28 April 2019

When To Hold 'Em, When to Fold 'Em

So, we've had two major developments in consumer technology, both having to do with flexible displays. The first of these is the delay of the Samsung Galaxy Fold phones, following a number of review units breaking. Some of these incidents were due to user error, namely the removal of what appeared to be a screen protector from the display. Others seemed to be simple wear-and-tear in a relatively short amount of time. First iteration gremlins aside, the device does not seem to be offering what users expected in terms of form and function. Marques Brownlee in particular noted the clumsiness of the hinge and how more often than not it simply felt like he had two small phones in his pocket rather than one large one. He did give the device a little credit when he addressed viewer concerns of the "crease" in the middle of the display only being noticeable in certain lighting conditions and/or whenever users are actively looking for it. 

The hype over the folding phones, the various proof-of-concepts teased last year and a few prototypes for hands-on demos from the likes of Huawei, is completely underwhelming to me. I have absolutely zero use for a folding display. I'm hard-pressed to think of an instance in which the thought occurred, "If only I could fold up this display and tuck it away." That's not entirely fair, though. If one of my Moleskines could bend and give like a softcover when I don't need it and lay flat as a hardcover when I do, that would be pretty cool. Trouble is, that's not what the Fold, nor any other folding display phone, is offering. What it's offering is to open and close like a book, but display as a single page. Contrast this with two devices, the Nintendo DS and the Sony Tablet P, and suddenly the Galaxy Fold becomes a solution looking for a problem, a step down from a novelty. The DS had more than a few titles that had the user hold the DS on its side, with the left and right screens displaying pages like a book. The Tablet P never quite made the most of its dual displays, but that was more of a software issue (Android) than a hardware problem. 

Still, I'm not being fair. As I said, I have no use for a folding display. I'm clearly not the target audience for a device like this. It all speaks to a fundamental disconnect between how I see tablets, and how the general public sees them. I think my brother put it best when we were talking about the original iPad back in the day. I was expecting a productivity machine, a touchscreen Macbook, not an oversized iPhone. From this perspective, the iPad is terrible, a step back, borderline insulting to the creative spirit of Apple users. However, as a consumption device, a means for appreciating various media, it's a Victorinox-style music player, television, and e-book reader. Time has blurred this line, with no shortage of productivity apps along with all the fun stuff. The iPad is still far from being the laptop replacement Apple wants us to believe it is, but it can certainly hold its own against a Chromebook. It's still my choice platform for making digital art. From that perspective, the Galaxy Fold is terrible. I can just see it folding up in my hand as I push down with my stylus just a little too hard, or my lines across the middle not being nearly as straight as they could be, little hiccups interrupting smooth pen strokes. 

I haven't yet found a single Fold review in which anyone attempts to use Autodesk Sketchbook or Medibang. Between that and Samsung not enabling the S-Pen for it, I'm thinking it's either so extraordinarily unremarkable it's irrelevant, or my visions are prophetic. The simple fact is that carrying around an iPad Pro just about everywhere is something I resigned myself to. It's no more of a hassle or headache or added bit of bulk than when I carried around an 8 x 5 sketchbook everywhere. 

Speaking of carrying something around everywhere with little to no hassle, the second recent development may have its own share of issues, but I'm far more optimistic about it than the Fold. The Nubia Alpha is easily the smartest use of a flexible display I've seen thus far, its focus being less on folding and more on wrapping. It's not trying to put a bigger thing in a smaller package. It's doing something entirely different. It's invented a new form of screen real estate, expanding the clock face onto the rest of the band. It rather reminds me of Sony's little-known "smart wristband" the Wena, which lets you keep your existing watch while delegating the smart features to a tiny display in the band. 

Remember what I said about wanting to be able to roll and bend a Moleskine softcover yet have it lay flat when I needed to draw or write in it? Well, the Alpha isn't trying to be that for me. It doesn't have to, and I would never ask that of it. It's not exactly on any wishlists of mine right now (I'm no early adopter and my FitBit works just fine), but I'm watching this far more closely than any other flexible display out there. 

13 April 2019


I've been with Blogger since May of 2008, making it the oldest website I've used that's still standing today besides DeviantART (which was December of 2007). Yahoo 360 and Multiply are long gone, as are the message boards from IMDB. I've never bothered with MySpace, and I recently culled much of my Facebook page to keep it to a "friends and family" platform. If there's anyone on Facebook I haven't met in person that I'm not related to, it's because I know them from Yahoo 360
I also have a Wordpress page I've used since 2014. Originally it was meant to replace this site as there had been some concerns that Blogger would either be discontinued or otherwise abandoned. On the whole, my only real issue with Wordpress is all the damn paywalls. I get that certain features come with a premium for the site to create revenue, but it's all over the map as to what features come with what plan. To compare, Blogger lets me put my Ko-Fi button in the sidebar of my page without any fuss. Wordpress won't even let me do that with the personal plan I recently splurged on. I have to get their business plan if I want to add any kind of plug-in to the page. I can have a full domain name, but I can't embed a button. I may try and transfer the domain once the 60-day window is up. 
In any case, I don't plan on leaving Blogger any time soon. 

02 April 2019

Jumbo Shrimp

It's not bad, but it's borderline forgettable and hollow. I'm hard-pressed to recall an instance of seeing a weaker story told with less conviction. All the ingredients are there. We're introduced to this big cast of colorful characters, and the half that aren't lost on how to play their parts only get maybe 5 full minutes of characterization out of the entire runtime. So, when our merry band of misfits all rally together to save the day, all I can think is, "and you guys are...?" 
The art direction is rock solid and the score is beautiful, but the story bites off more than it can chew in an attempt to pad out the plot of the original, which has now been reduced to a 20-minute abridgment serving as the opening act. The rest is equally hurried and scattered, as though bored with its own concept which at times feels borrowed from other movies. The pink elephants do make an appearance, but I doubt it will be long before we seen side-by-side screencaps of it and the opera scene from Revenge of the Sith
Of all the forthcoming live-action/realistic CG versions of Disney classics coming out this year, this was the one I was most looking forward to because it seemed like it was going to offer more than a scene-by-scene reenactment of the source material. Technically, I got what I wanted, using the original premise as a jumping-off point to tell a bigger story. Unfortunately, that bigger story is so thinly-spread and half-hearted in execution even the finale feels like padding, all half-finished ideas and tired platitudes. 

Full disclosure: "Baby Mine" still makes me cry.