And to the antipodeans..

Thursday, January 26, 2006 | 1:05 pm

...wishing you all, a great AUSTRALIA DAY

(lack of) Respek!

[img] Comedian/character interviewer ALI G. shows that no-one can get away with what he gets away with, in this hilarious interview with David Beckham and wife "Posh Spice" during a UK comedy fundraiser.

Memories of Star Wars, helicopters, and Agnetha

Wednesday, January 25, 2006 | 12:23 am

thisismarcus made a keen-eyed comment on my last post when he stated:
1983 though? That's pre-compact disc!

Possibly confirming Aussies rarely-admitted strong mental ties to our monarchically-inclined predecessors, I actually had the same thought when I typed that post. Originally I typed the first year I received a CD: 1990 (my 21st birthday ~ quite the surprise that my friends got me CDs when my parents had only just given me my first CD player that same day. Parents are sneaky that way!) ABBAs Agnetha

I then realized my browsing habits were indeed set back with LP covers! The year I quoted (which was wrong - my research now shows it should have been 1984) was the year of my first album: Icehouse's "Sidewalk". You need only check out the cover to confirm its 1980's heritage!

But tonight, trying to have a break from a ridiculous work week that keeps extending well into the AM, I thought again about this comment from the re-patriated Pom, and realized that the fascination with album covers was a habit gleaned from idle afternoons my sister and I spent with my parent's LP collection. I think I recall Helen Reddy, Alison Durbin, Elvis Presley and Neil Diamond, but I have very strng memories of these LP covers:

  • Abba (can't remember the album, but it showed them getting out of the old-style pontoon equipped helicopter on the back. And I was in love with Agnetha, the blonde, although I do recall her being pigeon-toed? Odd.)
  • My dear father's original Star Wars soundtrack double album. Wow.
  • The musical verison of War of the Worlds! Own the CD's even now. "The chances of anything coming from Mars..."

So perhaps I should have listed somewhere around 1977?

Rediscover Your (Digital) Albums

Saturday, January 21, 2006 | 3:41 pm

I am in love with an application.

A simple and beautifully executed application.

If you have a Mac (the home of beautiful applications) and you listen to music via iTunes (I stream to the home stereo), then try Coverflow. This app is designed for one reason only, that is to return the feeling of 'browsing' to your digital albums.

I have found that I rely on shuffle and my playlists for a lot of my iTunes listening. Things get very random (20 minutes of techno followed by The Beatles "Old Brown Shoe"), or very stale. The reason my habits have developed this way seems to be due the difficulty of browsing albums by text list. It's just not as inspiring as flicking through a CD collection to see what takes your fancy in that particular moment.

Like all good apps, it does the heavy lifting for you. Open, and it'll start trying to find the cover art for each album in your library. It grabs it from your song files (if you download album art for your songs), from your Synergy cover art collection, and even via Amazon searches. If it doesn't find the album (usually due to album names not matching Amazon's for example), you can always cut and paste it from anywhere you can find it later (use Camino, lets you cut straight to the clipboard from your browser window). If it can't find it, you get a blank grey album cover with the album & artist.

Once opened, you get this lovely, strangely alive representation of your collection. It flows past your parched eyes like a true collection. It organically bobs up and down while you flick through covers, almost like it was on water. It's hard to describe, check the website for a video of this effect. You can click album by album, scroll using a bar, or use an instant search field which filters the collection down by search field.

And then simply double-click an album cover to start playing it in iTunes. That's the bones of it. Brilliant. Haven't quit the application since I downloaded it 2 weeks ago. Check it out, it needs OS X 10.4 Tiger, but is is free for now, probably because it is still a work in progress. I have had no problems though.

My feature wish? That it could copy the album art you put in there back to Synergy, another lovely piece of shareware I have owned for a couple of years. Synergy is a great application for telling you song names when they start in a resixable trnaslucent window, controlling your iTunes from the menu bvar as well as using global hot-keys (invaluable), but it's cleverest design is that it keeps a folder of the all the album art it can find and shows it when a song plays, but so you don't take up room with the pictures embedded in your song files (like iTunes does, which takes up more iPod space also).

Check out Coverflow. It'll get you over your playlist-habit blues, and back to an album collection like it was 1983 again.

Holiday Flicks

Thursday, January 12, 2006 | 3:41 pm

Man... bloggin' has fallen behind (along with a lot of other things). Work is crazy busy as some of the companies weaknesses as a software house start to show up in stark reality, and I am left trying to pull it all together with considerable internal resistance. Killin' me with the hours, so the night times are reduced to a little web cruising, a little dinner, and bed. All fine though with the wife actually home for a few weeks!

But, a least a few days off over xmas/ny, the GW in town, and a xmas subscription to Netflix means that I finally caught up on a few movies over the holidays, both at home and in the theatre.

Not too many, after all, I have new Babylon 5 Season 3&4 DVDs to watch, but I am woefully behind in my viewing habits, so here's the ones that stood out:

King Kong - [star][star][star] 1/2
Long, but a great movie event. Perhaps a little dragging in parts, and taking itself a tad too seriously, but the titular creature is truly spectacular, and the love Peter Jackson has for the material is evident everywhere. The shots of old New York are spectacular, and as always with a Jackson film, the quality of actors sets it apart from regular "big ticket" movies. Worth seeing on the big screen, a great ride.
Amelie - [star][star][star][star]
I've actually seen this Jeunet film before, but decided to let Netflix bring it to my wife. It was so worth a second viewing. The main character is excellently conceived and perfectly cast, and the color-soaked style of this French director is always visually impressive. Great movie, but not for those allergic subtitles.
Serenity - [star][star][star] 1/2
I haven't watched all the Firefly's I snagged on DVD yet, but Serenity only requires a passing knowledge of the characters, as it brings you up to date with the main protoganists (the Doctor and his afflicted sister) pretty quickly. Great fun. Smart, and punctuated by Whedon's snappy dialogue throughout, in that whenever you feel a cliche coming, he inevitably surprises you. A must for series fans, but also an enjoyabel adventure movie in that the "science fiction" part of it is not overbearing. The characters are the focus.
The Notebook - [star][star][star][star]
The Netflix was a xmas present for the wife (you know, one of those good ones you both get to use!) so she could order movies while away and have them ready when she got home, so this was the first one I ordered so it would be ther efor her at xmas. Chick-flick, all that, didn't expect to enjoy it. Bawled my eyes out. Not a few subtle tears, but streams of them. Holey crap, this one tore me up.
The Aviator - [star][star] 1/2
Didn't mind it, but it does suffer from the bio-flick problem, in that it starts in the middle of Howard's life, and ends a few years later, making the ending seemed rushed and kind of incomplete. You get a sense for the guy, but it seems you have to find some external material to see how his later years turned out. Not a character I knew much about, so do wonder how much license was taken. Production values are great, and the leading ladies - of Cate Blanchett as Kathryn Hepburn, and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner - give some of the strongest performances in the movie - but I was in lust with the "Cigarette Girl". Not the actress, Josie Maran, but the look they gave her role in the film! All 20 seconds of her.
Munich - [star][star][star][star][star]
Brilliant. This is classic Spielberg storytelling without any of the mush. In fact, you kind of have to remind yourself this is a Spielberg film. No overbearing emotions, and no flights of fantasy or huge set pieces. Just brutally lifelike situations that have you clawing the armrest with pent-up tension. Ignore all the "editorializing" you hear about this movie, it presents neither Palestinians nor Israelis as clear good guys or bad guys. In the world of international politics and terror, every side crosses that grey line in a way it thinks is justified by the cause. But this movie is about the man, not the countries. Aussie comedian Eric Bana does a great and understated job, and an effervescent supporting cast lets you work out who you sympathize for. This is one of those movies that makes you realize how your crappy job is not nearly as crappy as some others out there. I am interested to see how this one will hold up to a second viewing. I don;t think we've seen a year with such great political thrillers since the old 70s Cold-War boom. Syriana was good if a little aimless, and I have yet to see Good Night and Good Luck, but this movie will be hard to beat.

And as a final movie comment, how awesomely crappy is the BloodRayne trailer? My god, I thought it was for one of those SciFi channel "exclusive' movies. Crappy look, crappy acting, crappy trailer. Can't believe they are going to release that around the same time as Underworld. Even if Underworld (expectantly) lacks any plot (likely), at least it looks slick.