Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Roving with Roland.

At first glance, it's a brilliant idea - a portable setup with 6 channels, perfect for recording 5.1 surround sound when out and about on location. I am definitely glad I have it. It can power an additional two condensor microphones at 40 volts, which is just as well because the front microphones are rather clunky and don't really record so well. Really, it should have hit the mark there and then, but I'm not entirely convinced by the R-26 because of this. It's definitely a useful tool though, and I have enjoyed exploring it and seeing how good it really is. Given that this is a portable device, I would hazard a guess at saying it would be best used outdoors, as opposed to indoors. It would sound more natural, as opposed to being expected to act as a studio built into a portable unit. Aesthetically, it is rather big and heavy and looks a bit like something out of Star Trek, and the accessories kit was a massive letdown; I would avoid it at all costs. It is sturdy and rugged enough, ideal for use outdoors.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Better The Devil You Know.

It is a brave move to try and rework such popular classics...ones which shaped and defined a pop career which has now spanned a quarter of a century. Nonetheless, transforming songs to which we all danced twenty years ago into moving ballads...familiar songs in new keys, styles and genres has been a labour of love which has definitely paid off. Every song has been faithfully reworked, with some beautiful orchestral scores added, and even different recording techniques, including using microphones more appropriate to these genres of vocal than to pop songs. Then again, you would expect nothing less from Abbey Road Studios. This album proves Kylie is an ever evolving, talented performing artist who is just as credible and valid as ever, and shows she is definitely not just a one trick pony. It may not be a total departure from pop music that she is seeking, but no doubt, this album is definitely able to help secure a seamless transition to a more mature sound and style. There is also a totally new track included; Flower, which shows the likes of Adele how it's really done!

Thursday, 25 October 2012


The first change you will notice is that this new kindle is black, instead of the grey seen in previous models. I find it makes it easier to read the print on the screen, which still only operates in black and white. That said, I do think that the white background of the pages on the screen appears generally brighter, which must be down to more than just the shell colour being black instead of grey. The text itself also looks sharper and clearer than before. Bear in mind, this is a budget, entry level ebook reader, so it doesn't support HTML. In fact, it doesn't seem that any of the spec as to what formats it does and does not support, has changed. The software itself does not appear to have been updated, although I do think that it's opening pages quicker too. If you are looking for a no-frills eBook reader, then this new, slightly improved Kindle is the one for you, but if you are looking for something a bit more exciting, then you might want to consider the

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Nikon - Cool pick!

For such a compact camera, there are a lot of features packed in. That said, it's totally user-friendly, intuitive and easy to use, even for beginners. The 16 megapixel CMOS sensor works in collaboration with the EXPEED processor and allows you to take clear, sharp photographs in any level of light...from a sunny day to a dusky evening...from a concert to a fireworks display. It allows just the right level of light and there's less glare and red eye than previous, similar cameras I have used, such as the which I thought was rather good when I originally bought it!! You can also select the scene mode yourself from a choice of 20, although generally I didn't feel this was necessary as the camera does automatically adjust itself according to the light settings surrounding it. However, the macro facility was useful as was the ability to photograph documents/written black and white. Further to this is its own Intelligent auto-focus system, which allows the camera to choose the clearest focus for the subject matter. This works even if the subject matter isn't in the centre of the frame. The inbuilt vibration reduction is really useful for example when taking photographs or filming on a moving train or dancing around at a concert, and together with the Anti-blur high ISO, it ensures you take steadier photos than you'd think possible given your own motion! Also worth a mention is the panorama option, which when compared with the Panorama option on my iPhone 5 camera, delivers a much smoother picture which doesn't look so much like several pictures cut and pasted together. When it comes to filming, the HD quality is impressive for its size, and when said films are blown up, even on a projector to more than 100 inches, the clarity is crystal clear and doesn't suffer pixellation or graining, unlike other cameras I have tried. The large size of the touch-screen LCD screen is useful. There is a stylus included in the box, although I preferred to use my fingers. The only slight issue I had was that I found the adapter slightly troublesome to assemble initially, although again, unlike my previous Coolpix camera, I welcomed the development which means you no longer have to remove the battery in order to charge it in a separate cradle - it is now possible to charge the battery still in situ in the camera. This is a big plus point. Overall, a brilliant compact camera which has pride of place in my handbag for day-to-day use.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012 arguments!!

Much as others who have already reviewed this album, I am a longtime Paul McCartney afficionado (you could say he's a Lifelong Passion of mine, in fact). I also have the first two Fireman albums in addition to his entire back catalogue. This album is pretty far removed from his previous Fireman releases. It sounds a bit like the sounds he produced on Twin Freaks, which was remixes of some of his songs. Although there were some vocal sounds in parts of Rushes, this is the first Fireman release to include sung vocals. These are delivered in time to some really funky beats, much as you'd expect to hear in an achingly hip bar or club, and I am confident that this album will actually be played in such premises in the immediate future. Despite his successes and the adulation and critical acclaim he has received throughout his career, McCartney is very insecure. He has said himself he feels more able to kick back and goof around and noodle with these Fireman projects and so this is Paul McCartney being relaxed, free and himself. Not that his other releases are not true to himself, but he has long been pigeonholed as some soppy balladeer and as such a one trick pony but of late, most notably and recently with Electric Arguments, he has proved this to be anything but the truth. A highly recommended album which is getting a lot of positive feedback from all quarters, and one I'd recommend to any fans of Paul McCartney, and of ambient and dance music per se.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Face facts.

I have now been using this device for coming up to the recommended three months period in which change becomes noticeable. I was using the Slendertone Face for the radiance it promised, as opposed to the tightening/firming programmes available, because I felt my skin was a bit dull looking. In the time I have been using it, I have noticed that my cheekbones are definitely slightly more defined (but not razor sharp like a supermodel, not that I was expecting that!) and my skin feels plumper; I assume that this is because there is more circulation to my face as my skin is smoother and brighter looking. I have been told I am looking well in recent weeks and have even been asked for ID more, so I am putting it down to my dedicated use of this machine. The reason for me knocking a star off its rating is that I have sensitive teeth and I found that wherever I positioned this on my face, anything more than a moderate setting made my teeth and jaw hurt, so I couldn't really use it as effectively as perhaps I might have been able to had I not had sensitive teeth. Although the initial outlay is expensive, as is the replacement of the pads every quarter, I would still argue that compared with regular facials and/or injectable treatments, this kit offers good value for money and I would recommend it.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Kitchen additions.

Silver Service. This microwave is smaller inside than any I have previously used, but still perfect for what I need it for. I like having the dial on it to turn around according to how long I need it to heat for, as opposed to some models which are solely digital. I have no issues at all with its operation; I find it heats things evenly and efficiently, actually requiring less time than advised. However, I have knocked a star off it for two issues I have with its design. I would have preferred it to have a button to open the door, as opposed to having to yank the door, which ends up dragging the entire unit across my kitchen worktop unless I use the other hand to hold it in place. Also, the front is really hard to clean without smearing and even splashes of water end up looking really obvious and unslightly. A tip I have, surprisingly, is using a few drops of baby oil on a cloth to wipe the outside clean (this is not to be tried inside the microwave itself). Totally cool. Originally, I ordered this fridge because I was looking for an undercounter fridge without a freezer compartment as I already have a freezer. I was also attracted by how well the internal design was thought out, making the best possible use of fairly limited space. It's deeper than my previous larder fridge and can fit loads in! I'm still getting used to the temperature adjustments, finding that at 5 it freezes everything and at 4, butter is just as soft as it would be at room temperature...4 and a bit seems to be the general consensus! When the fridge arrives, it is important to note that Beko advise that you do not plug it in for at least 4 hours post-delivery, which is apparently to allow the cooling systems to settle in their new environment. Once switched on, it begins to cool very quickly. Definitely the best under-counter fridge (without a freezer compartment!) I've seen. A not so perfect blend. The Tefal SlimForce Plus does what it says it will...mostly. I think the package offers great value for money when compared with similar products, given the amount of extras it comes supplied with. Blitzing a vegetable soup was no problem for this device...trying to break down cloves of cooked garlic in a gravy which was at the time thin, not so effective - in fact, it was useless. The positioning of the on/off button is a really poor design feature, especially for someone with smaller hands and shorter arms (like me!) I had to hold down the button on top of the handle continuously, which I also thought was poor, because it can't be hard to come up with a button which just stays on once pressed once? I found it heavy and clunky, and had my wrist at a funny angle trying to use it. That said, the attachments come on and off easily and are easy to clean. All in all, there is room for improvement and I'm not entirely convinced I would order this particular hand blender again given the choice.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Hair today, gone tomorrow.

With pale, sensitive skin, I was nervous about trying this out, but according to the manuals, it is fine for pale skin. There is a spectrum shown in the booklet which shows exactly which skin tones can and cannot use this IPL system safely. It is unsafe on blonde hair and on very dark skin. Before using the device on an area of the body, it is strongly advisable to do a small patch test 48 hours before conducting your first full treatment. A patch test is basically a small area on your body, where you try the IPL out twice, side by side. Fortunately, I had no adverse reaction and so was able to continue using the device. There is a small cordless instrument which you need to use each time you treat a different part of your body. It detects your skin tone and this automatically adjusts the settings of the IPL ready for use. You then apply a thick layer of the gel to the area which is to be treated. Because it's a fiddly process and the gel dries out, I would recommend you apply it in small patches as you go along. You must ensure that the IPL is applied flat against the skin or it simply will not operate. A white light signifies that it is ready to use. You press the button ONCE and there will be a red flash. Do not look into the light - you can see it side on (protect your eyes!) There will be indentations in the gel on your skin where you have already treated, which helps you keep note of where you have and have not treated. You must not treat the same area more than once in one session or you risk burns. Another reviewer suggests using a white eyeliner pencil (or I'd say any colour) to mark the areas you have treated. I would say this is a good idea - I tried it and found it really reassuring knowing I wasn't at risk of overdoing it! Treatments should be carried out every 2 weeks for the first couple of months, and then to maintain the hair reduction, it reduces to once a month. I find it a time consuming process requiring concentration and focus and to be honest, it is fiddly, but the results are definitely worth it because even though I've only been using it for 5 weeks so far, I can already see an undeniable reduction in hair regrowth. Financially, it is a big outlay, and the replacement activation gel [[ASIN:B008LQZQWM Gillette Venus V Activation Gel]] is another ongoing commitment, but compared with the cost of getting similar treatments carried out professionally at a salon, and with the knowledge that it will dramatically and almost entirely reduce hair regrowth, I would definitely say it is a worthwhile investment.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

At Last/So Fine...Can't Get It Out Of My Head.

Having bought and enjoyed Paul McCartney's album Kisses On The Bottom, I was looking forward to hearing Jeff Lynne's offering. As with his other new release Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best Of ELO, he plays all the instruments himself. You can see this in the video for Mercy Mercy, where in scenes remeniscent of the video for Coming Up by Paul McCartney, Lynne performs the song and you can see images of him juxtaposed so there are several Jeff Lynnes in the room, all playing their own instrument and making the song complete. It's a great album, but you'd expect nothing less, especially given that Lynne produced it himself too. This album is a re-recording of a hand-picked selection of songs from ELO's illustrious career, recorded and produced by their frontman Jeff Lynne. He plays every instrument and sings every vocal himself, so while it's not the original ELO lineup, it is the best of their best. The reworkings add something to the originals, albeit very subtly. After all, to the average ELO fan's ear, the songs were perfect anyway. However, Lynne's reworking of these masterpieces is tasteful and sympathetic to the originals, yet freshens and tidies them up. Coupled with the recent television coverage recently, this may well bring him a legion of new fans as it's also a great basic overview of some of ELO's best songs. It's certainly impressed this long-standing fan.

Magical Mystery Tour.

This is a lovely, well presented package. It contains plenty of extras to make it well worth getting as opposed to just buying the DVD on its own. The film itself has been restored and the soundtrack remastered to sound even better than ever in surround sound. It's presented on bright yellow discs which are aesthetically appealing and just another nice touch. I really enjoyed the extra footage, with up to date commentary from Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and Anthology footage from George Harrison and John Lennon. It's worth buying for this alone. I really enjoyed McCartney's insights in particular, as it showed just how far ahead of the times the Beatles really were...more than just progressive! Ideas such as filming a Parisian gendarme and using a jaunty version of La Marselleise as a soundtrack is very "out there" for the time, but years in advance of what was going on in terms of film in the period, and definitely still relevant now. I also loved the book with all the bonuses such as scripts, call sheets, correspondance etc which gives a tantalising and delicious insight into the production process of the film, which is just enough and no more (I can never get enough of these goodies!) Also included is a 7" mono EP which is a faithful recreation of the original and even a replica MMT ticket. A brilliant package which will keep me going for years to come - I found with the that even now I find new things every time I go back to it.

Friday, 5 October 2012

I certainly was Taken with this film...

With the release of Taken 2, which I am looking forward to seeing, I revisted my old review on Amazon and also re-watched the first Taken film. Below are my thoughts on the film as written in early 2009. When I saw this film last year, I was really surprised it wasn't more hyped up, lauded and attracting higher audience volumes than the one I was in. I don't really like gangster films; I like chick flicks. So for me to give this top marks and sing its praises shows what a great film it is. Like the reviewer Anna has also said, despite Liam Neeson's character shooting anyone and everyone, it's not too gratuitous or bloody. I also agree that I had a pretty good idea where the story was going, but I was not bored by this, and I was still engaged and entertained all the way through. The ending was chick flick enough to keep me happy too, although at this stage I was rather enjoying the fights!! I also felt that some parts of the story were not so far removed from reality, more specifically the human trafficking and the violence of the usually Eastern European gangs which operate such it was quite harrowing to see these scenes. I also had a vested interest in this film as I work in security. An overlooked film and one of the best from 2008.