Sunday, August 30, 2009

The New Weight Gain 4000

When in the course of human events we Americans find ourselves in need of an additional 30-50 pounds of pure fat to be added to our already-obese soon-to-be carcasses, there exists an industry who is only happy to solve that stretch-mark-inducing need. Today, that industry is the fast-food industry, and that product is Kentucky Fried Chicken's Double Down.

I've made plenty of observations about this nation's greatest achievement, that of the 2,000 calorie snack, on many occasions (here and here, for starters) but this newest of prizes reminds us that too much is never enough. Too much cholesterol, too much fat, too much sodium, too much heart disease, and too much weight. What's an extra 100 pounds anyway? It worked for Henry VIII, why not Middle America?

Click here to be introduced to the sandwich that will put you in your grave.

And be sure to bring your insulin, your Lipitor and your Slimfast with you next time you visit KFC.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Send In The Bastards

When one identifies reasons he or she enjoys seeing movies in the theater, numerous factors typically reach the top of that list. Good film is entertaining, memorable, elicits emotion and tells a story in an interesting way. Further, good films almost always involve characters one could either completely welcome into his/her life or be completely unwilling to do so. But invariably, the character(s) in good film are ones we either love or love to hate.

These factors apply universally and perfectly to the latest in the line of Quentin Tarantino achievements, Inglourious Basterds.

The film has received a thorough round of praise from most film pundits, critics and online observers, so hopefully nothing cited in this space will have any bearing on those who have not yet ventured to the theater to experience this 2.5-hour explosion of World War II themed-flight of fancy. And inasmuch as I'm a strong proponent of home theater viewing of films, this is one that deserves to be viewed in a quasi-auditorium in honor of its final act.

Please note that the following will disclose some facts about the movie that you might want to avoid until after you've seen same. Please also note that this film could, informally, be labeled as the world's first "Jewish Fantasy Revenge Porn" genre piece.


Broadly speaking, this is a World War II film which commences in 1941 France. However, much of it is a character study so the typical shots of legions of German soldiers and of mutilated corpses, brutal combat and the atrocities of the Holocaust are forsworn for far more intimate, small settings. In their place, the study of the various -- and limited number of -- characters provides a good chunk of the pace of the film. And while the bulk of the film could take place in a soundstage much as did Tarantino's first, Reservoir Dogs, this particular film's sets are so vivid and authentic in feel it would be a surprise if any of these sets were not somewhere in the French countryside or in Paris itself.

The "main" character herein is Lt. Aldo Raines (Brad Pitt), a fast-talking part-Apache Southern boy whose penchant for killing Nazis and having his underlings recover Nazi scalps at his behest is only superceded by his penchant for snappy, descriptive dialogue. Despite the fact that Brad Pitt is a media icon and makes as much news for his personal life as his on-screen projects, this movie is made with his persona and his on-screen charm. His performance in this film, without a doubt, seals the deal and puts this way over the top.

Raines leads a group of eight soldiers into France to secretly fight Nazis and/or put the fear of God in them by disfiguring them in a very memorable way. This group is known as the Bastards (both by their superiors and their Nazi counterparts). Essentially, their main function -- in the limited, skewed accuracy of this film's self-defined zeitgeist -- is to search for groups of Nazis, kill all members of each group they encounter but one, and leave said survivor scarred and scared to tell the tale (much like the trail of corpses and lone survivors from Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers," also penned by Tarantino).

The Basterds are a crack group of Jewish-American soldiers who have gained a reputation among the Nazi hunted. There's the "Bear Jew," aka Hugo Stiglitz (portrayed by Til Schweiger), Sgt. Donny Donowitz (portrayed in a rare turn in front of the camera by Eli Roth), Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), Pfc. Smithson Utivich (The Office's B.J. Novak) and Pfc. Omar Ulmer (Omar Doom), among others. These Jewish fighters, as led by Raine, gain notoriety for their ferocious, fear-inspiring, merciless success at killing and mutilating Nazis.

There's more to the story, of course, then simply these soldiers' quest to alter the war's outcome -- one Nazi scalp at a time -- but this wouldn't be a Tarantino film if there weren't. There's the story of Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent) and her meticulous dalliance with Nazi war hero Frederick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl) to effect a spectacular and memorable conclusion, both to the war and the film. And finally, and most notably, there's the so-called "Jew Hunter," Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). There are numerous other characters herein, including Mike Myers as General Ed Fenech and Diane Kruger as famed German movie star Bridget von Hammersmark, but for the most part, the actors here are relatively unknown and each is, predictably, excellent.

There are three specific components to the film's plot, divided up into five chapters, and the film is relatively bold and brash in its portrayal of the events of World War II. Clearly the Holocaust, specifically the Nazi intention to rid Germany, France and the rest of Europe of Jewish presence, is a significant component to the story. But so too is the notion of revenge, as this aspect of the film commences and concludes the film. And finally, the retelling of the actual facts of World War II are rewritten in an almost cartoon-like way, but in very entertaining, memorable fashion.

Put another way, the three separate stories -- much like Pulp Fiction, Tarantino's greatest Opus, had separate sub-plots that simultaneously intertwined by the film's conclusion -- come together like a tangle of separate highways that culminate in one huge epicenter. The film's conclusion herein is satisfying both in terms of its plot and its style, and as per usual, Tarantino focuses on each frame of film in telling his story.

At times, the film is humorous; actually, it's frequently very humorous. Despite the violence, gore and over-the-top brutality in parts, it's a darkly comic turn for Brad Pitt and a subtle, restrained performance for the so-called Jew Hunter, Col. Hans Landa (again, portrayed by Christoph Waltz). Frankly, inasmuch as Brad Pitt's portrayal of Raine is excellent and completely on point, Waltz's portrayal of Landa is so impressive and so memorable that one could easily say he stole this film. Each time Waltz appears his presence and charm capture the viewer without fail, and, frankly, seemingly without effort. And his ability to portray Tarantino's impeccably-crafted dialogue -- with equal parts of humor, charm, humor, exacting detail and icy-cold analytical, sinister logic for which the Germans, especially the Nazis, are known -- is completely and thoroughly rewarding.

Frankly, I'd be shocked if Waltz fails to capture an Oscar for his performance in this film.

Overall, from the first frame to the appearance of the final credits, this is a meticulously-crafted ode to World War II films in general (although The Dirty Dozen is certainly at the top of that list). However, what I found most entertaining about it was that Tarantino completely side-steps worry vis-a-vis factual accuracy and instead created his own world. The appearance of Hitler, Goebbels, Goering and other members of the Reich's echelon herein is at times silly, if not simply inaccurate, but by the film's conclusion it is clear that the liberties Tarantino took with respect to history are done not out of laziness but sheer entertainment. At some point during the film -- probably less than twenty minutes in -- you're made to understand facts are secondary here, and the only real notion to which Tarantino follows is his adherence to the art of cinema and entertainment. There are two -- among at least a dozen -- scenes (whipped cream and strudel, and Laurent's red lipstick, dress, etc.) -- where Tarantino's camera dotes on his subject in an almost imperceptible way, except the perception of his focus reminds us that facts and dates and history is secondary, and the only real exposited significance from this film, as per usual, is not the destination itself but the journey thereto.

The only real criticism of this film, if any applies, is its overwhelming length. At 153 minutes, it feels heavy. However, especially given that the bulk of modern films barely clock in at 90 minutes, I came to the conclusion that this film is much like a special meal for a holiday or an event as much as most meals are disposable, forgettable and merely performed out of nutritional requirement. This film is a celebration of film, character study, plot and the interspersion of genres, themes and even the music in film (Sergio Leone-spaghetti westerns are invoked in this film's sonic landscape). And in his deliberate misuse of terms and spelling and historical accuracy, I think Tarantino specifically went out of his way to demonstrate the only real requirement a film should fulfill is to be entertaining. This particular film, with its many transgressions in terms of factual errors/mistakes, musical overlapping, and -- in many cases -- downright silliness, is nothing if not entertaining. To wit, the film's title is even misspelled -- intentionally -- and yet the film is engaging, completely memorable, and perhaps Tarantino's best. So whether that suggests it's a great film or not; or whether Tarantino fully worships the world of film or is thumbing his nose at those whose overaching attention to detail precludes said films from actually being worthwhile of viewing, is debatable. Somehow, I think "Nation's Pride" won't be much of a worthwhile viewing, but this film, for sure, is not only a worthwhile film, but will be one that generations will be viewing and studying for years to come.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Black and White and Red and Blue and Black and Blue

When Obama was elected there was a huge sense of accomplishment throughout this country, not because his victory represented some much-needed change in the country's current political and economic climate, but because of the fall of a notable, long-standing racial barrier.

Many talk-show puppets, newspaper and magazine article heralded the election of a black man to the nation's highest office, and frankly, while I understood this sense of national accomplishment -- or simply our ability to, finally, get rid of a stigma on our racial potential as a nation -- my feeling was that the country acted properly by choosing Obama. I wasn't and I'm not a huge proponent of his, but in contrast, McCain was by far the wrong man for the job that Obama faced this past January.

Whether or not his policies will be successful long-term can't be answered now, but frankly, I'm not unhappy that he won the election. For me, the essential truth is that whether he was black or white or blue is irrelevant; I believed and continue to believe he's making far more progress than any concerns I may have vis-a-vis the US-Israel relationship as well as those relating to our long-term military and economic conventions.

In either case, while we may celebrate as a nation the fact that he was our first black President, or that we as a nation, largely speaking, made the right choice, is secondary. Of paramount importance was that the belief -- or hope -- that his election would make great strides towards removing or eliminating racial barriers might be short-lived, as evidenced by this story.

It's only been seven months -- to the day -- of his election, so perhaps we can't expect very much yet. But at the same time, people who have hate in their hearts -- whether for Obama or for other minorities or for anyone unlike them -- will either learn to shed themselves of that hate or they will be consumed by it. The above-linked story, of course, is absolutely repulsive; and what I think the suspects mentioned therein have yet to realize -- and will probably never gain the ability to do so -- is their actions, truly, are an embarrassment to the country and to humans in general.

I hope one day these types of incidents are a thing of the past, but I doubt any of us -- myself, anyone reading this, or our grandchildren -- will be alive to celebrate that day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The San Francisco Treat

If you are a sarcastic, jaded, observant and diligent New Yorker like me, you'll probably hear yourself, at one time during your lifetime -- if not more often -- announcing to the world that you could never consider living anywhere else than The Big Apple.

Well, that's not exactly true; anyone who calls New York The Big Apple is most assuredly not from here.

But otherwise, it's the kind of place that locks you into its gravitational pull and holds you down and thrills you in oh so many ways.

And yet, a good chunk of New Yorkers manage to see the world beyond the five boroughs and find themselves enchanted with places near and far. Some are partial to Mexico, others enjoy the various burghs throughout the state of Florida, and many recall their time in Europe with fondness.

No one ever seems to feel this way about Pittsburgh, incidentally, but that's a non-issue.

However, I have yet to come across anyone with anything negative to say about my second-favorite city, San Francisco. And as last night's No Reservations (Tony Bourdain) subtly suggested, there is absolutely nothing about San Francisco that should or could ever be changed or replaced.

Without divulging details that are better absorbed first- or, more accurately, second-hand, I obviously have a penchant and a bias towards this incredible city of small neighborhoods and large views, of healthy organic living coupled with sin and beef-on-a-stick dressed-down culinary fare. The fact that this is Kaia's domain -- and, no matter how long she lives in New York, always will be -- is pretty much a capper on why I love it there.

I've spent far too little time in the City proper. As Tony Bourdain demonstrated, it really is a city of contradictions. Inasmuch as the city can be regarded as a granola-friendly enclave for organic, healthy living, there is as much alcohol flowing through the patrons of the myriad bars and restaurants as there is in New York, except it -- seemingly -- is done in a more creative way. That same notion applies to the food of San Francisco. New York has nothing to apologize for to any other city, but if it had a slighter younger, chip-on-its-shoulder sibling, it would be San Francisco. The food in and around the city is among the best -- and worst (in a good way) -- there is in this country, and perhaps, in this world. My experience is limited, unfortunately, but based on what I saw last night, I'm reminded that it's been far too long since I last set down at SFO to spend some time with my other half in my other city.

Without belaboring the obvious, I think the whole essence of why San Francisco is as much a contradiction as New York is evident in the various neighborhoods which comprise the city. There is Pacific Heights and there is the Mission. In New York, we have the Upper East Side and we have the South Bronx. We -- like San Francisco -- have highs and lows, the middle and the extremes, and while San Francisco's weather remains relatively even-keeled and in balance, ours fluctuates wildly. And in case you haven't heard, their geologic patterns lend themselves to occasional fluctuation from time to time.

In either case, I'm not sure how one becomes homesick for a place in which he has spent far too little time, but between last night's show and what's waiting on the other end of a six-hour run on a commercial jet, that's where I'm at.

Although I could use a little Izzy's or perhaps a visit to The House of Prime Rib, I suppose I'll settle -- happily -- for some time with my other half and admonish myself for suggesting that anything else even be included in the same sentence or with the same regard.

In either case, I would be remiss if I, like Tony, failed to convince anyone coming across this to consider a trip west and a few days in a completely compelling reason to overcome one's fear of air travel, the economic obstacles for traveling, and, most importantly, seeing the world through a kaleidoscope of lenses rather than just one or two basic colors.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Morning Has Broken

Invariably, I try not complaining but it really does me no good -- it stands to reason that the better the weekend, the worse it will be come Monday morning, and this week's example appears as if it will meet or exceed that semi-self-fulfilling prophecy.

First, the weekend began on a high note: I headed over to the West Side to hang with friends at Make, that pottery place where you pick out and paint your own pottery. Between the fact that there is good wine, good tunes, good people and an endless array of a la carte dining and creative options, it was a blast, and it was good seeing both Dave and his brother, Matt, to whom I owe mediocre sushi.

I finished at Make -- the project is a frame for my grandmother -- and actually spoke to a friend on the way home who mentioned he'd be in the City early Saturday and asked if I wanted to meet him for a skate. So we made plans for the next morning, I got up and out relatively early -- 11AM without a hangover on a weekend is par for the course -- and did a bit of skating before coming back to Casa de Boogie and celebrating the difference between animals and humans. No, not opposable thumbs -- air conditioning.

Saturday night was a friend's belated birthday get-together, a small gathering of friends at the Boat Basin Cafe on West 79th. I'd been there years ago and actually forgot about it, as it's as close to the Hudson as one can be without actually being in the Hudson. Despite the fact that it was remote and far out of the way, it was easy getting there and we wound up staying 'til the late hours of the morning, around 1-ish, if memory serves me correctly. Aside from the problem I had with what might have been bad-ish tuna, everything was a blast and it was great seeing some old friends whom I hadn't seen in awhile, reminiscing about others, discussing the world's most irritating words and/or expressions, and, of course, meeting new people. And the fact that we got a chance to see a couple rats kicking it old-skool-style down by the water reminded me that, especially in summer, late-night weekends is the best time to do your best rat-spotting, if that's your sort of thing. Hence the reason why so many people escape the City on the weekends and make their way to the Hamptons, Fire Island, or Yankee Stadium...which leads me to my next point...

The Yankees managed a pretty impressive four-game sweep of the Red Sox this past weekend. Not only did they play good baseball, they outpaced the Red Sox in every aspect of the game: pitching, defense, hitting, baserunning and -- most importantly -- victories. Several friends are Red Sox fans -- I know, what the hell am I thinking, associating with Red Sox fans -- and have mercilessly given me shit regarding the fact that Boston has been the better team over the past few years. Not only did the Red Sox win their first 8 games this season against the Yankees, but they've managed to win a couple World Series since the Yankees last did so in 2000. Between those facts and the new Stadium, I subconsciously wondered whether there was any truth to that "Reverse the Curse" supposition. Unfortunately or otherwise, the Yankees' foul play -- no pun intended -- lent credence to that possibility.

Well, I'm happy to say that this past weekend -- coupled with the recent revelation that David Ortiz admitted to having used performance-enhancing drugs -- remind me that the only way the Red Sox will ever be better than the Yankees is by cheating. The fact is that if Manny Ramirez -- now with the Dodgers -- and David Ortiz hadn't cheated, it's pretty likely that the Red Sox would not have gotten the production from them they did. Red Sox fans are quick to point out that Alex Rodriguez used steroids -- knowingly or otherwise -- but they are much less quick to admit that his steroid use had no positive effect on the Yankees' successes. Many Yankee fans, in fact, are not A-Rod fans -- even after his game 2 heroics Friday night. And they very quickly point out that Roger Clemens was also a steroid user whose involvement with the Yankee World Series could be cause to put a black mark on the Yankees' success from 1996-2000. Personally, I think anyone who compares Roger Clemens to Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, let's remove all three from the equation. Delete Roger Clemens' stats from the Yankees and delete those of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, and let's see where each team would be.

Thought so. Moving on...

I finished the weekend in grand style: another brief skate down by Carl Schurze Park, some basic quickie errands, some work at home -- thank god for A/C -- and then we wound it all up with True Blood and Entourage, which is always a great way to say goodbye to the weekend and begrudingly accept Monday morning's impending arrival.

And as I indicated earlier, I can't wait for it to be Tuesday, or Friday night, for that matter -- so I can get back to doing it all over again.

I'd wish you a happy Monday, but there ain't no such thang ;-)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

This Ain't Norman Rockwell's America

I suppose I should admit I am wrong when, in the rare case, I am.

And in this particular case, I have to admit I am wrong. Based on this link, it is clear that there is a family in America that is more fucked up than my ex's.

Read at your own risk.

Incidentally, whether or not my ex's father ever hit on his daughter(s) remains open to speculation, depending on who you talk to and the level of sobriety involved. The only fact that cannot be disputed is he contracted herpes not from a toilet seat, as he claimed, but from a prostitute (in hindsight, certainly, there is not much difference).

Good times, man, good times.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Two Weeks on Tour

It's been a couple weeks since I first received Blackberry's newest Verizon Wireless model, the 9630 (aka the Tour) and, as per usual, it's a mixed bag but, for the most part, I'm glad I opened this bag.

Before proceeding, it should be noted that the choice of devices for Verizon Wireless users has been somewhat limited in comparison to those offered by its main competitor, AT&T Wireless. The former has, in my judgment, the better network, but AT&T has always offered more phones -- including Apple's iPhone -- and while each carrier's rates have been slowly approaching one another's, AT&T has, for the most part, been a bit cheaper in terms of monthly use/subscription.

However, being that my interest in a mobile carrier has been quality of service, I've been relatively happy to stick with Verizon in the NYC metropolitan area. Since I manage our business contract -- which umbrellas four separate lines, including mine -- if any of us had issues with Verizon's service, I'd hear about it. And since I don't hear about it, I'm assuming that the other three lines on the contract are as trouble-free as is mine.

In either case, beyond the network quality issues, the main focus of this review should be the phone itself. Without further ado...

The phone specifications are fairly sophisticated. As per Verizon's page dedicated to the Tour, the Tour is not only a CDMA device compatible with VZW's domestic network, it also can do quad-band (ie GSM), meaning that it works elsewhere beyond North America. In plain English, it can do Europe, hence the "Tour" moniker.

Beyond that significant fact, there are some other interesting things to be had for the Tour user: it features 256MB in both Flash and RAM, up from the 96 MB Flash and 32 MB RAM featured in the last Verizon Blackberry, the Curve. Speaking of the Curve, the Tour bumps the graphics ante from the Curve's 320x240 pixel screen to 480x360. Even though the screens on these devices are about the same size dimension-wise (about 2.5"), the screen is noticeably sharp and clear.

The Tour is sized much more similarly to the Curve then the newest AT&T Blackberry, the Bold. The two devices, when placed next to one another, look remarkably similar, but the Tour is not as wide and a bit deeper. Essentially, if you've held a Verizon Curve you'll feel right at home with respect to the size of the Tour.

The keyboard is either a regression or a progression -- depending on your perspective -- to the 8800-series Blackberry models (the silver "world phone" from Verizon or the 8800 offered by AT&T). The keys are quasi-sculpted and slanted, so the left side of the keyboard -- everything from the 'T' down and to the left -- slopes slightly leftward and everything from the 'Y' down and to the right slope slightly rightward. This is a distinct change from the smaller keys featured on the Curve, and it will take some getting used to for people who punch out lots of e-mails on their Curve keyboards. The keys have good response -- but not great -- and there will be typos which will decrease as does the user's time with the Tour increases.

As far as battery life is concerned, that -- currently -- is a mixed bag for several reasons. I was using a Seidio enhanced battery in my last phone, the Curve, and noticed an increasingly tangible drop in effective charge. At first I was getting 36 hours between charges, including a 100 or so minutes of daily talk time and lots of e-mail/net usage. That dissipated over the tenure of my use of the Curve. However, the Tour, with its stock RIM battery, is requiring more frequent charging -- in fact I doubt I'll last through an entire, typical day without a minimal charge. Why? First, the Tour's screen is more graphic intensive; second, I've rarely, if ever, had the phone's audible features enabled in favor of vibrating alerts; and third, and most importantly, as is typical with many Blackberry releases from Verizon, the first version always requires some sort of tweaking of the phone's software before the battery life begins settling into a typical pattern. Put another way, I hope that this limited battery life is not typical to what this phone will be delivering. I've enjoyed not having to concern myself with keeping a spare battery in my work bag since I began using a Blackberry and I'm hoping that trend continues.

As for usability, while the iPhone 3G was released to much fanfare and a celebration of Apple's inclusion of "cut" and "paste" into the iPhone's software, Blackberry, as per usual, lets Apple celebrate loudly and just keeps improving their software. To that end, the e-mail aspect of the Tour -- which is the crux of using a Blackberry (and a smartphone in general) -- now includes the ability to view mail in HTML format (ie graphics, pictures, and formatting) as well as the ability to request delivery/read receipts with sent e-mail. This doesn't seem like much of an improvement to people who celebrate finally being able to cut and paste text from one place to another within the applications on their iPhones, but for people who communicate in the business world, HTML-viewable mail (to a degree) and read/delivery receipts (significantly) are important aspects of business communication, which, with all due respect to iPhone users, is where the Blackberry leaves the iPhone behind.

As for entertainment and games, the Tour is packed with a bunch of non-productivity 'ware. There's a half-dozen games included in the shipping model, including Poker, Solitaire, Sudoku and some others, and Slacker Radio also is included with the Tour. A variety of free instant messaging software is also included -- Yahoo, MSN, GoogleTalk, AIM -- as well as the mother of all IM cell applications, Blackberry Messenger.

There's a lot of other useful things packed into the Tour, including a Password Manager, a Maps application, a Media manager (for photos, voice notes, music and video), but the main focus of the Blackberry are the four key applications: the address book, the task/to-do list, the calendar, and the notepad. In addition to these two are, obviously, e-mail and the browser.

There are some interesting tweaks to the e-mail application -- in addition to the above-mentioned read/delivery receipt aspect. It's a bit easier to prep mail with built-in, on the fly spell checking, but as with any device, that can be more of a hindrance than a help. The calendar is a bit better laid out than in the Curve, but it's relatively familiar and effectively simple.

Something which should be noted is the inclusion of a 3.2 megapixel camera which is an improvement over the 2.0 megapixel camera included in the Curve. What's far more significant, however, is that a) the Tour includes image stabilization with the Tour's camera software, and b) there is a version of the Tour that omits the camera entirely. The price of the non-camera Tour is the same as the Tour which includes the camera, so that eliminates the suggestion that RIM wanted to be considerate of its customers by saving them some money off the $200 list price of the Tour. The reason why there is a non-camera model of the Tour is because many Blackberry users -- business users -- find themselves in situations where having a camera-phone is prohibited, so by removing the camera from the device permits them to remain in contact with people without having to surrender their phones at security checkpoints or in addition to the execution of NDA's. Put another way, it's a fairly smart move on their part to show consideration to those business users who resent having to surrender their phones on a regular basis.

As for the design, the fit and finish on the Tour is superior to the Curve's fit and finish. The Tour feels a bit heavier and substantial than the Curve -- in this case the added weight being a good thing -- and it feels solid. The screen and keyboard are bisected by the control panel buttons of send, the command/blackberry button, the control ball (aka the pearl), the back and end buttons. There is some light which peeks through from the sides of these buttons, but everything -- including the light-wheel circling the pearl and the keys -- is evenly and well lit.

One distinct negative which I encountered immediately was the charging/data port, which on the Curve and previous Blackberry models was a mini USB port, has been "upgraded" to a USB micro port. That means that cables for data/charging that worked with prior Blackberry models won't work with the Tour. However, inasmuch as needing a new cable or two is a minor inconvenience at best, the real problem is that the USB micro port is smaller than the mini port on the Curve and, as a result, it takes some effort to insure the cable for data transfer/charging is inserted properly into the Tour's right side. It's not a major problem, but the fact is that over a six-month period of daily charging and semi-regular data transfer/backups, that rough insertion/removal could affect the port and the phone's ability to charge in an adverse way. I don't know why the change from mini to micro was implemented, but I'm not a fan of the decision. The solution is to buy a charging cradle ($30 MSRP, as seen here), which merely requires a drop-in of a "naked" Tour (ie without a case) and the phone's displays immediately shows an analog clock signifying the charging process is in effect. The difference between the cable-wrestling versus the silky-smooth connection once the Tour lands in its cradle is very noticeable. Of course, in order to perform data sync/transfer and/or backups still requires the cable, but this charging solution is far more reasonable in everyday, drop-in/grab-to-go situations.

Overall, being that this phone is designated for use on the Verizon Wireless network and that the newest Blackberry models typically are released for AT&T and T-Mobile (like the newest Curve, the 8520, seen here), the Tour isn't a smartphone that is particularly exciting or incredible. It's not revolutionary, it's evolutionary. It's a solid improvement in every way (save the USB mini-micro port) over its predecessor, the Curve, and I feel it's as good if not a better option than AT&T's Bold.

The next wave, incidentally, of Blackberry models will likely incorporate the above-linked Curve 8520 trackpad, which makes a lot of sense (it will get smudged but it will have far fewer issues than the pearl's propensity for oil and grime to foul up the rollers/sensors). Knowing that there is another, "newer" phone on the horizon may or may not

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