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September 27, 2006

Bellowhead's new album is on eMusic

Without question the most eagerly awaited UK folk album of the year has been Bellowhead's Burlesque. And I duly pre-ordered it and got it from the band on CD together with beautiful packaging. But you, lovely people, can nip over to eMusic and get it for nothing as part of your free trial, or for not-a-lot if you're a subscriber. In divine DRM-free variable rate MP3, like nature intended. Off you go now.

Posted by Alison Scott at 08:04 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2006


Well, Pandora is pretty cute. But it doesn't recognise a lot of the music I like, and it continually gives me music that has the edge filed off it compared to the stuff I input.

I think the problem is this: I would listen to an internet radio station to find interesting music I don't already know about, and I'd expect a station to be have a greater range of the stuff that I like than my own collection. But Pandora has 400, 000 tracks of which only a small proportion are the stuff that I like. I, on the other hand, have about 18, 000 tracks, overwhelmingly stuff that I like. (I had a purge). Party shuffle turns up a pleasingly eclectic mix (though I probably ought to make a new playlist comprising everything except children's music I don't like, and melodeon / folk melody teaching CDs, of which I now have about a dozen), including typically quite a lot of stuff I don't remember I own.

And there's a special case of this. They recommend that to get your personalised Christmas station, you input some holiday songs you like, and it will play other similar ones. Turns out that Christmas songs I like are divided into two categories. Ones it doesn't recognise as Christmas songs (Fairytale of New York, 2000 Miles, I Believe in Father Christmas) and ones it doesn't recognise (Wombling Merry Christmas, Stop the Cavalry, All I want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit). Moving into more generic Christmas tunes there are some it recognises, but by artists that I don't recognise (Down in Yon Forest) and some it just doesn't recognise (Herod and the Cock, Personent Hodie).

Meanwhile, the proprietor of UPlayMe emailed me to say I might like to check it out. And I would, but it's Windows only at present. If you've tried it, let me know what you think.

NB: one of the reasons I'm having problems with Pandora is that it's US-only. I did input a perfectly genuine, if slightly out of date, zip code, which is their security check for USianness.

Posted by Alison Scott at 07:49 PM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2006

Superman Returns in 3D

We finally got round to seeing Superman Returns in iMAX 3D. There are only four short 3D scenes, and they were produced by 2D-3D conversion rather than 3D filming (the 3D lover in me goes 'how hard would it have been to have 2 cameras?') but of course the entire film has been rejigged for iMAX and it does benefit from the larger screen.

The 3D is spectacular, and I didn't notice conversion artefacts (though the Photo 3D list, who were watching out for them, found loads). However, there were elementary mistakes made in terms of windowing errors, depth of 3d presentation, hyperstereo miniaturisation, and so on. This stuff isn't rocket science; you can learn all you need to learn about what does and does not make 3d work for viewers' brains in about a day. They used a great many people to do the conversion; they could get this stuff right.

I still loved it though; not so much for this, but because it seems clear to me that quite soon someone is going to release a really big action movie (think LOTR or similar) shot in 3D throughout, and it will be brilliant.

As for the film, it's got lots of nice special effects but the plot is sappy. I surely wouldn't have gone to see it on the big screen if not for the 3D. People who a little familiarity with the conventions of story telling will find little to suprise them in this story. Lex Luthor! Green kryptonite! Cute tousle-haired child! Plot to take over the world! Check.

I didn't notice any really cheap 3D effects at all, unlike the trailers for other 3D films, which were full of them. The trailers included Ant Bully and Open Season, both full-length 'real' animated features with simultaneous 3D releases. We'll probably see both of these at some point; but we are surely still waiting for the first remotely serious film to have a full iMAX 3D release.

iMAX offers the best 3D at present; the polarising glasses are very high quality and the prints are good and well-registered. It's lots of fun, and although expensive for a cinema ticket (£12 at the bfi for a full-length film), it's pretty cheap by London entertainment standards.

And I know I'm a mad fan of 3D, but it is simply a better way to watch movies; the 3D scenes in Superman were at their very best not when showing the wild special effects, but on the closeups of people. We'll know this technology is reaching maturity when a director chooses to film a drama, rather than an action movie, in twin camera stereo, just because it heightens the sense of realism for the audience.

Posted by Alison Scott at 06:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 20, 2006

Letters we'd like to send

Dear Bank,

It was lovely to hear that you're so worried about the planet that you want to stop sending me paper statements. I'm sure all those paper statements must really affect the environment, just like those hotel towels we're encouraged to leave unwashed.

Actually, it's convenient for me to have my Bank statements on the internet, along with those of Cable Company, Mobile Phone Provider, Other Bank, Credit Card Company, and Building Society. So I'll happily sign up.

However, there is just one teensy weensy thing. Given that you're all so worried for the planet, do you think you could all stop sending me paper junk mail, too? Because I get a deforestation of information about services I might like, from you and all the others. Far more than just one little statement a month. And you know what? I don't read any of it. I shred the pages with my name and address on it and the rest just gets recycled directly.

Why not send all that stuff by email too? Lots of other people do, and if I ever do want to buy one of these services, the information will be right on my computer where I need it, rather than in the recycling bin.

Posted by Alison Scott at 04:32 PM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2006


It's all very busy and will be till the end of the month. But meanwhile, I think I need to namecheck Macadamia who wrote to ask me if I liked their music, which is sort of ambient. The entire album is available to download on a Creative Commons license -- isn't that cool? But it's zipped so I can't link to a track.

And a quick shout out to Canadian political blogger The Coast of Bohemia. Boy was I surprised to find your blog.

But the biggest surprise today was a bit different. There's this chap I stalk a bit online. Not a lot. I was in love with him, completely and absolutely and forever, when I was sixteen. I don't think he fancied me in the slightest. He has a very uncommon name; he's the only person with his name in the US. And he's never had any online presence to speak of really. You know, the occasional forum entry, directory listings, names of people who contribute to the local PBS station, that sort of thing. All at the other end of the country from where we used to live, but obviously the same chap. But, you know. No website, only work email, no real sense of being a web citizen.

Nevertheless, every few months, I stick his name into Google, just on the offchance. I'm not sure why. I'm hardly about to make contact.

And today, I found a photo. He was a finalist in a contest run by a local TV station. He didn't win, but they still put his photo on the website. Perfectly recognisable, despite having aged 25 years overnight.

Posted by Alison Scott at 10:41 PM | Comments (0)