Speculative Ficiton Saturday, Miyazaki Month: Princess Mononoke

Princess MononokeI’ll go ahead and end this Miyazaki’s month with Princess Mononoke, which some argue is Hayao’s masterpiece. Personally, I have already stated that Castle In the Sky is my favorite of all his works, but I will say that most of his films are just fantastic. I also realize that there are some films that I left out, and I’ll cover just a few at the end of this review, kind of like I did for my Pixar review.

Princess Mononoke takes place in ancient Japan, not like most Miyazaki films that take place in some steampunk alternative Earth or something. It begins when a prince named Ashitaka sees a spirit boar approach his village. It seems demonically possessed, and this spirit boar infects Ashitaka’s arm. When I say infects, it is as if his arm has a mind of its own, killing people with incredible strength. Seriously one shot that Ashitaka takes with a bow rips limbs off.

Oh yeah, Ashitaka lives in some area where there are people terrorizing other villages around him. Yeah, I don’t know the history well enough to understand their motivations, but there are a lot of parties at play in this film.

Ashitaka then meets a monk who tells him that there is a place known as Irontown which is seriously wrecking the forest. Yeah, this film has a lot of environmental messages in it, but it is nowhere near as preachy as say…FernGully.

Anyway, when Ashitaka goes to Irontown, he learns that it is ran by Lady Eboshi, and she is fighting a subtle war against the spirit animals. Apparently, the spirit animals don’t like how Eboshi is treating the forest, and they fight, so Eboshi fights back, with guns. In fact, Eboshi was the one who shot the boar that infected Ashitaka.

Miyazaki once again shows that there really isn’t a villain in the film, as all parties want something and believe very strongly that they have a right to it. I like the fact that it takes place in a world where there are spirit creatures like boars and wolves. The thing is that these spirit animals are not exactly united. For example, the wolves want to be rid of humans, and the boars kind of want the same thing.

The main conflict of this is the monk that Ashitaka meets wants to kill the spirit of the forest. Apparently, the spirit of the forest can be killed at a certain time in the day, and when the characters do that, bad stuff happens. From there, it becomes the whole everyone is being terrorized by the monster plot. The resolution to it is actually very interesting. You remember how the Ghostbusters faced off against the big marshmallow man and won? That doesn’t happen here. I don’t want to spoil any more than I already have, but I will recommend it.

So what other films have I seen by Miyazaki? Let’s talk.

My Neighbor Tortoro: This is a film about two girls who meet a Tortoro creature. I’m assuming that this is some mythical creature from Japan, and Tortoro is quite cute. In fact, I would describe the whole movie as cute, and it feels like a film that a child would write, sort of like Ponyo.

Porco Rosso: This is another film about a character under a curse. In this case, it is about a pilot who is given the face of a pig. I think it takes place during World War II or something, and the plot is how he loves someone who loves him back, but he refuses her for some reason.

The Wind Rises: I haven’t seen this one, but it is about some guy who designs the Zero fighter aircraft. I have no idea what it is about other than that.

Hard Rubber for the iPhone 6 by SKECH

Skech Hard RubberI was pleased to see some more SKECH products come in the mail, because I reviewed some of their other products like the Polo Book for the Galaxy S5 and the Crystal iPhone 6 case. Today, I got a little early Christmas present with the Hard Rubber for the iPhone 6.

The Hard Rubber has a hard shell exterior, and on the inside is a soft touch surface. It definitely has some terrific protection, and there is a detachable bottom piece designed for the dock port.

There isn’t really much that I can say about this, other than its vibrant colors. I mean, it has some nice ones like silver, gold, red, purple, orange, and black. You should be able to get it on the SKECH site for a price of about $29.99.

Jstyle Leather Wallet Case for the iPhone 6 Plus from iLuv

iLuv JstyleOkay, I’m just going to just begin this review by saying this. If you have an iPhone 6 Plus, just go out and buy yourself an iLuv Jstyle. Yeah, I can’t think of any product that I began a review like this.

The Jstyle is made of genuine leather with a Saffiano finish, and it is a premium wallet and case for the iPhone 6 Plus. In fact, it is essentially a place for your wallet and phone, as it can store a total of eight credit cards, which has be a record for this kind of accessory. Then there is also two large side pockets as well.

Well, is there anything more that I can say about a product that I just truly love? I don’t think so. You should be able to get it on the iLuv site for about $69.99.

HiFiMAN RE300a InLine Control Earphones

HiFiman RE300aIt’s been a while since I reported on any HiFiMAN products. They have some pretty quality goods, and I had a chance to try out the RE300a InLine Control Earphones.

HiFiMAN’s logo is “Innovating the Art of Listening”, and I think that means they are one of those companies that really take their audio seriously, not just out to make a quick buck. On the box, it says that these premium earphones are “designed for Android”. I’m not certain what makes this different then earphones made for Apple products, but I tried it on my Samsung S5, and my tunes sounded very, very good.

The driver diameter here is only 8.5, which makes them very small. They fit in my ears well, and they lock in very well. In addition to that feature, it has a convenient hands-free design allowing the user to talk on the phone, even while on the road.

I would recommend these earbuds if you are looking for a good pair. You can get them on the Head Direct site for about $49.99.

ZAGG Slim Book Ultra-Slim Tablet Keyboard and Detachable Case

Zagg slim bookI have reviewed a lot of keyboards in the past with ZAGG, and I can honestly say that if you have reviewed one, you haven’t reviewed them all. ZAGG makes a lot of keyboards, and I was glad to review the ZAGG Slim Book for the iPad Air.

So what makes this one different? Well, it has a case that you can lock onto the iPad Air, and then you lock it on the side of the Bluetooth keyboard. It works with magnets, and then adjust the angle to about 135 degrees, just like a laptop. The advantage of having this magnetic hinge is you can turn the iPad Air around for video mode. Oh, you can close up this case for extra protection of the keyboard, and use the tablet’s touchscreen with the keyboard handy.

So yeah, I would say that the Slim Book for the iPad Air is quite a good deal. Especially when you can use it for up to two years in between charges.

If this is something that you like, then you should be able to get it on the ZAGG site for about $129.99 here.

Amazon is ready for the holiday with their Kiva robots

What you are going to see in the video above is some robots at work. As far as I know, and what my Source reveals, this video pretty much shows what looks like at Amazon. Amazon bought Kiva Systems, presumably so the world’s biggest bookstore could have a way to move all of its merchandise around into packages.

These robots go about the floor and then they lift stacks of merchandise to the warehouse workers so they can wrap them up and ship them to you. As someone who used to work in a warehouse, this could really help. I guess maybe I understand the process of ordering and stuff. What, you think you just click on something and it just comes to you?

Personally, I think this is another one of those signs that we live in a science-fiction age. Is it odd that there is a “human exclusion zone” around these robots that sounds like something out of a dystopian science-fiction novel.

Anyway, these robots can travel 12 miles a day, and stop only 5 minutes per hour for recharge. Yes, Amazon is completely ready for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and all the days in between until Christmas.


The Philips Norelco Click&Style

Norelco click and styleIt isn’t often that I get to review electronic razors, but I did leap at the chance to review the Philips Norelco Click&Style, and I believe that it is just one word.

I suppose that the biggest feature of the Click&Style is the fact that you can just quickly click on and off the razor, beard trimmer, or bodygroom. Since this is a product made for men, then you know how much we just love that clickity-click action, like Legos and gun accessories.

There is a lot to like about the Click&Style, like the 40 minutes of cordless power after a 1-hour charge. This is good, because I happen to have an old razor that you can charge for like an hour for 5 minutes worth of use. Who needs that? In this case, you can do a 5-minute charge for several minutes of running time, which is good if you are like running late or something. By the way, it has a good battery low light.

I highly recommend going to the website where you can see one of the most intricate interaction that I have ever seen. I’ll try and describe it, but when you scroll down, you can see the guy shave himself. He gets some good stubble and serious manscaping going on. Don’t worry, it pixelates the guy’s “junk”, but it does show how it is possible to get rid of any hair that you want. By the way, this Click&Style is completely water-resistant.

If his is something that you want to get for yourself or as a gift, head on over to the Philips Store and pay about $69.99 for it. As of this writing, it can be purchased for a promotional price of $59.99, so get on it now.

Speculative Fiction Saturday, Miyazaki Month: Spirited Away

Sprited awayOkay, today’s film could be considered Miyazaki’s best, as it did win an Oscar. It actually beat out several others like Monsters, Inc. and was the first anime to receive this award. Spirited Away is really one of the most mysterious films of Miyazaki, and I’ll do my best to try and interpret what it means.

Let’s start from the beginning. Chihiro is an ordinary girl who has to leave because her parents are moving. It opens with her sad and lying in the back of a car while her parents are trying to tell her that this move will be good in the long run. I have been in this situation, and it is never easy on the child, and then the film takes a supernatural turn.

The parents find themselves in some kind of abandoned amusement park, and they also discover some food already prepared with no cooks in sight. Then they start eating, but Chihiro does not participate. In all honesty, the parents really act like idiots in these first few scenes, and the set up is almost like a horror movie. You know how the main characters decide to “get away from it all” and spend some time in some abandoned Cabin in the Woods. I mean, you just know that it isn’t going to end well. It is a very creepy set-up, and it just gets creepier. Later on, I will tell you how it gets more creepy.

Chihiro then discovers that her parents have become pigs. Then the sun sets and a river appears that blocks her way out of the amusement park. Suddenly, the place has now become a bathhouse for spirits, and then Chihiro is stuck in the middle of it.

I will have to say that this film does an incredible job of making you feel a little girl’s fear. She meets a man named Haku who tells her that Chihiro must get a job, but the only one who can give her a job is Yubaba, a grandmother figure with a very big head. Yubaba gives Chihiro a job, but she takes away her name, now calling her Sen.

From here, it is about how Chihiro works at this spiritual bathhouse, and how she adapts to the surroundings. There are times when she is in fear like a little girl, and then times when she finds a lot of strength. I suppose the best way to describe it is something like Alice and Wonderland, but with a coming-of-age theme.

I will have to admit that I’m not certain what it is that I am supposed to learn from this film. Is it that we can rise to the occasion if we make responsible choices? That is kind of what happens as Chihiro/Sen does a lot of things in order to get her parents back as well as help her newfound friends.

I don’t want to reveal the ending to this film, but a friend of mine told me something about this film’s subtext. If you watch Spirited Away, you will notice that there are spirits at the bathhouse, but there also many human girls. Besides Chihiro, it is not explained where the girls come from. It is possible that the bathhouse for the spirits is also a brothel. This is never said, but there is evidence of that in the film.

Sounds creepy, yes? Really great kids’ film, right? Kids will not get that it could be a brothel, because I’ve watched it three times and never got that. This does change my interpretation of the film, because it means that Chihiro was being trained to be a prostitute. Worse yet, there is a character named No-Face who approaches Chihiro and wants her to serve him, offering her much gold. Yeah, I don’t like the implication of this at all.

Still, is the film about not getting sucked into a world of vice? It could be interpreted that way, but Miyazaki films are very open to interpretation.

Flic Button gives your smartphone one-button possibilities

Clearly, our world has changed since Apple told us “there’s an app for that”. As the video above explains, sometimes you just want to push a button and do something, instead of, I don’t know, unlocking your phone and doing it.

I have to admire Flic button for doing that. A single press will do one thing, and a double press do another. The things that you can do with this Flic button including a camera shutter for selfies, or turn the ringer on to escape a boring conversation. Yes, the video shows that, and I like a secret button that will transmit your GPS coordinates.

I am told that the Flic can work with home automation devices, like smart light bulbs and such. You should be able to go on the Indiegogo site and see more details, and I don’t think it will be long before you see it in stores.


Marblue Reviews, Part 3: DoubleTake and Axis cases for the iPad Air

marblue Double TakeAs I mentioned before with the Marblue products, I am doing hands-on reviews of Marblue products and today it is iPad Air cases.

The DoubleTake iPad Air Tough Case has “Bold, Stylish Toughness”, with military-grade protection. There is this clip thing on it so this case folds together and holds together just fine. Then, if you want to use this as a stand, you tuck it back on the circle.

So, this is good for viewing video content as well as getting it at the right angle for when you use it to type on. If this sounds good to you, be sure to pick it up on the Marblue site for about $39.99 in various colors.

marblue axisThe next iPad Air case, the Axis is very similar to the DoubleTake as it allows the user to prop up the iPad Air.

Unlike the DoubleTake, this has an elastic band to hold the case together when it is closed. Speaking of elastic, there is also a band that you can fit your hand in for when want to free one hand while your iPad is in use.

You might notice how the iPad is in portrait mode here rather than landscape. This is because it can do both modes, baby! Not a lot of these cases can do that. If you want want to get in on this Axis, head on over to the Marblue site and pay $39.99 for it.