Creative Zen Stone proves the Shuffle is crap

Creative Zen Stone Color Range

Take a good look at that image. Now realize that this 1GB flash media player costs only $40. Seeing the word Zen branded on these little devices tells you that they are part of the Creative Zen line of a wide variety of media players. And like many of Creative’s products, it does what Apple’s products do at a drastically reduced price. Apple’s Shuffle, which does the exact same functions (play music files randomly w/o an LCD screen), costs $80 (double the Zen Stone).

The Zen Stone exemplifies my main problems with Apple’s products and their pricing schemes. Apple is able to charge ridiculous prices for ordinary products employing technology that has been available for years. There is no use trying to deny that their marketing and PR departments are probably the best in the world, but I still don’t think that their products justify their prices. Paying more for an inferior product isn’t cool, though it might be fashionable.

Björk – Volta

Björk - VoltaBjörk’s new CD… For me, Volta has been the most anticipated album by Björk. Hyped press and intriguing interviews combined with her show stopping performance at Coachella really put me on end for Volta to be released. The first few leaked songs gave me hope that it would have the feeling of Homogenic with the pop sound of Debut, something that I feel Björk needs to reinvent. So in a nutshell, how does Volta make me feel? Half-fulfilled.

I was so ready for a more accessible album by Björk; something that I could show my friends and not get the “I don’t get it” looks Björk instills in so many people. From what I heard at Coachella, Volta would be exactly that. Her old greatest hits with “Earth Intruders”, “Innocence”, “Wanderlust”, and “Declare Independence” thrown into the mix gave the impression that Volta would be a more “up” album than the murky Medulla. Even Björk’s interview with Pitchfork has her saying that it would be a “fun” and even “poppy” record; this is not the case.

The album does feature a heavy dosage of brass; I’m not too sure that it’s beneficial. Because so many of the tracks do rely on the horns for their warm ambient tones, it limits the sound that I have come to know as Björk. One plus side of the brass is that they make their tracks seem fairly immediate. In one of her video interviews, Björk describes Volta as being fairly spontaneous; the brass section contributes quite a bit to this end.

Here’s a paragraph dedicated to my favorite song on the album: Innocence. But first I must admit my guilt at enjoying the two Timbaland collaborations the most. Now that that’s out, Innocence packs a major punch. In case you don’t believe me, just listen to the track; one of the samples used sounds like a guy getting punched in the gut. The beat here is insane. It is very repetitive, but that is something that I like about the track. In addition to the sweet but short beat, the main synth is sweet, if not sweeter than the beats. It is a very wobbly tone to it and its high pitched distortion give it a unique sound that I have never heard before. To me, its what an Asian synth would be if someone took it and applied every kind of degrading effect on it (and if there were synths for difference places of the world). The lyrics are very nice as well, but the music is what I love about it.

As you can probably tell, I have very mixed feelings about Volta. The slower tracks don’t grab you like “Hidden Place” or “Unravel” do, but the more upbeat tracks are unforgettable. I give Volta a slight-medium thumbs up (that is a technical term in case you aren’t familiar with the rating system…)

Being John Malkovich

the movie's poster
the movie's poster

Anybody looking for a stoner movie even better than The Wall? Because if you are, Being John Malkovich will definitely sooth you for a while. The basic premise of the movie is that Craig Schwartz (John Cusack), a failing puppeteer, finds a door that allows its entrant access to the world as seen through John Malkovich’s own eyes.

Sounds pretty cool, huh? Let’s go farther. The door is located at Schwartz’ work behind a filing cabinet. The floor the offices are located on is #7 1/2; it has ceilings about 4 feet above the floor. Schwartz’ wife (Cameron Diaz) discovers her lesbian tendencies after her first “trip” into Malkovich and later uses the door to have sex with Schwartz’ love interest at work. Those are the basics without giving away anything important relevant to the ending.

Nearly everything about this movie makes you realize that your imagination isn’t as cool as you think it is. One very strong and interesting aspect of this movie is the lack of special effects. The view of people sliding into Malkovich’s mind is the only sequence I can think of. Another small weird observance of the movie is the number of cameos it has. Randomly, we see Brad Pitt, Andy Dick, Sean Penn, Winona Ryder, Charlie Sheen, and all three of the Hansen boys (yes, those Hansens). If only we could have seen Keanu Reaves, it would have been complete.

Time for my final opinion. I give it a B+. If I did drugs, I would definitely give it an A+, but alas, I do not smoke pot or do anything of the kind. This movie is by far the most original, creative piece of work I have seen in quite a while.