Posts tagged "review"

Comfort re-watching

review life

In these times, I think we all tend to find comfort where we can. We certainly haven’t run out of new things to watch, but Mr Bsag and I have both taken comfort in re-watching some high quality series again. I don’t know whether it is significant that both happen to be set in earlier periods (late 1950s to 1970s) — perhaps that distance in time helps to immerse us in the fiction and disconnect us temporarily from the present, I don’t know.

The two series we are working our way through again are Endeavour (the prequel to Inspector Morse), and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel which is a comedy-drama about a Jewish-American housewife who gets into stand-up comedy. Technically, Mr Bsag is watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (or TMMM as I’ll call it for brevity) for the first time as he only saw bits when I watched it the first time, but got drawn into it. Both series are superb, and are a rewarding re-watch for different reasons. I’ve also found myself newly drawn to some of the peripheral characters in both series.

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ErgoDox EZ keyboard

review geekery hardware

I’ve got a new keyboard, and it’s a fabulous beast. Regular readers may remember that I have been using a Happy Hacking Keyboard Pro 2 (HHKB) for some time (about 6 years, as it turns out). That was my first mechanical keyboard since the days when mechanical keyboards were the only ones you could get. I’ve loved it to bits, but for the past few months I’ve been having pain and discomfort in my hands and wrists, and decided it might be time to look around for a more ergonomic replacement. After a lot of research and deliberation, I ended up getting an ErgoDox EZ. I’m still tweaking the configuration a bit, but I love it. It has already done wonders for both the comfort of my hands and my writing efficiency.

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Phase One Capture One Pro

review photography

I’ve recently been rethinking my photography workflow. Since I got my Fujifilm X100T camera, I have been mostly using the JPEG output, rather than shooting RAW. As I mentioned at the time, this was because the Fuji film simulations are so lovely, and because I felt that shooting images (rather than processing and tweaking them) was my favourite part of the process. I originally used Adobe Lightroom, but Lightroom and I never really clicked together. I never felt like I truly knew what I was doing with it, and captioning and processing photos always felt like a chore. As Adobe moved towards a subscription process, with photos managed in the database itself, and a shift towards a ‘filters and presets’ kind of workflow, I decided to look around for an alternative. I have also (for various reasons)1 gone back to shooting RAW.

(If you don’t feel like reading to the end of this admittedly long review, you can see some of the fruits of this tinkering here.)

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Forklift 3

software review

A couple of years ago, I was a devotee of Path Finder, a Finder replacement. However, as Finder got more capable, Path Finder started to feel a bit too heavy on resources and too complex, so I stopped using it. Nevertheless, I would often miss some of its handy features. Recently, I came across Forklift 3 while browsing through Setapp’s applications, and decided to try it out.

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Young Men by Balletboyz

culture review

I’m not really a ballet fan. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t go out of my way to watch it, either. I certainly appreciate the skill, athleticism and artistry of dancers, but somehow it doesn’t grab me the way that live music or theatre does. Maybe I’m just resentful that I wasn’t the kind of twiggy, graceful little girl who would have felt comfortable in a ballet class, who knows. Given this — shall we call it indifference? — to ballet, I was surprised to find myself watching Balletboyz ‘Young Men’, a ballet about First World War soldiers screened recently on BBC Two. I was even more surprised when I couldn’t stop watching it.

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Kate Tempest

review music

Not long after it was launched, I subscribed to Apple Music. I know some people swear by Spotify, but I had tried it some time ago, and didn’t get on with it — I’m not entirely sure why. In many ways, I’m an old-fashioned music listener, and I prefer to listen to whole albums, most often in the order in which the artist intended. I found that Apple Music supported browsing and listening by album rather than song more easily, so that’s what I’ve stuck with. I still buy music in physical formats (most often vinyl), and so the ability to try out any album and play it multiple times to determine whether it is a keeper is very useful. I’ve also found that it has made me more adventurous, simply because I don’t have to pay per album, and can give something a quick try to see if it is my cup of tea. That strategy has led to me finding music that I probably would not otherwise have considered. So it was that I came across Kate Tempest’s album, Let Them Eat Chaos.

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Agent Carter


We don’t subscribe to any cable or satellite TV channels (though we do have a LoveFilm subscription for films on DVD1), as we generally find that there’s more than enough material that we want to watch on the terrestrial TV channels. Just occasionally, however, a series that we want to watch is shown on a channel that we don’t have access to, and we buy the series on iTunes. I’ve done this for the two series of Agent Carter, and I am hooked.

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Song of the Sea

review films

Song of the Sea Poster

Last weekend, we watched the animated film, Song of the Sea, by the same director (Tomm Moore) as The Secret of Kells, which I so enjoyed a few years ago. I wasn’t disappointed: this is a gorgeous, joyful, haunting film. It has the same richly layered and beautifully coloured imagery, which is inspired — like The Secret of Kells — by Celtic art, and explores Irish folklore.

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The Duke of Burgundy

films review

I haven’t reviewed any films here recently, having moved most of my reviews over to Slipstream, but I saw a film last week that I can’t stop thinking about, and I wanted to write about it here. Actually, I think this will be less of a review of the film than an extended ramble about stuff that it made me think about.

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Candy 1 Pedals

bike review
I mentioned when I wrote about my new bike that I fitted pedal straps — specifically, Restraps. I really like them, and have used a similar (but slightly more flexible) style of straps before on my recumbent bike. However, after using them for a couple of weeks, I found that I had great trouble getting my second foot into the strap. I tried tightening it, loosening it, entering from different angles, but nothing really seemed to help. Continue reading →

Noodler's Konrad fountain pen

review pens
Disclaimer: this pen was sent to me free of charge by Pen Chalet in exchange for my review of the pen on this site. However, the opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. If you watch documentaries where the presenters examine original historical documents, there’s often a moment when you find yourself marvelling at the beautiful handwriting of the document’s author. I’m thinking particularly of documents from the 19th Century which are often written in an immaculate copperplate hand. Continue reading →

Fictional history

I’ve read some amazing books recently, but I wanted to focus on just two of the works I’ve enjoyed, or am in the process of enjoying. The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson I seem to have hit a seam of interest in historical fiction recently (as you’ll see with my other choice), and have swanned about from Tudor London (the wonderful Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom) to 1930s Berlin (with Philip Kerr’s Private Investigator, Bernie Gunther). Continue reading →


review films
Last weekend, we finally finished watching one of the best films I have seen in weeks: Nebraska. I say finally because we had to return the first DVD to Lovefilm because it was scratched so badly it wouldn’t play. To divert from my subject for a moment, what the heck do people do with rented DVDs? We fairly regularly get disks that look as if someone has decided to give them a quick polish on the playing surface with coarse sandpaper. Continue reading →

LaunchBar 6

software review
I know from bitter experience of using other people’s Macs that I find it very hard to use a computer without a launcher of some kind installed. Having to mouse around to launch applications or files (let alone all the other things that launchers let you accomplish) feels positively archaic once you have got used to relying on one. As I wrote about when LaunchBar 5 was released, I’ve used (at one time or another) almost every third-party launcher including Quicksilver, LaunchBar and Butler, but in recent years, I have settled in to using Alfred exclusively. Continue reading →

Cloud Atlas the film

I recently plucked up courage and watched the recent film of Cloud Atlas. Cloud Atlas, the book, is one of my favourite books ever, and I have read it twice so far, enjoying it enormously and getting more out of it the second time around. As ever with a beloved book, I was nervous that the film would somehow pollute my enjoyment of the book forever. However, I saw a trailer and was genuinely curious about how they would tackle the story and its unusual structure and changes in tone. Continue reading →


review geek software
A few months ago, I started using a bit of software called Koken to publish a kind of portfolio of my photos. I loved it, and was really happy to have somewhere to display my favourite photos that was tailored to my own needs and — more importantly — on my own server and under my own control. I was about to write a review of it when I had to switch to nginx as a web server rather than Apache and managed to break everything. Continue reading →

Sage Barista Express

review coffee
Before Christmas, we had a bit of a ‘home appliance breakdown’ period chez Bsag. The biggest (and most expensive) casualty was our central heating boiler, but we also had a succession of other things break, including my beloved Rancilio Silvia espresso machine. Not having any heating or hot water is one thing, but no coffee — that’s insupportable. I opened up the machine and found that the boiler had developed a substantial leak through a crack in the boiler wall, so steam was escaping all the time that the machine was on, and the temperature and pressure was not holding. Continue reading →

Warhorses of Letters

review life
I am in awe of fabulously creative writers. I’m talking about Robert Hudson and Marie Phillips — the kind of people who can write a radio comedy series about a love affair conducted by letter between two warhorses, or as they describe it, “A gay, equine, military, epistolary romance for the ages”. Not only have the three series of ‘Warhorses of Letters’ been hilarious, but the very last episode that I listened to last week (and again this morning) was so utterly moving that I was astonished to find myself with big fat tears rolling down my face. Continue reading →

Second impressions: Sony RX100 Camera

review technology geek
I wrote about my brief first impressions of this camera back in August, not long after I had bought it. I thought it was probably time to do a second review, now that I’m about 5 months into using it. First, you need to know a bit about what I want out of a camera, and what sort of photographs I enjoy taking. I would say that I’m an intermediate photographer in terms of expertise. Continue reading →


software ios review
Everyone loves Editorial, the new iPad text editor. if you have missed hearing about it, a good place to start is with Federico Viticci’s wonderful and very thorough review. I’ve only been using it for a short while compared to Federico’s 6 months, but I already love it. I’m pretty sure that it will become my standard editor for doing any kind of writing on the iPad. I’m embarrassed to tell you how many text editors I have downloaded over the years for the iPhone, and more recently, the iPad. Continue reading →

First impressions: Sony RX100 camera

review technology geek
Choosing a camera — like choosing many other technological tools — is a matter of balancing compromises. Digital SLRs have a great choice of interchangable lenses and superb image quality, but they are large, expensive and heavy, and you can’t really carry them around with you every day. Compact cameras, on the other hand, are usually cheaper, smaller and lighter, but the image quality is compromised, and you are stuck with a single (albeit potentially a zoom) lens. Continue reading →

Two Years at Sea

films review
I’m quite fond of quiet, reflective, almost wordless films. I watch my fair share of action films too, but I can sit entranced for hours in front of Into Great Silence or Le Quattro Volte. There’s something about quietly observing someone who is apparently utterly contented with their life and at one with their environment, going about their business in tranquil surroundings. Last night we watched another such film: Two Years at Sea by Ben Rivers. Continue reading →

Big Inner by Matthew E. White

music review
A few weeks ago, I bought an album by an artist I had never heard of before on the basis of a glowing review in the Guardian. The artist was Matthew E. White, and the album was Big Inner. I was blown away by it the first time I listened to it, but I’ve listened to it a lot since, and my enjoyment of it has only deepened — a sure sign that it’s a long term ‘classic’ that I’ll listen to again and again. Continue reading →


review geek
A while ago, I mentioned that I’d moved to using Bookends for my paper-handling and referencing needs. I’ve been really impressed with the software and thought it might be nice to do a review. If you have scrolled down, you will already have seen that this review is a bit of an epic. Reference managers are a niche product to start with, and even if you already use one, the chances are that you will feel this is a deeply nerdy and over-detailed review. Continue reading →

Mighty Tristar

bags review
I should have known that Tom Bihn bags were addictive. It might seem an odd thing to say about a bag, but my Synapse rucksack gives brings me joy every day that I use it (which is every day). So when I started looking around for a larger travel bag for longer trips, I turned to the Tom Bihn website again. What I was after was a versatile bag that could accommodate my travel needs for everything from a weekend trip to a week or two away. Continue reading →

Young Man in America by Anais Mitchell

music review
I recently bought Anaïs Mitchell’s new album ‘Young Man in America’. I loved her previous album, Hadestown, and found it original and beautifully executed. So I was eager to hear what she had done with her next album. I saved listening to it for the first time until I was returning by train from Lincoln, as I knew I would have time to kill and could enjoy the album from the comfort of my headphones. Continue reading →

Chris Wood at Red Lion Folk Club

music review culture
Last week we went to see Chris Wood perform at the Red Lion Folk Club. We last saw him perform in Moseley more than two years ago at a fantastic gig, so I was really excited to be getting to see him perform again. Chris Wood is an amazing performer when you hear him recorded, but he’s even better (if that’s possible) live, because of the incredible warmth and presence of his voice, and because his banter with the audience is lovely. Continue reading →

The Secret of Kells

films review
I’ve just reviewed this film on the new site Letterboxd, but I thought I’d also copy it here, as not many people are using Letterboxd yet. Along with Grave of the Fireflies, I think this has to be the most beautiful animated film I’ve seen. I was entranced and stunned by the sheer style of it the whole way through. The story is based around the creation of the Book of Kells — an illuminated Gospel produced around 800 AD, but weaves in elements of Celtic mythology. Continue reading →


review technology hardware
A little while ago, I bought a couple of nifty stands for my iPhone from Piolo. There’s not much to them, really: they are just a nicely molded piece of plastic with a slot in one end just wide enough to grip the edge of an iPhone 4 without a case. The idea is that you attach the Piolo to the edge of the phone and you can prop it up in either portrait or landscape mode. Continue reading →