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Speculative Fiction Saturday: How to Train Your Dragon 2
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how-to-train-your-dragon-2-poster2

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I’ll admit that I only somewhat liked How To Train Your Dragon (the original) when it first came out in 2010, but the more I watch it, the more it grows on me. I always felt that Hollywood needs a good “dragon” movie, something quintessential. I mean, when you think space opera, you think Star Wars. When you think fantasy, you think Lord of the Rings. When you think dragons, you have choices of Dragonheart, Dragonslayer, but nothing that really stands out, and this includes the last two Hobbit movies.

Dragons are an essential part of fantasy fiction, and I am not certain why they are so prevalent there. How to Train Your Dragon is based on a book series that I haven’t read, but the first movie was an excellent offering. The plot is about a boy who discovers a dragon, in a world of Vikings, who despise dragons’ destructive behavior. The boy, Hiccup, befriends a dragon that he names Toothless, and his friendship leads to saving his village.

The first film reminds me of a nineties Disney animation, where an unconventional and forbidden relationship changes society. The film also had flying scenes that were better than the last Man of Steel

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Superman movie.

The world of How To Train Your Dragon is pretty well developed, as there are all kinds of different types of dragons. The characters are also extremely good, and Hiccup, voiced by Jay Baruchel, feels very real. The sequel grows the characters up noticeably, and it is much, much bigger like the second Hunger Games movie Catching Fire.

The premise of How To Train Your Dragon 2 is that Hiccup is old enough to become chief. In spite of the fact that Stoick, Hiccup’s father, is pretty healthy, he seems to want Hiccup to be ready to step up to the plate. Hiccup seems to like nothing more than flying around with Toothless, and one day, he discovers a group of dragon hunters that work for a ruthless tyrant named Drago.

When Hiccup tells his father about Drago, Stoick gets very afraid and braces his village for attack. Apparently, Drago met with the village chiefs years ago, and offered to rid the village of all the pesky dragons, provided Drago can rule. Of course, the village chiefs refused, and then Drago commands dragons to destroy the village. Only Stoick survived, which means that Drago had destroyed the village completely. Apparently, Stoick managed to rebuild the village, and…yeah, there are a few things wrong with this.

The story with Drago feels like a retcon, which is a word for when a storyline tells an origin story with elements that haven’t been mentioned before, but will take the present story to a knew level. If you read comics, retcons are very common to clean up bad plotlines and heighten the drama of the stories.

Another retcon that takes place is the introduction of Hiccups’ mother Valka. This isn’t really a spoiler, because the preview revealed this. It is revealed that Valka was stolen from the village by dragons when Hiccup was a baby. Valka never returned because she saw that the dragons were friendly creatures, and lived on this island all alone with several dragons.

In fact, one of these dragons was kind to baby Hiccup, even though it accidentally scratched him on the chin. This is how Valka recognized Hiccup as her adult son because of the scar. By the way, the scar is apparently in the first How To Train Your Dragon, so I am told.

Valka is proud of Hiccup because he has befriended a dragon, but no where in the original did Stoick ever mention that a dragon killed Hiccup’s mother. At least, this is what Stoick thought, and it would explain why Stoick was so against dragons in the first one. Like I said, this was a retcon, but at least the scar is consistent.

As Hiccup bonds with his reunited mother, the other dragon riders meet up with Drago. Drago apparently has some new way of controlling the dragons that is similar to how Hiccup trained them, but with fear and not love. Drago even takes control of an Alpha, huge dragon that can control other dragons. I think there was one of these in the last film, but in this one, it can hypnotize dragons.

When Drago meets up with the other characters, the film seems to have way too much going on. Don’t get me wrong, it is an awesome epic, but it is very, very confusing. There are times where scenes play out between characters while there are probably other scenes going on with other characters that we don’t see.

Act 2 also ends with a tragedy that is very emotional, and is as effective as the killing of King Mufasa in The Lion King. The problem is that after that, the epic conclusion doesn’t measure up to the Act 2 battle. I actually thought that after Act 2, the movie would end, and the story would concluded in How To Train Your Dragon 3, which I heard that they are making.

On the whole, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is very inspired, and it makes me want to write fantasy stories of my own. By the way, I might be working on one, but I can’t say anything about it now. For that, I saw it twice, and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for the ultimate dragon movie, because the How To Train Your Dragon series is the best in film so far.

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on December 20th, 2014
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Snapchat purchases Vergence Labs
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epiphany-eyewear-640x317

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I’m sure that you have heard of Snapchat, especially with that whole Snappening incident
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. For those of you who don’t know, Snapchat allows the user to take a picture or send a message, and then these photos and messages are automatically deleted. I think it is interesting that Snapchat is quite popular, which means that there is a demand for self-destructing messages a la Mission: Impossible.

Snapchat has recently acquired a company known as Vergeance Labs, a company who created products like Epiphany Eyewear, glasses that allow the wearer to record vids at the touch of a button. These videos can be accessed to cloud storage, and they have the ability to hold up to 32 GB of videos.

So, are we looking at a future where Snapchat exists on goggles? If so, then why doesn’t it exist on Google Glass already? Well, once again, I am covering theoretical gadgets based on acquisitions.

Source

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on December 19th, 2014
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The Saga of “The Interview”
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The Interview

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Okay, I’ve been covering this story for a while on The Gospel Herald, but here is the story behind “The Interview”.

1) The Interview is a film made by Sony Pictures with Seth Rogen and James Franco about two fake journalists that are on a secret mission to kill the North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un.

2) Sony Entertainment was hacked. Just like The Fappening and the Snappening

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, some info got out that shouldn’t have. I’m talking private information.

3) The hacking was done by a group known as The Guardians of Peace. They sent a message out saying that “the movie” must be stopped, and it is implied that The Interview is the movie that they are referring to.

4) Some have said that North Korea is the one hacking Sony, and Sony has decided not to release The Interview.

5) People are upset because it looks like we gave into terrorists.

All right, this is where I really get mad. I don’t know who would threaten to say, blow up a movie theater if they show a certain movie, but I’m assuming that they don’t have the ability to blow up every theater showing The Interview. I mean, that has to be at least hundreds of theaters.

Also, I guarantee you that by telling people that you will kill them if they have the gaul to watch a movie will only enhance their curiosity. I’m sure that the sales of The Satanic Verses went up when the Ayatollah wanted Salman Rushdie dead.

Okay, I’m guessing that The Interview is an irreverent film, but it probably has a statement, right? Is it that we want Kim Jong-Un dead? I can understand why North Korea would be upset, but threats of any type are pretty much unjustified.

This is just the first time that I have heard a film being yanked because of threats. I would like to think that we don’t respond to terrorists, but it feels like we have. But I’m not alone in this feeling, and I have a hunch that The Interview will be seen.

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Nintendo looking to a donut-shaped screen?
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Donut shaped screen

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This is one of those rumored technologies that I may never see develop, but there is a rumor that Nintendo is looking for the technology to create donut-shaped screens.

Of course, the question that you have to ask yourself is why? After all, why have a donut shaped screen? Well, if you think about what Nintendo does, it is gaming. Their controllers have controllers, and you could put a joystick in the middle of that.

So imagine playing a game and it gives you direction on the donut-shaped screen surrounding the joystick. See, doesn’t that just make sense?

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any confirmation of this rumor, and my Source states that Nintendo did not comment on it.

Source

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on December 18th, 2014
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Polaroid’s Socialmatic Instant Camera looks like Instagram Logo
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socialmaticcamera

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I think it is interesting that Instagram has really changed our mobile world, so much so that now cameras are adapting to it. Not the most people use cameras these days since they have gone to cellular phones.

Polaroid, for example, has responded to this Instagram trend that will not end with the Socialmatic Instant Camera. Not only can you take pictures with its 14 Megapixel camera, but it has GPS for geotagging and WiFi so you can put it on Instagram.

Yes, this camera is powered by Android and it has a 4.5 color touchscreen. It has a 2 Megapixel front camera good for selfies, and 4GB of built-in storage with a microSD expansion slot for 32GB of additional memory.

Let’s see, I think I’ve covered all the features…oh wait, it is a camera. It is capable of giving the user 2 x 3 prints. Yeah, remember when cameras did those? At least you don’t have to wait an hour at the photo developers to get them made.

All that, and it looks like the Instagram logo. It should be out around January 1, 2015. Yes, I have no idea why it couldn’t be out earlier, especially with the holiday season. This really looks like it would be the perfect gift.

I’m going to see if I can’t get one of these to review. If Polaroid will give me one, I will be writing a follow-up hands-on review article.

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on December 18th, 2014
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NewerTech NuGuard KX Screen Armor for the iPhone 6 Plus
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NuGuard KX

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It has been a while since I reviewed a NuGuard product. The last time was the Energy X-orbing Case for the iPhone 5
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. Now, I’m looking at this for the iPhone 6 Plus.

Yeah, sure, I have seen a product like this before. I suppose that I’ll see more, but this one has three layers of protection. The first is the protection layer which keeps dust and dirt away from the screen. Then there is the absorption layer, military grade kinetic energy x-orbing protection that is good enough to hit with a hammer. Then there is the adhesion layer to stick the screen protector to the iPhone 6 Plus.

I found this product on OWC or Other World Computing

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for about $11.00 with a price after instant rebate. I think that OWC must do a lot, but I believe some company known as Newer Tech sent this to me. This is one of those times where I don’t know who is the distributor and who is the manufacturer.

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on December 17th, 2014
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iRig Pads MIDI Groove Controller
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iRig Pad

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The other day, I reported on the K-Board from Keith McMillen Instruments, and it is a MIDI keyboard. This must be MIDI week, as I am reviewing another MIDI product with the iRig Pad.

This product works with the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch as well as a Mac or PC. It is reminiscent of QuNeo

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, as it allows the user to make beats, launch loops, and mix like a DJ and much more. Again, this is not a product for people like me, because I’m not really a musician. I had my chance to be a DJ after I reviewed the QuNeo, and I said no.

I can tell you about the features. It has 16 velocity-sensitive pads that can light up on your touch. Then there are two knobs, two buttons, and one slider for even more control. The iRig Pad comes with SampleTank for free, and you can use it for sampled instruments like drums, loops, and other MIDI patterns. There are other apps that are compatible with it like Groovemaker 2 and DJ Rig.

What really makes the iRig Pads interesting is how portable it is. What makes it even more interesting is that you don’t need a power cord. Just plug it in and it is all USB or whatever you device that you can connect it to.

Now, I can recommend this, just like I can recommend other IK Multimedia products like the iRig Pro, and you can get the iRig Pads for about $149.99 on the IK Multimedia site here

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.

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Native Union Reviews: The Gripster for the iPad, MONOCLE, and the Key Cable
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Monocle Gripster

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Last January, at CES 2014, I managed to get a good look at some Native Union products. I was pretty impressed with what I saw, and now, almost one year later, I got a chance to review the Gripster, the MONOCLE, and the Key Cable.

I’ll start with the Gripster, a multi-functional grip, stand, and handle for the iPad Air. I will be honest that I have seen products in the past with these features, but the Gripster has all of them at once. The Gripster has a cover that is magnetic, and is similar to the one that Apple unveiled a few iPad models ago. These are those magnetic ones that stick on the cover and come in all cool colors, rolling back to make a stand. This one rolls up in a perfect roll.

Yeah, you don’t need the roll up stand to prop up your iPad for video viewing, because this has a handle that can do that, in portrait and landscape mode. The handle can be used for carrying it around like a mini-briefcase. You can also slip your fingers through the Gripster and use the iPad with just one hand.

In short, the Gripster is an iPad accessory with a lot of accessories. You can get it on the Native Union website

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for about $39.99 in all kinds of colors for the iPad Air and iPad Air Mini.

Native Union Monocle

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As for the MONOCLE, I am not certain why it is in all caps. It might have something to do with the fact that it is a stereo speaker with a 40 mm driver. Actually, it is a “speaker, handset, and speakerphone”.

So not only will it enhance the sound on your smartphone, but you can use it to make calls. That is kind of a standard for most smartphone Bluetooth speakers. This one is wired only, but here’s a nifty feature: you can daisy chain up to 10 of these together, resulting in some superior noise. That is not bad. By the way, you can control the volume by twisting it.

Well, this is one very interesting product, and you can see why I wanted to review it. You can get it on the Native Union site

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for about $39.99 in many colors.

Native Union key cable

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And last we have the Key Cable. Again, this is a device that I have seen before, a small charging cord that can fit on a keychain in case you really need juice.

As you can see, this Key Cable comes with a ball of paracord. If you aren’t into paracord bracelet, don’t worry, I think the fad is still going. I know my wife and daughter like to make paracord bracelets, and this formation is called a “monkey fist”.

The one that you see here is made for iDevices, but it also comes with a micro USB version if that floats your boat. The one for iPod, iPhone, and iPad Lightning connect is available on the Native Union site

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for about $29.99.

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The K-Board from Keith McMillen Instruments
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K-Board

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It has been a while since I have reviewed anything from Keith McMillen Instruments. I had a lot of fun with the QuNeo
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and I was almost ready to quit writing and become a DJ. I got a chance to review the K-Board, it is was very similar to the QuNexus
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that I reviewed before.

The K-Board is like its name implies, a keyboard, but shorter. If you have a music-playing program, you can use the K-Board to play some tunes. All that is required is to plug it into the tablet or computer, and you can play. You will need some kind of music program, and I used SimpleTank 3, a program from IK Multimedia, which I will discuss at a later time.

The keys are such so hitting them hard will be a loud sound, and there are special buttons so the keys will be sustained and other tricks. If you are concerned that two octaves on the K-Board not giving you enough notes, you should know that there are octave buttons to reach high and low notes.

I’m not certain if the K-Board is just a QuNexus Jr., but it is designed for spills and can even be run over by a car. All in all, the K-Board is a cool product and it is available at Guitar Center, or you can buy it here

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for about $69.99.

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The Phorce Freedom: A Charging Bag
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Phorce

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This bag that you see here is the Freedom bag from Phorce. I didn’t misspell that, by the way, it is just how they spell the company is spelled.

The Phorce is three bags in one, as it can work as a briefcase, messenger bag, or a backpack. As a backpack, it fits on the bag very, very well. Too bad it doesn’t have handles like a travel bag, but it does slide over the handles of a travel bag. Yeah, you can’t beat that.

Actually, it very cool as it has a battery with 15,000 mAh power core with 2 high-speed USB power ports to charge tablets, smartwatches, headphones, and all kinds of other devices. Yeah, it is quite handy to have around in our mobile age.

One last thing. The Phorce Freedom is made of water-resistant and durable materials with magnetice leather handles, display-cleaning microfiber, waterproof zippers, and shock-resistant padding.

You should be able to get the Phorce Freedom for about $199 on the company website

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. There is free shipping on all orders with guaranteed delivery by December 25th.

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on December 15th, 2014
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