Continuing the theme of the last post, “Rockonomist” Alan Krueger recently announced that filesharers are the reason that the cost of tickets to live performances are increasing. He alleges that previously artists were willing to underwrite some of the cost in order to boost CD sales. Since people are not buying their CDs they can no longer do this. The argument conveniently fails to acknowledge the fact that artists receive a fractional amount of CD sales anyway, and the simple market economics of the situation is that the reason Madonna’s concert tickets now cost £170 each is that enough people are stupid willing enough to pay. And while the already rich mainstream artists may lose out, it seems that smaller bands are still profiting from the increased exposure granted by P2P networks.
My assertion that Monsters, Inc. remains the pinnacle of Pixar’s work so far annoys many fans, but having finally obtained the DVD I am more convinced than ever. It marked a huge leap forward in animation quality both from their previous work and their competitors Shrek and Ice Age, particularly evident in Sully’s realistic fur. And while it lacks the visual detail of Finding Nemo, Monsters more than makes up for it through unique storytelling. Its tale of a monster world powered by screams obtained through artificial doors into children’s closets is so bizarrely conconcted and yet utterly immersive with an exceptionally crafted cast of lead characters. Mike and Sully are the perfect duo for a children’s comedy, while Boo is just indescribably… cute. Its witty dialogue is matched by clever visually gags rather than mere slapstick, and with perfect length and pacing, it is a triumph from start to finish. While I do love their later work too, it will be hard to surpass my love for the Monsters who scare because they care.
And if you thought you were trying hard to develop a revision-avoidance procrastination reportoire with sufficient sophistry, prepare to be shamed by this Japanese video.
Tool‘s forthcoming album 10,000 Days leaked two days ago. Don’t ask me where to obtain it, I haven’t looked. I remain optimistic that despite the leak fans will still be flocking to buy the album on its release at the beginning of May, exactly 5 years after Lateralus. I myself have already pre-ordered a copy (music, unlike movies and videogames, can actually be a lot cheaper when preordered online, often becoming more expensive later if successful). When a band create sufficient goodwill coupled with a reputation for producing albums of a consistently high quality, people are more than happy to hand over their cash. I won’t pay for a CD that contains a few good songs amidst mediocre filler, but I trust Tool to deliver the high aural quality I expect. That’s rare given the current state of the music industry — the last album I was confident enough to preorder was A Perfect Circle‘s eMOTIVe. I guess there’s something about knowing Maynard James Keenan is involved in the process that just puts me at ease.
The official site has been updated with a teaser introduction featuring music from the opener and first single Vicarious. I am tempted to obtain the single to whet my appetite before the album’s release but am actually quite happy to avoid the low quality leaked MP3’s until I hold the CD in my hands in a little over a week. Interestingly, despite the band being American, the US release date is later than the rest of the world, a full day behind the UK release which is itself a few days after several European countries.
I had a chance to hear the forthcoming new offering from the Dresden Dolls (now signed to Roudrunner), titled Yes, Virginia. The name is a reference to the most reprinted newspaper editorial in history, a response to an eight-year-old girl’s inquisitive doubts about the existence of Santa Claus. The kindly editor Francis Pharcellus Church assuaged her fears, assuring her that Santa Claus was quite real. But then again, so’s Cthulu.
I first saw the Dolls when they supported Nine Inch Nails on the With_Teeth pre-release tour. Something about their sound crept under my skin immediately. In some ways their ecclectic stageshow can detract from their music, with their unnecessary penchant for removing their clothes (though fortunately not when I saw them). Visually though, their appearance and act is definitely inventive and drummer Brian is particularly enigmatic.
The style, which they classify as Brechtian punk cabaret, shines through on the new album and from the cheerfully tongue-in-cheek opener about sex changes it’s quite clear they’re up to their old tricks. As lyrically and rhythmically creative as their last release with clever wordplay that belies an acute understanding, it shares many of the same flaws too. While its occasional peaks soar, the rest varies from competent to dull — their slower numbers are far less successful than previous examples. When they can actually produce a truly consistent record, they’ll certainly be a force to be reckoned with. For the time being though, Yes, Virginia, while not nearly living up to their self-titled debut, is still worth a spin. Due April 17th.
I don’t know if games are just getting shorter or easier or if developers are just getting stingier with previews, but I remember a time when I couldn’t install, play through, and uninstall two demos in under an hour. To save you a little time, here are my thoughts on Ankh and TimeShift. The former is more a curiosity really, unremarkable other than the fact it’s a proper, old school point-and-click adventure game. Vivid characters and amusing dialogue make it a decent enough offering from the small German studio, but it’s no Grim Fandango. More interesting, in fact, is the “online riddle” to accompany the game’s website, created by the makers of the fantastically infuriating Notpron.
TimeShift is a high concept action game in which you play Swift, the world’s first chrononaut, equipped with a quantum suit that allows you to slow down, stop, and reverse the flow of time while engaging in futuristic firefights. Although it sounds like a new experience, it’s really just a blend of elements we’ve seen before in Prince of Persia’s time-reversal, F.E.A.R.’s adrenaline, and Max Payne’s bullet-time. Each of these games weaved one element into the gameplay seamlessly. From this demo it was too short to tell, but aside from puzzles designed round the — err — time shifts, the whole system feels rather clunky. Oh, and if your graphics card lacks a nuclear-powered core, don’t expect much from the framerate either. Or is that some sort of special time effect? I can’t even tell.
Speaking of temporal shifts, I stumbled upon this touching trailer for a love that could never be, a relationship spanning time, Brokeback to the Future.
Toby plugged a photo of me into this facial recognition site and I’m rather proud of the result to be honest.
A JCR forum post reminded me that I’d been intending to direct facebook addicts towards the Cambridge division’s facebook song. I consider it a vast improvement over the indie whining of Facebook Friends or the hip hop stylings of Facebook Livin from our transatlantic brethren. Peace. Out.
Fancy trying out the new Windows Live Messenger? Well, in the generous tradition of P-2006, we have a bunch of invites that we’re just giving away. How can you get your hands on these veritable golden tickets, the likes of which have not been seen since a certain chocolatier opened the doors of his factory to ten guests? Simply email competition[at]meewella.com with your desired email address for addition. But there is a catch. When the email is read, your MSN display name must include a reference to P-2006 or meewella.com. If not, your entry will be ignored. So it couldn’t be simpler, really. Despite being a beta, WLM is incredibly stable and I’ve had no issues with it at all yet. So enter for the chance to experience the future of instant messaging now.
Luke pointed out that the new site design did not display any link to the RSS feed. This has now been remedied with the Feeds page, which allows you to select your preferred flavour of syndication. Firefox users, as always, can create a live bookmark. Like me you may not immediately have noticed that in Firefox 1.5 the icon for creating live bookmarks has moved to the top of the sreen, at the right side of the address bar.
Now you are probably familiar with fascinating procrastination device that is Google Video, an archive to which anyone may submit their own videos, resulting in a repository of old TV ads, amusing news stories, and weird webcam sing-alongs. The latter may or may not be a positive thing. On Monday Guy came over from The Other Place to Tabland or whatever it is those people call it. While chatting over a couple of hot drinks in Café Nero, we both found ourselves looking up and shaking our heads at the sound of Pachelbel’s Canon drifting lazily from the speakers. It immediately conjured for us both memories of Whitgift String Orchestra, at whose concerts its performance was a staple, albeit under the none too subtle nickname Packard Bell’s Canon. And by some bizarre confluence of musical mysticism it was that evening I came across Canon Rock on Google Video. Now if only Mr. Winter had considered that at the Royal Albert Hall…
I recently came across Pandora from the Music Genome Project. Rejecting the idea that you could classify music by questionable genre titles or even by artist, they’ve attempted to break it down to the individual song level. Exploring things like melody, harmony, rhythm, instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics and more, they’ve created a massive database that creates a “genome” for each song and uses that calculate similarities. Fire up the website and enter a song title for it to produce a dedicated station, often songs by artists you’ll recognise and also some you won’t, but all bearing a strong musical resemblance to your chosen track. There are some limitations due to their license from the record companies, like the inability to go backwards and the restricted number of tracks you can skip in an hour. It’s certainly a very ambitious project, well worth checking out.
Someone pointed me towards The Piracy Calculator which produces a rough estimate of the value of your dubiously acquired P2P stash. Although amusing to see, it’s not purely facetious. Scroll down to read the moral and you’ll discover he’s making a very valid point. Piracy is piracy, not theft. The rest of the site, which I’d not come across before, actually has quite a few interesting reads. It’s a bit like a subdued Maddox on tranquilisers and anger-management therapy.
In a similar vein is a shift in gaming journalism that may be described as the Dan Hsu phenomenon. At first his Peter Moore interview seems just like ever other propaganda interview you’ve read on the 360. I mean seriously, the industry can’t pay for better publicity than the usual brand of arse-kissing interviews they’re treated to by most magazines. By the second page, however, it becomes evident that Hsu has some sort of personal vendetta, and he’s asking all those real questions that have been floating around message boards for the past month. It’s not that the answers have changed, but at least the questions are, if not probing, at least blunt.
One of the advantages of the last site overhaul was that by using the WordPress backend for posting updates, I can do so when away from my computer too. This post, for example, comes to you directly from the Law Faculty between lectures. I’ve been holding off for a little while, but will be making the transition to the new WordPress 2 shortly. Allegedly it will make posting and administration far easier, though you probably won’t see much difference at all (but I am getting bored of those dull smilies so keep your eyes peeled over the next few days). This may all result in some downtime and a few things breaking, particularly since the site’s visual appearance is fully customised. Please bear with me and hopefully it’ll all go smoothly.
My fireplace photo was a featured new addition over at morgueFile which was a nice surprised and attracted it more attention than usual. In fact I’ve just reached 1000 downloads in total. I really should upload photos there more regularly, especially since it uses someone else’s bandwidth.
Rumours have been flying about a March release date for the new Tool album, but the official site has dispelled such rumours. They’re still on schedule for a “Spring 2006” release, whatever that means, as stickers on the recent video singles proclaimed (UK release on 23rd January). I’d hazard a guess that we’ll be hearing a new masterpiece from Maynard & Co. some time in May. Shrouded in the band’s usual cloaks of secrecy, any actual information on the record cannot be obtained without reference to dark occult forces, the very mention of which may result in a Cthulian demonic entity rending the very soul from your core, leaving nought but an eviscerated corpse as evidence of your foolish curiosity. So security’s rather tight then.
Right, I’m off to Nadia’s for some millionaire shortbread before Contract…
Having recovered from my strangely oversentimental reaction to the discovery of Sonique’s disappearance last time, I thought I’d drop by to say bye before I fly off. I’m currently unpacking from Cambridge and repacking for the States in a single swoop that one may rightly describe as fell. As I’m supposed to be leaving the house at 6am, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve given up on the mortal notion of “sleep”.
My Christmas album of choice, since I’m sure you’re wondering what might soothe the ear of this veritable Scrooge at a time like this, is the Barenaked Ladies’ yuletide offering, Barenaked for the Holidays. From it’s opening with a musically varied rendition of Jingle Bells, including a now obligatory Batman reference, it is clear that this is an album approaching the holiday with a suitably lighthearted tone and yet without making a mockery of it. The line is a narrow enough to make garotte wire envious but if anyone can manage it, my money’s on the crazy Canadian quintet.
As another treat for Halo fans it seems a dark alliance has been forged between Bungie and Team Ninja. The latter, makers of the Dead or Alive series, requested the use of Master Chief as a character for one of their games. Politely declining, since Master Chief was, to put it mildly, a little busy after events on Delta Halo, Bungie instead offered them Spartan 458, also known by alien-sounding moniker of Nicole. A full backstory was developed and you can also see screenshots of the character in action, along with more about the trans-Pacific design process. The chance to punch someone in the face with a Spartan fist sounds like the opposite of the Nintendo Power Glove (that is to say good). Or w00t-o desu as those crazy Japanese say.
It may be a little while before the next update but I shan’t wish you a Merry Christmas™ just yet, as I promise to be in touch before then. Nevertheless, enjoy the festive build-up, good luck battling through the Christmas crowds, don’t overdo it with the eggnog, and always eat mince pies in odd numbers while never, and I cannot stress this enough, in multiples of seven. The consequences could be dire.
Many years ago there were three major players in the music software arena. Microsoft’s Windows Media Player was everyone’s default starting point since it came with their machine. Unlike the decent jukeboxing offering it has evolved into, at the time it was basic and severely lacking in features. For those moving away the chief contenders were Nullsoft’s Winamp and Media Science’s Sonique. Most are familiar with the former but sadly the latter passed under most people’s radar. Where Winamp 2 was skinnable in terms of overlaying new rectangular interface images, Sonique allowed skinners the freedom to totally redesign the interface from scratch with colourful curvy designs and smoothly animated menus. Aside from looking gorgeous, its audioEnlightenment decoder was great and its visualisations looked awesome as they throbbed in time with the music. Lycos bought up Sonique, then later fired the entire team, and hired a few people to work on a new version. Aside from an unstable beta release things became very quiet and eventually the project died entirely, its website quietly disappearing in September this year.
Meanwhile Winamps attempts to copy Sonique freeform skinning resulted in the horribly bloated Winamp 3 that served as a proper jukebox but was an awful piece of software. After that I stopped paying attention to it entirely but recently discovered that the latest release, Winamp 5, is actually not bad at all. Whilst I still find Musicmatch Jukebox unsurpassed when it comes to coallating music into a library, for playing individual files I prefer a lighter application as I don’t want my entire 20GB catalogue loaded every single time. The lite version of Winamp 5 is ideal for this, loading instantly and also offering full support for Nullsoft’s SHOUTcast free internet radio.
Halo fans simply have to try out Halo Zero. A free full game designed by fans, it’s a side-scrolling Halo-themed throwback to the arcade joys of the Metal Slug era. As you might imagine, the resulting gameplay both feels familiar and is highly addictive. The homage features music from the original game and elements of its GUI too. As it was developed by a French team there is unsurprisingly also a French language option which leads to an even more surreal experience. Il y a un Warthog, bitch.
Well I’m back in Croydon, but this feels more like a brief stopover on the way to the States as, once I’ve caught my breath, I fly out on Thursday. Which doesn’t leave me much time for settling in. If anyone’s particularly keen on seeing me before I go, that means I need to know now! It also means I’m busily juggling work on The Globalist and vacation scheme applications over the next few days, but I’ll need to take the laptop with me to the States to finish things off which, on the plus side, should mean several site updates for you guys while I’m there. Don’t even think about switching channels.
Having had my appetite whetted by watching Pitch Black a few weeks ago, I picked up a second hand copy of the Riddick game, Escape From Butcher Bay, for the Xbox. I’d given the game a wide berth on its release last year as games based on movies tend to vary between piss poor and criminal travesty, and to be honest The Chronicles of Riddick on which it was based is a pretty mediocre film to begin with, despite its budget and hype. This didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Yet the game was met with a flurry of positive reviews that marked it one of the best looking games on the Xbox and legitimately one of best examples of its genre. By creating a prequel game they avoid the usual restrictiveness of a movie plot and create a believable prison environment that evokes a little of Shawshank and the more recent Prison Break too as Riddick interacts with the other inmates. The new fish in the tank feeling is palpable. It’s greatest offering is its revolutionary close combat system. Punches seem to have real weight. You wince with each hit which feels like being slammed in the face. You know, in a good way. A long time after its release it’s still well worth a look if you’re after something fresh to keep your Xbox ticking over until you can afford/find a 360. Unless you happen to be Toby, who accidentally bid for one on eBay…
Rich’s band, Kiss or Kill, played a gig at The Cartoon on Saturday which unfortunately I couldn’t get to, but Tom G has some photos up.
Last night I also saw Narnia, so there’s a review available now. Unfortunately it resulted in the accidental overwriting of the Mrs. Henderson Presents review and I can’t retrieve it. I may get round to rewriting it, but in the meantime here’s the encapsulated version: very funny, has much more to offer than just (generally attractive) bare flesh, musical numbers are restricted the stage so don’t get in the way, real drama aided by Dench and Hoskins’ great performances, 3/4.