Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Two Documentaries: Horror Europa & How the Devil Got his Horns... A Diabolical Tale

In order to counterbalance the saccharine feeling of the holidays, I watched two BBC4 documentaries with topics far from Christmassy.

The first one is "Horror Europa", written and presented by Mark Gatiss, a Doctor Who writer who also plays Mycroft in Sherlock and Tycho Nestoris in Game of Thrones. Gatiss, a fan of horror movies, travels around Europe from Belgium, France, Slovakia, Germany, Italy and Spain to Canada, visiting locations from important films of the genre and speaking to some of their directors. I am not particularly fond of horror but the documentary is very interesting and informative about how political and historical events affected and morphed the state of horror filmmaking. It's definetely not lighthearted but also not very gory.

The second one is "How the Devil Got his Horns... A Diabolical Tale" and is written and presented by Alastair Sooke. Sooke, similar to Gatiss, visits many locations, mostly in Italy, showing how the depiction of Devil in art has changed over the years, from a blue angel with a bunch of goats in front of him to the horrific monster who wreaks havoc in hell. Slightly disturbing, but nonetheless enlightening.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

A Year: 2014

As the year is coming to its inevitable end, I thought of doing something not original: write down some of the most important things that happened in 2014. Unfortunately, the only ones I could think of were doom and gloom. Wars in Syria, Gaza and Ukraine, aeroplanes falling, economic and political crisis, Ebola, riots and injustice in Ferguson. A general global misery. 

Then I remembered that last month we landed a probe on a comet for the very first time. By we, I mean the European Space Agency and the Rosetta spacecraft. The Philae lander landed on the comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with the purpose of collecting data which will hopefully help in learning more about the formation of our solar system. This month, NASA successfully launched the Orion spacecraft for its first flight test for a future manned expedition to Mars. Therefore, there were some good things also happening this year and speaking of great achievements in science, I finally got my diploma in Physics.

In June, people started throwing buckets of cold water onto themselves for charity and the World Cup began in Brazil. The Greek team played decently and a shockingly bad Brazil played a historic match with Germany.

In October, Kim Jung Un hurt his leg and the podcast Serial grabbed everyone's attention.

The technological highlights of 2014 include curved screens, drones transporting packages, the hacking of a cloud and wearable technology. We decided it was time we started wearing our devices, not just carry them. With the craze seeming to continue in 2015, many companies released smartwatches. The most successful attempt seems to be Motorola's Moto 360, an elegant round device that actually looks like a wristwatch. Motorola, no longer owned by Google but Lenovo, released the successors to last year's Moto G (previously) and Moto X and manufactured the enormous Nexus 6 for Google.

Apple, following the trend, presented its biggest phone ever with many "gates" surrounding it (bendgate, hairgate, dyegate). They also gave us something that was expected for a long time, a disappointment called the Apple Watch and something that nobody was expecting and wanted for that reason, the new U2 album free of charge. People were furious about the latter, Hulk-style.

Also Samsung, ... I am kidding.

Superheroes were everywhere this year, both in movies and television. Captain America and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Quicksilver in the Pentagon, Baymax and The Flash were the MVP. Another kind of superheroes were the True Detective's cops solving a murder mystery with philosophical undertones, Adventure Time's Finn who in the same day, lost his hand and met his real father (he turned out to be kind of a jerk) and the lost brothers in Over the Garden Wall trying to find their way back home accompanied by a frog and a bluebird that once was a girl.

True Detective art by Waleria.

Let's just hope that 2015 kicks 2014's butt and remember: We are Groot.

Monday, 17 November 2014

A Game: Hearthstone

I don't usually play video games on my computer. I also don't own a console and smartphone games don't excite me that much. It's not that I don't like video games, on the contrary, when I find one that I really enjoy, I become obsessed and extremely unproductive. My biggest obsession was Grand Theft Auto: Vice City many years ago. I remember spending hours and hours stealing vehicles and driving in the Miami-like city, punching pedestrians, throwing motorcyclists off their bikes, wreaking havoc and using tanks and bazookas to defend myself against the army. That would be a normal day for Tommy Vercetti (and me).

The years passed and no game had such an effect on me. When, last month, a cousin of mine downloaded Hearthstone on my computer, I didn't think that I would enjoy it so much. Apart from attacking and destroying enemies, it has nothing in common with Vice City, as it is essentially, an online card game in the Warcraft universe.

There are nine characters in the game. A Shaman, a Warrior, a Hunter, a Warlock, a Priest, a Mage, a Paladin, a Rogue and a Druid. Both two players choose one of these characters, get thirty cards and the game begins. Each card has different illustrations of numerous creatures and three numbers. One is representing its value in Mana (the blue crystal that is the currency of the game), one its Attack and one its Health. There are also cards with Spells and other special powers which you get gradually as the nine characters gain experience. The cards look like the one below, although unfortunately, there are no Starks in the game. This is just a mashup of Hearthstone and Game of Thrones from Imgur user GameofStones.

Hearthstone is exciting, fast-paced and free. You can play it on a computer or iPad. Android tablets in 2014 and smartphones in 2015 will support it as well.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

A Car: Lamborghini Asterion LPI 910-4

Look at this car.

Ok, let's have another look.

This is the last one. I promise.

Right. This blue beauty is the new hybrid concept supercar from Lamborghini that was recently unveiled at the Paris Car show. Apart from its breathtakingly good looks, it has a powerful engine and can also run with electric power since it uses Plug-in Hybrid technology.

I lied.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

A Keyboard: Fleksy

Sometime in May, I read an article about a young fellow named Marcel. He had broken the Guinness World Record for fastest typing on a smartphone and it was achieved with an app called Fleksy. Up to that point, I had tried on a lot of keyboards for my phone (previously), because I was not very happy with the one it originally came with. The article also mentioned that the creators of this particular keyboard were Greeks and as a Greek myself I felt patriotic and proud and decided to give it a try. And that was it, I was hooked. Fleksy had got me excited for typing.

The thing is, I don't usually get excited about apps. I see them as a tool for the everyday digital activities such as mail, notes, transport, social and general media, etc. This is the reason why I have the minimum amount of apps on my phone, each one of them serving its own purpose. I don't see the point in having a phone full of apps that I do not use, but that's just old me. Needless to say, Fleksy is the only keyboard I have installed on my phone.

Fleksy makes the boring task of typing an enjoyable experience. First of all, the design is minimal and elegant as you can see in the screenshots above. There is the option of a smaller size keyboard and also an invisible one. The gestures are innovative but they need a little practising at first; after a little while, every swipe feels natural and smooth. Emojis, colourful themes, multiple languages, earning badges while typing and powerful auto-correct complete the package that is Fleksy. As far as I am concerned, it is the best keyboard out there. Download it here.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A Burger: Kuro

Burger King is launching "Kuro Burger" (Black Burger) in Japan this month. It has black buns and black cheese both made with bamboo charcoal. There is also a sauce containing squid ink.

Bamboo charcoal and squid ink? That sounds and looks delicious and not like something that would give you superpowers at all.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

A Book: Jeff VanderMeer - Annihilation

In February, I was in hospital for almost twenty days. Boredom had struck me early, frustration as well, due to the health issue but mostly due to my fellow human co-patients. My phone (previously), had also found this perfect time to present its first glitch and not connect to the Internet properly. Ξ€here was an available software update that would fix this Internet connectivity problem, but the lack of wi-fi connection at the hospital made that impossible. I managed to connect to the Internet using mobile data but it was only for short periods of time. During one of those, I read an article about a book called ''Annihilation'' by Jeff VanderMeer, the first of the "Southern Beach" trilogy. The plot intrigued me so I downloaded it and began reading. It was as good as it was described, possibly even more.

Four women, a biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor and a psychologist are the members of an expedition to the uninhabited for years, Area X. The members of the previous expedition to that place returned changed and all of them died of cancer within weeks. The goal of this 12th expedition is for the women (the characters have no particular names, just their profession) to explore what is happening there and not get contaminated. They arrive and all hell breaks loose.

I will spare you the details and the possible spoilers. If you liked the enigmas of the island in Lost and enjoy stories that are creepy but also beautiful at the same time, then this is a book for you.

I'll just say this one: a dolphin with a human eye. Let that sink in.