Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Underdog

The extreme makeover of the software is something that makes me want to stick with my choice to choose the Microsoft competitor to the iPod.

Microsoft’s Zune has a long way to come before getting anywhere near its much sought after rival, Apple’s iPod. Granted that, I think it’s still an underdog worth fighting for… Well, maybe not fighting for, exactly; more like discussing.

Last week, Microsoft launched version 2.0 of its Zune line, along with a much-needed update to its music software, called Zune Marketplace – think iTunes. Both are very impressive, especially the latter, which now boasts the ability to download podcasts and music videos, somewhat of an old idea for Apple.

Why be so interested in something that’s not an iPod? I really don’t have a good answer. Maybe it’s the somewhat monopoly Apple has created on its amazing MP3 player line and I want any reason to jump ship and join something new, something that has potential (although I don’t even know if I was truly on the ship to begin with).

Before deciding on buying a Zune in January, I thought long and hard about the pros and cons of such a move: Why is a Zune even worth a glance? At the time, the Zune had the bigger screen (noted that the iPod Touch took over that point this fall), a FM radio, a customizable homepage, a glimmer of Wi-Fi ability and, one of the most important features, I wouldn’t have to spend hours converting all of my Windows Media music files into a form usable for iTunes.

Once again, after leaving my Zune on an airplane in Paris (and basically saying goodbye to “Zunique” forever), I’m once again in the situation of choosing between the Zune and the iPod. Granted, the stakes are a little different now: I’m already involved with Zune and making the change would still require a conversion of all my music files, and the iPod Touch was everything I wanted when I originally bought my Zune. However, with that said, the Zune has more going for it now. The new devices (now in 4GB, 8GB and 80GB versions) are nicer and a bit smaller. Plus, there’s still radio and now podcasts can be downloaded straight from Zune Marketplace. The only negative is that there still is no way to buy TV shows, like in iTunes. (Note: I really wanted an traveling video player too, along with a music player so this is a big point.)

Thus, I will continue to mull over the decision until next January, at which point I will be back in the States. But the question still remains, Zune or iPod?

Another reason for sticking with Zune is the software, which has a very neat full screen mode which displays random CD covers from your library.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Studying in France - Les Devoirs

I just wanted to announce a new Web site that I will be dedicating myself to for the next four months. I will be studying abroad in Lille, France, until the end of the year and have created a site to tell about my experiences.

Some people do different things to inform their friends and family about their semesters abroad - there are blogs, journals, video entries on YouTube, picture postings on Facebook, e-mail and even snail mail (normally via postcards). I can announce I will probably use all of them. BUT the one which will be updated the most will be my special Web site I created.

I wanted to be unique, creating something different so here you have it: It is a site set up like a newspaper, called "Les Devoirs" (meaning homework in French). I thought it was an appropriate title, and not too long either.

With that said, I hope to blog more this year and can just tell you to check back now and again.

Au revoir! A bientot!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

‘High School’

So this past weekend was amazing. The anticipation had been building for months for all of us Disney-philes (you just don’t have to be a 10-year-old to enjoy this stuff!). It was time to see what the East High Wildcats were up to; Friday night was the premiere of High School Musical 2 on Disney Channel, accompanied by an entire weekend of showings.

The sequel, I have to say, is refreshing. It’s much better than the original; HSM2 is also more original than the original. The first movie finds a group of high schoolers in a similar situation as the classic musical Grease and the movie version featuring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (and Grease is a updated retelling of the classic Romeo & Juliet).

The numbers in the first were well-done, but the plot was a little too cheesy and trying for me, which only added to the fact that the lead character’s voice (Zac Efron’s Troy Bolton) was dubbed over and instead, Canadian Andrew Seeley sang the parts. (This is a little annoying to a traditionalist and purist. But note: Disney has always had an annoying reputation of going audio crazy and altering or dubbing over everyone’s vocal performances in movies and TV shows; it makes things seem so fake.)

The opening number of HSM2, “What Time Is It,” is quite a toe-tapper. Other musical number are just as engaging as the first movie. Though hard to top the musical number “Get’cha Head in the Game” from the original (a number with flying basketballs and a catchy tune), “I Don’t Dance” (featuring baseballs now and a somewhat catchy tune) is a worthy follow-up.

Don’t get me wrong, the cheesiness continues into the new made-for-TV movie. The solo song by Efron in “Bet On It” is a little much and awkwardly filmed as he jumps from rock to rock and runs around singing.

But my point here is that HSM2 (on a whole) is more watchable than its predecessor, while the first is better watched by just jumping from one musical scene to another or just listening to the soundtrack. While movie musicals are hard stand alone with their music, HSM2 does pretty well in the scenes without music.

Throughout the channel’s latest original movie, I found myself living vicariously. I was reliving high school – at least the better part of the awkward and sometimes unrelentingly uncomfortable teen years. During my latter years in high school, I really enjoyed being in the chorus and the musicals; it really got me through school. Sometimes you have horrible days in school, when you don’t want to go back the next day. Music got me to go back day after day (along with journalism and a few amazing teachers). It was something I really loved to do and this movie (along with the original) makes me want to go back to high school for an abbreviated time and do another musical – sort of (I don’t know if I can handle the drama all over again). There is nothing quite as magical as being on stage – or in this case, on the small screen – singing, dancing and acting.

But isn’t this how Disney has capitalized on the phenomenon that is High School Musical?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Harry Potter

I sit here typing moments after finishing the final Harry Potter book, delayed, I know, but finished nonetheless. I didn’t want the book to end, the adventures to come to a close. While it is early Friday morning, almost two weeks since the book’s release, I find myself teary-eyed and not ready to sleep, but to reminisce – for finishing the book has given me a renewed shot of adrenaline.

Don’t worry, my post will remain spoiler-free for all those (like me hours earlier) who have not completed their adventures with the bespectacled, lightning-scarred wizard. The end of the book – to be brief – was amazing and everything I hoped it would be. But I won’t be focusing on the end, but the journey, which had held us all captors for some ten years now – and will continue as the two more movies debut and the stories are re-read and passed down generations. This is what I want to look at. The book’s legacy.

J.K. Rowling, admittedly, will never be able to top Harry Potter. But who would want to, I ask? I am still amazed and agog to think of how this one person could have such an imagination, such a keen knack for storytelling: the descriptions, the characters, the all-encompassing plots… I have told my friends that her work is truly poetry in the form of prose (which sounds odd because prose, by its very definition, is something that is not poetry), but J.K. intermingles the two. Also, the words she has created… Muggle is now part of the world’s vernacular, now appearing in dictionaries. Her impact on the world is awe-inspiring. She has done what all literary greats have done – created something not for the here-and-now that will soonly be forgotten but something for the ages, which will stand the test of time. Well, only time will tell, but I only hope this series is not considered just children’s literature, for what we have is something far greater: a tome that inspires, connects all readers of the series, and makes each of us a little happier after reading. (Think to yourself, what would a world without Harry be like? I won’t go there…)

I owe a lot to Ms. Rowling. Like others around the world, I was not as strong or frequent a reader before beginning the series, which seems to have lit a spark in me. While I cannot credit J.K. with helping me out entirely, I still give the woman credit for me finishing larger books with more enthusiasm and speed. Thank you.

So, Harry James Potter and his adventures have come to a close. What’s next? Well, we still have two more movies and a major (and amazing) theme park in the queue. Plus, we can re-read the books now, with the ending in mind and, who knows, we might discover even more. Any up for a game of Quidditch?

If you also want to see on more HP and Rowling, NBC News has done a lot over the past week on Today and Dateline. Rowling also reveals some more details that aren’t in the books.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Mirror

Friday afternoon I was listening to music at my dad’s house in the living when I looked at the large buffet mirror about 10 feet away. I stared into the mirror and back at myself and at that moment I realized – or rather reminded myself – that time is a fleeting entity of my life. I am now a junior in college (50 percent done), at a paid internship (getting ready for the workforce) and about to study abroad (something I’ve dreamed about for years now). In short: I’m growing up and my dreams are becoming a reality.

This moment, however, was truly realized about eight hours later (a few minutes ago) when I was getting something out of the living room and briefly glanced into the mirror again, from the same spot as before. I proceeded to walk towards the kitchen when I stopped and continued to look into the mirror. “Wow. I really am growing up,” I thought to myself. In 12 hours, I had stopped to notice time passing. Things had changed since yesterday afternoon. The sun had set and I had a sweater on. Events happened. I learned a few things. I also “wasted” some of that time, which is quite normal during summer break.

The point I guess I’m trying to make is that time is so important and especially are the events that happen along the way. I found myself looking back at my electronic calendar in Outlook to see what appointments I made earlier this year and also add a few I never put in. It might seem odd, but one way I like to remember events is my life or what I did is to enter them onto this calendar. That way I can go back and check where I was when.

It may seem odd but that’s just me. Does anyone else just stare into a mirror or at a calendar and reminisce? Or once in a while, does anyone else think about the concept of time and its fleeting nature? I do. And if you ever want to talk about it, let me know. It would be a good event to put into my calendar.