Thursday 30 June 2005

Return of the Joker

Can you keep a secret? I've created closet space for Mattel's Hot Wheels Batmobile (1:18 scale) and Batman Begins Deluxe Powered Batmobile!

Since watching '70s reruns of Adam West's tenure as the eponymous 'camp crusader', I've been a self-confessed Batman fan. Consuming comics, toys and board games. The childhood memory of eating Nabisco Shreddies (containing Tom & Jerry Shrinky Dinks*) is enshrined with those Saturday morning adventures!

[*Remember The Black Hole (1979) Shrinky Dinks Weetabix pack-ins? The U.S.S. Cygnus melted in the oven!]

Wednesday 29 June 2005


With the advent of iTunes 4.9, podcasting goes mainstream.

Podcasts are easy to produce with very low financial overheads - if you already own a Mac, GarageBand and a blogger account you're good to go. I'll be preparing a test podcast for release in July (no promises).

Excuse the tangent, but this morning I 'trashed' my Xbox due to the power cable flaw. It had 'zero' resale value and was a dust collector. Paves the way for next generation PlayStation kit.

Monday 27 June 2005

Press Gang

Over the coming weeks and months I'll be increasing my coverage of Sony PlayStation, which is exciting to say the least.

Sunday 26 June 2005

Scarlett fever

Several months ago I bought Lost in Translation (2003) and consigned the acclaimed movie to the bookshelf for future viewing...

The movie is an unabridged delight. Sofia's non-intrusive direction lends itself towards the early 'cinéma vérité' of her famous father, Francis, and his apprentice George Lucas. The absence of subtitling enforces the theme of alienation and disenfranchisement.

Tokyo has never looked more arresting; whether the viewer is subjected to the neon-drenched kaleidoscopes of advertising, arcades or more traditional temples of Japan. Air underscores the ambience, tempo and melancholia.

Bill Murray (one of my all time favorite actors) and Johansson's chemistry and relationship, which could have so perilously veered towards Stanley Kubrick's Lolita (1962) if it had been consummated, culminates in a deeply moving coda.

Sofia Coppola artfully blends universal themes with personal introspection (her young marriage to fellow filmmaker Spike Jonze). Roxy Music's "More Than This" serves as a haunting lament. Lost in Translation takes pride of place alongside Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Romeo + Juliet (1996) in the pantheon of pathos.

This time my tendency for a liking of tragic romances gets an Apple Macintosh credit too!

Wednesday 22 June 2005

GIF of the gab

Here's my new animated GIF banner. Subject to change.

This is the first animated GIF that I've created in Photoshop. Photoshop's GIF authoring tools are intuitive whether specifying transparency or frame delay in browsers (0.7 seconds). Isn't it great to be spoilt?

Web design is not ideally suited to hot summer evenings. But inspiration knows no such limitation and I've started tweaking my site (4 years old last Wednesday). This is to improve search engine optimization (SEO), safe in the knowledge that I didn't pay a consultant to add a few lines of meta code at a rate of $100 per character!

Tuesday 21 June 2005

Gellar's Alice

Synchronicity. The Wizard World Philadelphia Spike PALz arrived today and Sarah Michelle Gellar is set to play Alice in the long delayed movie adaptation of American McGee's Alice.

Whilst I welcome the news, the original Dimensions project held promise and after seeing Jennifer Garner in Alias, with it's ambitious Alice In Wonderland subtext, I opine the missed opportunity to see Garner (rumored to be pregnant) play the titular character.

Given the literary roots of McGee's opus, I would have cast Keira Knightley in the titular role! Perhaps a fine line drawing to, literally, illustrate my point... Firing up Corel Painter IX.

Saturday 18 June 2005


I can't wait to watch the season finale of Doctor Who (safe in the knowledge that the adventures will continue for at least the next two years). Before I 'hide behind the sofa', please check out Starburst #325 letters section. There you'll find my musings on the episode Dalek. Can't think of a more poignant way to mark the end of the return.

This summer the iPod has come of age as a fashion accessory. However, there are pitfalls. Pity the lady who hurried through Exeter High Street only to drop and smash (to smithereens) her beloved iPod mini. A spectacle witnessed by yours truly.

Friday 17 June 2005

The would be King of Portables

While Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger customers patiently wait for the release of 10.4.2. Lets talk PSP, or more specifically UMD!

Against predictions the diminutive UMD format is proving popular in the USA. Movie buyers are not resistant to another format and Buena Vista is preparing to press discs for the European market. The Disney company's press pack heralds Sony's proprietary format as the most significant since DVD (they would say that). Indeed, Pirates of the Caribbean and Kill Bill Vol. 1 contain value-added bonus features.

When there should be a legal DVD-to-Memory Stick Duo workflow, from a consumers point of view, it's nonsensical to purchase a movie (again) on UMD. The PSP is not a primary means of viewing content, nor should it be and UMD encoded movies do not scale well (at present). Granted, there is a valid market in offering episodic TV series (30 to 45 mins per episode). Cult cartoons Spider-Man and He-Man are guaranteed an audience (myself included).

This is the first time that the PlayStation brand has exploited the opportunity to introduce a new software standard. Sony has poured $ millions into R&D and new UMD hardware (including burners) will appear from the company and third-parties. Content authors should become acquainted with H.264/AVC (Advanced Video Coding).

Wednesday 15 June 2005

"By the Power of Grayskull... I HAVE THE POWER!!!"

Masters of the Universe (MotU) was a cornerstone of eighties childhood. The cadre of Skeletor, Beast Man, Trap Jaw and Tri-Klops were hired to bolster Darth Vader's bounty hunters. Castle Grayskull served as Vader's weekend retreat so to speak and Snake Mountain became the adopted home of the Emperor and source of unlimited Sith power.

During a family holiday to Innsbruck (1984), between organized coach trips, we would walk around the shops. The Austrian toy stores overflowed with MotU action figures that were not available in the UK. One of the most coveted was Prince Adam and the fact that I wasn't allowed to buy him left me emotionally scarred. I had to content myself with an Action Force summer special comic!

Mattel extended MotU with the introduction of She-Ra (think action Barbie) and The Evil Horde. Hordak was the insidious successor to Skeletor and his Horde Troopers shamelessly copied the Stormtroopers of a galaxy far, far away. A variety of beasts were released. Modulok resides mint in box in my attic.

By 1987 I had set aside 'childish' things and waited anxiously for the release of Michael Jackson's Bad album. However, that didn't preclude me from seeing the camp live-action movie (starring a young Courteney Cox) and savouring Bill Conti's copycat score (see John Williams).

Mattel's 2002 revival of the enduring billion-dollar property has met with mixed success. Mattel flooded the market with worthless repaints. Last year, I tracked down Mer-Man (an overlooked figure from the original) and this weekend made a successful bid for the elusive and very rare Evil-Lyn. The new sculpt, by Four Horsemen Studios, captures the beauty of Skeletor's duplicitous sorceress. Up until bidding for this, I'd never used eBay and am somewhat agog at the poor user experience. Clumsy.

With the R1 release of Masters of the Universe DVD and UMD, the He-Man renaissance should be secure.

Monday 13 June 2005

Smooth Criminal

Watching Michael Jackson Moonwalk to freedom from the Santa Maria courtroom gave me pause to reflect on this once enigmatic, and revered, pop icon. Where does he go from here?

Second acts are rare and Michael Jackson's altered popular music forever with the release of Thriller (1982). Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1983) was a once in a lifetime moment and one Michael Jackson is unlikely to reprise. The success of Thriller, its singles and ground breaking videos was a landmark achievement and music producer Nile Rodgers was famously quoted as saying "There's the music industry before Thriller and there's the music industry after Thriller." An overstatement? I don't think so.

This commercial juggernaut had a negative effect on Michael Jackson who became obsessed with the notion of unit sales for Thriller's first sequel and surgical transformation (America is a shrine to solipsism). He expected to sell 100 million copies of Bad (1987) and crafted songs around the technology of the day (arguably inspired if somewhat dating). At the time I bought a CD player in order to own the bonus track (a concept taken foregranted now) Leave Me Alone.

Citing creative differences with Quincy Jones during the shelved recording of Decade (footwear giant LA Gear signed a $60 million endorsement deal, "Unstoppable", to promote the album and Love Hewitt starred in TV Spots), Michael enlisted Teddy Riley. Dangerous (1991) merged R&B, Rock and Pop with New Jack Swing. The influence of the 'Dangerous sound' can be heard in 2005.

Subsequent album releases were overshadowed by the Jordan Chandler scandal and Michael Jackson's marriage to Lisa Marie Presley. This culminated in a serious financial dilution of Jackson's hits collection (at one time more valuable than any other artist) and the rush release of HIStory Past, Present and Future Book 1 (1995). Disc 2 spawned the classics Scream, They Don't Care About Us and Stranger In Moscow.

Invincible (2001) was hailed as the comeback album. Yet, the inclusion of too many producers (including Darkchild) culminated in a stagnant sound and at great expense to Sony ($20 million). Michael's mantra became "Sony sucks", which recalled George Michael's "Phony"!

After a period of R&R, he will need to sort out his finances and begin to liquidate his assets (perhaps selling his remaining investment in the Beatles catalogue to Sony). His Sony recording contract expires in December, but better the devil you know Michael. He'll have to renegotiate, but with far less generous terms than in 1991. Mariah Carey and George Michael discovered virtual obscurity following splits with Sony. The latter artist, ironically, returned to the fold in 2004.

Jackson should consider performing again. A new studio album produced by Quincy Jones backed by those alluring greatest hits, showcased either on tour or join fellow Sony artist Celine Dion in Las Vegas (the perfect setting).

MJJ as 'celebrity brand' is dead. Yet, the gloved-one may get the last laugh with the power of song (his unique selling point) and see his back catalogue on UMD (Universal Media Disk).

Saturday 11 June 2005

Little Red Riding Hood

The new Doctor Who series started brilliantly, stalled a couple of times (no pun intended) and now culminates in a stunning two part finale (to be concluded at Christmas if rumors are true).

Episode 12 "Bad Wolf" is an inspired take on popular reality shows laced with the cynicism of The Prisoner. The Daleks return en masse and the effects rival anything seen in the Star Wars prequels. To say that Russell T Davies saved the best for last would be an understatement and a disservice. Now, are the Daleks the servants of the Master?

Wednesday 8 June 2005

Future Imperfect

Metrowerks has ceased support for the Macintosh version of CodeWarrior. The company can't compete with Xcode 2.1 (free with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger).

Palisades Toys are offering their Collectors Club members (myself included) a San Diego Comic Con 2005 Exclusive Transformers: 6-inch scale Megatron Statue. As a fan this is too much. The Wizard World Philly Spike PALz sold out in 90 minutes! I'll post a photo of my PALz soon.

My Revenge of the Sith soundtrack review can now be read here. Thanks to Temple Stark.

Monday 6 June 2005

How The Leopard Got His Spots

With Intel inside of course! To perpetuate my ordained role of Devil's Advocate, I'm excited by the news and will now wait until next year before upgrading (could be as soon as January 2006).

This really makes sense, just think about it. IBM has failed to deliver G5 chips that break the 3GHz barrier and don't think that the proprietary custom chips, produced for PS3, Xbox 360 and Revolution, will power a Mac Mini before the legal contracts end. Once the dust settles the specifics of the Apple/Intel strategic alliance will become clear as the first bespoke hardware emerges.

A decade ago Mac Users were braced for the transition from 68K to PowerPC. If you think we've had it bad, just speak to Amiga owners! I'm off to download Xcode 2.1 and start compiling PowerPC and Intel universal binaries. 'Rosetta' is the pathway from one paradigm to the next.

[As a footnote. How long can CodeWarrior survive with Xcode snapping at its heels?]

Sunday 5 June 2005

Hollow Pursuits

Quake 3 game engine titles were overstocked in Exeter's Comet store. I grabbed shrink-wrapped copies of Star Trek: Elite Force II and Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast from the sale bin!

Elite Force II has proved popular in the Hood household. Against my better judgment, the notion of engaging Romulans, Borg et al in savage battle is cathartic and evokes memories of ST:TNG S1 to S3. The franchise translates to the FPS genre with relative ease aided by sterling performances from the original cast. The seamless cut scenes (rendered using the game engine) mimic the cinematography of First Contact, Aliens and Die Hard. The only distraction (and biggest gripe) are the interminable load times, which dilute the pace and drama. Next Saturday I'll shop for Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force and Black & White (including Creature Isle expansion pack).

Episode 11 of Doctor Who S1, Boom Town, was a pleasure to watch. And the trailer for episode 12, poking fun at 'reality and general knowledge shows', was fantastic! Did anyone say Daleks?

Tomorrow WWDC 2005 starts. New iPods and iBooks are a given. Without the distraction of 10.5, 10.4 will receive the attention it richly deserves and is Intel really coming to a Mac near you? In the words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard "Lets see what's out there" (Encounter at Farpoint Part 2).

Wednesday 1 June 2005

Ogilvy's overture

Flaming June.

"The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one," he said. The War of the Worlds movie soundtrack from John Williams and Jeff Wayne's Musical Version (7 Disc Collectors Edition limited to 20,000 copies worldwide!) are released this month. The latter includes the following added-value:

• 2 Hybrid SACDs - The original double album remixed in stereo and multi-channel 5.1 surround sound from the original 48 track master tapes by Jeff Wayne.

• 4 CDs of remixes, rarities, never before heard material, outtakes, foreign language versions and more including 37 minutes of never before heard Richard Burton narrative!

• DVD documentary 'The Making Of The War Of The Worlds' and 'deconstructing' the album feature.

• Packaged in deluxe 12x12 hardback presentation book with 76 page full color bound book featuring the history of this phenomenal musical version, HG Wells' history and bio, details on rarities and War Of The Worlds merchandise and much more...