Archive for the Entertainment Category

Marco Polo Coming to Netflix

Posted in Entertainment with tags , on November 29, 2014 by shutterbuggeek
Kublai Khan of Netflix Series Marco Polo

Courtesy of Netflix

Mark your calendar for Friday, December 12 at 12:01 AM PST, because Netflix will debut their epic story of Marco Polo. This will be yet another powerful Netflix original series, and they will release ALL 10 episodes for those binge watchers. I’d prefer to watch them daily or weekly to totally absorb the story before moving on to the next episode.

Marco Polo is based on the Venetian merchant explorer, who was not the first European to travel to China, but the first to document his experience and influenced future explorers. He was also the first European to meet the mighty Kublai Khan. Marco Polo was then swept into a world of self-indulgence, greed, and betrayal, so this is not a series for kids.

This powerful drama was filmed in Italy, Malaysia, and Kazakhstan, which lends to stunning cinematography. It was written by Academy-Award nominated John Fusco (Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron), who was also the executive director along with Dan Minahan (Homeland, Game of Thrones), and is directed by Academy-Award nominated Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (Pirates of the Caribbean: Deadmen Tell No Tales). This is just the tip of the iceberg of talent involved with this series that is produced by The Weinstein Company for Netflix.

I’ve been waiting for months to watch this series, and based on the trailers, it looks like a winner!

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Netflix Original Series

Posted in Entertainment, Entertainment-Movies, Lifestyles with tags , on September 26, 2014 by shutterbuggeek

Netflix House of Cards and Orange is the New Black

I’m obsessed with Netflix, especially after binge watching a few TV series over the summer. I’ve been a fan of Orange is the New Black, but didn’t start watching until after the first season had ended. It made me curious about other Netflix original series.

One series I’d heard so much about is House of Cards. I usually like political dramas, so I thought this wouldn’t disappoint me. Not only did it NOT disappoint, but it was beyond what I imagined. HoC really goes THERE. Much like OITNB, it’s a no holds barred show, and nothing like what I see on network TV.

Netflix has certainly evolved since starting out as a DVD home delivery company, to adding streaming to the plan, and now offering a selection of amazing original series with more on the way.

The current lineup includes Arrested Development, Bad Samaritans, BoJack Horseman, Hemlock Grove, House of Cards, Lilyhammer, Orange is the New Black, and Turbo FAST. As if this wasn’t good enough, Netflix has a number of new quality series lined up.

Love, a Judd Apatow series is coming to Netflix, as well as the sci-fi series Sense8 from the Wachowski siblings. PLUS  Marvel has a few superhero shows heading to Netflix, featuring Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, there’s the Pablo Escobar drug drama Narcos, and I’m also looking forward to the adventure epic Marco Polo!

Movies and TV hits used to be the big draw to Netflix, but now that they will have a small arsenal of amazing original series, viewers might not use too many other apps for entertainment.

Binge Watching in Summer

Posted in Entertainment with tags , , on June 30, 2014 by shutterbuggeek
20140630-091600-33360301.jpg

Photo Credit: Netflix

Summer is here, but regular season TV shows are on hiatus. This time a decade ago used to be inundated with repeats, but now reality shows have flooded the airwaves. Looking for more substantial content to balance the guilty pleasure of watching a Real Housewives or Big Brother episode? Stream some shows you haven’t watched over the regular season.

Three summers ago I finally caught up with Mad Men via Netflix. Early last fall I stumbled on Orange is the New Black, and this summer I’m hooked on Once Upon a Time. I also found Suits and Covert Affairs on Amazon. I binge watch shows for instant gratification and to discover programming I normally don’t have time to watch.

Summer is a great time to discover new shows online. You can watch every episode, having marathons with friends, making a party out of it, or viewing alone during free time. Orange is the New Black recently released all 13 episodes of season two at once, understanding the trend to binge watch.

I’ve heard so much about House of Cards that I think I’ll give it a chance this summer. Like Orange, HoC is a Netflix original show. Streaming sites have followed the lead of cable stations by producing more gripping content than some of the networks. Amazon also produces original content for their Prime Instant Video customers.

Beware! Idle binge watching could easily make you a coach potato. While I do sit down and relax during a portion of my marathons, I also try to working out, cook, etc. to keep active and make tasks more enjoyable.

What are some of your favorite shows to binge watch?

 

Orange You Glad It’s Back?

Posted in Entertainment with tags on May 23, 2014 by shutterbuggeek
Orange is the New Black Season 2

Photo Credit: Netflix

Network television has not been the only choice of programming since cable channels started producing their own shows. Even internet streaming providers are supplying us with original content.

Netflix has a few of its own series, and my favorite is Orange is the New Black. The characters are nicely developed, and the writers push the envelope regarding story lines.

I didn’t think I would like this show because it takes place in a prison. Everything would be explicit and rude, and I prefer content that makes me think or laugh. My curiosity got the best of me and I watched the pilot. It offered more than I thought it would. It’s poignant, humorous, and gritty. The writing got me hooked from the beginning.

If you’re a fan, you probably know Season 2 begins on June 6th. You have time to review Season 1 to refresh your memory. If you haven’t watched the show yet, you should check out the first episode, and you can binge watch it before the new season.

If you’re not a subscriber yet, you can get a free one-month trial membership. Watch an episode everyday or pick a rainy day to have a marathon. Then you can be up-to-date for Season 2. Make your free trial worthwhile and watch some other programming exclusive to Netflix like House of Cards or Season 4 of Arrested Development. My 12 year old daughter loves Turbo FAST.

What do you think about Orange is the New Black? Is it quality programming or overrated?

Philips ShoqBox SB7200 Bluetooth Speaker – Review

Posted in Entertainment, Gadgets with tags , on August 20, 2013 by shutterbuggeek

Philips ShoqBox SB7200 - White

The Philips ShoqBox SB7200 Bluetooth Wireless Speaker shows how this genre of speakers is evolving. The original Bluetooth portable speakers were designed for indoor use. Now they are made durable enough for outdoor entertainment as well.

Pairing

Pairing the speaker to my devices was a breeze. The speaker initially asks you to choose a language, then informs you that it’s ready for pairing. There is a confirmation tone once your device has been paired. So far, this has been the easiest speaker for me to pair with. Even my second gen iPod Touch (though it states from 3rd gen on) and my old LG Optimus phone paired with it in seconds, and I sometimes have an issue pairing them with newer devices.

Testing

I tested the ShoqBox for sound quality of music and video playback as well as voice on the speakerphone on both the speaker and receiver ends. I listened to diversified sources to test the frequency range, and noise ratio of the speakers. The content came from files and streaming sources from iPod Touch, iPad and mobile phone. The MP3′s bit rates ranged from 128 – 256 kbps.

The volume is adjusted with a large dial on the top or the side, depending on how you place it on a surface. If your mobile device is connected via cable, you must control the volume from your device. If you press the power button twice, you can pause and skip a track forward or reverse with the swipe of your hand over a sensor on the speaker. This eliminates fumbling for control buttons.

You should only use the included power cable to charge the speaker. I accidentally grabbed my phone charger and it took twice as long to charge it half way. You’ll notice the power button flashing red and blue if this happens.

I intentionally dropped the ShoqBox from three feet, which is about the height of a table or the distance from your hand to the floor/ground without blemishes or sound quality issues. I also splashed it with water without problems.

Audio Playback

This little speaker handled everything I threw at it. I played classical, jazz, new age, R&B, pop, hip hop, and reggae. Starting with the mid-range, it sounded a bit muddled, but this is typical for many speakers this size. The highs weren’t too sharp, and the bass, while not tight, is deep and would satisfy most.

The two drivers deliver 4-watts per channel, making the volume quite impressive. I cranked up the source and the speakers to maximum, and I walked around a 5,000 square foot house with an open floor plan with no other sounds present. I could hear the music playing everywhere through open doors, except for some remote spots. However, there was a little distortion at the highest level depending on the content. Turning it down just a notch made a difference. The volume was higher while using Bluetooth vs. being connected with a cable. Happily, there was very little noise for a Bluetooth speaker.

This was fantastic using outside while dining or entertaining. I chose my playlist and enjoyed the music all afternoon and evening. Having it stand vertically used a smaller footprint on my table. It was also great poolside and at the beach, and was affected by sand or water.

The test playlist is below. However, I played other music for hours without listing the songs. Playing the volume at half the loudness gave me about eight hours of listening time.

  • Amazon Cloud Player: David Garrett – He’s a Pirate (Pirates of the Caribbean), Makiko Takeda – Japanese Roots, John Mayer – Gravity
  • Music App: Gyptian – Hold You, Boccherini – Minute in A, Op. 8/2, Shakira – La Tortura, Alex Clare – Too Close, Justin Timberlake – Suit & Tie, Flo Rida – Good Feeling
  • Pandora: Spyro Gyra – The Voodooyoodoo, Robin Thicke – Complicated, Andreas Vollenweider – Night Fire Dance

Philips ShoqBox SB7200 - White

Video Playback

The Philips ShoqBox can be used horizontally (for better L-R stereo sound) as a sound bar with your laptop, tablet or phone. It allowed me to really enjoy watching movies on my mobile devices. Considering the drivers are so close to each other, there is a nice bit of stereo separation with enough ambience to create simulated surround sound depending on how the audio was mixed.

  • ABC Player666 Park Avenue
  • Amazon Prime Video – The Avengers
  • Crackle – Wasabi
  • HBO GOAnna Karenina
  • NetflixThe Hunger Games
  • Trailers – Thor – The Dark World
  • USA – Suits
  • YouTube – Katy Perry – Roar

Gaming

My gaming adventures were also taken to another level thanks to the ShoqBox. I was in the zone when playing Angry Birds, Blue Skies, Cut the Rope, Tap Tap Revenge 3, and Touch Sports Tennis. This will really enhance your gaming experience without feeling bound to headphones or earbuds.

Noise-Canceling Speakerphone

I had someone call my cell from a landline and had a conversation. The voices were loud, but somewhat muddled over the speaker. The noise-cancellation did a great job on the other end, allowing a good sound listening from the landline. The sound was not at tinny like from the speakerphone of many mobile phones.

PROS

The Philips ShoqBox SB7200 Bluetooth Wireless Speaker comes in black, white, purple, and green, and has a rubberized exterior. It’s fantastic for kids, teens, and adults for both indoor and outdoor use, and is great for travel or at home. It has a speakerphone for higher quality conference calls. The design allows for easy volume and selection control, and it’s loud. Take it to the beach or camping, use it around the pool, in the backyard hanging from a market umbrella with a carabiner clip, in a hotel room, for business conference calls, or clip it on your belt for trekking or mountain climbing. Playing at lower volumes left me with a half full battery after nine hours.

CONS

The bass isn’t tight, and the mid-range is a bit muddled, so it’s not for audiophiles.  A couple of other colors would be nice. Playing at full volume only gave me 4 hours of use.

CONCLUSION

This is a good choice for multiple uses, especially outdoors. TIP: ShoqBox SB7200 can be used in a car for those without a built-in Bluetooth connection, but this is better for city driving (highway driving is too loud). Also, if you have two ShoqBox speakers, you can use them together for great stereo separation, plus get better coverage/louder volume in larger spaces. I rate the Philips ShoqBox SB7200 Bluetooth Wireless Speaker 4.1 out of 5.

Philips has provided me with this complimentary speaker for the purpose of a review. While it has NOT influenced this review, I believe in full disclosure.

FrogEye HotBox S7+ Wireless Speaker Review

Posted in Entertainment, Gadgets, Lifestyles with tags , , , on January 28, 2013 by shutterbuggeek

FrogEye HotBox S7+ Boxed

FrogEye is a new company that has just introduced an awesome line of lifestyle products. The HotBox S7+ is one of their Bluetooth speakers. Like their S6 model, it has a noise-cancelling microphone to use as a speakerphone, but it also has an integrated power bank to charge mobile phones.

Unboxing FrogEye HotBox S7+

UNBOXING

The packaging is of premium grade materials. Heavy stock cardboard houses what looks to be compressed foam board that cradles the speaker. The external packaging is asymmetrical, allowing the product to peek through the clear plastic on the right side. The accessories include a micro USB cable, a 3.5 mm stereo cable to connect to non-Bluetooth devices, and a water-resistant carrying pouch. There’s also a user guide, which in these days of online manuals is not a given. Right off the bat I had high expectations due to their marketing. So far, I’ve been impressed. Let’s see if this speaker can live up to its branding.

PAIRING

Pairing was quick and easy to a 3rd gen iPad and LG phone. It took a minute to pair a six-year old iMac. A 2nd gen iPod Touch and an iPad 2 needed several attempts before pairing was possible. Re-connecting was easy for all except the iPad 2, which seems to have had a general issue with Bluetooth.

TESTING

I tested sound quality of music and video playback as well as voice on the speakerphone on both the speaker and receiver ends. I listened to diversified sources to test the frequency range, and noise ratio of the speakers. The content came from files on my iPad, streaming sources from iPad apps, and streaming files via my iMac. I also connected the HotBox S7+ to a Toshiba laptop with the included cable. The MP3’s bit rates ranged from 128 – 256 kbps.

FrogEye HotBox S7+ Streaming Music from iPad 3

AUDIO

This little speaker handled everything I threw at it. I played classical, jazz, new age, R&B, pop, rock, hip hop, reggae, opera, and new wave (county & western from a video source). Starting with the mid-range that usually sounds muddled from most speakers this size, the HotBox S7+’s was natural and clear. The highs weren’t too sharp, and the bass was tight, though I could’ve used just a little more, but that’s usually at the sacrifice of the mid-range at this price ($199 at Amazon). The test playlist is below.

The two drivers deliver 3-watts per channel, making the volume quite impressive. I cranked up the source and the speakers to their maximum, and I walked around a 5,000 square foot house with an open floor plan with no other sounds present. I could hear the music playing everywhere through open doors, except for some spots upstairs. There wasn’t even distortion at that level. The volume is higher while using Bluetooth vs. while connected with a cable. Happily, there was very little noise, especially for a Bluetooth speaker.

Amazon Cloud Player : Duffy – Mercy, Three Mo’ Tenors – La Donna è Mobile, Andreas Vollenweider – Moonday, David Garrett – Smooth Criminal, Samuel Barber – Angus Dei (Adagio for Strings)

iMac: New Order – Shellshock, Tchaikovsky – 1812 Overture (op 49), Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl

iPad 3: Pearl Jam – Black, Bennie Man – Dude, David Sanborn – It’s You, Black Eyed Peas – Imma Be, M83 – Midnight City, John Mayer – Daughters

Pandora: Chairlift – Bruises, Sting – Englishman in New York, Solo Banton – Music Addict

Toshiba Satellite: Bobby Valentino – Slow Down

FrogEye HotBox S7+ Paired with iPad 3

VIDEO

The HotBox S7+ allowed me to really enjoy watching movies on my iPad and mobile phone. There isn’t a lot of stereo separation since the drivers are so close to each other, but there was enough ambience created to fully immerse me in whatever I was viewing.

ABC PlayerNashville

Amazon Prime Video – Thor

CrackleS.W.A.T.

Trailers – Olympus Has Fallen

YouTube – Katy Perry’s Wide Awake video

GAMING

My adventures were also taken to another level thanks to the HotBox S7+. How could I ever go back to listening to my iPads’s speakers? Asphalt4, Temple Run, Real Soccer 12, and Rock Band were played with much more enthusiasm.

NOISE-CANCELLING SPEAKERPHONE

I called my cell from my landline and had a conversation with family members. Their voices were loud and clear over the speaker. The noise-cancellation did a great job on the other end, allowing an equally amazing sound listen on the landline. The only difference was the volume was a bit lower, but not at all hollow or tinny sounding like from the speakerphone from mobile phones. This can definitely be used for business conference calls.

FrogEye HotBox S7+ as Power Bank Charging Android Phone

POWER BANK

The HotBox S7+ can charge mobile devices. After about seven hours of playing music and video, I was still able to charge my phone to 50% in a couple of hours. I think this is great as an add-on feature, and is pretty good in a pinch, but I wouldn’t rely on fully charging devices if you’ve use the speakers for a few hours. FrogEye sells a standalone power bank dedicated strictly to charging devices. I’ll review that another time.

PROS

The HotBox S7+ speaker comes in seven different colors, suitable for all lifestyles. It’s made from high quality materials, comes with good accessories, and in outstanding packaging. It’s fantastic for kids, teens, and adults for both personal and business use, and great for travel or at home. It has a speakerphone and a power bank, and can be used wired and wirelessly. The design is sleek and it has large control buttons on top. It’s loud, and small enough for traveling. Best of all, the sound quality is amazing!

CONS

The bass is tight, but a little light, yet about on par with other speakers of this size. Pairing can be frustrating on a few devices.

CONCLUSION

I prefer the sound quality of the HotBox over the JamBox (3.8) and Braven (4.3) wireless speakers, because it has a cleaner and more natural sound. TIP: the HotBox can be used in a car for those without a Bluetooth connection. This is definitely my go-to mobile speaker because of its big hi-fi sound. I rate the FrogEye HotBox S7+ wireless speaker 4.3 out of 5.

FrogEye has provided me with these complimentary speakers for the purpose of a review. While it has NOT influenced this review, I believe in full disclosure.

The WNBA vs. the NBA – Who’s Got More Game?

Posted in Entertainment, Photography, Photos with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2010 by shutterbuggeek

The WNBA gave birth to professional women’s basketball in the mid 90’s. I watched a few televised games, and thought they were pretty good. Fast forwarding to today, I haven’t watched or gone to any basketball games for a while besides my son’s. Recently,  I had the opportunity to go to a WNBA New York Liberty game, and I rediscovered pro ball. It was my first WNBA game ever, but it was in a very a familiar place, Madison Square Garden which is host to the NBA’s New York Knicks, and I’ve been to a number of their games.

The WNBA offers plenty of fast breaks thanks to speedy point guards, which provides exhilaration. The women also take tumbles and get injured, which causes gasps and gets attention.

The NBA has a collection of slam dunking mighty giants. They offer more exciting layups, and impressive stats, but is that enough? It is for many, and not just for the men.

The WNBA has players who can shoot more consistently. You don’t have to hold your breath as much during free throws. Based on the game I saw, I think more 3-pointer attempts ended with a swoosh, and there seemed to be MORE teamwork and NO showboating. I feel like they played because they love the sport a little more than the paycheck. This is how the coaches train the kids to play, with passion. So should younger players find the WNBA more realistic and inspiring?

One good comparison is the crowd. The WNBA attracts more families and females. There was constant kid-friendly entertainment throughout the game. Actually, there were only talented kids and families filling the void during the breaks in the action. The NBA attracts more males, so sexy, hip shaking, boyshorts cladded cheerleaders and professional performances bridge the gaps. They do have some family oriented fun, but not as much as the WNBA. The NBA also has more celebrity sightings. Another point to consider is NBA tickets will leave your wallet A LOT lighter than WNBA seats. Ticket prices can be up to five times more, which is NOT so family friendly.

Here’s something for photographers to think about. My bag was checked at security. I had a 50/1.8 lens mounted on a Canon EOS 7D, AND an EF 70-200/2.8 lens in my bag. For those not familiar with Canon lenses, the latter is a nine-inch long, WHITE lens, so it’s hard to miss. No one questioned me, and I didn’t even have a press pass. I also saw a number of other DSLR cameras in the stands. I heard you can’t get in The Garden with this gear, but they are probably referring to the NBA games. I have a feeling they were either laxer at the WNBA game or I just got lucky. I have NO objections to that.

We were blessed to have seats on the floor, so I was able to capture the action closer than others. I meant to walk up a bit higher to see the difference that distance and point of view make, but I got caught up in the game and unfortunately forgot. These shots were all taken with the 70-200/2.8 lens. The pros under the net mostly had this focal length as well, and some had a second camera with a 24-70/2.8 lens mounted on it. If you’re fortunate enough to be on or close to the floor with a 200 mm focal length, you can get some amazing shots, even across the court!

Even if you don’t have a DSLR I think you can take some good pictures. The lighting is so much better than at a school’s court (if you have kids who play), which is what I’m used to. I had my aperture wide open at f/2.8, and bumped up the ISO to 3200 (I might’ve only needed 2500) to freeze the action, which you can’t do on a point and shoot. If you’re using a compact camera, set the ISO to the highest setting, i.e. 800 or 1600, and if you can manually adjust your aperture, set it to the lowest number (3.5, 4.0, etc.) to try to get blur-free action photos. By the way, the higher the ISO, the more grain/noise you’ll notice.

There were a number of men amongst the crowds, many with families, some as part of a group or couple, and a few were alone. I found that FANtastic! The WNBA season is May – September, so it doesn’t clash with the NBA season (October – April), and it keeps die-hard basketball fans entertained year-round. In my opinion, they compliment rather than compete with each other. There is a different atmosphere between the WNBA and NBA games, but variety is the spice of life, so they say. Both bring something different to the table, yet provide the energy sports fans and photographers seek.

So, what’s your opinion? Overall, between the WNBA and the NBA, who’s got more game?

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