set the brightness (like contrast) on my monitor to levels I like, which I did this time and then had the Eye-One concentrate on the RGBs.

Well, there you go. A damn convoluted review of a necessary, but poorly executed calibration device. Did I get the calibration I needed? Yes. But the rub here is that X-Rite just didn’t do their powerful little “donglemouse that could” justice. The documentation is spotty at best, completely confusing, and otherwise non-existant. And, perhaps more importantly, the software is woefully out of date and seriously flawed. It’s almost as if the same guys who built the hardware also designed the software and wrote instructions. Which we all know is never a good idea.

Honestly I feel like I’ve gotten about $50 worth of my $200+ spent on the Eye-One Display-2. And that sucks, because I really, really wanted to like thing.

THE RESULTS:

YAY:
It does what it says it does. It gives you a decent calibration quickly (ala “easy” mode), or a great calibration semi-quickly (via “advanced” mode). Not a lot of parts to keep track of. Solid build.

BOO:
Uninspired presentation. Absolutely horrible documentation. Embarassingly out-of-date, confused, and crippled software.

GESTALT:
Not worth the money. But these problems could be easily fixed by manufacturer, and then it would be well-worth it.

Explode. As in a good way.

A few years ago I got a low-rez .mp3 off of pitchforkmedia from a TVT band called Ambulance LTD. Which I immediately confused with Son, Ambulance, on Saddle Creek Records, but no mind.

After a few months of this sneakily catchy song, “Primitive”, creeping onto my iPod playslists, I decided to investigate further, and I immediately bought everything of this addictive young “Spanish Harlem” indie rock band I could get my hands on. Which, unfortunately, was not a lot: a self-titled EP, a full-length, creatively-titled “LP” (album-naming clearly taking a second billing), and a smattering of loose demos, three songs released especially for DKNY, and finally, in 2006, another EP: “New English EP”.

And then nothing. For two full years.

So last fall I went searching again.

And of course they have a website (not-often updated) and a myspace.com page (slightly less not-often updated), but nothing more. Just a lot of comments asking the question I wanted to ask: “where the fuck ARE these guys?”

Then, over the Holidays last year, I heard their song “Anecdote” on a commercial. Of course I had my usual reaction when I hear a band that’s near-and-dear to me show up in a commercial… “Oh hey… wow… FUCK!”.

I know, I know. Pretty conflicted for a marketing guy, but moving on.

What made their commercial debut slightly better for me was the immediate rash of metoo songs in commercials that rather blatantly ripped them off. A very good sign for a band, methinks.

And then, last week, I re-checked their myspace page: …”Oh hey… wow… FUCK!”

They announced a tour…! The first one in YEARS!

And it was last month. Great.

Anyway. Even though I am beyond super-bummed not to be able to see these guys live, even though it was at the fight-or-flight-inducing Mercury Lounge (drink or pee, the choice is yours)… despite many, many lineup changes (never, ever good) …and despite this video of the lead singer/guitarist/creator Marcus Congelton blathering SoCal-style in a grimy wifebeater (which, apparently, unfortunately, he wears a lot)… I am making the call. Right here. Right now.

The call: Very soon Ambulance LTD will be a household name.

If you’ve been watching TV at all in the last two weeks you just might have seen the latest Red Lobster commercial, advertising their “Jumbo Shrimp”.

What’s strange is, although this seems like your ordinary, run-of-the-mill Red Lobster commercial with the nautical imagery and the gratuitously suggestive lemon wedge squrtings… they’ve actually broken new ground in marketing. Yes. It’s true.

Normally, they would call it “Jumbo Shrimp Week” or “Jumbo Shrimp Extravaganza!!!”. And the copy would read something like:

“Come on in to Red Lobster during our Jumbo Shrimp Extravaganza!!! and get all you can eat buttery, golden-broiled shrimp”… blah blah blah.

But, since Red Lobster is now defiantly re-shaping the English language, the copy goes like this:

“Come on in to Red Lobster during Jumbo Shrimp and get all you can eat buttery, golden-broiled shrimp”…

….um, wha?

That’s right. Red Lobster has apparently run out of catchy “event” monikers, and have decided to just go with the proper “sea name” instead. We can look forward to “seabass”, “scallop” “fried clam” and even “cod” sometime in the near future. They were even too cool to simply put the word “week” after the damnd thing. How can we know how long it’s supposed to last?

So it’s “Jumbo Shrimp”. Now acceptable to be used like other terms meaning “extended length of time: eg, “Rhamadan”, “sweeps” or “finals”.

No, not the end of the advertising world. Just. Damn. Weird.

blah blah I I I
typical american
Me Me blah blah crap

-submitted by my sister