Genetically Superior


Dynolicious: is not about dinosaurs at all by Tony
August 23, 2008, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Technology, Written by Tony | Tags: , , , , ,

Dynolicious iPhone applicationIn fact, it’s the only application in the iPhone’s new library of (awesome) applications that I didn’t mind paying for. And I paid a lofty $12 for it too.

Now that I’ve hyped it, Dynolicious is a super-sweet employment of the iPhone’s accelerometers: it measures the acceleration of your car using its advanced three-axis accelerometer.

Of course, I was skeptical from the beginning. I wondered whether the sensors in the iPhone would be sensitive enough to give accurate readings, and wondered if it was just a glorified stopwatch that was more gimmick than gearhead gotta-have. So after leaving work one day, I took the long way home and did some time trials.

I live at the edge of Columbia, Missouri so it’s easy to find long, flat, empty, straight two-lane roads all around my home. It didn’t take long to find a suitable one, outside the city limits and the range of police patrols (I hoped).

Keeping an eye out for traffic [of course], I launched the application and set my iPhone down on my center console. I revved my engine, tapped the Start Test button, waited a couple seconds for the application to calibrate, and then dropped the clutch.

My ’96 Nissan Altima—all 150 horses of it—jumped and raced to the 60 mph mark. When Dynolicious had calculated I had traveled 1000 feet, it vibrated to signal the test was over. The results:

0-60 in 12.2; 136 HP

Which seemed to be pretty accurate. I was soft on the clutch, so I didn’t get the quickest launch I could have. As for the 136 horses, the application is set to measure horsepower at the wheels, so a 15 HP reduction from engine to wheel is definitely acceptable, especially before taking engine mileage and the rough estimate for weight that I input to the system into account.

[For more on the accuracy, read here]

The skidpad feature is pretty sweet as well. It definitely makes driving the twisty two-lanes more fun, even if glancing down to check the current g-reading on a blind curve qualifies as abhorrently dangerous.

My advice: if you’ve read this far and have stayed interested through the gearhead gobbledigook—and own an iPhone or iPod Touch—buy it.

Advertisements


Anatomy of a College Party Movie by Tony
August 2, 2008, 1:18 pm
Filed under: Movie Reviews, Written by Tony | Tags: , , , ,

For eager freshmen, dreaming of their days of limitless debauchery, and alumni drawn back into glossy-eyed reminiscence of nights spent any way but asleep, there is a clear champion of the college party genre: National Lampoon’s Animal House. Its legacy in campus culture is forever emblazoned in “To-ga! To-ga!” chants, and is seen on every campus in T-shirts with “College” stamped across the front.

The tale of a houseful of Greek miscreants and their battle to be the best — at being the worst — is the essence of the college movie. Animal House’s formula has influenced films for decades, and hasn’t stopped short on the upcoming film, College (not to be confused with Raven Symone’s College Road Trip which sucked), which will be released August 29. Included in the trailer are obligatory “don’t remember” tattoos, pubescents rounding second base, and a heap of traditional fraternity hazing.

It’s all part of the standard curriculum here in College Movie Anatomy 101, where the golden equation is:

Babes + Beer + Scheming Frat Boys = The Ultimate College Party Movie

Exhibit A: National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)
Exhibit B: PCU (1994)
Exhibit C: National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (2002)

Babes
Behind every rambunctious big man on campus, there’s an equally stunning gotta-have-her hottie who shakes things up. For Van Wilder, chasing white hot Gwen (Tara Reid) is enough reason for Van (Ryan Reynolds) to end his 7-year playboy stunt and finally graduate college. In Animal House, it wasn’t just one girl, but many: the party-preying cougar who doubles as the dean’s loose-minded wife; the 16-year-old who snuck out of her bedroom to attend a party; and Otter’s (Tim Matheson) cute girl-next-door main squeeze. PCU falls a little short in the babe category by modern standards, but for the early ’90s it’s hard to deny the hot factor of Katy (Megan Ward) and her navel-hugging jean shorts.

Exceptional exception: Legally Blonde (2001) stars Reese Witherspoon—not exactly babe material — whose chase involves a sweet and charming guy throughout their stint at Harvard law school.

Beer

Droz (Jeremy Piven) serves up a bit of advice to a visiting pre-freshman in PCU: “Beer: It’s your best friend. Drink a lot of it.” And college party movies do — except in Hollywood, the kegs never run dry. As Bluto (John Belushi) from Animal House puts it: “Grab a brew, they don’t cost nothing!” The effervescent beverage is the prime catalyst for every blowout party. As for Van Wilder, wherever Van distributes red cups, the signature of beer sipping, a party blossoms.

Exceptional exception: In Real Genius (1985), Val Kilmer’s buddies spend their time building lasers instead of drinking. Predictably, this movie never hits a heady high.

Scheming Frat Boys
Opposing partying protagonists in college movies is the job of whiny, pretentious frat boys at the upper echelons of campus society. In Animal House, it’s the evil Omegas who team up with the dean to get hard-partying Delta kicked out. In PCU, it’s the evil Balls and Shaft fraternity that teams up with the school president to get the hard partiers in The Pit kicked out. And in Van Wilder, it’s the evil president of Delta Iota Kappa (that’s DIK for short) who teams up with the school board to get Van kicked out. It’s a storyline as predictable as their uniforms: blue blazers with red ties, of course!

Exceptional exception: In Road Trip (2000), the good guys’ only encounter with Greek life is a pleasant run-in with a black fraternity chapter with a good sense of humor.



Flashy Journalism by Tony

One of my favorite style and culture magazines is going to get even flashier come August.

If you haven’t seen it already, Esquire editor in chief David Granger says the September issue will have the first E-Ink cover, which is admittedly pretty dang sweet. The cover will use inks that change color (in this 1.0 version, it’ll be just black and white) by applying different voltages to the magazine cover. A tiny battery will power the cover for about 90 days. The flashing text will say “the 21st Century Begins Now”.

A bit intrepid? Perhaps. But for the journalism industry, this marks an eager foray into the convergence of centuries-old print technology (the printing press was technology at one point) and print’s biggest foe: the electronics industry.

Thus far, no print media outlet has found a way to wrangle the power of the internet to make its print product better. Even now, a decade after the Internet went mainstream, many news organizations’ newsrooms have separate online and print divisions. In fact, only a few weeks ago did the New York Times move its online and print newsrooms into the same building. Until the newspaper industry finds a successful combination of the two, including learning to embrace citizen journalism without cutting newsroom staffs, it will continue to fail.

However, the magazine industry is a completely different story. Circulations, aside from those of weekly newsmagazines like Time and U.S. News, have held steady througout the online news push. In fact, studies have shown that magazine reading rates among young milennials are nearly the same as among aging baby boomers.

In addition, another study has shown that young readers will avoid reading serious news online, instead choosing headlines that appeal to their humor or pop culture tastes. The participants in the study, aged 14-18, called their experiences with reading online news “stressful”. I can completely agree. It’s not often that I’ll get on CNN.com and read anything other than the headlines that interest me most: the weird, the sexy, or the explosive (and if there’s video of an explosion, you can bet I’m going to click on it).

I’ve been all over the place in this post, but I guess my lasting opinion is that journalism as we know it is both enduring radical change while simultaneously weathering an information revolution that is evolving around it. The key to traditional media surviving the information age is its keeping credibility with the public (something that seems to be a bit of challenge lately—thanks danratherfoxnewsphotoshop!).



Minimally Splendid by Tony
July 21, 2008, 11:52 am
Filed under: Style, Written by Tony | Tags: , ,

I’ve been meaning to put up a short post about my newest fashion statement that just arrived in the mail.

I’d been searching for a new watch for a couple of months now, looking for something less gaudy than the crap Fossil calls a wristwatch (it’s like wearing a bedazzled kitchen clock on your arm). I also need something with a smaller face so my wrists don’t end up looking any smaller than they already are. I just want something casual with enough class that I could wear it every day.

Nixon makes a sweet line of watches called the Time Teller. It’s so minimalistic it breaches the opposite end of the style spectrum and becomes a statement in its own. I don’t need an alarm or a calendar or a stopwatch or a timer or a chronograph or an altimeter or a depth gauge or even a glo-light—that’s what my phone is for. I just want something that tells me the time.

I love the simple white face with easy-to-read silver numbers, and the canvas band I ordered stays cool in the unbearable humidity of a Missouri summer. You can get it with a metal band as well, and there are a couple different color combinations. The all-black style looks downright badass.

It’s not quite as thin as I would have liked, but for a $60 watch, the build quality is excellent. The brushed aluminum housing hasn’t scratched, and aside from the Nixon lettering at the 3 position, this watch is all about being elegant yet casual—more John Mayer than Kanye West (gratuitous link of the day).



Dimensionally Dim-witted by Tony
July 19, 2008, 5:17 pm
Filed under: Technology, Written by Tony | Tags: , , , ,

So Dreamworks wants to make us start watching all of its animated movies in 3D. And I really can’t think of a worse idea. For decades movie studios have been trying to get audiences to embrace this “new” dimension of movie reality, and it’s never caught on. It’s not because people don’t like seeing things in 3D, but rather the fact that we already do.

Think back to the last time you saw a movie in 3D. It could have been an IMAX film or the Honey I Shrunk the Audience attraction at DisneyWorld. Stuff jumped out at you, maybe convinced you giant snakes were slithering off of the screen. But remember how fuzzy the images were? How funny it felt to walk around afterward, after your eyes had adjusted to the abnormal and dizzying focus?

3D is a bit like virtual reality (which, like the flying car, is lying in the future’s never-to-be bin) in that it is a better idea in prototype than it is in production.

We’re ok seeing images on a two-dimensional screen. Dreamworks ought to be reminded that our brains are well-equipped to interpret perspective. We know that the larger an object is, the closer we are to it. If they really want to put asses in seats, maybe Dreamworks ought to focus on creating the kind of quality cinema their adversaries over at Pixar are putting out.

The notion of having to wear special glasses through the next Shrek installment (if its official title is Shrek 3D, I’ll kill a newborn) isn’t something that will convince me to line up early and see it on opening weekend. But the promise of a film with fantastical detail and an immersive story line (praise: WALL-E) is something that would.



The [K]night is Always Darkest Just Before Dawn by Tony
July 19, 2008, 1:10 am
Filed under: Movie Reviews, Written by Tony

Yeah, I did it; I went and saw the Dark Knight again. After catching the midnight premiere last night, a friend of mine asked me to go this afternoon and I, of course, obliged.

I’m pleased to announce the movie is just as good the second time around. I’ll try to avoid repeating what Kevin has already said about the Dark Knight.

But really, this movie is an instant classic. I was skeptical of the hype (my roommate has been telling me for weeks that this was going to be the best film of the summer) but I fully agree. I expected the action scenes to be too explosive—artificial in their excess like so many others in the genre.

Maybe it’s the Chicago setting, or maybe it’s just the fact that every fight scene is a plausible scenario. Batman is no Jason Bourne when it comes to hand-to-hand combat, but he gets the job done—and never once lifts a gun. Sure, he has gadgets, but they’re cooler (yet somehow more realistic) than James Bond’s. But I think what’s best about his character, unlike other superheroes, is the notion that he has his limits; it’s an idea that’s wound into the plot throughout the film. He’s only as invincible as a teenager with a few 40s under his belt.

And then there’s the Joker. Call me insensitive, but I never understood what all of the hoopla about Heath Ledger was. Perhaps I’m just too distant from Hollywood for it to really hit home for me. What I do know is his performance rivals Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood) and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) in my category of favorite role as a heartless villain. What gives the Joker depth however is his rage: it’s not entirely senseless. You know he’s hiding a brutal past of abuse and psychological disorder behind his caked and cracking face paint. At times you truly feel sorry for him, before tension turns on a dime and you’re cringing in fear of his next move.

I could go on and on and on. But the most I can say is to see it for yourself. It will frighten you, delight you, and make you laugh. It’s everything a comic book movie ought to be: explosive, dark, scary, introspective, inspiring, and buoyant. It does tension better than the Saw series, gadgets and action better than 007, and totally beats Spiderman in superheroics. Just don’t forget to close your jaw the first time it drops, or it’ll stay open for the whole movie.



All Systems Go by Tony
July 17, 2008, 2:10 am
Filed under: Written by Tony

And as for me (I was always taught never to start a sentence with “and” but I’m doing it anyway) I’m also relatively new to the blog scene. I’ve read many, loved few, and criticized many for their poor syntax.

But I promise you, reader, that with your loyal visits, you’ll be graced with proper English, genuine thought, and shameless discussion. We’ll bare all in the name of, well, ourselves and our merciless pursuit of fame.

Put your mouth guard in, we’re blasting off.