Tuesday 31 May 2005

Devil May Cry

We're at the end of May, the third most profound month in my short life!

Revenge of the Sith is the final Star Wars movie (or until Fox finds a way to perpetuate the saga theatrically). The Star Wars prequels are not self contained and require the hypertexts of merchandising to be fully experienced. The infamous legacy of 'Menace Monday' (1999) and the record financial loses at Hasbro and Dorling Kindersley live on.

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger's treated Mac Users to the seminal Spotlight, which has elicited, from Microsoft, an XP advertising blitz. My iPod connection woes are finally history and 10.4.2 is already seeding.

June should bring War of the Worlds and answers (affirmations of the known) to questions in my personal life that have troubled me since September 11th 2003. A microcosm of 911, but no less deleterious.

Saturday 28 May 2005

Reflections on a Revolution

Nintendo's next generation console purports to be backwards compatible with NES, SNES, N64 and GC via software and hardware emulation and a paid download service. Is Apple going to license iTunes to Nintendo and Sony given that both companies mention Apple in forward-looking statements? There's no reason why Apple's signature software couldn't be ported to a console platform. Looking at Nintendo's glass-like black box leads me to conclude that the case design is subject to revision. Stored in a vertical position, Revolution is supported by packaging (silver-white base)!

Friday 27 May 2005

Parting is such bittersweet sorrow

Whilst I collect my thoughts following the onset of a migraine headache last night. Here is a snapshot of Revenge of the Sith:

*Opening battle fore and background detail was too cluttered making it difficult to follow the action - no focal point. After the ill considered Phantom Menace Battle Droid montage reprise, the Dooku rematch was sacrilegiously short making way for the asthmatic Grievous and his Neimoidian aid voiced by a Californian surfer!

*Planet fall and the personal drama ramps up. Christensen and Portman now have chemistry. McGregor is at ease and McDiarmid owns the movie!

*Raging battles across the galaxy showcase Clone varieties and induce excitement - from Speeder Bikes to proto Scout Walkers it's an extended Hasbro commercial.

*Yoda's departure from Kashyyyk was affecting and mirrored, musically and visually, E.T's departure.

*The final duel exteriorises the conflict within Anakin and Obi-Wan clearly does not want to kill his apprentice and friend. Anakin's charred body leaves an indelible nightmarish impression.

*Padme's death and Anakin's mechanised encasement is heartbreaking and the audience was shell-shocked. The mask, the breathing, a traumatic slideshow maketh. Vader rises and there's no rejoicing!

* The setting suns barely visible behind my tears...

Thursday 26 May 2005

Candy-Colored Clones

Just returned from an exhausting experience known as Revenge of the Sith. Fatigue precludes detailed examination tonight. However, following the opening crawl and Republic attack cruiser reveal, George Lucas' direction is hijacked by Ken Kutaragi, father of the PlayStation.

Wednesday 25 May 2005

3D View-Master

Tomorrow's screening of Revenge of the Sith will be gravely bittersweet and one that maybe immune to review! On the eve of this monumental movie moment, an airmail package arrived from TV Guide (very special thanks to Ryan) containing their Star Wars Special and a set of 6 incredible lenticulars (superior to anything I've seen previously).

A request to Apple Computer. Please add an iTunes exclusive ROTS track to the Music Store. Thanks and don't forget to add CD-TEXT to iTunes 4.9 or 5. Otherwise it'll be Toast® and Jam™ all the way from now on!

Tuesday 24 May 2005

AIM & Objective

Since taming the Tiger, I've been beta testing AIM® Mail and AOL® Journals. First a history lesson.

It's summer 1997 and an @AOL address was considered a premium. I leapt onto the brand wagon with WinonaFan@aol.com (apologies to anyone who may have inherited this). Switching gears from a 14.4 bps to an asphalt melting 28.8 bps, I thrived on accessing all the US Channel content and making new buddies along the way.

In 2000 after leaving Dow Jones Reuters (downsizing and outsourcing), I abandoned AOL UK due (in part) to tenuous Mac OS 9.x software support and a prohibitively expensive subscription (no discount for Mac Users). However, the impetus (shove) to leave was during an interview with an AOL Channel Director. In the wake of the AOL Time Warner merger, a HR zombie decided to forward my application from Entertainment to Financial. D'oh! And during a stilted dialogue, with the Director, I learnt of their ambition to usurp Microsoft and that Apple Computer should roll over and die! I suggested that AOL would be wise to form a strategic alliance with Apple. 5 years on and look who's laughing now? Not AOL Time Warner shareholders. BTW I never signed an NDA and am at liberty to disclose this.

On Monday night, and in Tom Hanks mode, I savored my first You've Got Mail moment for five years! If I were to rate AIM Mail and Gmail on GUI splendor alone, then AIM gets my vote! The forum moderator is actively soliciting Mac User feedback. My Dashboard Widget suggestion was described as excellent and forwarded to the developers for immediate consideration. Widgets are de rigeur.

Blogcritics is a thriving community and I've been known to drop in the occasional post now and again.

Here's my second ever iMix!

Monday 23 May 2005

Spud U Like

The temptations of consumer culture and satire are adroitly encapsulated in Playskool's Mr Potato Head Darth Tater. Rapidly becoming one of the hottest Star Wars collectibles ever, I bagged one today alongside a pre-order for Star Wars Episode 3 - 500th Figure. The 500th Figure showcases Darth Vader's infamous Meditation Chamber and our first, scarred, glimpse into his enigmatic past.

Thursday's 3:30PM Vue Cinema showing of Revenge of the Sith can't come soon enough!

Saturday 21 May 2005

System Addict

Spotlight has me hook, line and sinker. Corel Painter IX boasts a plug-in. Adobe what's taking you so long? The only fly in the ointment has been iTunes 4.8: Error 400 in the iTunes Music Store. Turns out it's a bad batch of cookies.

When WipEout (1995) premiered on PSone I was in my final year of undergraduate study. The game blended sound and vision into a compelling cocktail that owed much to Monaco GP and MTV. PSP is graced with arguably the definitive edition of the indelible franchise, WipEout Pure, one that will be expanded upon with bonus packages (tracks and music). Pod Race anyone?

Thursday 19 May 2005

The Saga is Complete

You shouldn't be reading this! Instead make a bee line for your local multiplex and enjoy the Star Wars saga one last time (or until the 3D reissue and TV series).

I intend to see the movie as soon as possible. At the moment Corel Painter IX is consuming my leisure time! ILM conceptual artist Ryan Church is an advocate.

Westcountry Television (our local commercial station/Carlton broadcasting mast) produced a short feature highlighting yesterday's opening of Alphinbrook Unit. The Unit is well and truly on the map and I have every intention of keeping it that way!

Wednesday 18 May 2005

A Design For Life

Of all the next generation games consoles launched at E3. PlayStation 3 is a paragon of form and function. From the smooth eye candy curves to Mata font (used in the Spider-Man movie franchise), the new machine is a sociological statement that underscores Sony's dominance of the console market.

Earlier today I attended The Grand Opening of the Alphinbrook Unit at Lucerne House. The event was presided over by corporate dignitaries and the Mayor of Exeter. The media arrived, late in the day, so Dad and I had no opportunity to make their acquaintance! "Hi, I'm John. I used to work at Reuters and was recently approached by Bloomberg. However, due to personal reasons..."

Tuesday 17 May 2005

Toast to success

This morning I created a backup disk image using Roxio's Toast Titanium. Toast is the de facto disc burning application for power users. From this afternoon I'm looking at a Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger desktop.

The OS is snappier and has enthused my aging iMac LCD with a new zest. I doubt if I'll upgrade my hardware until much later in the year now! Time to test the iPod synchronization built-in to iTunes 4.8.

Monday 16 May 2005

Welcome Chang3

Sony's official launch of PS3 may witness a more far reaching alliance between the embattled electronics company and Apple Computer! The PS3 is alleged to include an iPod interface port and iTunes in the GUI. The PlayStation and iPod brands command lucrative market and mind share. Combined they would be an unstoppable force. Sony is also proposing exciting news regarding the PSP too.

My imported The OC S1 set has arrived from Australia. The R4 release cost £19.99 compared to £59.99 for R2. The next few nights are going to be an Orange Fest!

Saturday 14 May 2005

Singin' in the Rain

The rain is pouring down outside and captures the dramatic nuances of The OC episode "The Rainy Day Women". The reprise of the Spider-Man (2001) 'kissing' scene between Seth and Summer crackled with sexual tension and chemistry.

Having always been a casual fan of No Doubt, when lead singer Gwen Stefani stepped out, to embark on a solo career, I was intrigued by the result. Ms Stefani's debut album repackages early Madonna (an obvious comparison) in a J-pop bubblegum wrapper! Love, Angel, Music, Baby is singularly the most engaging (acidic and schizophrenic) pop album that I've heard in a long while. And the videos are spectacular. Stefani's an audacious Alice.

Friday 13 May 2005

Friday The 13th

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!

The Xbox 360 enclosure has been pasted together from Xeroxed copies of Jonathan Ive's iPod and Power Mac G5 R&D sketches at Cupertino. To paraphrase Francis Ford Coppola - "Always steal from the best". Regarding the new Xbox 'ice grille' livery, Mr Ive may wish to consult with Intellectual Property lawyers! The snap on lifestyle fascia is intended to integrate into the living room coupled to always connected broadband (euphamism for cash register). To my shame this machine is terribly tempting, but PS3 is coming.

SUBWAY® opens in Exeter today. Wave bye to the nearby McDonalds Drive-Thru.

Google is considering integration between Blogger and Gmail. I await this development with bated breath!

Monday 9 May 2005


iTunes 4.8 now features support for video playback within the application, fueling speculation that a video iPod and download movie service is imminent. You now have the ability to drag and drop movie clips from your computer into the iTunes Library for easy cataloging and organization. Clips appear with a new movie camera icon in your library; however, categories such as “album” and “composer” continue to be used for these files, and no new “videos” or “movies” genre has been added to accommodate them.

Given that PIXAR is owned by Steve Jobs, Apple is ripe for further repositioning as a content delivery platform light years ahead of propositions from TiVo, Xbox 360 or PS3!

Sunday 8 May 2005

Palpatine's press

National press coverage of Revenge of the Sith has reached epidemic proportions on VE Day! From CD-ROM to DVD and glossy poster pack-ins. Gotta Catch’em All!

Star Wars: A Musical Journey is the realization of George Lucas' silent movie DNA.

Chapter 1: A Long Time Ago ("20th Century Fox Fanfare" / "Star Wars Main Title" from all of the films)

An arrangement of the iconic score that tails off cryptically.

Chapter 2: Dark Forces Conspire ("Duel of the Fates" from The Phantom Menace)

The score that became synonymous with Darth Maul and his infamous double-bladed lightsabre. Repeated viewings fail to dissipate the kinetic energy of this apocryphal clash.

Chapter 3: A Hero Rises ("Anakin's Theme" from The Phantom Menace)

This leitmotif is, unquestionably, my favorite from the prequels. Fatefully I was listening to this when news reached me of the passing of a loved one in 1999.

Chapter 4: A Fateful Love ("Across The Stars" from Attack of the Clones)

A beautiful lament. Only the "Sound of Music" scenes detract. Lucas missed a beat here, what if Anakin had been injured during an apparently tranquil moment?

Chapter 5: A Hero Falls ("Battle Of The Heroes" from Revenge of the Sith)

Any lingering doubts that I may have had fell away during this dark onslaught.

Chapter 6: An Empire Is Forged ("The Imperial March" from The Empire Strikes back)

Inform the commander that Lord Vader has arrived.

Chapter 7: A Planet That Is Farthest From ("The Dune Sea Of Tatooine" / "Jawa Sandcrawler" from A New Hope)

A bland visual accompaniment.

Chapter 8: An Unlikely Alliance ("Binary Sunset" / "Cantina Footage" from A New Hope)

Anakin and Luke are counterpointed.

Chapter 9: A Defender Emerges ("Princess Leia's Theme" from A New Hope)

As a starstruck child I was smitten with Carrie Fisher. To point out that I innocently colorized a black and white drawing of Princess Leia (from the Star Wars Grandreams annual) would be too much information!

Chapter 10: A Daring Rescue ("Ben's Death / Tie Fighter Attack" from A New Hope)

The call to action is irresistible, but the visual narrative pace stutters all too quickly.

Chapter 11: A Jedi Is Trained ("Yoda's Theme" from The Empire Strikes Back)

Yoda as puppet (Muppet supreme) equates to 'real emotions' that are devoid in the painterly CGI.

Chapter 12: A Narrow Escape ("The Asteroid Field" from The Empire Strikes Back)

Asteroids collide in the unsurpassed Millenium Falcon pursuit. Less is more.

Chapter 13: A Bond Unbroken ("Luke And Leia" from Return of the Jedi)

Too touchy feely!

Chapter 14: A Sanctuary Moon ("The Forest Battle (Concert Suite)" from Return of the Jedi)

Care Bears and Howard the Duck's bastard offspring unite. Turn off the screen, turn up the sound.

Chapter 15: A Life Redeemed ("Light Of The Force" from Return of the Jedi)

A poignant reminder of the tragic Skywalker legacy. The final shot of a young Anakin is haunting.

Chapter 16: A New Day Dawns ("Throne Room / Finale" from A New Hope)

Lump in the throat time!

Signature scores are further embellished within a 5.1 Skywalker sound stage, and the only distraction is occasional dialogue and incoherent use of episode chronology. Ian McDiarmid introduces each chapter and, by the close, appears genuinely moved (as was I). Sony Classical has my admiration and thanks for including this free disc in the CD jewel case.

Saturday 7 May 2005

Letterbox wonders

To my unabridged joy, both Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and Revenge of the Sith CD/DVD have arrived. Tiger's etched-foil "Panther" packaging is pure comic chic cool. This is 2005 and I applaud Apple's decision to bundle Mac OS 10.4 and Xcode 2 on a single DVD.

Various Mac-related sites are reporting that Quartz 2D Extreme is disabled in 10.4 to allow developers more time to migrate from QuickDraw's aged drawing model. Extreme can be enabled via developer tools at your own risk.

I'm off to watch Star Wars: A Musical Journey, which sports sumptuous menus.

Friday 6 May 2005

Swan Lake

The sky is clear blue and New Labor has secured an historic third term in power without my support.

I'm in a nostalgic gaming mood and have sourced a copy of LucasArts very rare VGA version of Loom (1990). In a move mirroring Disney's Sleeping Beauty, Loom's ambitious creative cue is derived from Tchaikovsky's ballet "Swan Lake". The SCUMM game engine was anything but!

Jennifer Garner cuts coquettish charm in this irresistible picture, and reminds me of a childhood friend.

With Hanson's Penny & Me a serenade. She's a Texan treat at no mistake!

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger has been dispatched from Amazon UK's warehouse. I grabbed an initial retail copy thanks to a hefty discount, but will wait for 10.4.1 before installing!

Thursday 5 May 2005

Time Out

It's Election Day in the UK and therefore I have no time to delve into any subject matter! Instead I'll leave you with this. Time magazine's Gadget of the Week needs no introduction.

Wednesday 4 May 2005

Another World

Beautifully cinematic, impressively coherent, challenging and elegant; Another World (known as Out of this World in the States) is a stellar example of nineties game design and was the brainchild of one Eric Chahi and his team at Delphine Software.

"You play Lester, the young physics professor, who suddenly finds himself in a strange alien world after lightning striked his particle experiment."

In 1991 Another World became the poster child of Gallic gaming and adoring magazine editorials in C&VG and the official Nintendo magazine elevated it to blockbuster status.

I first played this on the superlative Super Nintendo, which was, somewhat astonishingly, eclipsed by Sega's Mega Drive console port. Too late, I'd already sold the latter to a College friend who was trying to kick the console habit to no avail.

Its stylistic cousin, Flashback, arrived in 1992 but never distilled the mood of its predecessor nor its downbeat ending. The Macintosh version was ported by Mac Play and requires Classic to run or there's the Windows version that runs in DOSBox.

The look and feel of Another World is unique to this day. Oddworld's developers clearly derived inspiration from Delphine. The game's creator, Eric Chahi, has made the Game Boy Advance (GBA) ROM legally available here.

Tuesday 3 May 2005

Eye of the Tiger

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger's popularity is assured as Amazon UK's dispatch date continues to slip. So, I thought I'd let MacDevCenter describe my reasons for performing an Erase and Install AKA "clean install". Read Housecleaning Tips for Tiger and Everything You Need to Know to Install Tiger. The next fortnight should see further third party patches (and a possible 10.4.1 release).

The first revision of the iMac G5 is too compelling for words! From 512MB to built-in wireless, Apple has served-up a post Tiger treat. The ATI Radeon 9600 GPU is more aligned to the insatiable demands of gamers.

Retro arcade gamers can snap up the latest official MacMAME here. The front-end is to undergo a rewrite and may include a Spotlight plug-in.

Monday 2 May 2005

The Great Healer

Following the broadcast of Dalek, the BBC has confirmed that Revelation of the Daleks (1985) is set to bow on DVD this summer!

Following on from Resurrection (1984), Revelation witnesses further ideological conflict between Davros and the Dalek Supreme on a remote ice planet. Necros. The Doctor (Colin Baker) must prevent the inception of a new species of Dalek (ultimately known as the Imperial faction) and destroy their creator once and for all. However, a Dalek task force is en route.

My most vivid memory of this story is the macabre morgue where disembodied human heads were being transformed into Dalek mutants, the Davros clone, bounty hunters and a mis-cast Alexi Sayle (Radio DJ)! Not to mention my adolescent 'crush' on Peri (Nicola Bryant). The DVD will feature a restored print, new special effects and 5.1 audio mix.

Sunday 1 May 2005

The Space Museum

The return of the iconic diabolical dustbins to Doctor Who is welcome. However, my impressions of Dalek are problematic!

The gallery of alien exhibits was a fun poke at The X-Files and post WWII American neurosis. The inclusion of a Mark 5 Cyberman helmet was chilling - especially as the framing centred the Doctor's face within the reflected mask. In another saga that would be considered foreshadowing! I digress.

The revelation that the Doctor destroyed the Daleks and Time Lords, to end the Time War, delivered an emotional punch and dramatic gravitas (as did his duality). The torture scenes were unexpected and darkly unsettling.

The chase format and incidental scoring are becoming tiresome and the mutant reveal was awkward and unsatisfactory - why show it at all? Are the producers concerned that a Saturday evening audience lacks the requisite imagination/creative mind? If the producers desire clever homages they could have emulated the nightmarish voice treatments used in The Brain of Morbius or The Horror of Fang Rock. Am I being too fussy here?

Artistic choices aside. Dalek is a terrific yarn and all the better for the absence of Davros (increasingly unhinged during the '80s). The two-part season finale could be a corker if the writers avoid heavy continuity with the show's past. Don't bring back the Movellans (who defeated the Daleks) or Davros. Leave the Daleks to their independence under the auspices of the Dalek Supreme. Now wouldn't it be a cool twist if the Master returns or that Rose's compassion was pivotal to the Daleks victory in an altered timeline?

A word to Character Options. If you need anyone to review your 12" radio-controlled Dalek, please drop me a line!