Monday, 31 October 2016
There is a certain market segment that gravitates to the tablet keyboard. I don’t think my father knows how to use his iPad without the keyboard attached to it. It’s hard to blame him. The experience of tapping on a screen pales next to even the lousiest of physical keyboards—not to mention it makes you cover up half the screen with your sweaty meat paws. To date, those who gravitate to tablet keyboards generally pick a model that doubles as a protective case. This makes logical sense, but it isn’t for everyone—especially if you only need the keyboard once and awhile, and/or if you agree that most keyboard-laden cases are unflatteringly corporate and heinously ugly.
Enter Logitech’s Keys-To-Go, a simple slab of a keyboard, case excluded, that might just be the ticket for those with occasional keyboard needs.
Measuring 9.5 inches by 5.4 inches, the size is in between that of the iPad Air and the iPad mini. But at 6mm thick weighing just 6.3 ounces, it’s so slight that it can ride alongside either of those in your purse (or man-purse) and you’ll never know it’s there.
The Bluetooth keyboard is covered with a rubbery membrane called FabricSkin, which isn’t exactly great for typing feel but which does make it waterproof and invulnerable to crumbs. Somehow, Logitech has squeezed a battery into the thing that is spec’d to last for some 350-plus hours; at two hours of use a day that’ll take you three months between charges (though I didn’t test this claim). $70 isn’t cheap, but it also doesn’t feel exorbitant. As a bonus, it’s loaded up with a row of iOS shortcut keys that minimize the need to keep jumping from keyboard to screen and back.
The Keys-To-Go experience is a decidedly portable one, to the point where it feels a bit flimsy. The scant millimeter of key travel and squished-together keys aren’t going to cut it for writing the Great American Novel, but it’ll manage for your two weeks’ notice.
This model of the Keys-To-Go is designed for all iOS devices (a separate model covers Android and Windows portables), and it also includes a plastic widget that slips onto the back of the keyboard and works as a crude stand. Most tablet users will probably have a stand setup that works already, making this piece unnecessary, but you may want to use it with your iPhone (where stands are much less common). Here the widget isn’t a great solution. Even the slim case on my iPhone made it too obese to fit comfortably into the stand’s slot. Fortunately, this piece isn’t necessary, and alternative options abound.
7/10 – Very good, but not quite great.
Samuel D Hunters latest adeptly questions five young evangelical Idahoans about to embark on a missionary stint in the Middle East without dismissing them
In the opening scene of Samuel D Hunters The Harvest, set in the days before a group of young evangelicals embark on a missionary stint in the Middle East, five Idahoans congregate in a half-finished church basement and begin to pray. Their invocation begins calmly enough, but then the volume increases, as does the intensity of their gestures. Amid the scratchy carpet and fluorescent lights, theyre soon writhing, flailing, shouting in tongues, working themselves up to a paroxysm that resembles a drug-free LSD trip or a fully clothed orgy.
Its a rare moment of excess during this Davis McCallum-directed version of the play by the MacArthur grant-winning playwright, who typically works more moderately, crafting empathetic portraits of unglamorous and often unhappy Americans searching for a kind of transcendence amid their unspectacular lives. Here Josh (Peter Mark Kendall), an unhappy young man whose alcoholic father has recently died, decides to relocate to the Middle East permanently. His colleagues, who include Tom (Gideon Glick), Joshs forlorn best friend; Marcus (Christopher Sears) and Denise (Madeleine Martin), a newly married couple; and Ada (Zo Winters), the tiresomely cheery group leader, decide to stay on for another four months.
Joshs sister Michaela, who ran away years ago, returns to try to dissuade him from missionary work. His fellow fundamentalists mostly cheer him on. Youre like a mascot, one says adoringly. Like the church mascot. Tom feels conflicted about the trip, too, and in his relationship with Josh there are shades of an inchoate and inarticulable desire.
As these young adults practice their Arabic and role-play their witnessing, Hunter offers a kind of comedy he doesnt usually traffic in, but the humor rarely slants into satire. The play questions the evangelicals and their mission, yet doesnt dismiss their longing for something beyond themselves. One of the great paradoxes (a paradox Hunter returns to often) is that while they seek the numinous and the sublime, theyre unable to communicate with those around them. These adolescents can talk to God, but theyre not always very good at talking to each other or to their families.
Hunters command of his style seems slightly less complete than in other plays the focus is broader, the tone more varying, which are not at all bad things, though sometimes theres a tendency to cap a scene too neatly in an effort to move on to the next strand of plot. But he offers rich and varied roles for his actors, as always. Kendall is tremendously good as Josh, able to layer multiple emotions confusion, yearning, anger, resignation into his posture and voice. Glick, who also appeared in Hunters The Few, delivers his typical emotional intensity and the rest of the cast is admirable, too.
This evangelizing drama may not end well for its characters (Hunters plays rarely do), but it is good news for its audience.
The post The Harvest review a trippy take on a missionary’s position appeared first on Safer Reviews, Unbiased & Independent Reviews..
The tale of love and revenge takes an intellectually provocative approach to the 1782 French novel but doesnt always serve the rather more salacious script
When the poet Charles Baudelaire read Les Liaisons Dangereuses, he wrote that Pierre Choderlos de Laclos 1782 novel burns as only ice can burn. The fire is rather more lukewarm in Josie Rourkes revival of Christopher Hamptons adaptation, which opened at the Donmar Warehouse and has since moved to Broadway, with Janet McTeer now joined by Liev Schreiber.
A story both immoral and moralizing, it concerns the cerebral and erotic duel between the Marquise de Merteuil (McTeer) and the Vicomte de Valmont (Schreiber). Adversaries, comrades and former lovers, they bet that if Valmont can win the affections of the notoriously prim Madame de Tourvel (Birgitte Hjort Srensen, of Borgen fame), the Marquise will once again grant him her favors.
If he can also manage to deflower a silly teenager just released from a convent (Elena Kampouris), so much the better.
Love and revenge, the Marquise entices Valmont. Two of your favourites.
Liaisons was revived on Broadway fairly recently, in a 2008 production that starred Laura Linney and Ben Daniels and did little to surmount audience memories of Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan in the stage debut or Glenn Close and John Malkovich in the Stephen Frears film.
That revival felt trivial; this one feels a little more ponderous. Rourke and some of the actors take the script so seriously they sometimes forget to have much fun with it. Whats the point of all those bodices if they wont be ripped?
Even the set seems rather somber, a distressed chateau that suggests the ways in which sexual gamesmanship and societal manipulation continue from pre-revolutionary France to the present.
Rourke offers a feminist reading of the work, one in which the roles women play, by force and by choice, are closely examined. Observations about gender dynamics (Our sex has few enough advantages, you may as well make the most of those you have; Men enjoy the happiness they feel; we can only enjoy the happiness we give) are afforded particular weight.
This is an astute and intellectually provocative approach, but it doesnt always serve the rather more salacious script and has the undesired effect of making a grandly hyped battle of the sexes into a first-round KO.
This production has no doubt that Merteuil will win, though at some cost to herself, and Schreiber seems to sense this. Theres a saturnine, slightly defeated air to his alcoholic Valmont. Despite Schreibers height, swagger and masculine force, his Valmont is no match for Merteuil. He layers some of his eventual rout into the earlier scenes, all but ceding the stage to McTeer.
McTeer knows what to do with it. She has set her voice somewhere between purr and growl and arranged her hands and arms into movements that are both perfect expressions of court gestures and precise parodies of them. Her Merteuil is both elegant and vicious, with an air of surface refinement barely concealing the ferocity below.
There are claws beneath her manicure, fangs behind her smile. Her extraordinary performance is scorching and chilling. Ice and fire at once.
Sunday, 30 October 2016
An exclusively Asian cast, whose members also take on white roles, brings humor and poignancy to a loosely autobiographical play from Qui Nguyen
The playwright Qui Nguyens parents met in the mid-70s at Fort Chaffee, an Arkansas military base that housed Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon. Whether their courtship actually involved quite so many ninjas, drugs, expletives, and hip-hop ballads is unknown. But thats how Nguyen has portrayed it in Vietgone, at Manhattan Theatre Club, as an unlikely intermingling of family play, history play, sex farce, action flick, and cultural critique. It is overtly rollicking and sneakily moving.
The play opens as an actor playing Nguyen (the terrific Paco Tolson) slouches onstage and assures the audience that All characters appearing in this work are fictitious that especially goes for any person or persons who could be related to the playwright. Specifically his parents. We then meet those parents, Quang (Raymond Lee), who greets the audience with Sup, bitches and Tong (Jennifer Ikeda), who remarks, Damn, theres a lotta white people up in here. The playwright announces that in this play, the Asian characters will speak eloquently and shit, while the American ones will sound like this: French fry, french fry, yee-haw! Asian actors will also play all the white roles, a welcome corrective to whitewashing.
Once the action begins, the timeline hopscotches between Quang and Tongs individual evacuations from Vietnam, their meeting at the camp, and a road trip Quang embarks on, in the unlikely hope of eventually returning to Vietnam, where his wife and children remain. Nguyen tells these stories using the narrative structures and styles of his childhood, from Bruce Lee movies to 80s romcoms to horror flicks to superhero comic books.
Some of the writing is lazy, with Nguyen so comfortable in his ultra-vernacular style that he doesnt challenge himself to create a more distinctive diction for each character. In looser passages, his scripts can sound like the results of an explosion at a slang factory, rather than a careful construction. Hiring a lyricist for the hip-hop passages wouldnt be the worst idea, either. If May Adraless direction is sometimes more vivid than precise, she righty celebrates Nguyens smash-em-up approach to genre, the childlike sense of play, qualities the generally superb cast also adopts.
But Vietgone is a more serious work than it initially seems, and a stealthy one not only owing to the ninjas in the second act. Even before the conclusion, which offers a scene of the playwright interacting with his now elderly parents, Nguyen has enticed the audience into caring for these cartoonish characters, admiring their bravery, their fortitude, their resilience when faced with terrible loss. He sneaks in warmth behind the silliness, solemnity alongside the kung fu, making the deliberately preposterous feel vibrantly real, even poignant. Ninjas included.
Washington (CNN)A new national poll that was taken before Friday’s bombshell announcement that the FBI was reviewing emails related to Hillary Clinton’s private server finds the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump in a tight race.
Among all the tools and gadgets that can fill a kitchen, knives are without a doubt the most personal and indispensable. Admire one in a chef’s collection and prepare for an unsolicited earful of its history, but do not expect an offer for you to try it. My own collection is modest but I’m proud of it. Among them, my favorites are a Wsthof Classic Cook’s Knife and my Tadafusa santoku. The Wsthof capably does everything from mincing a shallot to cutting up a chicken and the sharper blade angle of the santoku cuts through vegetables like a scalpel.
Misen Chef’s Knife
A $65 knife that promises the quality of its $140 competition.
Despite solid out-of-the-box performance (and extremely favorable reviews of prototype models) the steel quality, particularly its hardness, is nowhere near what Misen claims it is. Shown to a master bladesmith who ran extensive tests on it, he compared the quality of the Misen’s steel not with a knife that cost $140, but that of one he bought for $12 at Walmart.
How We Rate
- 1/10A complete failure in every way
- 2/10Sad, really
- 3/10Serious flaws; proceed with caution
- 4/10Downsides outweigh upsides
- 5/10Recommended with reservations
- 6/10Solid with some issues
- 7/10Very good, but not quite great
- 8/10Excellent, with room to kvetch
- 9/10Nearly flawless
- 10/10Metaphysical perfection
A new chef’s knife from Misen promises the best of both knives, making giant-killer claims about innovative geometry, high-grade steel, a santoku-style blade angle, and free sharpening for life. Most impressively, it brags of what it calls the “honest price” of $65, a number that’s less than half the price of the high-end knives it calls its competition.
Intrigued, I called one in to test. Misen started as a Kickstarter but is shipping its knives this fall. Days later, I had my chef’s knife, my santoku, and the Misen chef’s knife lined up next to one another on my cutting board. The most striking feature of the Misen was the side view, which looked a bit like both knives, combining the flatter belly of the santoku and both the handle and upward sweep at the tip of the chef’s knife, a sort of westernized version of a Japanese knife known as a gyuto.
I bought a bag full of groceries to chop and declared game the game afoot. The differences between the three knives were immediately apparent. While the Misen most resembles a traditional chef’s knife, it doesn’t really behave like one. The Wsthof has a large, curving ‘belly,’ a German style that encourages a rocking cutting motion with the tip of the knife planted on the board, the back end moving up and down, while the whole thing slides back and forth with each stroke. The santoku style relies more on keeping its flatter blade parallel to the cutting board, gliding forward with each downward movement.
For me, the Misen often felt most comfortable using a santoku-style stroke. It was particularly noticeable when I was working my way through something tall like a wedge of cabbage or chopping up a pile of herbs. Try a stroke that allows the Wsthof to power through that kind of work with the Misen and it’ll feel like a flat thud every time the length of the blade hits the cutting board. That said, I felt confident that the best stroke for whatever I cut with the Misen would become apparent with use, and I’d get better with it over time.
In my three-knife showdown with a bag of groceries, the Misen never became my weapon of choice. The first thing I worked on was cutting bacon into a quarter-inch dice for a potato and leek soup. Cutting the thick slices into long strips was fine, but when I switched to the crosswise cut, things got … dicey. The Wsthof sliced through cleanly, creating nice, neat corners and edges. The Misen needed an awkwardly exaggerated stroke to get the same result, otherwise it slightly crushed the cubes. It had similar difficulty with the final strokes that cut a red pepper into the tiny cubes of a brunoise.
Like the Wsthof, the Misen used its weight to slice easily through a russet potato and just like the Wsthof, the slices stuck to the side of the knife with suction-cup force, a common problem my santoku sidestepped thanks to dimpling on the side of its blade. All three knives blazed through leeks and chives. The Wsthof and the Misen both performed admirably cutting a chicken into pieces, including powering through the breastbone, something I wouldn’t do with my santoku.
On the other hand, the santoku is my go-to knife for most veggies, unless it’s something really firm that I need to lean into, but here I noted something peculiar. Misen touts its santoku-like 15-degree blade angle, as opposed to the wider angle of most chef’s knives, but just like my Wsthof, the Misen never felt like my scalpel-like santoku.
Despite these misgivings, that attractive price tag loomed large and I called a pair of bladesmiths to decode what was happening.
“Most people will evaluate their edge in the first 10 minutes of use,” said Daniel O’Malley of Epicurean Edge in Kirkland, Washington, who explained that a diligent knife sharpener can put a fairly sharp edge on most knives, but poorer blades just won’t hold that edge for long. “Really, what we should care about is how they feel about it 12 months down the line.”
Over the phone, I steered O’Malley toward Misen’s website, where the company talks about what makes its knife special and how it says the knives measure up against their higher-priced competition. He went quiet for a while.
The first thing bladesmith O’Malley got hung up on was the kind of steel Misen uses. There’s nothing special about AUS-8, O’Malley says. It’s mid-level Japanese steel. He got hung up again on the percent of carbon Misen uses in its comparison: 0.8 percent in the Misen versus 0.6 percent in the competition. “Carbon’s just one player,” O’Malley says. “Too much carbon makes it brittle. They’re playing loose and fast with what ‘premium’ means.”
The makeup of a knife’s steel determines characteristics like how well it takes and holds an edge, and how rust-resistant it is. More carbon makes a blade harder, which is generally a good thing, but more likely to rust, which means you have to dote on it a bit more. Molybdenum, for example, is another hardener that also makes a blade less brittle. The composition is a balancing act. My Wusthf blade, for example, is made of the well-respected X50CrMoV15 compound, which creates a knife with a good edge and great corrosion resistance. It’s a 56 on the Rockwell scale of hardness, pretty much the lowest you want to go on that scale. Misen claims an impressive score of 58-59. Most knives in the low 60s will retail at close to $150 and often much more.
“Really, though,” said O’Malley. “Misen’s innovation is on price, and 65 dollars is what I’d expect for a well-made knife out of China.” While Misen’s four-page site mentions Japanese steel three times, there’s no mention of China, so I emailed a representative who replied that, “the primary manufacturing partners for heat treatment, assembly, polishing, sharpening and other knife construction processes are located in China.”
O’Malley had already expressed warnings about Chinese-made knives; most of them tend not to maintain the hardness they claim. Suddenly, things felt a little loose and fast for a knife claiming to stack up with $140 knives.
Wheel of Pain
O’Malley was about to get on a plane for a week-long knife-making trip to Japan, so he put me in touch with master bladesmith Bill Burke in Idaho in an effort to peer 12 months down the line.
Burke’s findings were damning. He used a Rockwell hardness tester to verify Misen’s hardness claims.
“The performance of this knife is very lacking,” Burke says. “Just on par with an old Chicago Cutlery piece. Hardness tested at 51.5 [Rockwell] at the heel, 51 mid point, then going up to 56 near the tip.”
Chicago Cutlery slight aside, the results were so surprising, the hardness so much lower than the 58-59 that Misen claims, that Burke recalibrated his machine and re-tested using a different method, but it produced the same results. He even ran the machine one more time on an industry-standardized block of steel, which came out exactly where it should have.
Burke realized that the varying hardness numbers—not a good thing—were likely the result of improper heat treatment and cooling, meaning the thicker parts of the blade would be softer. (See my photo.) This means that while you could put a decent edge on it, like you could do with any knife, it would dull quickly and have the very undesirable trait of becoming worse with every sharpening, as you worked into the thicker, softer center of the knife.
Once Burke started testing how it cut, he texted me a picture of the blister that was forming on his finger where it came in contact with the spine of the knife. He also found edge angle discrepancies with Misen’s claims, which explained why I was having chef’s knife-style results instead of something more like a santoku. He also performed a blade-cutting test that involved a scale to learn how much pressure was necessary to repeatedly cut through a hemp rope. He compared it with a pair of Japanese knives that retail for $129 to $189, and those needed only 10 to 22 pounds of pressure over the course of repeated cuts. The Misen needed between 19 and 32 pounds. The Chicago Cutlery knife, which Burke bought for $12 at Walmart, needed almost the same pressure as the Misen—between 21 and 32 pounds.
We reached out to Misen, and the company says it was surprised to learn of our results from the hardness tests. Misen says it aims for a hardness of 58-59 for its knives, and that when the batches of steel were tested for hardness during production, each batch fell within this range. As for our findings about the edge angle, the company says its edges are hand-sharpened, so some variance is to be expected. The company says that over time it will tighten the tolerance ranges for hand-grinding, and that in time, consumers will see less variance from the 15-degree goal.
It’s also worth noting that O’Malley runs a knife shop and Burke makes knives, so to a very small extent Misen, which sells knives direct from its website, is a form of competition.
In the end, it made me think of cars. At home, I had my Wsthof, which felt like a dependable, tank-like Mercedes E-Class. Next to it was my Miata-esque santoku for when I wanted something a bit more sporty. The bladesmiths’ warnings about the Misen gave me feeling like it was a car that looked and handled great when you drove it off the lot, but ended up spending a lot of time in the shop, something like a Ford Probe.
My advice? If you’re short on cash and need a chef’s knife in a hurry, try the Forschner/Victorinox Fibrox, which you can get for around $40. If you’ve got a bit more money but still less than $100, try the hybrid style with a Mac Superior or the Tojiro DP. And if you want something like my Wsthof, it’s pretty easy to find on sale for less than a C-note.
The blockbuster videogame is nowofficially Too Big to Fail.
Bethesda, publisher ofSkyrim, Fallout, and Dishonored, said this week that it will stop providingadvance review copies of its games to the media. This is an inconvenience for the likes ofWIRED. But it’s a far bigger problem for you, the consumer who wants to know what you’re getting for your money.
Officially, Bethesda saysin its blog post announcing the move was that it encourages skeptical players to “wait for your favorite reviewers to share their thoughts” before buyingSkyrim Special Edition and Dishonored 2. But that’s something of a Hobson’s choice when Bethesda includestantalizing extra contentavailableonly if you pre-order the gamesbefore they’re available—and, importantly, before reviews hit. Bethesda, and the publishers surely lining up to follow it down this road, want you to pay full price for a game before you know if it’s any good.
Beyond denyingconsumers the chance tomake an informed purchase, this will spura race to the bottom as game reviewers, desperate to be first to publish their thoughts, rush out whatever they can on the tightest of deadlines.
Make no mistake: the only winner is Bethesda. But then, this highlights the corner that publishers have painted themselves into. They’ve created a world in which nothing canbe allowed to imperil the successful launch of their blockbuster titles.
Bethesda is the first to hold back early review copies as a matter of policy, but many others have done this on occasion. 2K Games did not provide any early copies ofMafia III this monthIt’s clear that publishers of blockbusters increasinglysee pre-release or even release-dayreviews as a liability.
Let’s first interpret this as charitably as possible: “Day-one patches” let publisherscontinue tweaking gamesuntil about a week before launch day, and release thatpatch just in time for launch. This means that the final final version of the game, the one you will play, might not be available until release day.
But this would be true of only some games,and besides, Bethesda’s blog post doesn’t even mention this. The truth is probably closer to what I discussed two years agowhen Ubisoft provided early copies of Assassin’s Creed Unity but prohibited reviewers from publishing their thoughts until 12 hours after the game went on sale. The release of a triple-A game follows months ofmarketing, advertising, livestreams, previews, and increasingly elaborate preorder campaigns. By the time the game comes out, itspotential audience already knows allabout it. What benefit is a review, if most consumers have already spent their money.
Reviews offer no benefit to publishers. If they’re bad, consumers mightcancel their preorders and everything goes south. That could have catastrophic, even fatal consequences for a publisher that relies on a handful of blockbuster releases for its livelihood. So don’t consider this no-reviews policy in a vacuum: It’s just one change we’re likely to see enshrined inthe triple-A game industry as budgets top $100 millionand the stakes only escalate.
This could set the table for another change: givingplayers early access to games, provided they pay early, pay more, or both. Early access to Bethesda’s Dishonored 2 is part of the game’s standard preorder package, which means all you need to do is spend $60 without waiting to hear whether the game is any good. But for Microsoft’s Gears of War 4, early access was a perk confined tothe game’s $100 “Ultimate Edition.” Electronic Arts, meanwhile, lets paying subscribers to its EA Access service play the first 10 hours of some titleslong before they hit store shelves.
As I’ve said before, if you’re not a fan of such policies, the best thing todo is to stop preordering games. I realize this is easier said than done: After all, who doesn’twant those sweet preorder bonuses? But you will face this dilemma more often. Bethesda is the first mover here, but it won’t be alone. Of course WIREDwould love to offerearly reviews, but it’s not going to do us muchharm if we don’t. This really only hurts you, the consumer. But blockbuster games simply cost too much to make and market, and Bethesda has decided it simply cannot risk you deciding to see if a game is any good before giving it your money.
The post Skyrim Publisher Gives Up on Game Reviewsand It Wont Be the Only One appeared first on Safer Reviews, Unbiased & Independent Reviews..
Saturday, 29 October 2016
(CNN)Hillary Clinton’s email controversy roared back to the forefront of the presidential campaign Friday when FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers the bureau is reviewing new emails related to her personal server.