Monday, January 7, 2013

iPad vs. Kindle (update)

iPad update: having had the iPad for a number of months now, I really like the device.

I read comics exclusively on the iPad, and am very reluctant to use a regular PC or netbook for that purpose.  The screen size is just slightly smaller than a regular comic book page, so the graphics are readable and very clear on the device.  The ability to switch to landscape or to enlarge indivdual pages (as needed) is really simple and useful, and much more responsive than on my Dell Duo.

The downside is the limits Apple places on the device - I can't easily access my home network, so have to load comics through iTunes, which is a pain, and I have t load them to a particular reader - this is an issue when a particular comic is unreadable - it is difficult to tell if it is a conflict between the file format and the particular reader, or some larger problem with that particular comic scan, as you'd have to go back to iTunes and load into another app to check.  (I suspect it is the odd comic that is scanned at a peculiarly high resolution).

I love surfing the web, and more particularly, RSS feeds and other apps that pull together relevant links for me.  I also like the e-mail functionality, having multiple in-boxes and a common in-box - all easily accessible.

However, for straight-up reading of books, I still defer to the Kindle (I have a Kindle DX, along with an older Sony e-reader - the 505, and an even older 500).  For any extended period of reading, the Kindle kicks butt - it is clearer, easier on the eyes, and never a problem with battery life.

Reading of magazines (or comics) or any other graphics-heavy format, the iPad or similar devices will certainly be a better fit.  But for reading text, keep an e-reader handy - it is designed specifically for that task.

Finished (E-Reader) - "Stephen Colbert: A Biography" - Catherine M. Andronik

I really liked the biography of Stephen Colbert.  Learned a few things about the man behind the facade - like his real Catholicism (teaches Sunday School), family life, his relative non-interest in politics (compared to the character) and the loss of his father and two brothers in a plane crash when he was a child.

The author does a good job separating "Colbert" the character with the silent 't" from "Colbert" the actor with the pronounced "t".  Colbert (the actor) is a genius, taking his skills honed at Second City and crating a permanent persona, where he can act out the right-wing fantasy character 4x per week on his show, and in public appearances.  I continue to be shocked that some folks (particularly those on the right, who don't typically watch the show) don't perceive the character as a facade (as when the Republicans hired Cobert (the character) to appear at the press dinner for George W. Bush).

The book was certainly a fast read, and put me in touch with the TV series "Strangers with Candy" which Colbert created and performed in in the mid 2000's.

Watching (TV Series) - "Strangers with Candy" (2005)

Reading a biography of Stephen Colbert (of the "Colbert Report" and "Daily Show") and discovered that he was in a short-run TV series "Strangers with Candy" with a few of his Second City buds (Amy Sederis and Paul Dinello) - IMDB for "Strangers with Candy".

The series is definitely adult in nature, though basically a parody of teen-geared "After School Specials" - each episode focuses on an issue (bullying, disabilities, teen angst....), though through the eyes of a 47-year old high school freshman, Jerri Blank (Sederis) who ran away as a teen and served time for drugs and prostitution.

The show is a little harsh, but does have some genuinely funny pieces to it.  The portrayal of the staff is particularly amusing, as Colbert and Dinello play secret lovers, often being "caught" by others, but nobody puts two and two together.  The principal and gym teacher also play nice, semi-sterotyped roles with signifiant non-sterotype divergences.

Worth watching, certainly, but definitely a quirky series -not for everyone.

Finished (TV Series) - "Heroes"

Didn't watch "Heroes" when it was playing live (2006 to 2010), even though I'm a big comic book geek.

However, I recently undertook to watch the series, and really liked it.  It did seem to suffer from an occasional character inconsistency or an occasional inability to solve problems properly using the powers given, though this is really a problem in the "powers' genre - sometimes stories can be wrapped up if the participants remember that they can go back in time a few minutes and fix things, brainwash somebody, or blow them away from across the street.

However, generally the stories held together well, even given the TV requirement to have a cliffhanger and a resolution of a  prior cliffhanger, on a weekly basis.

Definitely worth watching - too bad it couldn't maintain longer, though it is a series that takes dedicated watching to keep track of what is going on, and what particular powers a few of the characters have available (two characters "steal" powers).  A few characters seemingly switch sides, so that also requires dedicated watching.

It is unlikely that Heroes will return as a series, at least with the same cast (as Claire ages, it is less likely she'll appear in a cheerleader outfit, losing legions of comic geeks).  However, the series and the premise would work very well for a movie (either big-screen or TV), as it would be very easy to concoct a significant storyline, identify villains and heroes and let them go at it.

A movie may also pave the way to create new characters which may serve a longer agenda - series of movies or spin-off series/mini-series.  Like the mutant X-men in Marvel Comics, the heroes universe doesn't require a very large back-story on the characters - a new set of powers, an agenda, some learning and confusion as they come to grips with what they can do - all make for relatively easy to create storylines.

I'd highly recommend watching the series on DVD - not sure if it is on Netflix.

Finished (E-Reader) - "Threat Vector" - Tom Clancy

As a Tom Clancy fan,  I finished "Threat Vector" as quickly as possible.  I find his books compelling to read.

However, I think I have to go back to earlier Clancy books.  I get the feeling that "post-911" Clancy is making his villains much more 2-dimensional than in the past (I'd have to re-read older books to verify).  Clancy has always been pro-American, which is fine, but I think the books are much deeper, interesting and meaningful if time is taken to clarify the goals and rationale of the antagonist(s).  If we really feel for the terrorists, other government, agents, non-leadership elements in other governments, we get a much better picture of what is going on and why, and a much more satisfactory conclusion of the storyline.

I don't think the actions of 9-11 become any less horrific when we can understand where the aggressors come from.  Regardless of the rationale, there is no explanation/support/rationalization that makes deaths of innocents OK.  However, understanding of the rationale makes targeting those responsible more accurate, and clarifies the steps necessary to reduce the likelihood of repeated incidents.

"Threat Vector" was less "terrorist" oriented than a potential geopolitical change in the east.  I liked the action and the basic storyline, but the plot might have been better served to look at a less rash pattern by China - China has a long history, and likely looks at longer term solutions to problems, and compared to the west tends to be very patient.  It might have been better to have events serve, or appear to serve, a larger, long term plan, rather than be a relatively short-term, fast action series of events.  Having the Ryans figure out the longer term goals might have been a much more compelling conclusion - even if they were to have to make a choice to be "seen" as weaker in the short term in order to secure a longer term for U.S. dominance (e.g. "Only Nixon can go to China").